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

Top Ten Tuesday: Most Memorable Secondary Characters

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week's theme is: Top Ten Most Memorable Secondary Characters.

1. Inigo Wallace - The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets - Inigo later has more of a starring role in The Misinterpretaiton of Tara Jupp but he sets all our hearts alight in The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets. 

2. Bex Baxter - Gallaghar Girls - Who could ask for a better BFF? And her parents are spies too! 

3. Chuck Bass - Gossip Girl - Not the drawling 'I'm Chuck Bass' Ed Westwick character. The monkey carrying Chuck from the novels. 

4. Bethany Darling - Jessica Darling Series - It was a toss up between Bethany and the Clueless Crew (because I still say quote unquote bang-a-langin' thanks to Sara) but Bethany won because she really matured with the arrival of Marin and became a good friend to Jessica. Well, at least in Charmed Thirds, which I re-read the other day. I can't remember much of her character arc in the final two books. 

5. The Colonel - Looking for Alaska - Everyone hopes to get a roommate like The Colonel at boarding school/camp/other situations requiring roommates. 

6. Luna Lovegood - Harry Potter - As Harry and the Potters sang, "Luna, loony, Lovegood. You're ok in my book". 

7. D'Angelo 'Dee' Harrison - Just One Day - I wasn't so keen on Just One Day but Dee made the second half so much better. I want to hear more about him or better still get a spin off book. 

8. Ziva - The Innocents - I wasn't keen on this book either but Ziva was the perfect wise grandmother type of character. She walked to the beat of her own drum and didn't judge Ellie or Adam when she obviously knew what was going on. 

9. Sheikh Muhammad - Salmon Fishing in the Yemen - Funny and wise with all his stories and sayings. 

10. Tiny Cooper - Will Grayson, Will Grayson - So vibrant and...alive! And because his musical is called Tiny Dancer, which just so happens to be one of the best songs ever. 

Summer Reading: Part Four

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Dirty Little Secrets by Jennifer Echols

WHAT'S THE DEAL? Bailey is a gifted fiddle player who grew up wowing crowds on the bluegrass circuit with her sister. However, things changed when her sister was offered a chance at a solo career and Bailey was forced to keep a low profile and finish her senior year. Bailey kept her promise in terms of keeping off social media but acted out by living hard and fast. By the summer, she is almost burnt out and thanks to her granddad, ends up playing fiddle in tribute bands at the local mall. Through mall-Elvis, she meets Sam who convinces her to defy her parents and join his band. Bailey soon realises Sam's band is more than average and has to weigh up whether or not getting back into the industry is worth the extra trouble. 

ANY GOOD? I liked Dirty Little Secrets (although I hear the opening riffs of that All-American Rejects song every time I see the title) but it wasn't my favourite Jennifer Echols book. Mostly, it felt like a prologue to a really big story, so hopefully there's a sequel...otherwise, not much happened. I loved all of the music references and, what with Nashville being one of my favourite new shows, I lapped up the setting and the atmosphere. I think Jennifer Echols also did a really nice job of slowly unraveling Bailey. I felt extremely sympathetic towards her by the end of the book. We often read about someone gaining success quickly and the trials they go through but I liked that we heard the story from a shut-out sibling's perspective. 

ADD TO BASKET? If your cowboy boots are winking at you from your closet. 

Burn for Burn by Jenny Han & Siobhan Vivian

WHAT'S THE DEAL? Lillia, Kat and Mary have bones to pick with some of their classmates after an eventful summer, so they join forces and hatch a plan to seek revenge. Hell hath no fury like a teenage girl scorned. However, things are not always as they seem when revealed in the cold light of day. How far is too far? How much is too much? 

ANY GOOD? I picked this up on a whim during a trip to Foyles. I'd never heard of it but I enjoyed Jenny Han's Summer series (for the most part) and I still want to read Siobhan Vivian's The List. Going in plot blind was a good move because had I known there was a paranormal element to it initially, I wouldn't have bought it and missed out on a good first book in what will most likely be a great series. First of all, I loved Lillia and Kat. Mary was a little flat but I'm sure, judging by the ending, she'll be more of a central figure in the sequel. It was also nice to have an Asian main character.  Secondly, I really appreciated the style of writing. Like I said, I'm not familiar with Siobhan Vivian's work but I think I recognised Han's style. She has an almost vintage, nostalgic sound. When I read this (and the Summer series), in my mind's eye, it looked and sounded like one of those coming-of-age films with the lens flare and measured voiceover. Finally, I thought it was clever the way we were able to get into the heads of those being punished by the girls and realise they might not have deserved it. This wasn't really a Mean Girls/Revenge style story. In many ways, it was an anti-revenge novel. It showed that actions have consequences, we cannot control everything, and people will get hurt. 

