Sunday, 20 January 2013

REVIEW: Embracing Me, Embracing You

The 90s - home of boy bands, individualism, teenage angst, ultra skinny models, and "Whatever!"...

In a decade when image matters, when the so-called Generation X is swelling with 'future perfect' hopes and pride, 16-year-old Roshell McRady dances her way through High School, never quite admitting that she's ashamed of her trailer park family home. Meanwhile she listens to Madonna while conjuring creative Top Ramen recipes to feed her younger cousins; she empties enough hairspray until her bangs are feathered and vertical like a lethal weapon; and she agonises over how to convince Gabriel Harrison, the new Mystery Guy in town, to invite her to the prom - a night which threatens to turn into a disaster.

But then life takes a dramatic turn for Roshell, and her life changes forever.

A love story emerges from the anguish of Roshell's life, and when she leaves school and finds work at a casino, things don't get any less complicated for her - until one night a powerful dream marks out the exact path that she must take.


Thank you to Fingerpress and NetGalley for letting me review this book :3

I have a confession to make. I'm not a 90's kid. I was born in the year of 1995 but I grew up in the early 2000's and was a teen in the late 2000's therefore this book doesn't bring any nostalgia of the 90's. However, I do remember sitting in front of the TV every Saturday morning watching MTV with my siblings  as they sang along to Backstreet Boy songs and watched Pokemon. So therefore, I was interested in reading this book, purely because it was set in the 90's and what I could remember of the 90's, it seemed like an interesting decade. 

Embracing You, Embracing Me is about the story of Roshell McRady, a sixteen year old girl growing up in the 90's, who dreams of escaping from her trailer park home in rural Oregon. She has big dreams and escaping her small, unambitious town while having to deal with high school and all the insecurities that teenagers face. Roshell was a strong character but her voice didn't quite ring true for me, Michelle Bellon's  choice of wording and phrasing was quite awkward at times - sometimes it seemed like she was an older person trying to sound like a teenager. It just didn't sound right, especially coming from a character like Roshell, who is bright, young and carefree. 

Roshell has no male influence in her life whatsoever and finds it hard to establish relationships with boys her own age. Until she meets Gabriel. She loves him more than words can say but she can't bring it in herself to explain to him so she moves away. There is a massive time jump then and the audience is taken on a wild ride from one year to the next without much explanation at all for the things that happen in between up until Roshell is in her twenties, so her teen years (which are crucial) are glossed over quite quickly.

I gotta admit, the summary made the book sound more interesting than it really was. We see excerpts and snippets of the other character's dealings with Roshell but I didn't care for them at all. It was too distracting to make any impact on the story and I didn't want to know what they are thinking, this is Roshell's story and I want to know her story.

This story had such potential - I always enjoy stories about the small-town teenager who has big dreams - but there was too much holes to be enjoyable.


Friday, 18 January 2013

REVIEW: The S-Word

First it was SLUT scribbled all over Lizzie Hart’s locker.

But one week after Lizzie kills herself, SUICIDE SLUT replaces it—in Lizzie's looping scrawl.

Lizzie’s reputation is destroyed when she's caught in bed with her best friend’s boyfriend on prom night. With the whole school turned against her, and Angie not speaking to her, Lizzie takes her own life. But someone isn’t letting her go quietly. As graffiti and photocopies of Lizzie’s diary plaster the school, Angie begins a relentless investigation into who, exactly, made Lizzie feel she didn’t deserve to keep living. And while she claims she simply wants to punish Lizzie’s tormentors, Angie's own anguish over abandoning her best friend will drive her deep into the dark, twisted side of Verity High—and she might not be able to pull herself back out.

Debut author Chelsea Pitcher daringly depicts the harsh reality of modern high schools, where one bad decision can ruin a reputation, and one cruel word can ruin a life. Angie’s quest for the truth behind Lizzie’s suicide is addictive and thrilling, and her razor-sharp wit and fierce sleuthing skills makes her impossible not to root for—even when it becomes clear that both avenging Lizzie and avoiding self-destruction might not be possible.


