The Clasp by Sloane Crosley These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly Sofia Khan is Not Obliged by Ayisha Malik

How My Summer Went Up in Flames by Jennifer Salvato Doktorski

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Publisher: Simon Pulse
Format: Kindle e-book
Rating: 4/5

Rosie's summer begins with the revelation that her boyfriend, love of her life, 'the one', has cheated on her. With a freshman. A bleached blonde freshman at that. So, Rosie deals with it the way any of us would - she sets her boyfriend's beloved Mustang on fire, bombards him with messages, and earns herself a temporary restraining order and a court date. In order to avoid getting into further trouble, Rosie reluctantly agrees to accompany Matty (her neighbour/brother from another mother), his best friend Spencer, and Spencer's brother, on a road trip to Arizona. However, Rosie's stubborness begins to melt with every mile south and she soon finds herself looking at things in a completely different light. 

This was on my general to be read list but I won't lie, it wasn't near the top. However, I looked up all of the books on this month's Reading Mutiny Challenge list and found that How My Summer Went Up in Flames was a bargain on Kindle. I'm so glad I read this one because I LOVED it! It had the right amount of everything. 

First of all, the characters. Rosie's voice is one of my favourites of this year. Rosie was feisty but wasn't dropping quippy one-liners every two seconds (which can get annoying). Jennifer Salvato Doktorski also did a brilliant job of showing the conflict of the hormone drenched teenage mind. I liked that Rosie's weaknesses were not the backhanded compliment kind (like "people don't take me seriously with my flawless skin and beautiful hair") and she was forced by the guys and her best friend to check her attitude on a regular basis. The supporting cast was solid too. Matty, Spencer and Logan were all given the spotlight at some point, so neither of them felt like filler, and I enjoyed their collective 'geekiness'. I'm glad the romance aspect wasn't drawn out or contrived. It was also great to see strong female friendships with the likes of Lilianna and Avery. 

Secondly, the road trip. I do love a good road trip novel (although I've still never been on a proper one) and this book did not disappoint. I've never been on a fictional road trip through the states mentioned in this story, so I learnt some new things along with Rosie. I felt a bit queasy reading about the Grand Canyon though - I'm not sure I could go there. Well, I could go there but I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be looking down at any point. 

Finally, I thought it was well paced and well structured. It finished at just the right point and each leg of the roadtrip was just long enough. It reminded me a little of Audrey, Wait, which I also bought impulsively and ended up loving. 

Overall, this was a surprise hit for me - aren't they the best kind? Oh, and I couldn't resist making a playlist.

Summer Reading: Part Two

Monday, July 29, 2013

The Summer I Became A Nerd by Leah Rae Miller

WHAT'S THE DEAL? Maddie is a popular cheerleader with plenty of 'cool', popular friends and the obligatory QB boyfriend. Maddie also loves comic books and sci-fi movies but this has to be kept on the DL during school time. However, once summer rolls around, Maddie shakes off all pretences and indulges in her hobbies. Things change after she tries to find a copy of the latest edition of her favourite series and Maddie soon finds herself with a new set of friends and learns more about herself than she could have ever imagined. 

ANY GOOD? I had been looking forward to reading this and I wasn't completely disappointed. After eventually suspending belief that in 2013 Maddie had to live a double life, I got into the story (I thought it was like this nowadays). There could have been more larping and fewer visits to the aquarium/diner/bowling alley but still, it was a nice book with a nice message. I read a post the other day on +Clear Eyes, Full Shelves about annoying recurring complaints from adults reading YA. Whilst I agreed with it mostly, I'm not sure about point number three. True, there doesn't have to be a lesson in there but most YA contemporary has a message of some sort, somewhere, right? The whole point is to make the teen reader realise 'ok, I'm not alone here, even though it might feel like it sometimes'. I don't really want to talk about this in full here but I had to put my two pence in the pot. 

Anyway, back to the book: I loved her name. Maddie Jean Summers. I wonder which series is the author's favourte...

ADD TO BASKET? Yes, whilst it's still summer. 

The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen 

WHAT'S THE DEAL? Emaline is spending the summer before she starts college working at her family's beach resort. Things get complicated when her biological father and stepbrother decide to stay nearby, along with the Rachel Zoe of documentary filmmaking and her Seth Cohen type assistant. Throw in changing friendships and relationships and Emaline's summer ends up being a lot more stressful than first anticipated. 

