Monday, 23 July 2012

Book Review: Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson

Second Chance SummerTitle: Second Chance Summer
Author: Morgan Matson
Series: Standalone
Pages:  468
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Books
Date of Publication: 7th June 2012
Source: Publisher*
Synopsis from Goodreads: Taylor Edwards’ family might not be the closest-knit—everyone is a little too busy and overscheduled—but for the most part, they get along just fine. Then Taylor’s dad gets devastating news, and her parents decide that the family will spend one last summer all together at their old lake house in the Pocono Mountains.
Crammed into a place much smaller and more rustic than they are used to, they begin to get to know each other again. And Taylor discovers that the people she thought she had left behind haven’t actually gone anywhere. Her former best friend is still around, as is her first boyfriend…and he’s much cuter at seventeen than he was at twelve.
As the summer progresses and the Edwards become more of a family, they’re more aware than ever that they’re battling a ticking clock. Sometimes, though, there is just enough time to get a second chance—with family, with friends, and with love.(l

My Thoughts:
Having never read anything by Morgan Matson, despite having Amy & Roger on my shelf for almost a whole year now, I was excited to find out what all the fuss about her books was. I'd only heard good things and let me tell you, I completely agree with every single one of those glowing reviews and tweets that have surrounded this book. It was fantastic.

Maybe I should have, but I didn't realise that Second Chance Summer wouldn't all be fun and games, which I'd assumed by looking at the cover. Taylor's dad is terminally ill and only has a few months left to live, and as soon as I found that out in one of the first few chapters, I knew this book would break me. I dreaded the end the whole way through, dreaded what I knew was coming because it would be so sad and awful I can't even begin to imagine what it must have been like for the characters. Even though they're not real... Pfffft.

At first, it was good, but it wasn't amazing. There was this whole thing about Taylor and her friend Lucy, and this guy called Henry. Taylor and Lucy had a falling out many years ago, and it built up and built up in the beginning to what I thought was going to be a huge conflict, but it turned out to be pretty trivial in my opinion.  For some people that may be the be all and end all (and maybe it goes back to me not having had a relationship before so I couldn't relate (as mentioned in a previous review)), but I don't know - I just expected something more drastic... Anyway, that was like, my ONE complaint for the whole book. Just the one.

Everything else was perfect. The setting was gloriously summery and made me want my summer holidays to come quick (not that I like hot weather, but whatever) and the characters were so real and just generally awesome people. I've not read many books where the author makes family life such a big part of the book, and it was great. Often I find that families don't play much of a role, or the family bonds seem either strained or unnatural, so to see that the book was more about real family bonds and friendship rather than just finding yourself a nice boyfriend (though there's some of that too) was awesome.

I have to talk about the end. There won't be any spoilers that aren't obvious, I promise! The end broke me into pieces and I was a mess. It was literally the most I have ever cried at a book before, most definitely. Taylor's world is completely ripped apart and even though she's been preparing for it for months, it's one of those things that you don't really think is ever going to happen and then it does and you have no idea what to do with yourself. And it's not even my dad but afterwards I felt like someone close to me had died. My parents kept asking me if I was okay and I told them what happened and they reminded me that it wasn't real. It may not have been, but it sure felt like it was.

And I must mention Henry. Henry is the most adorable person ever. He's on a level with Cricket Bell on my adorableness scale. (Yeah. I'm that cool.) There was nothing particularly remarkable about him for a while, and then I realised he was cute, and once that thought had popped into my brain, I couldn't think of anything else. He's just adorable! GAH. I loved him. You could read the book just for Henry. He's that cute. :3

I agree with absolutely everyone who's raving about Morgan Matson's books. Second Chance Summer is definitely one of my favourite contemporary reads, right up there with Anna and Lola by Stephanie Perkins and Perfect Chemistry. I absolutely adored it and I can't wait to read Amy & Roger (finally!) when I'm on holiday. If you're looking for a good contemporary, then you should definitely pick this up! You won't regret it - both heart warming and heart wrenching, this has everything needed for that perfect summer read that you'll want to read over and over again, every time summer comes around.

*Huge thanks to Simon & Schuster for sending me this in exchange for an honest review! In no way has this affected my opinion of the book. 