Thank you to NetGalley and Gallery Books for presenting me with the opportunity to receive an ARC of this book - it is very much appreciated. Thank you again :D

So, The S-Word was a major let down. The blurb sounded promising and the idea was good - it really had the potential to be a great story. It was full of awkward wording, forced dialogue and it was just something I couldn't enjoy and I struggled to get through the book - and I'm a fast reader. The idea had such great potential and it was one of the books I was most looking forward to receiving when I requested it on NetGalley but alas, it was a severe disappointment.

I didn't like this book at all because of how it was written. Nothing to do with the plot at all, I thought it was really interesting but it was ruined with the sloppy writing. The sentences felt awkward, forced and poorly constructed - it didn't quite have that flow. The narrator's voice (Angie) didn't feel right - her best friend snatched her man in front of her, and she actually seemed rather nonchalant about it when explaining to the audience about what happened. I don't know about you but if I found out that my boyfriend had been doing the dirty with my best friend, I would be pretty damn pissed. Angie seemed far too detached and it just seemed rather fake and not right for the situation. Lizzie's diary entries didn't match the voice of an older teenager either - it sounded like a pre-teen trying to sound older and far more sophisticated than they truly are. 

I got what Pitcher was trying to say about the double standards for boys and girls but it didn't quite have an impact - she told us, rather than showed us and overall, didn't quite touch on it enough for the message to sink in. But yeah, good message. Well received blah blah. Angie's investigation into the factors that caused Lizzie to drive herself to suicide was frankly, quite ridiculous, for a lack of a better word - it just seemed all rather amateurish/childlike. She came across like a five year old reading a spy book for the very first time and decided it'll be super fun to just go out there and solve a mystery. BAM. Yeah, that's what it felt like. 

There were also too many issues going on all at once, y'know? Okay, there's slut shaming going on. Yeah, that's bad. There's also a suicide. Yeah, that's bad too. There's bullying. Okay, that's bad as well. Toss that in with cross-dressing, homosexuality/bisexuality, sexual abuse, rape and it's just a huge WTF. They're all important issues on their own individually but the author just grabbed them all and tossed them in a soup pot all at once and it just becomes one confusing hot mess. There was just too much going in a super awkward, very confusing and disjointed plot to feel any actual feels, other than confusion.

I was looking forward to a thought-provoking book on bullying and reading a nice mystery novel that would keep me second-guessing and leaving me on tenterhooks long afterward I've finished it but nope, the conclusion was very obvious to me and so out of there, it was quite funny. If you want to be super confused and disappointed, this is the book for you.


Wednesday, 16 January 2013

REVIEW: Dare You To (Pushing the Limits #2)

"I dare you..." 

If anyone knew the truth about Beth Risk's home life, they'd send her mother to jail and seventeen-year-old Beth who knows where. So she protects her mom at all costs. Until the day her uncle swoops in and forces Beth to choose between her mom's freedom and her own happiness. That's how Beth finds herself living with an aunt who doesn't want her and going to a school that doesn't understand her. At all. Except for the one guy who shouldn't get her, but does.... 

Ryan Stone is the town golden boy, a popular baseball star jock-with secrets he can't tell anyone. Not even the friends he shares everything with, including the constant dares to do crazy things. The craziest? Asking out the Skater girl who couldn't be less interested in him. 

But what begins as a dare becomes an intense attraction neither Ryan nor Beth expected. Suddenly, the boy with the flawless image risks his dreams-and his life-for the girl he loves, and the girl who won't let anyone get too close is daring herself to want it all....


Before I start this review, I just want to say HUGE thank you to Harlequin UK for giving me an arc of this book through netgalley, I totally wasn't expecting to get it so thank you again. You guys are very generous and I squealed upon seeing my request getting approved :) So without further ado, let the review begin.

“This overwhelming, encompassing feeling is love. It's not perfect and it's messy as hell. And it's exactly what I need.” 

EEP. SO MANY FEELS. Katie McGarry has done it yet again. Damn lady, you're quickly becoming one of my favourite authors of all time. She's gone ahead and created yet another emotional, unforgettable and gut-wrenching story between who utterly messed up yet absolutely perfect characters. 

