Friday, December 28, 2012

Book Review: The Iron King, by Julie Kagawa

Photo by Eamon Curry

Meghan Chase is not particularly excited about her sixteenth birthday. She doesn't expect her mother and stepfather to remember it, and she only has one friend at school, where she has never fitted in. But when she gets home, she finds her mother, bleeding and unconscious, and her brother Ethan is no longer the sweet, loving child that he has always been. She quickly learns that the child in the house is not Ethan at all but a faery changeling, and that she doesn't have much time to find Ethan and bring him home.

I had read a couple of reviews of Julie Kagawa's books before but only picked up The Iron King after I was given a copy at the MIRA Ink Blogger Party, where there was a live video call with Julie Kagawa. All the other bloggers there were thrilled and she came across as a really nice, friendly person so I knew I would have to read it before the year was out.

At first I found it a bit difficult to get into The Iron King. The story didn't immediately grab me the way that Holly Black's Modern Faerie Tale series did, and I found Meghan a little frustrating as she so easily accepted the meagre information that other characters gave to her about what she was getting herself into. I have the same problem with many books though - sometimes I find it unbelievable that a character wouldn't just refuse to get involved without all the information I would deem necessary. I made a similar comment in my review of Tithe.

However, about halfway through I was hooked. I love the idea of the Iron Fey, created when human's dreams shifted away from nature and towards science and technology. I also liked seeing how Meghan grew up and became a stronger person, and as the story that I think will be the centre of the series emerged, I felt myself settling in for the long haul!

I also really liked the contrast between the two love interests. Yes, there's a triangle, and ordinarily I'd be yawning at the merest whiff of one but I don't know which of the two guys I prefer yet! Also, it's really not that important to the story, at least not in The Iron King, and I hope it remains somewhat of a background detail and stays out of the major plot in the future books.

The characterisation was best for Puck and Ash, but they stand out from the rest of the fey with their morally ambigious natures. It's more difficult to figure them out than most of the other characters. I loved Grimalkin the best, however, and I hope he appears a lot in the other books. I can't tell what he wants, ultimately, but he is very funny and clever.

I am going to largely reserve my judgement until I have read the rest of the series, but I enjoyed The Iron King and would recommend that you give it a try if you've enjoyed other stories set in the world of the fey.

If you've already read amd loved The Iron King, some suggestions for you:

  • Tithe, by Holly Black - another story about a faery changeling, but this time, the main character is the changeling
  •  Ash, by Malinda Lo - a retelling of Cinderella in which she makes a deal with a powerful fairy, rather than being saved by a fairy godmother

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: New to Me Authors of 2012

This is my thirteenth Top Ten Tuesday post, though technically it's Wednesday and I'm late again! Top Ten Tuesday was created and is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. I'm quite pleased about this theme as it's great to think back to all the books I've read (so far!) this year. My list is in chronological order; it's not a ranked Top Ten.

 Photo by chefranden

Top Ten New To Me Authors I Read in 2012

 1. C. J. Daugherty - A debut author for 2012 with boarding-school mystery Night School. The sequel, Night School: Legacy is coming out in January and I am so excited!

2. Veronica Rossi - Another debut author (Under the Never Sky) with a sequel due in January - Through The Ever Night - that I am looking forward to enormously.

3. Eva Ibbotson - I wasn't expecting to love Journey to the River Sea as much as I did, as it's aimed at 9-12 year olds, but I was delighted by this new discovery and am looking forward to devouring all her other books.

4. Suzanne Collins - I finally read The Hunger Games! A book I first learnt about in 2009! I should have read it much sooner, but I'm glad I got around to it this year.

5. Sophie Flack - Yet another debut author - I'm looking forward to seeing what she does next, having liked Bunheads a lot.

6. Elaine Dundy - I really enjoyed the semi-autobiographical The Dud Avocado and am planning to read her other books soon.

7. Hannah Harrington - Again, Saving June was a debut that showed a lot of promise and I'm looking forward to reading Speechless, her second novel.

8. Rachel Vincent - An author with several series to her name, I started with My Soul to Take from the Soul Screamers series and have no plans to stop!

9. Malinda Lo - I'm really pleased that I read Ash this year and discovered another fairy tale reteller to obsess over!

10. Karen Russell - I'm currently reading St Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves, which is a book of short stories, and really enjoying it. All the protagonists/narrators are adolescents whose worlds are in some way a little magical. For example, there's one story about a boy whose dad is a minotaur, and another about a boy who uses a pair of underwater goggles to look for the spirit of his dead sister.

Have you read any of these authors? What did you think?

Monday, November 26, 2012

Monday Amusements 6

Photo by cometstarmoon

I haven't done one of these in a while so you'll find some of these links were posted two months ago! Enjoy!

Beth Bloom, author of Drain You, talked to Jamie of The Broke and the Bookish about 90's culture and life as a teen in that decade. I was not a teenager until the year 2000, so I found it really interesting. On the same blog, Tahleen takes a literary trip to Hawaii is a great book list.

C.J. Daugherty has posted an extract from Night School: Legacy which has made me even more excited about its upcoming release. There is also enormous novelty value in the fact that I've actually read Night School - this is one of the few times since I started this blog that I've read the first book in a series before the promotion starts for the second!

Luisa Plaja shared her favourite 20th Century UKYA books. It can be easy to get swept up in the tide of new releases and forget about authors' backlists, but I love reading about YA/teen fiction that isn't so recent, and I've reviewed a fair bit of it myself.

I really liked Clover's twist on the Top Ten Kick-Ass Heroines theme for Top Ten Tuesday.

For Halloween, For Book's Sake gave us Beulah's My Three Favourite Scary Sisters, and a Top 5 Short Story Collections for Halloween.

I missed seeing this in time to post it when you could still make a reservation, but isn't this collection of clothing made from book-patterned fabric absolutely amazing? (Via Rie of The Awkward Turtle Breeding Ground, who also shared thatmadgirl's plan for a fanfiction storytelling card game.

If you're trying not to buy any more books for yourself in the run up to Christmas, SisterSpooky is here for you. But if you just can't stop, Makeshift Bookmark presents Top Ten Rationales for Obsessive Book Buying.

On a more serious note, Cicely tackles the subject of slut-shaming in YA. Happily, I don't come across it too often, especially in UKYA, but occasionally I will read a book in which the shy, self-deprecating, romantically-inexperienced protagonist has a mean-girl enemy that she, and apparently the author, considers to be too promiscuous. It's not only wrong, but also lazy, to rely on outdated stereotypes of good girls vs bad girls for characterisation.

