29 April 2014

Top Ten Tuesday #7

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish and is a chance for everyone to get to know fellow bloggers and share lists. I love lists. Every week is a different list.

This week is Top Ten Books If You Like Skins (TV).

Gritty, controversial, and all UKYA, here's my top ten books to accompany the series. They cover a variety of genres and subjects but are all awesome and evocative.


 
  

  1. Black Rabbit Summer by Kevin Brooks
  2. Looking for JJ by Anne Cassidy
  3. Junk! by Melvin Burgess
  4. Pretty Bad Things by CJ Skuse
  5. My Daylight Monsters by Sarah Dalton
  6. Noughts & Crosses by Malorie Blackman
  7. The Dark Beneath by Alan Gibbons
  8. Berserk by Ally Kennen
  9. Slam by Nick Hornby
  10. Megan by Mary Hooper

  
 



26 April 2014

Review: Sealed With a Kiss (Diary of a Crush) by Sarra Manning

Will a lengthy road trip test Edie and Dylan's hard-won couplehood to the breaking point?

Edie and Dylan have been dreaming about their road trip across America forever, but nine weeks in a car together is going to be a huge test for them.

They're crazy in love, but what if that's not enough? Trailer parks, diners, motels, and glitzy casinos are the backdrop for an adventure that threatens the whole future of their relationship. Will Edie and Dylan be able to go the distance?



5 Words: Now it's finished. Empty feeling.

I came to the end of this book with a slightly empty feeling. It wasn't that it was a bad book, in fact it's far the opposite. It's just that you end up investing so much in the series that you can't help feeling a little bit lost when it finishes.

Edie and Dylan grow up a lot in this book, probably more than they have in the previous two books combined. They discover so much more about themselves and their relationships.

Edie and Dylan's journey is lovely and frustrating and tough and revealing. And a little bit scary. I really enjoyed reading it.

I thought the ending was somewhat bitter-sweet, and I was left wanting more. But there never will be :(

25 April 2014

Review: Kiss and Make Up (Diary of a Crush) by Sarra Manning


Edie's having major boy issues. Trying to get over Dylan is hard, but snogging new boy Carter isn't hurting...


When everyone heads off to a summer festival, Edie wants to forget her troubles and try and have fun. But she didn't count on her leftover feelings for Dylan and now she's all churned up again. Edie's got some big decisions to make, but is she ready to kiss and make up?




5 Words: Obsessive, psycho, growing-up, toxic, angst-y.


Oh Edie, what has happened to you? You're just not the same girl any more. I liked you more when I was younger.

This whole series is basically a re-read of my teenage years. I couldn't resist those gorgeous new covers.

This is still fluffy and fun, but Edie is all kinds of stalker-obsessive-psycho and it's scary. As this book is written as her diary it's a crazy-mad ride. And it was just too much for me. Edie is relentless in her pursuit of Dylan. Dylan is a Grade A dick. Dylan's new girlfriend Veronique is only slightly more bat-shit than Edie. And Veronique's brother Carter is as toxic as they come.

If you like toxic, poisonous relationships then look no further as this book has them in spades. I guess that's why I can't stop reading this series.

This is a guilty pleasure read for me. Sarra Manning will always be the Queen of Teen to me. When I was the same age as the protagonist I related much more to her. But now that I'm a lot older I just don't get it.

But hey, we do crazy things in the name of love.

24 April 2014

Review: French Kiss (Diary of a Crush) by Sarra Manning

New town, new college, new people, Edie's feeling overwhelmed. What if nobody wants to be her friend? But then something happens that turns her life upside down: Edie spots Dylan. Messy-haired, pouty, frustratingly elusive Dylan...

Fast forward to the college trip to Paris and things are really heating up. In between the shopping, the clubbing, the kissing and the making up, something happens between Edie and Dylan that changes both their lives for ever. But do boys like Dylan ever play for keeps?




5 Words: Fluffy, fun, messed up relationship.

This book is a little guilty pleasure for me. A fantastic start to the Diary of a Crush series.

Although it's been years since I first read of Edie and Dylan (almost a decade!) I still think back to this book - well, this series - and wonder about the characters and re-imagine the situations.

It's a slightly fluffy story, very teenage-y and fun. And frustrating. If there is anything frustrating in this book then it's Edie and Dylan for the majority of this book. He treats her like crap and she lets him, so long as he kisses her again. But it's not as poisonous as it sounds, it actually works. They're both growing up and getting a grip on who they want to love.

