Friday, 27 September 2013

Hand Luggage Reviews (#2)

      Hand luggage is a feature where we give quick, 30 second reviews of books we've been reading. They're short, (hopefully) sweet, and the perfect way to check a book out before you dive in! This time Caroline is reviewing The Pool Theory by Alexa Nazarro and Where'd You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple.

The Pool Theory by Alexa Nazarro

Source: Netgalley (Thanks Two Pigeons Press!)
Rating: CNF - Could Not Finish

I just couldn’t like The Pool Theory. So much so that I couldn’t finish it. At least, I couldn’t properly finish it. I was kind of intrigued as to what happened so once I’d got about a third of the way through I just skipped to the last 2 chapters. Extremely unacceptable behaviour I know. There were a couple of reasons that meant I didn’t get on well with The Pool Theory but they pretty much just boiled down to one: Completely unlikeable characters. Normally this isn’t a problem for me, “Unlikeable” is often just a mean way of saying “complex” or “three-dimensional” (especially when it comes to female characters), but with this book I just couldn’t get past how completely horrible the protagonist, Kyle Penton, was! He’s a teenage boy who has just found out a girl he slept with once is pregnant, so I’d say it’s pretty fair enough if he comes across brattish and self-centred in the beginning. He is after all a teenager, that’s pretty much the job description (no offence actual teenagers, I’m talking about the stereotype here). My problem was he just didn’t get any better. As far as I read, there was no character development, no willingness to deal with the consequences of his actions, unless pushed. Some people might say this just makes him realistic, for me, it just meant I wanted to spend as little time with him as possible, so I put the book down. Obviously, if you read the whole thing you might get a different impression, so if you fancy tackling a pretty challenging portrayal of teen pregnancy from a male perspective then by all means give this one a go!

Where'd You Go Bernadette? by Maria Semple

Source: Bought from Waterstones
Rating: 4 out of 5, highly recommended

Happily, I enjoyed this one much more! Where'd You Go Bernadette is a really fun, entertaining story, with surprising emotional depth. I love reading stories told through a variety of media (Jaclyn Moriarty is a particular favourite), so I enjoyed delving through this novel as if I was a detective looking for clues. Bee is a great protagonist, fiery, intelligent and fiercely loyal to her mum Bernadette, who everyone else is convinced is crazy. Bernadette is also fascinating to learn about, through her emails to her private assistant in India, and also second hand from the other mothers at Bee's school. Semple keeps you guessing all the way through so I'll definitely be re-reading this one to see if I could have figured out the ending myself if only I'd been reading hard enough! P.S. I love all the slightly different versions of this cover, it's such a striking design. 

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Katya's War by Jonathan L. Howard (review)

Sea texture found via onlyalice on Flickr
Rating: 3.5 out of 5, recommended
Source: ARC from Netgalley (Thanks very much Strange Chemistry!)
Synopsis from Goodreads: The battle lines have been drawn. The people of Russalka turn upon one another in a ruthless and unwavering civil war even while their world sickens and the deep black ocean is stained red with their blood. As the young civilisation weakens, its vitality fuelling the opposing militaries at the cost of all else, the war drums beat louder and louder. 

Katya Kuriakova knows it cannot last. Both sides are exhausted – it can only be a matter of days or weeks before they finally call a truce and negotiate. But the days and weeks pass, the death toll mounts, and still the enemy will not talk. 

Then a figure from the tainted past returns to make her an offer she cannot lightly refuse – a plan to stop the war. But to do it she will have to turn her back on everything she has believed in, everything she has ever fought for, to make sacrifices greater even than laying down her own life. To save Russalka, she must become its greatest enemy.