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Book Review: The Golden Lily by Richelle Mead

The Golden Lily (Bloodlines, #2)Title: The Golden Lily
Author: Richelle Mead
Series: Bloodlines, #2
Pages: 418
Publisher: Puffin
Date of Publication: 7th June 2012
Source: Publisher
Synopsis from Goodreads: Tough, brainy alchemist Sydney Sage and doe-eyed Moroi princess Jill Dragomir are in hiding at a human boarding school in the sunny, glamorous world of Palm Springs, California. The students--children of the wealthy and powerful--carry on with their lives in blissful ignorance, while Sydney, Jill, Eddie, and Adrian must do everything in their power to keep their secret safe. But with forbidden romances, unexpected spirit bonds, and the threat of Strigoi moving ever closer, hiding the truth is harder than anyone thought.

Populated with new faces as well as familiar ones, Richelle Mead's breathtaking Bloodlines series explores all the friendship, romance, battles, and betrayals that made the #1 New York Times bestselling Vampire Academy series so addictive. In this second book, the drama is hotter, the romances are steamier, and the stakes are even higher.

*With this review comes the usual series spoiler warning: May contain spoilers from Bloodlines and Vampire Academy. No spoilers from The Golden Lily though.* 

My Thoughts:
If you know me or my blog, you'll know that Vampire Academy is one of my favourite series. Ever. And Bloodlines, the spin-off series, is just as awesome. I'd say better, but there's very little Dimitri, so, it's not quite as good ;P Anyway, The Golden Lily is a great addition to the Vampire Academy universe and I loved every minute of it.

Having read Bloodlines about a year ago, I didn't really remember all that much about what actually happened at the end of it, but once I started reading The Golden Lily it all came rushing back as soon as the action started. It's Richelle Mead's writing - I know it's cheesy - but I always feel like I've never been away when I pick up either a Vampire Academy or Bloodlines book. I can jump straight back in a fall in love with the characters and the story once again.

Anyway, so Sydney really grew on me in this book, but at the same time she was also really annoying sometimes. (I'm aware that that doesn't make sense, but it's possible to like someone but still be annoyed by them, right? Or is that just me? ;P Whatever.) I really liked her in the first book, but in this one I just felt like we got to know her a whole lot more and in the process I picked up on the little habits she has that were irritating. It kind of irked me that she never seemed to get over the fact that she was living with and protecting vampires though... I get that she's an alchemist and she's been brought up to believe that vampires are evil, but she kept reminding herself that they were evil and to not get too involved... Hasn't she realised that it's only the minority that are actually evil?! Eurgh. Annoying. But she's a nice person and sometimes she was even funny. I liked her. A lot. But not creepily...

So I read this right in the middle of when I should have been revising for my first three Science GCSE modules. Bad. Idea. Seriously, I should have been learning about crude oil and radiators and crap (sorry, scientists), but I couldn't stop reading about vampires and alchemists and Adrian Ivashkov (more on that later ;) )... I literally read the last half completely accidentally in one sitting. We were in the car, for a six hour car journey, and I thought, I'll read for half an hour, revise for an hour, read for half an hour, revise, etc, etc. Didn't work. I was glued to the pages and I couldn't stop. Richelle Mead's writing is as action packed and fast paced as usual and I needed to keep reading to find out what on earth was going to happen next, because it was pretty unpredictable (for me, anyways).

My favourite character was definitely Adrian. I've never taken a liking to him because he's always been overshadowed by Dimitri, always prevented Rose from being with Dimitri and seriously, NO ONE is worthy to stand in their way. No one. Anyway, I said in my review of Bloodlines that I could possibly fall for him in future books... Guys, I'll confess. I've fallen for him. He's just soo... Lovely :P Which leads me nicely onto my next point...

This paragraph might not make sense if you haven't read the book. It's not spoilery but you might want to skip to the last paragraph if you haven't read it yet and are planning to.

Which is that I do have one complaint. And it's a spoilery one so I won't share details. It's SAFE TO READ ON PEEPS, don't worry. Anyway, the ending. Yeah, that bit. Well, WHY?! Sydney Sage, are you the stupidest person EVAR, or something? No. Just, NO. EURGH. The caps lock is completely necessary... Sorry, I shall stop shouting at you now. This might be weird if you haven't read it yet. It just bugged me, that's all. I closed the book, went to find my mother for the sole purpose of telling her that the ending is ridiculously stupid and cliffhangery. And it's making me want the next book all the more.