ADD TO BASKET? If you like your contemporary with a sprinkle of paranormal. 

Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins

WHAT'S THE DEAL? Eccentrically styled Lola, her boyfriend Max, her dads, and her dog are happily going about their lives in San Francisco until a blast from Lola's past upsets the apple cart. Cricket Bell is back with his triple-axl spinning twin sister in tow. Lola is forced to confront her old demons and has to decide if she should forgive and forget or rehash the past. 

ANY GOOD? I'll admit, it took a while for me to get into this one, as I wasn't feeling Lola but by the end I was hooked. The supporting characters in this book really made the story, in my opinion. Lola's parents (including her mother), her friends, San Francisco, and of course Cricket Bell, were all so bright and vivacious. Oh and what a brilliant dog name! It was also great to see Anna and St.Clair again. The ending was beautiful and fit the story perfectly. I enjoyed this book so much, I now have this as my wallpaper. I can't wait to read Isla and the Happily Ever After - all the best to Stephanie Perkins. 

ADD TO BASKET? If you enjoyed Anna and the French Kiss

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

Monday, August 12, 2013

Publisher: Corvus
Format: Kindle e-book
Rating: 5/5

It's summer and Professor Nicholas Young decides it is time to take his relationship with Professor Rachel Chu to the next level. He invites her to Singapore to attend his best friend's wedding and enjoy the delights of his homeland. Naturally, Rachel is nervous and excited at the prospect of the 'meet the parents' circus but Nick passed the test with her mother on the West Coast and she's already met his cousin Astrid, so what's the worst that could happen? Well, Nick forgot to mention that he is basically the Prince Harry of Singapore, his mother Eleanor would put Cersei Lannister to shame, and his grandma is basically Dowager Countess Crawley...with a lot more money. Oh and the best friend's wedding just happens to be the wedding of the century. Rachel finds herself thrown into this crazy milieu and spends most of her trip trying to crawl back out with her dignity and sanity intact. 

I haven't read anything this juicy and rip roaringly funny in a long time - a satirical masterpiece! First of all, it was nice to get an insight into a world that isn't talked about much in mainstream, Western media. I know the Middle East is a place dripping in excess but this was another level! 

The story itself was your standard outsider brought to a family gathering, doesn't fit in, everyone tries to stick a knife in their back. However, the characters were so vibrant and funny, so it didn't seem too tired and formulaic. Despite the multiple points of views, the story really does unfold through Rachel's eyes. I found myself getting caught up in the whirlwind of the luxury and decadence then plucked down to Earth by the backstabbing and bitchiness along with Rachel. 

I didn't think I would be able to keep up with all of the different families, the many members related by birth and marriage (I thought I had a lot of cousins), who has old money, who is nouveaux riche, who is mainlander, who is not etc, but by the end of the first part (it is a novel in three parts) I knew them all. I loved all of the Asian phrases and the footnotes to fully explain what the phrases meant and also the cultural and historical significance of certain places. 

If we're going to compare Crazy Rich Asians to the likes of Gossip Girl style novels (I haven't ready any Jackie Collins books, which seemed to be other readers' main points of reference) then I think Astrid was a far better Serena type ingenue. Kevin Kwan did a great job of painting an It Girl and allowing us to see what lies beneath the surface. Often these types of characters are ghosts of characters but Astrid was real with very real problems. However, at the end of it all, we still want to be her. 

Mostly, it was just laugh out loud funny - the gaudiness, the vanity, the opulence, it was just a delight to read. Eleanor and her posse were hilariously conniving, the girls chasing Nick were so catty, and many supporting characters in the form of cousins and friends provided non stop comic relief (Auntie Neena, Oliver, and Eddie were standouts). Oh and I loved the names too - Astrid and Araminta were the standouts. 

I'm not really an audiobook person but I listened to the preview of Crazy Rich Asians and I'm definitely going to get this one. It sounds like Lynn Chen really brings the story to life with the accents and melodramatic flair. 

Finally, I have to talk about the food. The descriptions of the food were out of this world. I've always wanted to visit Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong and the mentions of food in this book has increased my desire greatly. So, I'll have to woman-up and face that thirteen hour flight.  Overall, it was a brilliant book and I can't wait for the film

Money (That's What I Want) by The Flying Lizards on Grooveshark

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Wish Had Sequels

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week's theme is: Top Ten Books I Wish Could Have Had Sequels.

