Friday 9 December 2016

A Wrap Up - November & December 2016

Hi, thanks for stopping by.

Today's post is going to be slightly different - I'm going to be taking a quick look at a few of the books I've read over November and at the start of December, and give a brief review of each. These books aren't going to necessarily the 5-star wonders that I have spoken about so far on this blog, so that's a change, too!

When We Collided - Emery Lord.

"My dark days made me strong. Or maybe I already was strong, and they made me prove it."

I was really intrigued about this one and I actually did save it for a while, expecting it to become a favourite. Unfortunately, that really wasn't the case. I gave it 2.5 stars on Goodreads which is extremely unusual for me - usually the only books that get under 3 stars for me are ones school or University force us to read. Don't get me wrong - this is not a terrible book, and there were some beautiful quotes throughout, I just really could not connect with it on any level. Sure, Jonah is a lovely character who shows strength and bravery, his family are wonderfully vibrant and detailed, the location sounds pretty, all the food they eat sounds delicious (is that weird?!) but I just felt even all of these "nice" components lacked substance. 

The author's focus seems to have gone mainly into the creation of Vivi's character and the main problem with that is I really, really didn't like Vivi. For the first few chapters, actually, I thought she was kind of awesome but by the end, I had gone totally in the opposite direction. I appreciate that her behaviour is often a consequence of her extremely complex mental health condition, but for me she just lacked redeemable qualities. I'm all for being honest about mental health and not romanticising its effects or sufferers, but I felt as though the portrayal of Vivi had essentially NO saving graces at all. I'm sure other people might feel differently and really enjoy this book, but for me, there was far too much focus on Vivi (despite Jonah's role as love interest, grieving son etc, it barely felt like a romance to me) and a lack of development in places.

(P.S. In contrast to many elements of the book itself, I ADORE the cover.)

Emmy and Oliver - Robin Benway.

"An earthquake would have been better. At least during an earthquake, you understand why you're shaking."

Emmy and Oliver is a book I came across in a book shop and randomly decided to pick up. The blurb reminded me a lot of Emma Haughton's Now You See Me (which incidentally, I really did not enjoy). Luckily, Emmy and Oliver was far less dark and just generally had a much better and developed plot. Emmy as a protagonist was really wonderful, in my opinion - I got very used to her voice and could empathise with her nearly entirely. Oliver was also a great character, I think what I really enjoyed about him (and the rest of the teenagers, actually) was that he was very realistic, and not overly done, if that makes sense. Their romantic relationship was also very natural, not obviously striving for OTP status, which I find very common in YA these days. 

As far as the kidnap element, I thought it was really interesting to have had Oliver's dad take him away as a child, rather than some big dark secret that then unravelled when he got home. I also loved Oliver's loyalty and love for his dad, still, and the diner scene, especially when the police came, was really, really sad and wonderfully written. I loved Oliver's little sisters, loved Emmy's dad (her mum was lovely, too) and especially loved their best friends Caro and Drew. I appreciated the focus that they got and that they weren't just brushed aside as page-fillers. Also, they were very funny, which is hard to achieve on the page. I think I ended up giving this book 3.5 stars on Goodreads and I'm not entirely sure why it wasn't 4 or 4.5. I think for me  it was just missing one or two final puzzle pieces here and there, although I really can't put my finger on what those pieces would be. Overall, a lovely, heart-warming read, though.

Holding Up The Universe - Jennifer Niven.

"You are wanted. You are necessary. You are the only you there is. Don't be afraid to leave the castle. It's a great big world out there."

Okay, so my expectations were pretty much sky high after reading and adoring All The Bright Places a few months back. I almost didn't want to read this book, because I was so sure it wouldn't even compare. And I'll be honest, All The Bright Places definitely still has my heart out of the two, however, Jennifer Niven continues to amaze me. I absolutely LOVE the way she writes. I adored Libby and Jack - they were both so thoroughly developed and loveable. Libby's confidence made me so, so happy - I was so glad she was comfortable and at times even joyful in her own skin. Jack was far more troubled than I'd predicted, and I appreciated that it wasn't Libby who I expected in that position. That moment when he tries to take home the wrong kid from the birthday party because he can't recognise even his own little brother (who, by the way, was hilarious and awesome) just broke me. I really loved Libby's dad, too - he was a wonderful character and just came across as the loveliest man in the world.

Overall, it was a gorgeous read for me. I gave it 4 stars (incidentally, All The Bright Places got 5 from me) on Goodreads because whilst I did love it, it wasn't quite as good as some others. However, still a wonderful book and still absolutely one I would recommend reading to anyone.

the regulars - Georgia Clark

"What would you do to feel pretty?"