ANY GOOD? It wasn't my favourite Sarah Dessen (This Lullaby will always be top) as it was a little too slow. However, Emaline was strong and driven and very mature. It was interesting to see the summer from the POV of year-rounders rather than summer visitors. The father vs. dad/ nature vs. nurture debate that played out was also thought-provoking. The romance wasn't the focal point, which was nice, and the little brother was adorably written. Overall, it was nice. 

ADD TO THE BASKET? If you're a Sarah Dessen fan and/or you like a gentle stroll of a novel. 

Game, Set, Match by Jennifer Iacopelli

WHAT'S THE DEAL? Penny, Jasmine and Indiana are all training at an elite tennis camp either on the verge- or in Penny's case, actually, - turning pro. The first installment charts their preparation for the French Open. 

ANY GOOD? I read this during Wimbledon, which was excellent timing. I really enjoyed it as it reminded me of The It Girl with tennis. I think it's going to be a fun little series. Although, as with Hooked, the cover is misleading as it's not really a full on romance novel. I wish the cover depicted the three girls (who were from a mixture of ethinic backgrounds, which was nice) looking fierce. Like Make It or Break It. 

ADD TO THE BASKET? If The It Girl meets Make It or Break It sounds like your kind of thing. 

Summer Reading: Part One

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Since I've started commuting again, I've been getting through my pile of paperbacks at a much healthier pace than before. So, I thought I'd put up some mini reviews. I'll start with what turned out to be my two favourite books of the year so far.

Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain

Synopsis from Goodreads:
A ferocious firefight with Iraqi insurgents at "the battle of Al-Ansakar Canal"—three minutes and forty-three seconds of intense warfare caught on tape by an embedded Fox News crew—has transformed the eight surviving men of Bravo Squad into America's most sought-after heroes. For the past two weeks, the Bush administration has sent them on a media-intensive nationwide Victory Tour to reinvigorate public support for the war. Now, on this chilly and rainy Thanksgiving, the Bravos are guests of America's Team, the Dallas Cowboys, slated to be part of the halftime show alongside the superstar pop group Destiny's Child. 
Positively electric. The story unfolds over the course of one day, so I wish I'd read it in one sitting but still, even over the course of a few train rides, the momentum was there each time.

Whether or not you know someone who has served, the subject matter of the war is close to all of us. Now is not the time or place to go into the hows and the whys but there's no denying that these wars have affected us. 

First of all, Billy's story made me think about how we treat our military personnel when they return home. To begin with, the civilians in the story acted like this, however by the end, when the novelty had worn off, the treatment Bravo received was almost the polar opposite. I've just finished watching Generation Kill (which is a brilliant piece of television) and the quote during the credits of the final episode sums it all up nicely. 

The exploitation of the Bravo's story is interesting as it is the reason why they're at the Cowboys game. Basically, it all boils down to the fact that money is power regardless of who or what is at stake. The character of Norm embodies this perfectly. 

The other characters seemed so real that it really like a fly-on-the wall experience. I loved the colloquial dialogue - I laughed out loud so many times, such as the locker room scene with the Cowboys, and the multiple mentions of the "wore on terrRr". I loved the page layout whenever the Bravo's were being mobbed by thankful well-wishers. It was a really clever way of conveying the way you feel when you keep hearing the same thing over and over again. 

However, the standout for me was the description of the national anthem. As an outsider and a citizen of a country with a very dull reserved national anthem, I thought that it was a spot on description. That's pretty much exactly what we think when we hear the American national anthem. Most of the time I am in awe of the passion and overt patriotism that is so obviously felt by the singer and the heart clasping audience. 

My limited review skills cannot begin to do this book justice, so I will finish by saying, please get a copy of this book. 

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

Synopsis from Goodreads:
After the 1st wave, only darkness remains. After the 2nd, only the lucky escape. And after the 3rd, only the unlucky survive. After the 4th wave, only one rule applies: trust no one.Now, it’s the dawn of the 5th wave, and on a lonely stretch of highway, Cassie runs from Them. The beings who only look human, who roam the countryside killing anyone they see. Who have scattered Earth’s last survivors. To stay alone is to stay alive, Cassie believes, until she meets Evan Walker. Beguiling and mysterious, Evan Walker may be Cassie’s only hope for rescuing her brother—or even saving herself. But Cassie must choose: between trust and despair, between defiance and surrender, between life and death. To give up or to get up.
The beginning of this book was legitimately creepy. I'm ashamed to admit I couldn't read it at night until about halfway through. It was an interesting take on an alien invasion. The creepiness was probably due to the fact that if it were to ever really happen, it would probably occur in a similar way, don't you think? Anyway, it's an action adventure begging to be made into a film - in fact, I see that the rights were optioned before the book was even written!