No favourite reviews this time, as I felt like I was promoting the same few blogs over and over again. They are of course wonderful, but variety is the spice of life. I have added a few new blogs to my RSS reader recently, so hopefully I'll be turning the spotlight onto them next time.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

BlogINK Competition Entry: On Not Reading Before Bed: A Manifesto

Hello all! Interrupting my usual service to let you know that I have entered the MIRAInk BlogINK competition to win a contract to be the MiraINK paid blogger for a year.

Please check out my entry and leave a comment:

On Not Reading Before Bed: A Manifesto

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Book Review: Ash, by Malinda Lo

Photo by Moyan Brenn

When Ash's mother dies, her father remarries, but he doesn't live much longer himself. Ash finds herself at the mercy of her ruthless stepmother Lady Isobel and stepsisters Ana and Clara. She is forced to move away from her childhood home and work as a servant, and she copes by developing an obsession with her book of fairytales.

Ash thinks the fairy she meets in the Wood holds the key to her escape, though it may mean death and leaving everything she knows behind. But when she meets the King's Huntress, she starts to change her mind...

This is a book which is all about beautiful imagery and evocative language. The atmosphere is as important as the plot, which is pretty straightforward. The characterisation falls by the wayside a little - although Ash, Lady Isabel, Ana, Clara, and Sidhean were all very clear for me, I thought that Ash's mother and Kaisa were a bit too quickly drawn. There isn't much worldbuilding either, but traditional fairy tales don't really have worldbuilding, so I didn't mind. We learn enough to make the story work.

I loved the idea of the Royal Hunt led by the King's Huntress. It was a great way to work a female character with power and royal connections into the story, and the rituals involved in the hunt evoked history and tradition. I also really enjoyed the sections set at Lady Isobel's sister's house, where Ash is easily accepted by the other staff and joins them at the Yule bonfire. These busy scenes made a excellent contrast with Ash's many walks alone in the Wood.

If you need all your fiction to be snappy and plot-driven and don't want to spend time going on the occasional tangent and following dream sequences, Ash is probably not for you.But if you like books that are a little ethereal, give it a go.

If you are a fan of fairy tale retellings, I would consider Ash to be a must-read. I loved seeing how Malinda Lo twists and rearranges all the typical fairy tale elements. The fairy godmother becomes a slightly menacing fairy man and the three balls take place weeks apart. She also makes the traditional - and new - villains of the story seem at least partly sympathetic, which was interesting, and realistic.

I'm looking forward to reading Huntress, which is a loosely-connected prequel, and learning more about the traditions of the Royal Hunt, and meeting more of Malinda Lo's characters.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: Books/Authors I'm Thankful For

This is my twelth Top Ten Tuesday post. Top Ten Tuesday was created and is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week's theme is a tricky one, because ther are so many authors I could go on all day. I drafted the list a couple of times but ultimately had to narrow it down. It is almost in chronological order!

Top Ten Books/Authors I'm Thankful For

Photo by Ralph Unden. Chosen because I would buy all these authors a drink.

1. Enid Blyton - for being my first favourite author. I was obsessed with her books throughout primary school. I had a small collection of my own which I read repeatedly. I'd read every book I owned and then when I was done I would start over again. I remember the struggle to choose which one to start with each time! Even though as I got older, I found the books for younger children quite babyish, I still liked to include them in my rereading.  It was only in the last couple of years of primary school that I stopped reading them, as I started to really love going to the library and picking new books by different authors to read instead.

2. Louise Fitzhugh - for offering an alternative to playing princess and inspiring my 'spy phase'. You can read more about how Harriet the Spy influenced me in my review.

3. Sarra Manning - for her Diary of a Crush column in J-17, which provided very necessary escapism during my teens.

4. The Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Angel tie-in books - the bulk of my reading diet in my teens. I read plenty of other teen lit and even some more literary stuff, but Buffy is my favourite television programme of all time, and I'm thankful that there were so many tie-in novels and that I could have even more time in that world. And who could forget the Tales of the Slayer short story collections? I just loved the idea that Slayers could be any girl, anywhere, at any time in history. I could even be one.

5. J. K. Rowling - because the Harry Potter universe is the ultimate in escapism.

6. How to Write Damn Good Fiction: Advanced Techniques for Dramatic Storytelling by James N. Frey - the first book about creative writing that I got out of the library, it fueled my desire to be a professional writer. It's here because it was first, but it is a really good book in its own right.

7. The Artist's Way, by Julia Cameron - for changing my life. Really. It helped me deal with so many things and become the generally happy, creative person that I am today.

8. Virginia Woolf - for showing me that essays can be amazing too. Seriously. If you have tried her fiction and found it difficult or not your cup of tea, try her non-fiction! If I had a Mary Poppins bag I would carry a copy of A Room of One's Own at all times.

9. Shakespeare - mostly for the words he invented (or at least recorded for posterity), rather than his actual plays, though I've enjoyed every one that I've read. He gave us such wonders as 'cheap', 'fashionable', 'obscene', and 'eyeball'. Where would we be without 'eyeball'?

10. Angela Carter - for magical short stories that led me to explore the world of fairy tale retellings, and start writing them myself. If you haven't tried any of her books before, start with The Bloody Chamber And Other Stories, if it's short stories that you're after, or Nights At The Circus, if you'd prefer a novel.

Book Review: My Soul to Take, by Rachel Vincent

Photo by rfduck

One night Kaylee and her best friend Emma sneak their way into a nightclub. They're having a great time, until Kaylee feels the urge to scream rising up her throat. She is convinced that one of the other girls dancing is about to die. Terrified, she leaves the building. The only one who can comfort her is Nash Hudson, one of the most popular boys at school, and his sudden interest in her is almost as confusing as the screaming.

She doesn't want him to find out the truth - this has happened before. Last time, she told her aunt and uncle about it, and they sent her to a mental health unit, where she was given drugs and not allowed to leave until she said she'd gotten over it, that her delusions were gone.  But when she confesses all, Nash seems to have an explanation...

I was originally drawn to My Soul to Take and the rest of the Soul Screamers series because it explores the banshee myth, and I was really intrigued to see how banshees could be placed into a teen fiction universe. I read a few positive reviews of the series, mostly from Jo at Once Upon a Bookcase, so I was quite looking forward to giving it a try, and happily I was given a copy at the MIRA Ink Blogger Party.