I enjoyed the first book in this series, (Katya’s World: Russalka Chronicles #1), but I felt like the world as a whole needed development. In the second book in the series you get a tonne more development, whilst also watching Katya grow as a character, until she becomes absolutely awesome. I loved reading about her moral dilemmas throughout this book, as she wrestles with the difference between right and wrong and between friend and enemy. There’s less about her technical proficiency, which was A BIG DEAL in the first book, and more about her internal strength. Her ability to know the risks and consequences of her actions, but still carry on because it’s the right thing to do is something I admired hugely about her. I also LOVE the fact that there is no romance. Katya has got a job to do, her entire world is in danger, and I adore Jonathan L. Howard for not throwing a love interest in to the mix for extra ~tension. Instead he relies on the strength of the plotting and the tension of the narrative to carry the book.

My favourite character from the first book, Tasya Korevna, otherwise known as the Chervotka or sometimes the She-Devil, is back with a vengeance, and also the tiniest hint of a conscience, which does nothing to stem her badass-ery. My one criticism would perhaps be that the other secondary characters aren’t developed as much as her or Katya. There’s a lot of plot to get through so mostly Howard focusses on racing you through the story, rather than giving you deeper insights into the other personalities on Russalka.

Russalka itself made more sense to me after this novel too, perhaps just because I’ve spent more time there now, well, in a book sense... urgh you know what I mean. The whole concept of a planet whose population spends all their time underwater was a little difficult to grasp at first, but I suppose it’s a lot like living on a space station, except, underwater. There were a few classical, Russian myth references that I recognised as being references but was unable to actually understand! This was more intriguing than annoying however as none of them were integral to the plot, and it just made the book as a whole more layered. Plus what a cliffhanger to hand on! I can't wait for the next one.

All in all, Katya’s War is a worthy sequel to Katya’s World, in some senses surpassing its predecessor. Definitely worth a read if you enjoy strong female protagonists and/or science fiction!

Katya's War is released in the UK on November 7th 2013 by Strange Chemistry. 

Have you read Katya's World? Are you excited for the next one in this series?

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Best. Sequels. Ever.

Top Ten Tuesday is a bookish meme run by The Broke and The Bookish. Each week they give us a title for a list and we give them some answers!

Check out this week's Top Ten after the jump!

Monday, 23 September 2013

Our Summer Reads Recap: Caroline

From top to bottom:

A Passage to India by E.M. Forster 
Status: Still not read.
Verdict: Argh, not a good way to start, I still haven't got to this one. But it's a classic, so it'll still be good whenever I get to it. That's my reasoning anyway. DON'T JUDGE ME. 
Source: My parents' bookshelves

Sophie's World by Jostein Gaarder 
Status: Read!
Verdict: This one took me SO LONG to read. I'm kind of an all or nothing reader, so either I gobble a book up in hours or I read a few chapters, put it down, and never pick it back up again. I was trying to be self-disciplined with this one though as there is so much going on that I didn't want to rush through it. I definitely enjoyed it, although it did mess with my mind sometimes. 
Source: My parents' bookshelves

Wedlock: How Georgian Britain's Worst Husband Met His Match by Wendy Moore
Status: Still unfinished.
Verdict: Maybe I'm just not a biography reader. I always pick them up with so much excitement and hope, only to get bogged down in historical descriptions and lose the will to carry on. Who knows, maybe I'll make it to the end one day!
Source: An Oxfam in Bath

Oryx and Crake by Maragaret Atwood
Status: Finished!
Verdict: It's a good 'un. My enjoyment of this book stemmed not so much from the plot itself but from the way the dystopian world was crafted by the eponymous Crake. I really want to read the 2 follow-ups, The Year of the Flood and MaddAddam. 
Source: An Oxfam in Bath

The Crane Wife by Patrick Ness 
Status: Read!
Verdict: You can read my (very complimentary) review here.
Source: Bought (and signed) at Bookslam in Bristol

Maya by Jostein Gaarder
Status: Currently reading.
Verdict: After finishing Sophie's World, I decided to carry on to Maya. It's interesting so far, if a little slow. Lots of information about the creation of the world...
Source: Borrowed from a friend

So all in all a little disappointing, maybe I should add the ones I missed to my Christmas reading list!

How did your summer reading go? 

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell (review)

Levi is a Nebraska farm boy so he wears a lot of plaid. Swoon. 