I think the final third of the book faltered a little but not drastically enough to change my overall opinion. Cassie's voice was refreshing - spiky without being alienating; brave enough but not unbelievable. I liked the alternating points of view too because it helped keep up the pace. Also, in these kinds of action adventure stories, it is nice to get out of one person's head every now and then. 

I'm looking forward to seeing where Rick Yancey takes this story. There were a few curveballs in this one, so I don't really know what to expect, which is nice. We shall see!

Jennifer, Juniper

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Everybody loves Jennifer Lawrence (myself included). She's our new imaginary BFF, right? This is her latest endearing act that has set the online world a-twittering. 

So, I got to thinking, has J-Law stolen the crown from our former "aw shucks, who me?, pshaw" queen of all the next doors? Yes, Jennifer Aniston. Remember her? 

It also got me thinking, what is it with all the Jennifer's cornering the market of relatability? No, that isn't a real word but it should be. Is it something to do with the name? I love names - there must be a specific term for us Nameberry addicts- but Jennifer means "white shadow, white wave", which doesn't help solve the mystery. 

Anyway, back to the Jennifer's. From the block, we have our sistah Ms Jennifer Lopez. Our mother hen and real life Good Wife, Jen Garner. Our sure to EGOT one day but still down to earth girlfriend J-Hud. Heck, even our 'Baby' Jennifer Grey, who still managed to win everyone's hearts and snatch the Dancing with the Stars title a few years ago. 

On the flip side, think of the Jessica's. Mmes Alba, Biel, and Simpson have all tried (some might say a little too hard) to be our buddies but cannot seem to muster the same cult following as the Jen's. Except maybe Ms Simpson but it's too close to call. 

So, what's in a name? Can you think of any other celebrities sharing the same first name and public perception? Here, listen to Donovan and have a think about it. 

Top Ten Tuesday - Best/Worst Film Adaptations

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week's theme is: Top Ten Best/Worst Film Adaptations. As the sun is shining and the temperature has spiked to 25 degrees (that's hot for London so don't laugh) I'll try and prolong the positive vibes by only mentioning the BEST adaptations I have seen so far. 

1. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Really, the first three are the best Harry Potter films - partly because of that magical John Williams score- but my favourite is PoA. Having said that, I do have a soft spot for Goblet of Fire, what with the Yule Ball and an accented Barty Crouch Sr. 

2.Angus Thongs and Perfect Snogging - I prefer the original book title but that's neither here nor there because this adaptation was SPOT ON. It captured the cringey moments perfectly and the cast were so fresh and full of energy. This is my favourite teen book and one of my favourite Sunday films (along with Chalet Girl and She's the Man).

3. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants - I actually preferred the film to the book. The girls (well they're grown women now, aren't they?) all seemed like really good friends in real life and this translated well on screen. 

4. Matilda - Not the most faithful adaptation but a brilliant film. I never fail to laugh. 

5. The Help - This seems to be a love it/hate it film and book but I really liked the book and thought the film was well done. Viola Davis was amazing. 

6. Rebecca - A classic. I think I was too young to appreciate the book when I first read it but I watched the film again the other day and was reminded of this great story. 

7. Mrs Doubtfire - Another childhood favourite. Again, I don't think the adaptation is that faithful - I vaguely remember being a little disappointed when I checked the book out of the library as a child. I think my favourite Anne Fine was Flour Babies. Anyway, Mrs Doubtfire is such a funny film. Even though I find Robin Williams more than a little creepy. 

8. Little Women - Ahhhh. Do I need to say more? 

9. Atonement - Again, I preferred the film to the book but I've never been able to get into Ian McEwan's style of writing. The score to this film is one of my favourites too. 

10. Pride and Prejudice (BBC) - TV mini-serieses count, don't they? They're like mini movies... Well, let's just assume they do because this is the mini-series to end all mini-serieses. It just reminds me of summer in Britain. I don't care for the book very much but this adaptation injected some much needed life into the story.

Now, I have to cheat a little bit here because there are many, many great adaptations that I haven't had the chance to read (although let's be honest, now that I know the story, I probably won't ever read them because my TBR pile is big enough as it is). So very quickly (and quietly) here are some more of my favourites: 

Any Human Heart, Giant, Empire of the Sun, Legends of the Fall, The Pianist, To Sir With Love, Gone with the Wind, Mysic River, The Godfather, Layer Cake, Cool Hand Luke