Kaylee is a thoughtful, strong-willed protagonist, who insists on pursuing the truth and won't take the easy way out. Nash doesn't have as vibrant a personality, but I'm sure he'll blossom in later novels, especially as his rivalry with Ted develops. The characterisation of the supporting cast was really good considering that this is a pretty short novel and there are quite a lot of secondary characters. I really liked Uncle Brendon, Aunt Val, Ted, and Emma. I didn't like Sophie, Kaylee's spoilt cousin, but I enjoyed disliking her and found her character convincing.

I did guess what Kaylee's dad's big reveal was going to be, but, despite various clues along the way, I didn't suspect what the final twists would be. At times the pacing is a bit off and it seemed to speed up a lot more towards the end, but I think pacing in a novel like this must be really hard. It's the first in a series of seven books, so Rachel Vincent had to give a realistic amount of information to the reader but also keep a lot of secrets, and I think she managed this really well, though Kaylee did seem a bit too accepting at times.

I don't think My Soul to Take is a lifechanging, must-read kind of book, but I'm sure it's not supposed to be. It's fun, competently-written supernatural romance/drama, and I am looking forward to reading the rest of the series. If you like supernatural fiction and would like a break from all the vampires and fairies, give this a try.


Book Review: Defiance, by C.J. Redwine

Photo by Antoine Hubert

Sixty days have passed since Rachel's father Jared was expected to return to the walled city of Baalboden, and the brutally strict Commander has pronounced him dead. Rachel refuses to believe that her father really is dead, holding onto the hope that if she escapes the city, she will find him in the world outside.

Logan is Rachel's new Protector, assigned to care for her and make sure she obeys the Commander's rules until she reaches Claiming age and is given to a husband. He doesn't believe that Jared is dead either, but he wants to keep Rachel safe inside the city, away from the fire-breathing Cursed Ones that claw their way out of the ground and scorch everything around them. But Rachel's belief that her father still lives arouses the Commander's suspicions, and soon both she and Logan are struggling to evade his cruel machinations and rescue the people of Baalboden.

I liked Rachel as a heroine. She's strong and determined and knows how to take care of herself, and it was a nice change to read about a girl character that didn't start off as a helpless child who needed to be taught how to survive. I enjoyed seeing Rachel make hard choices and kick butt.

I was less interested in Logan, especially once it became clear that he was good at everything! At first I was expecting that he would be the studious, intellectual one, whilst Rachel would do all the physical saving-the-day, but then it turned out he could fight too. His only flaw seems to be that he can't outwit the Commander and gets angry sometimes. I'm sure plenty of readers won't mind this, but I thought it made their partnership a bit unbalanced, as Rachel doesn't have any skills that are hers alone, whereas Logan has a lot of science and technology knowledge that she doesn't share.

I didn't get excited about the romance, but I really enjoyed the plot. There are lots of twists and all the reveals come really slowly, which is frustrating at times but makes it an easy book to keep reading.   There is quite a lot that the author left unexplained, which on the one hand is good, because there is lots to look forward to in the next book, but on the other, it stopped me becoming as absorbed in the world of Defiance as I wanted to be.

Baalboden's society has medieval elements - the ceremonies, the type of jobs people do - and women are effectively property, passed from Protector to Claimer. However, there are sprinklings of futuristic technology, so we are led to believe that the time period in which the story takes place is yet to come. There is a brief description of the events that led up to the founding of Baalboden, mostly to explain why the Commander is so powerful, but it was a bit vague.

The Commander is supposed to be over seventy years old, yet he is fit and strong and agile enough to fight Logan - and I wanted to know why. It's not that all the characters live longer and healthier lives in this novel than people do in reality - Rachel's friend Oliver is about the same age, I guessed, but acts appropriately elderly. I would really like to know what's going on there. And why he hates women. I couldn't imagine why the people would have let the Commander impose such a restricted lifestyle onto them if they had previously lived in a society at least as free as my own. Perhaps everything will be fully explained in later books in this series, but I think the setting would have seemed more believable if the history of Rachel and Logan's world had been explored in more detail in Defiance.

I think that Defiance provides a reasonable set-up for the rest of the series. It's not as strong a beginning as, say, Under the Never Sky, but that's another post for another day! I would like to read the next book when it comes out and see if the ground that Defiance didn't cover is fully explored.

Thank you, Atom Books, for the review copy.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Book Review: Rebel Angels, by Libba Bray

This book is the second in a trilogy and therefore this review will inevitably contain spoilers for the first book, A Great and Terrible Beauty.

Rebel Angels picks up shortly after where A Great and Terrible Beauty left off. Christmas is approaching and Gemma, Felicity, and Ann are mourning Pippa's death. Gemma is particularly shaken because she blames herself for failing to save Pippa, and has begun having nightmares about it. She has refused to go into the realms ever since, while Felicity and Ann are desperate to return to the beautiful world where almost everything they wish can become true.

Eventually Gemma decides to try visiting the realms once again, where the magic is now loose and can be wielded by the strange, terrifying, and distrustful creatures that live there. The trio find many things waiting for them: a friend thought lost, would-be allies, and mythological enemies. Kartik returns, to set Gemma on a quest to find the Order's ancient temple and bind the magic. But what he doesn't tell her is that the words he has given her will bind the magic to the Rakshana's control. Meanwhile Gemma has been having visions of three girls dressed in white, warning her about a woman who led them to their deaths. Circe is still after them, so the arrival of a new teacher at school makes Gemma increasingly suspicious. She doesn't know who to trust - if there is anyone she can trust.

I found Rebel Angels more convincing than A Great and Terrible Beauty. The lengthy, overly poetic descriptions were toned down a lot and Gemma seemed much wiser  than she was in the first book. The plot was gripping, and although I had strong suspicions about what was going to happen (and was right), the atmosphere of mistrust made me doubt almost everyone and wonder who would turn out to be on Gemma's side in the end. Each of the girls grows stronger in this novel and that was really exciting too - I'm looking forward to finding out where their destinies lie in The Sweet Far Thing, the final book in the trilogy.

Like before, much of the action takes place in the realms, but Libba Bray doesn't neglect the world outside. We get to see the girls' families, which introduces further emotional conflict into the story. Gemma meets a new suitor and there were some interesting revelations about both major and minor characters that kept me reading on at high speed. I loved the historical detail - the girls take a ride on an Underground train for the first time, attend balls and a private members' club, and go Christmas shopping.