Who is your art-boy Dylan? Pictures please!

I have to go and find my own boy now. I need a kiss.

17 April 2014

Review: Pulled Beneath by Marni Mann

What happens when you uncover years of secrets and find out everything you thought to be true was a lie?

Drew Stevens finds her world turned upside down when her parents are brutally murdered. Soon after, she learns she inherited a property in Bar Harbor, Maine from recently deceased grandparents that she believed had died when she was a baby.

Drew travels north to settle her grandparents’ estate, but finds more questions than answers as the truth starts unravelling. What she didn’t expect to find was Saint, whose reputation was as tumultuous as his past. But the very thing that brought them together was the same thing that kept them emotionally caged.

With Saint’s scars so deep and Drew’s so fresh, can the pair heal from their painful wounds or will they be pulled beneath the darkness of their pasts?


5 Words: Grief, heartbreak, attraction, uncertainty, love.

At first, I wasn't sure I liked this book. Despite that killer first chapter, I didn't click with Drew. I wanted to know what happened, I wanted to read on, but I didn't particularly want to get to know the main character better. Cue me liking and then disliking her over and over.

And so this was a very up-and-down read.

It's based on choices and what-if's. I found myself really thinking over a lot of things, about the choices Drew was making and how things could have been different. And then I spent far more time thinking "what if" than actually reading, so it took me ages to finish. But it's good when a book makes you stop and think. It means that there must be something in there, some little chain of thought or plot device that grabs you and holds you.

Pulled Beneath is very clever - you feel exactly as Drew does about the other characters. You're right there, in her head, wondering what's true and who to trust and what's being hidden. You start trying to figure everything out along with her.

The small community was done well - it's different from any small community I've ever encountered (they welcomed her :O ) but it worked within the story and was right for the personality of the setting.

Overall, I did enjoy it. Drew just wasn't my kind of character. I didn't agree with more than a few of her actions and there was that huge great big turn off - drugs. But despite all of this I read to the end and found that I had quite liked the story and the shocking emotional roller coaster read I'd just experienced.

03 April 2014

Review, Guestpost and Giveaway: His Hometown Girl by Karen Rock

This is my stop during the book blitz for His Hometown Girl by Karen Rock. The book blitz runs from March 31 till April 13, and you can view the complete blitz schedule on Lola’s Blog Tours.

He'd always managed to best her…

Jodi Chapman will do whatever it takes to get top care for her autistic son. If that means going home and convincing local farmers to sell their land, so be it. Even if her biggest opponent, childhood rival Daniel Gleason, is equally determined to convince farmers to buy into his co-op plan. And he's not playing fair.

Facing off against Daniel is the last thing Jodi wants. The attraction that's always fueled their competitiveness is as strong as ever and just as distracting. But with both their futures on the line, and years of distrust between them, how can they ever be on the same side?



5 Words: Heartwarming, family, friendship, love, loyalty.

This was a particularly sweet story.

I liked Jodi right from the start. She'd been through so much but was so strong and she knew her priorities. Her ex-husband Peter was a complete and utter arsehole and men like him should just be chemically castrated because they don't deserve to have children. I felt very strongly about how Peter acted and treated Jodi and Tyler and it riled me up a little. Ok, more than a little. The scumbag.

Daniel was an interesting character and my views on him did chop and change - but ultimately I quite liked him. He too knew what he wanted and was determined to get it.

I loved the relationships between the characters. I loved all of the conflict. But most of all I loved how Jodi loved Tyler so so much. She'd do anything for him and it really was heartwarming. You learn a lot about love from Tyler.

I loved the ending too. It just fit so perfectly into the story that it couldn't have worked any other way for me. But I don't want to spoil it so you'll have to read for yourself.

Pick this book up if you need your heart to swell and to feel all warm and fuzzy inside. It's a great read.