We see Beth Risk a.k.a Skater Girl who is whisked away from her troubled world in Louisville and is sent to live in a small rural town with her uncle Scott, a former baseball player who played for the New York Yankees. Beth is dark. Spiky. Rude. Snappy. Bitchy. Condescending. Think of a small angry goth girl with tattoos, dyed black hair and a nose piercing. Yep, that's her. Ugh, I just loved Beth. She is brutally honest, to the point of where someone's feelings are hurt, swears a shit load and protective of her mother, despite her mother letting her down over and over again. Beth is a deeply misunderstood character who is quickly judged by most people in the small town of Groveton (think of Stepford wives, Sunday dinners, church committee meetings... yep, that's Groveton down pat) and quickly puts her defences up when it comes to meeting new people, not willing to risk getting hurt again due to an incident that happened when she was just a vulnerable fifteen year old.  She was frustrating at times with all the patronising remarks she made about Echo and how she was quick to judge Allison (admittedly Allison DID judge her as well), the fact that all of her decisions seemed to revolve around her deadbeat, heroin-addicted mother who isn't a healthy influence on her at all and how she's so unwilling of accepting trust for what it is. But she's damaged and all she needs is someone to take care of her, to be free of responsibility.

Enter the Taco Bell Boy, Ryan Stone. Ryan is your quintessential all-American boy jock who's destined to have a great baseball career and then settle in his McMansion with his pretty blonde wife and their 2.5 children frolicking in their yard with their pet dog. His parents are respected members of the community and his dad seems to be a dead cert for mayor of the town. All of this is a facade. His parents fight. His dad demands too much of him. His brother is the black (well, gay) sheep of the family and is no longer living with them. The author did a great job of demonstrating the inner turmoil in his life and I really appreciated that, he was my favourite character. Let me just say, I pretty much liked Ryan right from the start when we got that excerpt at the end of Pushing the Limits - he seemed like your average, flirty jock with a great sense of humour. My suspicions were right; he is conceited to a point and is your typical jock but he is a contrast of all sorts. He is also sweet, caring and has a great love for creative writing which was a breath of fresh air amongst all the one-dimensional jocks in Young Adult fiction. He knew what he wanted in his life, who he wanted in his life; there was no naffing about on his part and I liked that. Ryan helps Beth grow and develop as a person and helps her see the meaning of trust again and I found that incredibly sweet, how he was so willing to accept her, prickly demeanour and all.

“There are times when you stand on the cusp of moments so huge, you know you'll remember them forever. This is that moment for me and for Ryan.” 

I also loved Beth's uncle Scott. Scott is fairly young for an adult (he was twelve when Beth was born), grew up in a trailer park and messed around with trailer park girls before making it to the pros with the New York Yankees and ended up marrying a woman who was the exact opposite of the girls he used to hook up with. Despite Beth rebelling against him and him also ranting back at her in return, he was that tough yet loving authority figure that Beth had always needed and craved for and provides her with the kind of caring, familial love that she had always yearned for.

Damn, I gotta say I feel sorry for Isaiah. Dude was friendzoned majorly. Although I was rooting for Beth and Ryan the whole way right from the start, my heart went out for him when Beth rejected him. He deserves a girl that is in love with him and not just on a friendship level - but I didn't feel too badly seeing that there was a sequel about him called Crash into You. CANNOT WAIT. I'm sure he'd get his happy ending then. But I've got a long wait, seeing as this book isn't technically out yet. Damn.

Dare You To is a fantastic read with a badass chick who doesn't stand for bullshit and is chockfull of sexual tension and scenes that are sure to make you swoon. What more could you want?

RATING: 4.5/5 stars

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

REVIEW: Pushing the Limits (Pushing the Limits #1)

No one knows what happened the night Echo Emerson went from popular girl with jock boyfriend to gossiped-about outsider with "freaky" scars on her arms. Even Echo can't remember the whole truth of that horrible night. All she knows is that she wants everything to go back to normal.But when Noah Hutchins, the smoking-hot, girl-using loner in the black leather jacket, explodes into her life with his tough attitude and surprising understanding, Echo's world shifts in ways she could never have imagined. They should have nothing in common. And with the secrets they both keep, being together is pretty much impossible.

Yet the crazy attraction between them refuses to go away. And Echo has to ask herself just how far they can push the limits and what she'll risk for the one guy who might teach her how to love again.