My favourite thing about A Great and Terrible Beauty was the undertones of Victorian-girls-vs-the-patriarchy, and we get to see more of that in Rebel Angels. The girls are all getting older and having to deal with their impending futures, which are all potentially pretty horrible. Gemma and Felicity are expected to become good, respectable wives, and whilst Felicity acts out, embarrassing her parents and jeopardising her reputation with low-cut gowns and outrageous behaviour, the more thoughtful and cautious Gemma struggles with the knowledge that she will probably have to keep her powers secret from any future husband. Ann is only at Spence in order to learn enough to be able to work as a governess for her cousin's children, and she is beginning to resent the expectation that she will spend her life in servitude. Rebel Angels provides us with all the typical historical novel frivolities: beautiful gowns, balls, elegant gentlemen - but doesn't shy away from the truth about the limited choices available to young middle-class women at this time.

I loved the quest through the realms. The journey had the right mix of magic and horror, and was a great counterpoint to the events taking place in London. On the one hand, everything is much simpler in the realms, where the girls are free from the restrictions of social convention. But on the other, there are rules and creatures that they don't understand. Beings from mythology and the spirits of the dead cause trouble and threaten their lives, but they still keep going back because the adventure in the realms is much more exciting than their expected futures outside.

If you enjoyed A Great and Terrible Beauty, you should definitely read Rebel Angels, as it is even better. I can't wait to read The Sweet Far Thing - it's on my Christmas list for sure!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Would Want On A Deserted Island

This is my eleventh Top Ten Tuesday post. Top Ten Tuesday was created and is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week's theme is:

Top Ten Books I Would Want On A Deserted Island

 Photo by Jo@net

I decided immediately that size matters. I need to not get bored on this island by myself.

1. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, by J K Rowling

It's the biggest Harry Potter. End of.

2. The RSC Shakespeare: The Complete Works

Because there are so many of Shakespeare's plays and poems that I haven't read, and on the deserted island, I might finally have the time. Hopefully not though, because I'd still really miss the internet.

3. Burning Your Boats: Collected Short Stories, by Angela Carter

I own this, it's large, and I've yet to finish it. Angela Carter is one of my favourite authors and I could happily read the stories from The Bloody Chamber over and over again.

4. War and Peace, by Leo Tolstoy

I enjoyed Anna Karenina, so why not?

5. Ash: A Secret History, by Mary Gentle

I've been meaning to re-read this for ages. Oh, and it's the longest fantasy novel ever published in a single volume.

6. Adorkable, by Sarra Manning

Longest YA Sarra Manning book.

7. SAS Survival Guide: How to survive in the Wild, on Land or Sea

Obviously. Gotta live so that I can get back to the internet. Oh, and my human loved ones...

8. Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell

So I'd have to finish it. Plus it is quite long.

9. In Search of Lost Time, by Marcel Proust

Longest novel ever. I had to read the first volume, Swann's Way, at university and I enjoyed it. I don't remember very much about it but it is beautifully written, even if I did skip those six pages describing a church. I'm sure someone must have published it in one volume...

10. The Writer's Idea Book by Jack Heffron

I can't just spend my time on survival chores and lying around reading fiction. I have to work on my own career. And I need something to keep me going, lest I resort to 'Memoirs of a Shipwrecked Blogger'.

Which of my suggestions would you prefer to have on a desert island?

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Book Review: Saving June, by Hannah Harrington

Frustrated by the way her mother and aunt are dealing with the suicide of her sister June, Harper Scott and her best friend Laney plot to steal June's ashes and scatter them in California, where June dreamed of attending university. Jake Tolan's exact connection to June is a mystery, and he is annoyingly reluctant to share what he knows about June's last days, but he has a van, and is willing to risk getting into serious trouble. Against their better judgement, Harper and Laney agree to make the road trip with Jake.

I would describe Saving June as like an edgier Sarah Dessen novel. Harper's recent bereavement is the backbone of the story and of the characters' development, though there are other elements in the mix - music, sex, and a little politics. Music is particularly important, though apart from in a couple of mix-related places, it's not as vital to this story as it is in some other recent YA books, eg. If I Stay. Music in Saving June mostly just provides atmosphere, or a clue to character personalities.

This is very much a coming-of-age story, focusing on the way in which the three of them change and grow over the course of the road trip. There isn't a lot of plot, and although the characters were interesting and I enjoyed seeing their personal journeys, sometimes I wished for some external action to speed things up a bit. Not all Harper's family relationship issues are resolved, but I didn't have a massive problem with this - not everybody needs or wants to be close with and completely understood by their family.

I did find it a bit difficult to visualise the journey, but then I've never road-tripped in the USA, and I'm far from expert on international geography. The only thing I found really unconvincing is that although their primary goal is to get to California before they get caught, the group make a few detours without much conflict. It's small but I expected there to be some big arguments over this!

I would definitely recommend Saving June to fans of road trip novels and musical references - these are practically YA subgenres these days! I think Laney was my favourite character, and I find friendship dynamics really interesting. If Hannah Harrington writes another book, I would be especially keen to read it if it focused on a friendship.

There is more I could say about Saving June, but it would involve spoilers! If you've read Saving June and are desperate to discuss it in more detail, feel free to send me an e-mail - juliannelefay(at)

Friday, October 05, 2012

Book Review: That Summer, by Sarah Dessen

Photo by Jason Sturner

Haven has two weddings to attend, and she is not happy about either of them. The book opens as her sports news presenter father is marrying his colleague, meterologist Lorna Queen, and her sister Ashley is planning her wedding, which will take place at the end of the summer. Haven's mother has devoted herself to her garden, and Haven is worried about how quiet the house will become. Then Ashley's ex-boyfriend Sumner Lee returns to town, reminding Haven of a summer a few years before, when her parents were still together and she and Ashley were closer, when she was happier and everything felt more secure. Haven starts to spend more time with Sumner, but everything is not as it seems.

Sumner is a very intriguing character, offbeat and charming, and I thought that Haven's love/hate relationship with her sister was very well described - Ashley is self-assured but also frequently irritating and her motives and decisions are as unclear to us as they are to Haven. I was also really drawn into the side-stories with Haven's best friend, Casey, and the Lakeview Mall Models.

I liked that Sarah Dessen makes you think the book is about one thing, but it turns out to be about something quite different. However, I thought that the execution was a bit muddled. I can see how some readers have been disappointed, especially after reading her later novels. It's not that That Summer is bad, but as teen novels go, it's quite average, and in comparison to Last Chance, the first Sarah Dessen book that I read, it lacks spark and flows awkwardly. Haven is quite a passive character for much of the book - she goes along with everything that happens and doesn't ask for explanations - and it seemed to take a very long time for events to build towards a conclusion and for Haven to get angry and find out the truth.