The Golden Lily is definitely a fantastic addition to the Bloodlines series, and I may have even enjoyed it more than I did Bloodlines. This series is definitely one to read if you're a fan of the Vampire Academy books, and if you haven't read those, then I suggest you read those super quickly and then move onto these because they're all awesome. Looking for something to read over the summer? There are six VA books and two Bloodlines books just waiting for you to pick them up. Go on, go. Now. I'm watching. In a totally uncreepy and unstalkerish way... Just go - you won't be disappointed.

*Huge thanks to Puffin for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review! In no way has this affected my opinion of the book and I'm so sorry it took me ages to get this review posted! I have a few to catch up with due to the aforementioned exams.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Book Review: Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler

Why We Broke UpTitle: Why We Broke Up
Author: Daniel Handler
Series: Standalone
Pages: 354
Publisher: Electric Monkey
Date of Publication: 6th August 2012
Source: Publisher
Synopsis from Goodreads: I'm telling you why we broke up, Ed. I'm writing it in this letter, the whole truth of why it happened.

Min Green and Ed Slaterton are breaking up, so Min is writing Ed a letter and giving him a box. Inside the box is why they broke up. Two bottle caps, a movie ticket, a folded note, a box of matches, a protractor, books, a toy truck, a pair of ugly earrings, a comb from a motel room, and every other item collected over the course of a giddy, intimate, heartbreaking relationship. Item after item is illustrated and accounted for, and then the box, like a girlfriend, will be dumped.

My Thoughts:
There's a whole lot of hype surrounding this book. Whoever I talk to, it seems that Why We Broke Up is one of the best books that's been read recently. Everybody's raving, or recommending it, and I can kind of see why. I can imagine that for some people this book would be the best, but for me, not so much. It was not amazing, not bad, just a good, enjoyable, but probably forgettable read.

Maybe it's because I've never been through a break-up, (you need to have had a relationship for one of those... ;P ) but while I understood the story and it was easy for me to see it playing out in my head, I couldn't relate to the characters or the story they told. It felt more like a movie than a book - because when I watch movies I do it to relax - I watch them and then forget them. Maybe this is why I don't cry at sad movies - I just don't invest in the characters nearly as much as when I read. So that's why it felt like a movie - I found it difficult to really care about Min and Ed, and while I liked them and was interested in their story while reading it, they don't strike me as a couple who will stick in my mind for very long after I've finished this review and don't need to think about them again.

The book is told in the form of a super long letter that Min is giving to Ed, along with a box of objects that are somehow significant to their relationship: everyday, unimportant objects like a comb or a protractor, that someone outside of the story would not think twice about. I liked the way that every object had a story, and all these stories made up one big recount of the relationship between Min and Ed. It was great that we got all this detail and it was awesome to take every little step of their relationship with them. This idea was what interested me and I'm pleased to report that it did not disappoint.

The main reason I didn't enjoy this as much as I wanted to was the characters. They let the book down for me, as they just seemed particularly unremarkable. They were normal and kind of boring teenagers whom I didn't much care for. I found Min's writing style to be very awkward and it being written in second person (because it's a letter) sounded weird in my head. It's why I couldn't read Stolen by Lucy Christopher - I just can't get on with it, and I have no idea why. To me, it just sounds wrong... And Ed was cute but he always seemed kind of jerkish, right from the beginning. He kept going on about how Min was so different to every other girl he'd ever been with, and that would just annoy the crap out of me, so I didn't like him much. And at the end - what was he doing?! Nope, definitely didn't like him!