Thank you to Harlequin UK for being kind enough for letting me review this when I requested it on netgalley. :D

Pushing the Limits tells the story of Echo Emerson (I'm sorry but I absolutely despise the name Echo, I always think of thirteen year old scene girls whenever I see that name. ANYWAY...), a formerly popular cheerleader who suddenly vanished off the face of the earth at the end of her sophomore. She returns for her junior year and rumours are flying around the school about her disappearance. Echo quickly goes from the girl with the jock boyfriend who makes honour roll on a regular basis to that freaky loner with weird scars on her arms and repressed memories about what happened on that particular night.

Noah Hutchins is a foster kid with a toughened and hardened shell who is a girl-using, one-night-stand having, underachieving stoner and is branded so by practically everyone he meets, even Echo initially. Nobody bothers to know Noah for who he is though, preferring to ignore the depths of his pain and the tragic events that shape the way he is.

This novel is told in both Echo and Noah's point of view which serves to highlight the different worlds they come from. Both characters have depth and it's always awesome when you see people overcome their inner demons together and rediscover themselves again. I liked that this book highlighted one of the key aspects in one's life: Family. We see Echo's struggles with her overbearing, controlling businessman father and her mentally ill mother, her young babysitter-turned-stepmother and we see her grief over her dead brother. We also see how Noah struggles to cope with the death of his parents in an accident a few years earlier and his feelings towards his brothers putting put in the foster system and the obstacles he faces to reunite his family once again.

I docked a star off this book because I felt as if Echo and Noah's romance was based on physical sex appeal rather than an actual emotional connection. Yes, there were scenes where they connected on an emotional level but overall, I felt like as if they were only into each other because she had a great rack and that he looked nice in a leather jacket. I also felt like it was repetitive in some areas when Noah kept describing Echo as being a 'nymph' (who the hell describes their girlfriend as a nymph?) or a 'goddess' and kept alluding to the fact that she smelled like cinnamon. Yes, she resembles a donut and she's hot. We get it. 

Despite the corniness and cheesiness in certain parts, I liked this book. A Lot. I loved Echo and Noah's witty banter and the fact that there was no insta-love; they were both emotionally damaged people who had serious problems to work out than just obsess over each other and I liked their sessions with the school counsellor and how she slowly helped them rebuild their lives on their journey of discovering themselves again, even though they hated seeing her at first. 

I really wish I could talk about the content of the book in a more eloquent manner about Echo's 'friendship' with Grace and Noah's friends Isaiah and Beth but I can't seem to quite put into words. But this has everything; romance, sadness, sweetness and a hopeful end.

I can't wait for Katie McGarry's next book Dare You To which is basically a sequel of this book but about Beth, Noah's friend, instead. CANNOT WAIT. June seems so far away!

RATING: 4/5 stars

Monday, 14 January 2013

REVIEW: Just One Day (Just One Day #1)

A breathtaking journey toward self-discovery and true love, from the author of If I Stay
When sheltered American good girl Allyson "LuLu" Healey first meets laid-back Dutch actor Willem De Ruiter at an underground performance of Twelfth Night in England, there’s an undeniable spark. After just one day together, that spark bursts into a flame, or so it seems to Allyson, until the following morning, when she wakes up after a whirlwind day in Paris to discover that Willem has left. Over the next year, Allyson embarks on a journey to come to terms with the narrow confines of her life, and through Shakespeare, travel, and a quest for her almost-true-love, to break free of those confines.

Just One Day is the first in a sweepingly romantic duet of novels. Willem’s story—Just One Year—is coming soon!

Lemme just start off this review by saying that I love Gayle Forman. I really do. Well, I don't know her in real life so she'll probably find me really creepy if she was to read this but uh yeah, I love her books usually. Admittedly, there only has been two other books of hers that I've read: If I Stay and Where She Went. But I loved them. This book? Eh, it was okay. Not terrible, not good. 

"We are born in one day. We die in one day. We can change in one day. And we can fall in love in one day. Anything can happen in just one day."

So, when I was reading the blurb, I was like, "YAY, EUROPE!" (I have a severe case of Europhilia, okay?!) and was counting down the days for this book's release. When I got it though, I was like, "Oh shizzles... this is depressing." I don't always like uplifting books but c'mon, a tour around Europe is sure to be fun and not depressing right? Or maybe it's just the teenage girl in me that's just giddy and wide-eyed at the thought of going to Europe one day. Anyway, yes. This book was depressing and I don't think having such a  passive narrator such as Allyson helped matters and my resentful feelings towards Allyson just grew the further I delved into the novel.