It's interesting to see where Sarah Dessen started, but I didn't enjoy it as much as Last Chance. I would still recommend That Summer, though if you've never read any Sarah Dessen books before it's probably best to start with one of her more popular titles. I'm looking forward to reading more of her later novels, particularly Just Listen, which so many bloggers have loved.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Book Review: The Dud Avocado, by Elaine Dundy

Photo by andyket

Sally Jay Gorce tried and failed to run away several times in her teens, until her rich, understanding and partly-wise uncle promised her that if she finished college (that's university, in non-US English) he would allow her two years to do whatever she pleases, totally funded by him. The only condition is that she doesn't contact him during that time. Sally Jay heads for Paris, with the vague ambition to become an actress, and otherwise to go to parties and enjoy her freedom.

I love Sally Jay's voice. She's funny and knowing and clever and yet manages to delude herself about the intentions of men she likes. I love the backstory to her living in Paris, and she's decadent in a way that I find addictive in fictional characters - dying her hair pink and wearing evening dresses in the morning/early afternoon. She can't resist a party but she loathes the preconceptions other people have about her. She is done with education but wants to be an actress. She never thinks about what she will do when her subsidised freedom ends, and I liked that. I always worry about the future so it was nice to take a holiday inside the mind of someone without those concerns.

The Dud Avocado probably doesn't seem as feminist to us now as it would have done when it was originally published, but thinking about the stereotype of a Fifties woman and comparing that to Sally Jay makes what she gets up to seem quite shocking! There are a few more overt feminist touches - when Jim assumes that Sally Jay can cook just because she's a woman, I laughed. It's a ridiculous notion, but one that was probably quite prevalent in the fifties.

The story comes to rather a sudden halt, and if you prefer novels to have an obvious beginning, middle, and end (no criticism intended - I generally do), you might feel disappointed by the ending. However, as a fictionalised memoir, there never really is a strong, clear, plotline, so it's easier to forgive than it might be for a novel that was purely fiction, though I still felt that the narrator's life gets tidied up a bit too neatly.

I'm not sure how this book found its way onto my TBR. I think Sarra Manning might have mentioned it at some point. Maybe in the back of Nobody's Girl. I don't have a copy handy to check. In any case, I'm glad it did and I'll definitely be giving Elaine Dundy's other novels and autobiography a go!

The Dud Avocado was included in the Virago Modern Classics Designer Collection, and I'm quite tempted to get this fabric-covered hardback edition, if just because it would look so nice next to my copy of The Magic Toyshop by Angela Carter...

Monday, September 17, 2012

Monday Amusements 5

Read. Or else. Photo by Ben Newcomer

Note: This post doesn't have as many yesterday-recent links as I'd like. I've suffered with migraines for the past few days so pretty much just stuck the first link in today, the other links were ones-I-collected-earlier. Hopefully next week's post will be 'fresher'. 'Til then, there are still plenty of great links here, but many of them are a couple of weeks old.

Raimy is running a Malorie Blackman themed week to celebrate the new cover designs. I'm pretty sure it's also a slight rebundling of the series as well - I think 'An Eye for an Eye' was included in the last edition of Noughts & Crosses, and now it's included with Knife Edge. I like the new cover designs, they're very similar to the old ones but give the series a fresher, more up-to-date look.You can read my review of Noughts & Crosses here.

I've been thinking a lot about reading speed for quite a while now, as mine seems to have slowed considerably over the last few years. I have a theory that I'm reading slower because I'm reading more books by different authors than ever before. I used to stick with one author for a while and devour their entire ouvre before moving onto another, and I think this helped me to read more quickly. When I pick up a book by an author I've read before, I seem to read it faster than I would a book by an author that is new to me. It's like my brain is used to their style and the rhythm of their words, and I just slip back into it. Books by Sarra Manning and E. Lockhart fly by (pun intended...get it? No?), and I just finished the second in Libba Bray's Gemma Doyle trilogy, which seemed a faster read than the first. Read what Jen at Makeshift Bookmark has to say on the subject of reading speed, and contribute your own thoughts to the discussion.

'Is There Any Sense Left In The World (Of YA Fiction)' by Cicely is partly a personal post but I think it does make a good point about YA heroines. I do get a bit fed up if I read too many books in a row that feature protagonists who are well, a bit silly. When I was a teenager I was overdramatic and sarcastic and romantic in the way that's not quite healthy but I was also quite sensible and cautious. I just couldn't relate to fictional girls who would drop everything for the first boy to smile their way or fail to notice when somebody they trusted was actually clearly evil.

The Bookette asks: Do you remember learning to read? I taught myself to read before I started school and I can't actually remember a time when I couldn't read. I can remember being very competitive abiout it and wanting to move up the reading bands as fast as possible at school. I also used to read the dictionary to learn new words and write them down in my notebooks, with definitions. I still go through phases of doing this from time to time!

Y is for Young Adult is a cute poem about the joys of being a YA reader, by Jo at weartheoldcoat.

Red Riding Hood and Wolf, in Lego form!

This has been all over Twitter, but in case you haven't seen it: The Publishing Process in GIF Form

Atom are holding a launch for Libba Bray's new novel, The Diviners, this Thursday 20th September at Waterstones Oxford Street Plaza. I would be there in a heartbeat if I didn't have to work.

Jo at Once Upon A Bookcase is seeking recommendations for her LGBTQ YA theme month.

Now onto the most intriguing reviews I've read over the last couple of weeks! Jen at Makeshift Bookmark is surprised by the 'amazingness' of the self-published Angelfall, whilst I was surprised by how interesting Clover at Fluttering Butterflies found Ghost Flower, a book I'd left languishing on my TBR (and will now have to try soon). I'm also looking forward to getting my hands on a copy of What's Left of Me by Kat Zhang, thanks to another of Clover's reviews.

Mel at Chicklish reviewed The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater, which sounds excellent, as does Russian Winter, as featured by Kelly at The Broke and the Bookish. I love reading about dancers, I secretly wanted to be one for a while when I was a kid. From one kind of performance to another, Raimy's review of Five Flavors of Dumb, by Antony John, makes it sound like a really interesting twist on the teenagers-form-a-band novel.

Finally, a review of a book I've already read - The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett, reviewed by Jo at weartheoldcoat, included because her book heroine maths - "Hermione Granger + Mildred Hubble + Matilda Wormwood = Tiffany Aching" - made me laugh. Also, I loved that book, but have yet to get around to reviewing it myself.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: Bookish Confessions

Photo by anna gutermuth

Yeah, it's Wednesday. Again. But it's not 'yet again'! Quite impressive I think, considering that this is my tenth Top Ten Tuesday post! Top Ten Tuesday was created and is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week's topic is:

Top Ten Bookish Confessions

1. I consistently forget to renew books on time and get fined. I am slowly getting better at renewing them on time, but the problem is excabated by the fact that...