Karen Rock Farm Anecdote: The Proof is in the Salsa

Although I wasn’t raised on a farm, I spent every Sunday and lots of weeks in the summer on my grandparents’ Century dairy farm in Malone, New York. A Century farm means that it’s a farm that’s been owned by the same family, continuously, for over a hundred years. My family had raised cattle on that land in upstate New York for over two hundred plus years. It always gave me so much pride whenever we took the turn up their long, sugar maple-lined drive because I’d imagine that Almanzo Wilder, another Malone farm kid, would have grown up seeing the same things I did. As a huge fan of the Laura Ingalls Wilder series, Little House on the Prairie, this meant so much to me.
Although there were lots of things I loved doing on the farm, spending time with neighbors was also a big favorite. There were lots of excuses to get together and the best ones involved potluck suppers. While these gatherings were friendly affairs, there was something a bit electric and competitive feeling about those suppers. Women brought their best main courses, side dishes and desserts and anxiously watched to see that their pan was scraped clean. My grandmother was just as eager to have her cooking skills praised and/or recognized as the rest. Whenever a potluck approached, we’d spend lots of time discussing what she’d bring… everyone loved her three bean salad, but last time Nancy Martineau had brought the same dish which meant we’d come home with- gasp- leftovers. That could not. Would not. Happen again.
We’d picked blackberries and her cobbler could not be beat, so we were all set for bringing a desert. As for a main course, we settled on meatloaf with a sweet ketchup sauce on top. It wasn’t my Gram’s favorite thing to make, but Bernice, who usually provided this staple, had broken a hip and no potluck was complete without it. As the Vice President of the local Daughters of the American Revolution chapter (DAR), my grandmother had the clout to fill Bernice’s shoes- temporarily. But a side dish… the agony… what if Nancy breeched the unspoken etiquette of who brought what and produced another three bean salad? Gram could make coleslaw but another neighbor always made that. The same was true for potato salad, pasta salad and fruit salad. Pistachio and Ambrosia salads were also popular but other ladies had claimed those long ago too.
So perhaps a hot dish? I voted for scalloped potatoes but Gram reminded me that Marlene always made them. When I suggested baked beans and bacon, the green bean salad topped with fried onions, or creamed baby onions she just shook her head sadly. Nope. The politics of a potluck supper ran deep. It was an insult and a bit of a challenge to bring the same dish another neighbor was known to contribute. Yet we needed something extraordinary to avoid loading a half-filled aluminum tin in the back of the pick-up on the way home.
Then it came to me. Salsa! We’d been picking tomatoes for days. Jarring them too. And since we also had fresh peppers and onions, we couldn’t miss. When I suggested it to Gram, she looked puzzled and shook her head. It would stick out. Sounded too exotic. People wouldn’t know what to make of it. But I pressed on, certain that our old-fashioned Yankee potlucks could use a little updating- though I never wanted us to lose the bread pudding or banana cream pies! Finally, if only to make me happy, she gave in and we took a rare trip into town to get some cilantro, hot sauce and tortilla chips.
We ran into Marlene who was very curious about what we had in our shopping cart by the way she kept looking. But I had to hand it to Gram. Once she committed, she was all in and didn’t give away a thing other than to observe that – yes- the corn was coming along nicely this season. I could have laughed at the shocked look on Marlene’s face when she caught sight of the hot sauce jar.
Back home, we chopped, diced and mixed and the smell was so good even my Uncle Bob, a notoriously picky eater, wandered into the kitchen to investigate. We set the bowl in the ‘fridge and, since I was spending the night, went to sleep. The next morning, I rushed to the kitchen to find Gram with her head stuck inside the refrigerator, checking on the salsa. It smelled even better than yesterday, but she decided, after tasting it, to add a little sugar to sweeten it. Gram was never big on measuring. She tasted, she looked and she smelled. That’s how she cooked and despite the lack of scientific measurements, her dishes won prizes at fairs and were the talk of potluck suppers. She was widely known as one of the best cooks in the county. Would her reputation stay intact after this risky potluck contribution?
At the supper, long foldout tables were laid out, end to end in a long ‘L’ shape with deserts down on one end, main dishes at the other and the sides in the middle. We arrived early to set up and I noticed that, although Gram had set out her meatloaf which earned her cautious praise (no one dared say it looked better than Bernice’s), and her berry cobbler, the salsa was nowhere to be found. Had she left it in the truck? After a quick trip to check, I came back empty handed. We’d worked so hard. Maybe we’d left it at home. My heart sank. I just knew people would have liked this new treat and now they’d never taste it.
Locals filed in and the noise grew even louder until the minister raised his hand for the blessing. We all bowed our heads, though mine was already low. I barely listened for thoughts of the salsa until I heard him actually say the word. Salsa. What’s more, he mentioned me. He was giving thanks to me for bringing my first dish to the supper and when I peaked up I saw my grandmother behind the table, her sparkling eyes meeting mine as she nodded at the bowl on the table in front of her. The salsa!
After grace, I joined her to help serve, and she told me she’d wanted to surprise me. I was so happy that my feet didn’t feel connected to the ground. Even better, people were lining up to taste this fresh garden salsa… and coming back for more. Suddenly, I felt the pressure and responsibility of having brought a tasty dish. It wasn’t until someone scooped out the last spoonful that I breathed easy and shared a jubilant hug with Gram. I’d done it! My contribution was a hit- especially with the men who confided that they liked spicy food- something you rarely heard up North.
The ride home was full of excited chatter… mostly mine. Uncle Bob asked me if we’d kept any more of the salsa back home and I promised him I’d make more. In fact, from there on out, I always made salsa for potlucks. It became my dish. While I never quite earned my grandmother’s reputation as a great cook, I was happy to contribute to our neighborly gatherings. It’s the best part about being in a close community like ours.