I thought this was going to be an easy list to create but I was wrong! Standalone books are obviously standalone for a reason, so I've mostly chosen books where I'd like an epilogue or something to find out what has happened to the memorable characters.

1. I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith - Everyone wants to know what happened to the charming Cassandra, right?

2. The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E.Lockhart - Frankie seems to be a polarising character but I loved her. 

3. The Sky Is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson - How has Lennie grown? What's going on in her life these days?

4. This Is Not A Test by Courtney Summers - Well, this all depends on what you think happened in the last scene. I, for one, am trying to remain positive. 

5. The Marriage Plot by Jeffery Eugenides - Took a while to get into but towards the end it seemed that Madeleine's story was only just beginning. 

6. My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick - Did Samantha and Jace last? How are the kids doing?

7. Commencement by J.Courtney Sullivan - Actually, this one could do with a full on, proper sequel. So much can be done with the characters. 

8. Two-Way Street by Lauren Barnholdt - I'd like to see Jordan and Courtney: The College Years.

9. Such a Rush by Jennifer Echols - Again, just a check in with Leah and the guys would be nice. 

10. Where'd You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple - There's a lot of potential for a witty sequel here. 

Summer Reading: Part Three

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt
WHAT'S THE DEAL? June discovers comfort in the least expected place after her best friend, Uncle Finn, loses his battle with AIDS. As she comes to terms with her loss, June learns about the prejudices held by many outside her small town, which only spurs her on more to walk to the beat of her own drum. 

ANY GOOD? Beautiful and heartbreaking. I LOVED June - what a voice! This is the type of book that really gets under your skin. I finished it a while ago now but I still think about June and Toby and Greta. The relationship between June and Toby was absolutely heart wrenching but extremely well handled. There have been some comments here and there recently about relationships (often platonic with a dash of unrequited love) between older men and teenagers and whether there's a growing trend for this kind of material (and whether or not this is a good thing). However, I must say, in the instance of Tell the Wolves I'm Home, it was a perfectly drawn sketch of an imperfect friendship. 

ADD TO BASKET? Yes, definitely. Obviously, it's not the kind of book you'd pick up if you're looking for something light and airy but buy it, put it down, and then pick it up again when you're ready. Probably when the nights suddenly start to come around quicker and there's a hint of a chill in the air. Oh and don't forget to tape a packet of tissues to the back - you'll need them. 

All the Summer Girls by Meg Donohue

WHAT'S THE DEAL? Vanessa, Kate, and Dani are best friends who have grown apart as the realities of adult life sweep them off to pastures new. However, a change in circumstance, an unresolved conflict, and years of buried guilt, brings them back to together at Dani's summer house in Avalon, NJ. 

ANY GOOD? This was on my summer reading list and if I'm honest, I was a little disappointed. The story was a bit too slow for my liking but I enjoyed the summer setting (I sent some of my characters off to Avalon once too!) and it was nice to have a bi-racial main character in Vanessa. I enjoyed reading the author's notes at the end too. It's interesting how we all see the characters so differently. Meg Donohue's imaginary cast included Anna Kendrick, Jessica Szohr, and Kirsten Dunst. On the other hand, given how the characters were described, I pictured Jessica Biel, Paula Patton and Olivia Wilde (with the blonde from the OC days) as las tres amigas. I also liked Meg Donohue's recommendations for summer reading. 

ADD TO BASKET? If you're still looking for a quick beach read. 

Glaciers by Alexis M. Smith

WHAT'S THE DEAL? Isabel is a librarian in Seattle who loves the stories held within the vintage products she collects. We follow Isabel over the course of a day when a startling revelation from a colleague throws her into turmoil. 

ANY GOOD? This was an impulse buy but I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it. Glaciers is a delicate little thing with a big, rich story of poor timing, heartbreak and longing at its core. Again, we have another view of The War (I loved that it wasn't immediately obvious which war we were dealing with here due to the shifts in time thanks to the vintage items - I won't spoil it for you either) and the impact on those left behind. The uncertainty of time and space was clever because gradually it all starts to make sense and it is almost like watching a story move from black and white to technicolour. Very clever. Extremely bittersweet. 

ADD TO BASKET? For fans of the Zooey Deschanel type brand of quirky, hipsters unite lifestyle who also appreciate a well written, carefully crafted novella.