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 - Really highly recommended
Source: Bought the eBook from Amazon Kindle

Synopsis from Goodreads: Cath is a Simon Snow fan.

Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan . . .

But for Cath, being a fan is her life — and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving.

Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.

Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.

Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words . . . And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.

For Cath, the question is: Can she do this?

Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories?

And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?

Find out why I gave Fangirl 4.5 after the cut!

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Waiting on Wednesday: She Is Not Invisible by Marcus Sedgwick

'Waiting on Wednesday' is a weekly event hosted by Breaking the Spine, where we pick the book we just can't wait to get our hands on next.

Check our this week's pick after the jump!

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Noughts & Crosses by Malorie Blackman (review)

Rating: 4.5/5 - A must read

Source: Library

Synopsis from GoodreadsTwo young people are forced to make a stand in this thought-provoking look at racism and prejudice in an alternate society.

Sephy is a Cross -- a member of the dark-skinned ruling class. Callum is a Nought -- a “colourless” member of the underclass who were once slaves to the Crosses. The two have been friends since early childhood, but that’s as far as it can go. In their world, Noughts and Crosses simply don’t mix. Against a background of prejudice and distrust, intensely highlighted by violent terrorist activity, a romance builds between Sephy and Callum -- a romance that is to lead both of them into terrible danger. Can they possibly find a way to be together?

In this gripping, stimulating and totally absorbing novel, black and white are right and wrong.

Find out why I loved Noughts & Crosses after the cut!

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Falling Hard by Megan Sparks (review)

Rating: 3/5 A fun, light read

Source: ARC from NetGalley (thanks Capstone Press!)

Synopsis from Goodreads: When Annie moves from London to a small town in the midwest, she struggles to fit in. She gets off to a bad start when she makes an enemy of her school's queen bee, Kelsey. But she discovers a new passion, the exciting sport of roller derby, and makes friends with the cool and quirky girls on her team, the Liberty Belles. She also meets Jesse, the friendly boy who works at the roller rink, and Tyler, a cute, all-American sports star.

Check out my review after the jump!

Monday, 9 September 2013

Life in Outer Space by Melissa Keil (review)

Rating: 4/5 - There whenever you need a pick-me-up
Source: Copy from NetGalley (thanks Peachtree Publishers!)

Synopsis from Goodreads: Sam Kinnison is a geek, and he’s totally fine with that. He has his horror movies, his nerdy friends, World of Warcraft – and until Princess Leia turns up in his bedroom, he doesn’t have to worry about girls. 

Then Sam meets Camilla. She’s beautiful, friendly and completely irrelevant to his life. Sam is determined to ignore her, except that Camilla has a life of her own – and she’s decided that he’s going to be part of it.

Sam believes that everything he needs to know he can learn from the movies ... but now it looks like he’s been watching the wrong ones.

Check out my review after the jump!

Saturday, 7 September 2013

4 to 16 Characters by Kelly Hourihan (review)

Rating: 4.5/5 Go get it!
Source: An ARC from NetGalley (thank you Lemon Sherbet Press)

Synopsis from Goodreads: Fifteen-year-old Jane Shilling’s best friends don’t know her real name. In fact, they don’t know anything about her at all. Jane’s life has collapsed in the last few years; following the death of her mother, her father turned to drinking, and Jane is reeling from the double blow. To escape, Jane devises a number of online personas, each with a distinct personality, life history, and set of friends. But things become trickier when she finds herself drawing close to some of her online friends, and winds up struggling with the question of how to maintain a real friendship while masquerading as a fake person. With the help of Gary, a socially awkward classmate and competitive Skeeball player who is Jane’s only offline friend, and Nora, her therapist, Jane begins to sift through her issues. The only catch is that that involves taking a long, hard look at what her life’s like when the computer is shut off, and that’s a reality she’s been fighting for years.

Check out my review after the jump!

Friday, 6 September 2013

Hand Luggage Reviews (#1)

      Hand luggage is a feature where we give quick, 30 second reviews of books we've been reading. They're short, (hopefully) sweet, and the perfect way to check a book out before you dive in! This time Caroline is reviewing Sia by Josh Grayson and The Pentrals by Crystal Mack. 