2. Some library books stay on my shelves/floor for months before I finish reading them. I have developed a strategy to deal with this: I am now only allowed to have one fiction book from the library at once. However, I have multiple non-fiction books on the go from the library and I'm working through them very slowly. But I think that's reasonable. I can't be expected to devour an entire textbook about marketing in one go, can I?

3. I keep dropping bookmarks in the bath!

4. When I volunteered as book specialist at a charity shop, I would let books that I liked linger longer on the shelves, whilst others went into the recycling bag. However, I also did the same thing with books by celebrity authors I don't like - in the hope that someone who might have bought their book new and thus contributed to their fortune would instead pick it up for 99p secondhand. Maybe this one is a bit weird.

5. When it was quiet in the shop I would flick through books that looked terrible based on the cover/blurb/author and read a few paragraphs to confirm my suspicions. I also got through a few little trivia books and joke books in the quiet moments. More notably, I read the whole of Nobody's Family Is Going to Change in the shop, over the space of a few months.

6. I jump at the opportunity to lend books to friends - because it means more space on my shelves/floor, even temporarily.

7. I often look at what other people are reading on the train, and judge them. If they have an e-reader I read over their shoulder. Usually it's a Hunger Games or a Harry Potter, which meet with my approval. Sometimes it's 50 Shades, which does not. Also I find it amusing if they are reading something that matches their appearance. Person in suit reading legal thriller, etc. The other day I saw a hipster reading A Clockwork Orange. I almost laughed out loud.

8. Sometimes I splash soup on books. Therefore I do not eat soup whilst reading a book I bought new. Secondhand books or battered old library books are fair game.

9. I love pretty covers. '90s book covers, especially for teenage fiction, were terrible. I find cartoonish covers on older-teen fiction really offputting, as I did when I was a actual teenager. In my mind it makes the book look immature. It's fine for books intended for under 15s, but any older than that and I think a more adult-looking cover is the way to go.

10. Sometimes while reading I'll skip ahead to see what happens and then go back to read what I've missed. I hate this habit and I am trying to force myself not to do it any more.

Anybody share my bad habits and/or quirks?

Monday, August 27, 2012

Monday Amusements 4

Sh*t Book Reviewers Say:

It has to be said that most of these phrases are used more by srs bsns book reviews in srs bsns newspapers than by book bloggers. But there are a few that are awfully tempting to use sometimes, and may have snuck their way into a few reviews, such as: 'Gripping', 'Riveting', 'But I just didn't care about the characters' 'The characters come to life' and 'The pages practically turn themselves'!

The nominations for the Top 100 Best-Ever UKYA novels have been counted and you can now vote for your top ten. I voted for seven - I excluded most-likely-winners and books that were the first in the series and where I felt like I needed to read more of the story to fairly judge them. My selections:

Della Says: OMG! - Keris Stainton
Diary of a Chav - Grace Dent (side note, I'm addicted to Grace Dent's restaurant reviews in the Evening Standard Magazine. I'll probably never go to any of the restaurants she reviews because, well, my budget really only allows for Nando's and Pizza Express with a voucher code but I love her sense of humour. This review had me laughing out loud!)
Diary of a Crush - Sarra Manning (obvs)
Girls Under Pressure - Jacqueline Wilson (went against my usual 'not voting for most likely winners' rule because I loved this in my early teens and read it over and over!)
Slam - Nick Hornby (thought I had reviewed this, but bizarrely, I hadn't! It's a refreshing twist on teen pregnancy drama from the male point of view)
Tiffany Aching series - Terry Pratchett (haven't reviewed any of these but I love it!)
Noughts & Crosses - Malorie Blackman (I read this nearly nine months ago and I'm still recovering)

After all that hard work selecting and voting, how about some utterly bizarre fluff. Book covers matched with bikinis (via Gala). I've actually thought several times about doing a cross-blog project where I show what I'm wearing on my fashion/make-up blog and what I'm reading here. But I don't think I'd have the patience to match it that well...

Spread the Word have just published the listings for their Autumn 2012 programme of writing workshops and other events. This time round they've included a workshop about graphic novels and one about writing for television, as well as the usual range of workshops on different themes for poetry, prose fiction and drama. If you're a writer living in London or able to travel and haven't been to a Spread the Word workshop before, don't hesitate to book a place if one appeals to you. I have been to so many of their workshops that I have now lost count, both as a paying participant and as a volunteer and I think they're really low-priced for what you get out of each one, especially for the full-day workshops!

Finally, the most exciting reviews I've read this week! Cicely's review of Team Human, by Justine Larbalestier and Sarah Rees Brennan is both enthusiastic and thoughtful. I'd never heard of that book before but now it's on my wishlist for sure. I'm not sure how I'll get on with Dying to Know You, by Aidan Chambers, but Clover's review has convinced me to give it a try. I loved the sound of Seraphina, by Rachel Hartman, in Evie's review - 'fresh ideas, clever plot developments, and fascinating dragons'? Yes please!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Books I've Read During The Lifespan Of My Blog

Photo by Dee'lite

This is my ninth Top Ten Tuesday post. Top Ten Tuesday was created and is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. I really like this week's theme - what a great excuse to remind myself of some of the wonderful books I've read since I started blogging. This list is in chronological order as I found it easiest just to go through my posts and pick out my favourites.

Top Ten Favorite Books I've Read During The Lifespan Of My Blog 

1. All My Friends Are Superheroes, by Andrew Kaufman

All Tom's friends are superheroes. In fact, there are 249 superheroes in Toronto, including his wife, The Perfectionist, and her ex-boyfriend, Hypno, who hypnotised her on their wedding day so that she could no longer see, hear, or feel Tom. Now they are both on a flight to Vancouver, where The Perfectionist plans to start a new life, believing that Tom left her. He only has until the plane touches down to convince her that he's there and save their relationship. It's adorable, clever, lovely and funny, and you should read it. I really need to rewrite my review though, it was only my sixth on this blog and I think I've gotten a lot better since then.

2. Notes from the Teenage Underground, by Simmone Howell
Chock full of cool cultural references, Notes is about a trio of teenage girls, primarily the sidelined Gem, that embark upon a project each summer. This year their theme is 'Underground' - which leads them into all kinds of trouble. I spotted this book on a library shelf, and intrigued by the title, I took it home. I'd never heard of Simmone before but after this, I devoured her second book, Everything Beautiful.

3. Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac, by Gabrielle Zevin
Naomi Porter falls down the steps outside of her school and when she wakes up in hospital, she has forgotten the last four years. She no longer remembers her boyfriend, her parents' break-up, her sister, why her best friend is her best friend, or why she cared about any of the things that sixteen-year-old Naomi supposedly cared about. This is a whirlwind of a book - believable but surprising.

4. Nobody's Family Is Going To Change, by Louise Fitzhugh
Just going to quote my full-length review: "Emancipation 'Emma' Sheridan (what a fabulous name) is passionately in love with the idea of being a lawyer, like her father, but he doesn't approve of women lawyers. Emma's mother tells her that she needs to lose weight and grow up to be beautiful so that she can marry a lawyer. Emma watches court programmes on television, reads law textbooks, and fantasises about being older, taller, and winning cases against her father. Whilst wearing a large, dramatic hat."

5. The Boyfriend List, by E. Lockhart
Just read my review. The Boyfriend List is one of the best teen/YA novels that I have ever read and if I start banging on about it again we'll be here all day.

6.  If I Stay, by Gayle Forman
Beautifully written story about Mia, who has to decide whether she wants to live or die after her parents are killed in a road accident. I cried multiple times.

7. Valiant, by Holly Black
Val runs away from home when she catches her boyfriend going to bed with her mother and finds herself living in New York City with street kids that take faerie drugs. Dark, atmospheric, and generally amazing.

8. Journey to the River Sea, by Eva Ibbotson
Wonderful children's fantasy adventure featuring bright orphan Maia and her governess Miss Minton, who is essentially me, except that I don't think I could stand being a governess.

9. The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins
My only regret is that I didn't read The Hunger Games before I'd heard all the hype.

10. Adorkable, by Sarra Manning
Hate, love, love, hate, Haribo, dogs on skateboards, feminism, and fashion blogging. Oh, just read the review!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Monday Amusements 3

I've been meaning to post another one of these for ages! There has been so much good stuff shared in the last couple of weeks, I just had to get my butt in the chair and put it all together. Enjoy!

Above: a working version of the Weasley family clock! (I think someone posted this on Twitter, but I don't remember who. Sorry! If it was you, leave me a comment and I'll credit)

I appreciate and (mostly) agree with this post In Praise of Ripening at Writer Beware. Although the lowered costs involved in self-publishing these days are a good thing in that niche or marginalised writers whose work might never have been published can do-it-themselves and get their words out there, I dislike the DIY-as-fast-as-possible idea. I love the stories I'm working on, and I want the published versions to be the best they can be, and that requires a lot of work. I can't imagine there are any writers whose work doesn't benefit from the eye of a good editor or at least a practiced reader.

NPR is running a readers' poll for a top 100 list of teen novels. I voted for:

The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak
Boy Meets Boy, by David Levithan
Discworld/Tiffany Aching (series), by Terry Pratchett
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, by E. Lockhart
Fire and Hemlock, by Diana Wynne Jones
If I Stay, by Gayle Forman
Ruby Oliver Quartet (series), by E. Lockhart
Saving Francesca, by Melina Marchetta
and I couldn't decide on a ninth or tenth!

The nominations are pretty good! There are loads of books I really want to read on there and only a couple that I think are totally overrated (am I the only one who feels that way about The Perks of Being a Wallflower? Maybe I need to give it another go). I didn't vote for either the Harry Potter series, The Hunger Games trilogy, or His Dark Materials, as I'm sure they'll get plenty of votes, and I wanted to support books that were more likely to be underdogs. Also, aren't the Harry Potter books children's lit? I know Harry, Hermione and Ron are in their teens for most of the series, but due to the readers-younger-than-characters rule and the fact that bookshops shelve them in 9-12 (or on their own stand, of course), I always think of them as children's rather than teen.

As a counterpoint to the NPR list, which is rather heavy on American authors, the UKYA blog is now receiving nominations for their own top-100 of British teen novels. You have until Saturday 3rd August to leave a comment on the post linked above with your own suggestions. I know it'll take me quite some time to decide on mine!

The Guardian books staff have started a 'What are you reading today?' Flickr group in which members can post images of the book they are reading that day. I'm not quite sure how discussion will evolve from this but it'll be interesting to look at occasionally.

I know next to nothing about the Olympic athletes but Jo's post on weartheoldcoat pairing athletes with YA audiobooks made me smile! 'Usain Bolt reading The Hunger Games. Don’t even pretend you wouldn’t buy it.'

I've decided to include links to the most interesting reviews I've read recently from now on. I had two favourites this week. Luisa Plaja's review of The Twice-Lived Summer of Bluebell Jones by Susie Day was really intriguing, I loved Girl Meets Cake and the idea of a Susie Day book with a darker edge has sent this one straight to my wishlist.

I was drawn to Cicely's review of The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale because I love fairytale retellings and have never read a retelling of 'The Goose Girl', which is one of my favourites. It sounds similar to Robin McKinley's Spindle's End, which I really enjoyed.

Anything bookish you've seen that you think I'd enjoy? Please share it in the comments!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Book Review: Where She Went, by Gayle Forman

Where She Went is a sequel and this review will contain spoilers for the first book, If I Stay.

It's three years after Mia's accident, shortly after which Mia left Adam behind and moved on to life as a virtuoso violinist at Juillard. Adam has become a celebrity - a rock star with an actress girlfriend. But he is far from happy, suffering from anxiety and having fallen out with his bandmates.

Then Adam has one night to himself in New York City before he goes on tour, and almost by chance, he goes to see Mia perform. She invites him backstage and as they both have one last night in the city before they go to separate corners of the world, they decide to spend it together. But they can't avoid discussing the painful past.

There were definitely things I liked about Where She Went. I was interested to find out how Mia coped with life after the accident, and how Adam failed to cope. I thought that Where She Went was a good exploration of the ways that people deal with traumatic events and build their futures afterwards. I loved Mia as a character because she seems so real. She's kind and loving but she's not a pushover or a doormat - she's really strong and she takes care of herself first. I think in that way she's a role model for all of us. I felt so sad for Adam, but hopeful that he could turn things around. I was rooting for them to work out where they had gone wrong, and to heal themselves and each other. There is a really strong emotional journey that the characters - particularly Adam - go through, and as a reader I was taken along for the ride, starting off depressed by the way Adam has changed and going through his following emotional ups and downs with him. I also liked the way that music tied everything together - music was also a pivotal part of If I Stay and one of my favourite things about it.