After finishing high school, Allyson embarks on a tour of Europe with her best friend, Melanie. She struggles to find any excitement or fun out of her trip until she meets handsome Dutch actor, Willem. Allyson is intrigued by Willem upon their very first meeting and in a few short hours, she decides to ditch her friend and travels alone on a train with Willem, who is a complete stranger. Gurl, I would be worried about whether he wanted to drag me into a dark alley and rape me before stealing whatever money I had, no matter how handsome or charming he was. From this point onwards, this pretty much killed off any excitement I had about the book as it was so far-fetched and unrealistic - the blurb did say she was a good girl, after all. 

Allyson was quite a confusing narrator. She is initially portrayed as the good girl who plays it safe and is adored by authority figures yet she sheds all that in just one nanosecond and embarks to Paris with a total stranger and gets  all creepy, jealous and possessive feelings when said stranger talks to other girls. She and Willem spend the whole entire day in Paris that is rather uneventful (they fall asleep in a park and don't see the Eiffel Tower) except for one shocking experience near the end of the day. Her experiences with Willem were supposed to be so profoundly moving that it altered her perceptions on life forever, but I wasn't quite feeling it. It all seemed rather forced and contrived and that one whole day in Paris had a great effect on her, which I didn't really understand why. 

As for Willem as a character, he was definitely mysterious but seemed rather bland - I know, I know, weird combination. We don't know much about him, other than what he looks like. The audience didn't know about him much at all which made me pretty indifferent towards him, which in turn probably made me less empathetic towards Allyson than I should have been. I wasn't feeling their romance, even after they did the deed.

After that one day in Paris, Willem disappears and Allyson spends the entire year moping about it and every decision she makes onwards seems to be just because of him, but I suppose that was the whole point of it, he helped her discover her inner spirit or whatever blah blah. Allyson forms new friendships only for them to disintegrate, abandons her old plans for life, and begins to struggle in school which is a reflection of her time with Willem, that sometimes what you planned in life isn't the right path for you and I get that. I actually liked this sentiment and I can actually empathise with it. But this story was supposed to be one of self-discovery but there wasn't enough of self-discovery and too much of Willem. Maybe it's just because I'm a naive teenager who reads and watches too much happily-ever-after books and movies but I can't get the concept of having a one night stand with a guy you barely know affecting your life so much just doesn't ring with me. 

There wasn't enough of Allyson learning to enjoy life for herself and choosing her own pathways because she wants to, but because she was affected by Willem on so many levels. I dislike the idea of someone being the cause of your happiness, motivation and sadness; basically he was the centre of her universe. It was just all too Bella Swan-ish for my liking and I have a deep hatred of Twilight.

There are some things that I liked about this book (I'm not all misery, gloom and doom) and that was it's portrayal of Europe, Paris especially. There are countless of books set in Europe and it tends to be all fun and romance-y and lovey-dovey and I love the fact that Forman didn't shy away from the grittier and grimier parts. She does a marvellous job of transporting her readers to the location of where her book is set and this book was no different. We see Allyson's struggle with the French language, mentions of macarons and crepes and the dirtier side of Paris.

While I didn't particularly enjoy this book, I would definitely be keeping an eye out for the sequel of Just One Day which is from Willem's view. I can pretty much guess how it'll go, he's not a douche, he had an excuse for leaving blah blah. I don't particularly care for it but I'm just hoping a story from his point of view would make his character more interesting (Forman does wonderfully with guy characters, as seen with Adam from Where She Went) and give us more of an insight into his personality. 

Just One Day is about re-discovering yourself and redefining who you are as a person and while it wasn't my taste, no doubt it would appeal to many other people and probably older readers.

RATING: 2.5/5 stars

REVIEW: A Song for Julia (Thompson Sisters)

Everyone should have something to rebel against.

Crank Wilson left his South Boston home at sixteen to start a punk band and burn out his rage at the world. Six years later, he’s still at odds with his father, a Boston cop, and doesn’t ever speak to his mother. The only relationship that really matters is with his younger brother, but watching out for Sean can be a full-time job. The one thing Crank wants in life is to be left the hell alone to write his music and drive his band to success.

Julia Thompson left a secret behind in Beijing that exploded into scandal in Washington, DC, threatening her father's career and dominating her family's life. Now, in her senior year at Harvard, she's haunted by a voice from her past and refuses to ever lose control of her emotions again, especially when it comes to a guy. 