This book is a little different to the rest, mainly because it's an adult, as opposed to YA, read. I would say I read about 85-90% YA, mainly because I think it's just better. I prefer the relationships, friendships and content. I'll probably be 99 and still reading YA. However, I came across this book so randomly whilst browsing on Amazon. First of all, how gorgeous is the colour of it. The spine looks wonderful on my rainbow shelves, although it was kinda hard to place it because it could've gone in the red or purple section - a real bookworm struggle. Plus, it's a hardback, which are great rare on my shelf, but I do love. This is essentially the story of 3 regular young women who live in New York and come across a drink called Pretty that basically turns them into Victoria's Secret Angels. Obviously it takes some suspension of disbelief, especially because nothing else about the story is magical, but that wasn't a problem for me. I really, really enjoyed this book. It was hilariously funny and the entire concept was just genius. I will say, it was pretty sexy, so if you like a more PG read, probably beware this one.

The three main girls were great characters; Willow perhaps had the least substance, but I thought her storyline as both Willow and Caroline, in regards to her boyfriend/lover Mark, was brilliantly written. Krista was hilarious, sort of a hot mess in places but loveable all the same. Evie was my favourite, and the main protagonist I'd say, despite relatively equal narrative voices throughout. Her relationship with Velma was also wonderfully written - when she finds her with another woman, I was so heartbroken for her. What I think I loved most about Evie is that even when she was the "Pretty" version of herself, Chloe, she was still smart, witty and wonderful. Overall, a great, funny, feminist book that I thoroughly enjoyed from cover to cover.

Two Summers - Aimee Friedman.

"The possibilities are endless."

So I bought this book at the same time as Emmy and Oliver and just finished it this week. It was really enjoyable, probably a great poolside read, given the summery vibes throughout it. The concept (a girl experiencing parallel summers, and parallel first loves) was really awesome and original, which I appreciate as a reader. Summer herself was a good protagonist, but a little whiny for my liking at times. I expected there to be more focus on the romance aspect than there was, but that's not too big of an issue. The French waiter debacle went nearly nowhere, which was kind of odd to me, but I did love the character of Hugh. I especially liked that he wasn't described as some sort of Efron-esque beauty, which I never mind but just find to be a little predictable.

For me I think the issue with Two Summers is that it was just a little overdone in places. The idea that these parallels are happening was really cool, but literally saying (on numerous occasions) things like: "I wonder if I'd gone to France whether I would've met a handsome French boy", "You seem like the type of girl to have a European boyfriend hidden away" (which, by the way, she really doesn't - who does?!), just spoilt it for me. It was spelling out DON'T FORGET THERE'S A PARALLEL SUMMER HAPPENING, TOO. Without that, it would've been a much better book. I think I gave it 3 stars in the end. I really loved the family secret element, which was the part from the blurb I wasn't so interested in - ironically, I loved the bits I thought sounded lame and vice versa. I loved the way that secret came out on Summer's birthday in both summers and the secret itself was original and heartbreaking for her. Overall, worth a read but in need of some more subtlety in places. (P.S. LOVED the epilogue.)

(P.P.S Not a fan of the cover really, but it's better than the alternative cover for this book, which I noticed on Goodreads and liked even less. Also, I know a summer book looks stupid with a mini Christmas tree, but it's a theme so it passes.)

The Graces - Laure Eve.

"Everyone said the Graces were witches. I was going to make them mine."

This book's premise was really exciting to me and I wasn't let down when I read it. At times I found River just a little too philosophical and desperate, especially when talking to Fenrin. Their relationship was the main problem I had with this book - we learn that Fenrin is essentially bisexual but his heart is with one guy in particular, that's all good. However, when he tells River he never liked her and then we learn he thinks of her as a "baby sister" that felt ridiculous to me. It's weird to me that someone would behave how Fenrin does with River then compare her to Summer, essentially - I don't know if Fenrin was just supposed to sound like he was in denial or whether that's just a sticky element of the writing. I did like the twist with Wolf, and I might just be bad at guessing but I didn't see it coming.

I liked Summer's character a lot more than I expected to - she was probably my favourite with River near the bottom of the list. The fact that she turned out to be kind of magic herself I just didn't like at all. Also, IS MAGIC REAL IN THIS WORLD?! I can't tell. I mean River clearly has something spooky going on, but what exactly are the Graces?! I'm hoping we'll learn more. Overall I did really enjoy the book, I read it quickly and connected well for the most part. I think it just needs tightening up as a world and characters need a little more detailing in places. This seems like a really negative view, but I did love the book! I just thought I'd flag up the problems I had, as most of it was a great read.

Overall, some really interesting books. Worth mentioning I also read I'll Give You The Sun at the same time, so it was gonna be hard for anything to live up to that, let's be honest. Hope you enjoy! Favourite book of the month? Leave a comment!

Till next week


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