I have this issue with books and paranormal activities. I can read fantasy novels, urban fantasy, paranormal, magical realism, etc, no problem. But when a book with some ambigious paranormal activity (I'll call it 'magic' from here on out) suddenly becomes unambigious, it can fall flat for me. If something's happening and we don't know if it's magic or if someone's imagining it, I don't mind the suspense. If it becomes clear that it is supposed to be magic and there's a proper explanation after that point, that's fine. If there's no explanation, if we're just supposed to accept the existence of this magic - then I become uncomfortable and usually dislike the rest of the book.

It's really hard to explain this without spoilers. But basically, I think that although I had no problem suspending my disbelief when reading If I Stay, where the whole conceit of the novel is that Mia's disembodied spirit is watching her family and friends' reactions to the accident, when that idea got taken outside of that one novel and introduced to the 'real world' in Where She Went, I had problems suspending my disbelief.

Also, although I liked the idea of it all happening over just 24 hours, in practice I wasn't sure all those revelations and decisions were realistic. I think that in reality people separated like Mia and Adam would need to take more time to rebuild their connection than they do.

After I finished and adored If I Stay, I couldn't wait to read the sequel. I don't think I could have stopped and never read Where She Went. I wanted more. Yet it turned out that I didn't need more. It's not that I disliked Where She Went, I just think that it was was unnecessary for me. Not unnecessary full stop by any means, just unnecessary for me. It was, as I said above, interesting to read, but I didn't believe it the same way I believed If I Stay.

Maybe it's merely a clash of personality and book. Plenty of other readers have loved Where She Went, and odds are you will too. I am still looking forward to reading Gayle Forman's previous and future books. But if your reader's mind works like mine - you're not alone.

Two reviews that I read prior to Where She Went:
Fluttering Butterflies (with author interview)
So Many Books, So Little Time

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Book Review: Adorkable, by Sarra Manning

Photo by 20after4 (runner up: puck90)

Our heroine, Jeane Smith, is a seventeen-year-old borderline-professional blogger. Jeane has a fair bit in common with real-live fashion bloggers Tavi and Gala Darling, especially when it comes to the activities she gets paid for, but she's older than Tavi and younger than Gala and she's British. Really British. She loves all things dorky, writing very opinionated posts, eating Haribo, and watching cute videos of dogs on YouTube. Although Jeane's career star is on the rise, her parents fund the flat she lives in and she still goes to school, where although it seems everyone follows her blog, they don't spend any time with her outside of class. Her only friend at school is her boyfriend, Barney, though their relationship isn't the most romantic - to say the least.

Our hero is Michael Lee, eighteen and toeing the line of conformity with his faux-hawk and Converse shoes. He's popular and conventionally successful for a teenage boy - good at school and at sports. He lives with his parents and two little sisters and dates the popular and beautiful Scarlett. Everything changes when he starts to suspect that Barney and Scarlett might be having an affair, and decides to tell Jeane.She doesn't believe him until Barney and Scarlett make their affections obvious and several dramas later, somehow, Jeane and Michael end up kissing. And they just can't stay away from each other after that...

I'd been excited about this book ever since Sarra first described it, years ago, and as soon as it was announced that it would be published this year, my excitement went into overdrive. Every time I opened a jiffy bag and didn't find my copy of Adorkable within, I was a little bit disappointed. And then, on the glorious day when it actually arrived, I squealed and did a victory dance. I'm not sure how getting a book you were expecting anyway is a victory, but yeah. It was not much like this. But it was joyful.

I had no idea until I recieved my copy that there would be two narrators. At first I was a bit disappointed, because I often find books written from alternating perspectives to be missing some magic. Either one narrator is a lot more convincing than the other, or the alternating perspective means that I can't really get into the head of either character properly. However, neither of these issues plagued Adorkable. I liked both Jeane and Michael's voices and I felt that it switched between them at just the right moments. I also thought that they both developed equally over the course of the novel, so it was well balanced.

I loved Jeane and Michael's characters - neither of them are immediately nice but I thought that was realistic. Teenagers are not very nice! I was fairly nice and thoughtful for a teenager and I was still a bit of a knobhead 70% of the time. There's no instalove in Adorkable, as they bicker and fight and bicker some more. I really liked that they were both quite arrogant characters. Jeane is a breath of fresh air in a genre filled with girls in with faltering self-esteem. Both Jeane and Michael's families feature in the story but their influence is not overdramaticised, which I really liked. Jeane's family history is sad but she's not traumatised, it's just something she has to deal with.

I also adored the secondary characters - especially Barney and Scarlett. I liked that the story was kind to Scarlett - it would have been easy for it to be mean and it wasn't. There is also a cameo appearance from a couple of Guitar Girl characters. Complete tangent - Guitar Girl characters have cameoed in at least three other books now. When are we going to get some Diary of a Crush cameos? I know Edie or Dylan is extremely unlikely, but how about Poppy? Mellowstar are mentioned in Guitar Girl but she never appears. Or her boyfriend from Sealed With A Kiss, Jesse, because he's hilarious. Or maybe Darby and/or Atsuko, boy-chasing? ANYWAY...

Twitter plays a pretty important role in Adorkable and I was really pleased with the way it's presented. It's not used in a gimmicky way at all, it's completely realistic in my opinion, and that's quite refreshing. There were quite a few novelty books published in the early '00s using text messaging and/or e-mail to tell the stories and happily Adorkable is nothing like those. 

Other things I loved in Adorkable include: the dialogue (I heart Sarra Manning's dialogue, forever and ever and ever), the feminism (particularly in relation to matters of the physical nature, ahem), the descriptions of Jeane's outfits, and Michael Lee! Although I have enjoyed every book Sarra Manning has had published, no love interest has ever matched the standards of the first. Dylan is still the original and the best fictional boyfriend, but Michael Lee isn't a bad number two (on the Sarra Manning only list of course, on the All Books list he's number three, behind Noel DuBoise, obviously). He's funny and a bit conceited but also down to earth and he's not afraid to take action. Cue girlish sigh.

It took me about six days to read Adorkable and I have to admit that at times I was trying not to read it so fast as I didn't want it to be over! Adorkable surpassed my hopeful expectations and is a book I'm sure I'll read over and over again. I've run out of other things to say so I'll just finish by saying: if you have the vaguest notion that you might enjoy Adorkable, buy it or borrow it, and read it ASAP!

Many thanks to Atom for sending me a review copy.

Other enthusiastic reviews for your perusal:
Readaraptor (in letter form! I love it!)
Fluttering Butterflies
So Many Books, So Little Time
Cicely Loves Books
weartheoldcoat (features some hilarious fangirling I can totally relate to)
Young Adult Anonymous


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