The best thing about this book though, were the amazing drawings that went with every chapter. There was a gorgeous image of whatever Min is talking about every few pages, and they are so well drawn and they go hand in hand with the story perfectly. Without them, this book would definitely not be the same. I also really liked all the old film references at the beginning. It would have been more awesome if the films mentioned were real films I could watch, but I thought it was cool that Min had something that she loved so much that she could relate it to everything in her life. She's such a film-nerd and it's awesome ;D

Overall, I enjoyed reading Why We Broke Up but I didn't think it was as amazing as everyone said it was. That's not to say I didn't like it - I did - just not as much as I was hoping to. I'd still recommend it, especially if you're a fan of YA contemporary, or if you've read the synopsis and you think it sounds good. Or, you could just buy it for the pictures, because they are freaking awesome.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Book Review: Dreamless by Josephine Angelini

Dreamless (Starcrossed, #2)Title: Dreamless 
Author: Josephine Angelini
Series: Starcrossed, #2
Pages:  503
Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books
Date of Publication: 5th July 2012
Source: Publisher
Synopsis from Goodreads: Can true love be forgotten?

As the only Scion who can descend into the Underworld, Helen Hamilton has been given a nearly impossible task. By night she wanders through Hades, trying to stop the endless cycle of revenge that has cursed her family. By day she struggles to overcome the fatigue that is rapidly eroding her sanity. Without Lucas by her side, Helen is not sure she has the strength to go on.

Just as Helen is pushed to her breaking point, a mysterious new Scion comes to her rescue. Funny and brave, Orion shields her from the dangers of the Underworld. But time is running out—a ruthless foe plots against them, and the Furies’ cry for blood is growing louder.

As the ancient Greek world collides with the mortal one, Helen’s sheltered life on Nantucket descends into chaos. But the hardest task of all will be forgetting Lucas Delos.

My Thoughts:
I adored the first book in this series, Starcrossed. I thought the beginning was a little slow but the end was full of excitement and action and just pure awesomeness. It made it onto my top 10 list for 2011, and so obviously I was super excited for Dreamless. I reread Starcrossed as quickly as I could and started Dreamless soon after.

And then, I realised there was a love triangle. ARGH it was SO frustrating! I adored Helen and Lucas together, and I totally understand (because of the mythology and everything) why he had to rip apart their relationship, but I had a little bit more hope for Helen - that she'd be able to resist any other pretty boy who happened to throw himself at her. I thought she was so in love with Lucas that she'd be able to keep her thoughts away from Orion, but no... It was just annoying. I hated Orion at the beginning*, so, like with Starcrossed, I found the beginning a little slow.

For a while I was worried that Dreamless might end up suffering from Second Book Syndrome: the middle book; the filler - where nothing particularly spectacular happens and it's just building up for an explosive final book. Then I got to about half way, and I found out I was completely wrong. It hooked me in and wouldn't let me go until I'd read the very last page. Literally, I read half the book in two sittings, because once I'd put it down half way through the last half, I couldn't stop thinking about it and needed to finish it. I needed to see if Helen would be successful in her quest to free the Scion race from The Furies, and I needed to know whether she could resist Orion and stay faithful to Lucas despite them not actually being in a relationship.

It was fast paced and full of twists and turns and I had to keep reading quickly to keep up. Helen's much more interesting in this book (not that I didn't really like her before) because she finally knows how to control and use her powers properly and effectively. It was more about the family disputes and the mythology than the romance, I thought - which is good because it meant there was nothing (much) between Helen and Orion romantically (yay!) and also because I got to understand the world that Helen is a part of a lot more than I perhaps previously did.

I did get confused pretty easily though. It goes so fast, and there's so much going on that if my mind wandered just a little bit while reading (which it often does) I found I needed to go back and reread a page or so just so I could keep up. Helen's trips down to the Underworld combined with everything going on in Helen's real world made for a lot to keep up with and I'd just recommend that you make sure you're not super tired when you read this because it might not make that much sense (speaking from experience)!

Overall though I thought that Dreamless was even better than Starcrossed and I absolutely cannot wait until the last book, Goddess, is released so I can find out how the whole thing will end. I'd most definitely recommend this series if you haven't read it already and are a fan of Greek mythology and/or YA romance, and if you've read and loved Starcrossed you really must get to Dreamless as soon as you can! It will NOT disappoint.

*(although I do have to say that having now finished the book I don't hate Orion as much... Or at all, but don't get confused - I'm still most definitely TEAM LUCAS.)

Huge thanks to Macmillan for sending me this in exchange for an honest review! In no way has this affected my opinion of the book.
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