GIVEAWAY

How about an international giveaway to celebrate this lovely, sweet book of love and loyalty? Here's what you could win...
  • Grand Prize: $50 gift card and a signed copy of Karen Rock's earlier Heartwarming, Wish Me Tomorrow and her YA contemporary romance, Camp Boyfriend.
  • Two runner-ups both win a 15$ Amazon gift card

02 April 2014

Review: A Wicked Pursuit by Isabella Bradford

As the eldest son of the Duke of Breconridge, Harry Fitzroy is duty-bound to marry - and marry well. Giving up his rakish ways for the pleasures of a bride’s bed becomes a delightful prospect when Harry chooses beautiful Lady Julia Barclay, the catch of the season. But a fall from his horse puts a serious crimp in his plans. Abandoned by Julia before he can propose, the unlucky bachelor finds himself trapped in the country in the care of Julia’s younger sister.

Harry has never met a woman like Lady Augusta. Utterly without artifice, Gus is clever and capable, and seems to care not a fig for society. After a taboo kiss awakens passion that takes them both by surprise, Harry realizes he’d almost given his heart to the wrong sister. While London tongues wag, he’ll use his most seductive powers of persuasion to convince the reluctant Gus that she belongs with him - as his equal, his love, his wife.


5 Words: Historical, passionate, pleasantly surprising, lovely.

At first I wasn't convinced. I thought it was another one of those stories.

Thank goodness it wasn't.

Gus is a rather different character from what you usually see in these romances. She has her sister for a start, her perfect, beautiful sister who everyone adores and who overshadows Augusta at every turn. And rather be upset about all of this Gus doesn't mind it so much - sure, she's not the prettiest and she's never asked to dance, but who cares?

She is a strong and capable young woman who was a pleasure to read.

This was a very passionate story, with a falling-in-love which felt so real. There was a slow burning fuse of passion, of building love, and it was wonderful to experience.

I  liked the conflicts that built and how Harry felt unworthy. It was good that he had been knocked down a peg (or twenty) and it really added to his character. He was not at all who he appeared at first and it was good that he changed.

Overall this was a great read, and I really enjoyed it. I'd recommend it for a rainy day to cheer you up but keep you thinking. I will definitely seek out more of this author's work and read on in this series.

01 April 2014

Top Ten Tuesday #6

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish and is a chance for everyone to get to know fellow bloggers and share lists. I love lists. Every week is a different list.

This week is Top Ten "Gateway" Books/Authors In My Reading Journey.

So this is a list of the authors and books that got me reading in the first place, and the ones that kept me reading and made me try out new and different genres. Theses books are all pretty special and I still read them over and over even now.

The Authors That Started me Reading

These are the authors that I could not get enough of. The ones that dragged me into the world of reading. They're special to me because they really inspired me and pretty much changed my life. They are the ones that started me reading and the ones that got me back into reading.
  • Enid Blyton
  • JK Rowling
  • Jill Murphy
  • Dodie Smith

The Authors That Kept Me Reading

These are the authors that kept me reading. I have read their books over and over and love them more every time. This list could be so so much longer, I could probably easily list 20 and still think of more! The authors that kept me reading are exclusively British. It was the gritty, dark realism of UKYA to which I was addicted. Never tried it? These authors will change your life.
  • Kevin Brooks
  • Anne Cassidy
  • Melvin Burgess

The Authors That Inspired Me to Try Something Different

There are some authors which take you right outside your comfort zone and for me it was these three. From the wacky-ness of high-fantasy and sci-fi worlds, to the vampires and werewolves of the Parasol Protectorate universe, these were not my cup of tea until I tried them. They opened me up to trying completely different things from what I was reading.
  • Terry Practchett
  • Gail Carriger
  • Octavia Butler

Share your top tens with me!