Rating: 1/5 Not good guys!
Source: Received an ARC from NetGalley

There’s not a lot of good to say about Sia I’m afraid. The premise - girl wakes up in a park and has no idea who she is, spends a week homeless before being found by her ridiculously wealthy parents - sounds intriguing, if a little clichéd. Unfortunately, the book sticks with the cliché and gets rid of the intriguing. Everything in the plot is telegraphed from the word go, so much so that it’s probably one of the most predictable books I’ve ever read. Every plot point that comes up, like Sia’s mother being an alcoholic, is resolved within a couple of chapters. There’s just no conflict anywhere.
When she goes back to school, Sia is confronted with with the horrible person that she was before, which sparks a desire to change herself. That’s a really noble goal, and maybe a book about Sia being woken up to her faults without needing to go through traumatic amnesia (the reason for which is never fully explained) would be worth reading.
That’s before I’ve even got to the fact that every POC in the novel, from Carol the friendly homeless african america, to Beatriz, the mexican housekeeper, is basically just a stereotype, a foil there to help Sia on her journey. Although, to be fair to the writer, so is every other character. In short - I wasn’t a fan!

Rating: DNF

Source: Received an ARC from NetGalley

Next up is another novel from NetGalley, this time I didn’t even finish it! The Pentrals again has an interesting premise, narrated by a young woman’s shadow, it follows the story of Violet. And that’s about as far as I got. I just couldn’t handle the narration by Antares, Violet’s shadow; it was just SO BORING. So many descriptions of what it’s like to be a shadow, and how she had to adapt to being a shadow on different surfaces...... no thanks.
I’m kind of disappointed because the synopsis sounded so interesting, but I just couldn’t handle any more. I used to feel very guilty about not finishing books but somehow reading it on Kindle makes it easier to just click out, and not click back in again. Sorry!

Have you read either of these novels? What did you think?

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Wonder by R.J. Palacio (review)

Source: The library

Rating: 4.5/5 Loved it!

Synopsis from Goodreads
I won't describe what I look like. Whatever you're thinking, it's probably worse.

August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a facial deformity that prevented him from going to a mainstream school—until now. He's about to start 5th grade at Beecher Prep, and if you've ever been the new kid then you know how hard that can be. The thing is Auggie's just an ordinary kid, with an extraordinary face. But can he convince his new classmates that he's just like them, despite appearances?

Read my review after the jump!

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Waiting on Wednesday: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

'Waiting on Wednesday' is a weekly event hosted by Breaking the Spine, where we pick the book we just can't wait to get our hands on next.

Check our this week's pick after the jump!

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Books that you wish were taught in schools

Top Ten Tuesday is a bookish meme run by The Broke and The Bookish. Each week they give us a title for a list and we give them some answers!

Check out this week's Top Ten after the jump!

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Dirty Little Secret by Jennifer Echols (review)

Rating: 4 out of 5
Source: Ebook bought from

Synopsis from Goodreads: Bailey wasn’t always a wild child and the black sheep of her family. She used to play fiddle and tour the music circuit with her sister, Julie, who sang and played guitar. That ended when country music execs swooped in and signed Julie to a solo deal. Never mind that Julie and Bailey were a duet, or that Bailey was their songwriter. The music scouts wanted only Julie, and their parents were content to sit by and let her fulfill her dreams while Bailey’s were hushed away.

Bailey has tried to numb the pain and disappointment over what could have been. And as Julie’s debut album is set to hit the charts, her parents get fed up with Bailey’s antics and ship her off to granddad’s house in Nashville. Playing fiddle in washed-up tribute groups at the mall, Bailey meets Sam, a handsome and oh-so-persuasive guitarist with his own band. He knows Bailey’s fiddle playing is just the thing his band needs to break into the industry. But this life has broken Bailey’s heart once before. She isn’t sure she’s ready to let Sam take her there again…

Check out my review after the jump!