When Julia and Crank meet at an anti-war protest in Washington in the fall of 2002, the connection between them is so powerful it threatens to tear everything apart.


Just Remember to Breathe was the first book I read by Charles Seehan-Miles and it was pretty good but oh my God, A Song for Julia blew me away. In Just Remember to Breathe, we were introduced to Julia's sister Alex who briefly mentioned Julia and Crank in passing but in A Song for Julia, we get to see Crank and Julia's story. (Note: Just Remember to Breathe and A Song for Julia are part of a series though they definitely can be read as stand-alone novels and in any order).

“Is there any hope for a future between a pit rat and a Harvard girl?”

Julia Thompson, the eldest daughter of an ambassador, had always been one to keep others at arm length.   Having a father in Foreign Service meant she had to move around all her life to many places; Brussels, Beijing, Washington DC, San Francisco and Boston to attend college at Harvard. We see that Julia is an emotionally vulnerable girl straight away; she's been duped by someone she thought she was in love with, she's been betrayed by her best friend and her parents are emotionally distant, especially her mother. 

The closed-off Harvard girl meets the wild South Boston boy, Crank Wilson, who is a musician, at an anti-war protest. Crank has a whole load of emotional baggage as well, a teenage brother with Aspergers Syndrome, parents who pretend not to love each other but secretly do and a whole bunch of female groupies to last him a lifetime. At their very first meeting, it's a moment of lust/intrigue that sizzles between Crank and Julia but at the end of the night, they go their separate paths, believing that they would never see each other again until fate intervenes and they meet each other again in a totally crazy situation.

Julia is reluctant to let Crank close due to her inner demons of the past and the potential political scandal it could bring upon her wealthy family. Their relationship is full of angst (and I usually hate angst, Twilight - I'm looking at you!) but I loved Crank's resilience and despite Julia maintaining that she had no feelings towards him, I loved that he didn't give up and still cared for her, no matter what.

I like that this book didn't have disappearing parent syndrome and that on both Crank and Julia's behalf, both sets of parents are addressed. Julia's relationship (or lack thereof) has a huge impact on how Julia presents herself, especially following that scandal with a seemingly perfect British boy in Beijing, when she was only fourteen years old. Crank's relationship with his parents is a little different, his father is a tough South Boston cop with whom he spars with occasionally but has his best interests at heart while his mother is a totally different story. 

One thing I also really appreciated about this novel is that the author touched on the topic of Aspergers Syndrome and you know how disabilities are rarely touched upon in novels, especially in the Young Adult/New Adult fiction world. Crank had an amazing relationship with his seventeen year old brother Sean, who suffers from Aspergers Syndrome and it was so incredibly sweet with how loving he was of his brother, despite his brother not being able to communicate back very well. We see Sean's inner struggles within in how he wants to be perceived to other people and I just loved the part in where Julia and Sean confided to each other about their issues - it was an incredibly poignant and touching moment - which blossomed into a genuine friendship between Julia and Sean.

This was a fantastic book and for anyone who is interested in reading a good book that deals with real issues, non-insta love and a whole lot of emotional baggage, this book is for you!

RATING: 4/5 stars.

Just a welcome of all sorts, I suppose.

I don't even really know what to say. I'll just introduce myself, I suppose.

 My name is Stephanie and I'm a seventeen - almost eighteen - year old girl from Melbourne, Australia. I'm in my final year of high school which I'm pretty damn excited about though it's scary to think about the real world beyond the constraints and confinements of high school. Gotta dream big, guys or you'd get nowhere.

I obviously like reading (or I wouldn't be making this blog in the first place...) and I read a hell lot of books, so I thought, what's better than making a book review blog to share my opinion on the latest releases? My niche is definitely Young Adult or New Adult and my preferred genre is contemporary romance. I'm all for reading dystopian or fantasy, however I'm just a wee bit picky about what fantasy/dystopian books I read - I like them to have a human edge or I just can't be absorbed in the story at all.

I judge and read books. I'm a fairly shallow person, I often discard books if they have a boring looking cover or a shitty blurb but I'd read it if I had to.

Considering this is my first time making a blog I intend to get pretty serious about, this should be interesting. So let's go.