Category: Young Adult

Five Films to Watch After Reading Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett

Posted April 2, 2017 by Hannah in Reviews, Young Adult / 1 Comment

Five Films to Watch After Reading Alex, Approximately by Jenn BennettAlex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett
Published by Simon & Schuster Australia on 1st April 2017
Pages: 368
Format: Paperback
Source: Bought
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Bailey “Mink” Rydell has met the boy of her dreams. They share a love of films and talk all day – Alex is perfect. Well, apart from the fact that they’ve never actually met . . . and neither of them knows the other’s real name.

When Bailey moves to sunny California to live with her dad, who happens to live in the same town as Alex, she decides to track him down. But finding someone based on online conversations alone proves harder than Bailey thought, and with her irritating but charismatic (and potentially attractive?) colleague Porter Roth distracting her at every turn, will she ever get to meet the mysterious Alex?

From the author of Night Owls comes a story of summer, first love and hidden identities . . .

If you haven’t added the adorableness that is Alex, Approximately to your immediate TBR list, I say: WHAT ARE YOU DOING???? ADD IT NOW!

Alex, Approximately is, in my book, the perfect type of contemporary, one that blends humour, romance and real life issues seamlessly together that will have you laughing, crying and smiling the entire way through. And if you don’t, then I think you’re a monster and will force you to re-read it until you do.

Bailey “Mink” Rydell (I totally see what you did there, Ms. Bennett!) is our heroine, one film loving buff who has decided to move cross country to sunny California, leaving behind her mother who is going through what seems to be an icky second divorce. Bailey has ulterior motives for moving to Cali though – one ‘Alex’, the guy she talks to on a movie lover’s app, who just happens to live in the same town as her Dad. From the start of the book, ‘Alex’ tries to convince Bailey to come out and join him for the film festival happening at the end of the summer, but Bailey, who has self-nicknamed herself ‘The Artful Dodger’ (my kind of girl) is reluctant to let ‘Alex’ know that she’s actually moved across. As Bailey tries to suss out (very unsuccessfully, might I add), who the mysterious ‘Alex’ is, she navigates a world of new and old relationships and thus our story is born, and we get the cutest contemporary ever to grace your hands.

I haven’t read any of Jenn’s other books (Night Owls is sitting on my shelf, so I’m going to have to crack into that ASAP, I think!), but if they are the same quality that Alex is, then I cannot wait. Bailey’s voice is sharp and witty, and she’s also a highly relatable character – even at my ripe old age. Her insecurities and fears touch at your heart, and seeing her relationships grow with her father, Grace, and Porter were so beautiful. Especially her Dad – I adored their easy repertoire. You could see that Bailey was so much more comfortable around her Dad (even though I would have loved a little more resolution with her mother), and he pushed her to be the best person she could possibly be without being overbearing or pushy. It was so great to see a beautiful female friendship that was Bailey and Grace, Grailey and Braice. There wasn’t any cattiness or shaming between either of them, and not to other people as well. Then there’s Porter Roth, man who stole my heart. Banterous, brave, brilliant. I loved how much he challenged Bailey and how much Bailey challenged him. Like any romantic comedy, they were naturally drawn together, and, well…you’ll just have to read the book!

Of course, one of my other favourite aspects of Alex, Approximately was the nod to all the rom-coms and movies out there. Each chapter had a wonderfully accurate quote from movies I adore to pieces, and I was overjoyed that Bailey was a Cary Grant fan (who isn’t?!). In that spirit, I thought I’d choose five films you should watch after reading this amazing gem!

You’ve Got Mail

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Obviously, this insta-classic is one you must watch. In fact, I’m dying for a re-watch myself! This beautiful, quoteable film is one of my all time favourites and is also a comp title for the book. Which I find highly accurate! Definitely the best Meg/Tom rom-com out there, You’ve Got Mail tells the story of Kathleen Kelly as she navigates her way through an online friendship, while at the same time coming to blows with the big bad chain bookstore threatening her sales. It’s adorably nineties to watch now (AOL? What’s that?), but also a timeless classic.

While You Were Sleeping

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Another one of my favourite films of all time, set in Chicago over Christmas has Sandra Bullock mooning over Peter Gallagher (who doesn’t see her) – until one day, she saves him from almost death by train. At the hospital, Sandra tells a little white lie – that she’s Peter’s fiancee – so she can stay and make sure he’s okay. Of course, the family soon finds out, and even though they welcome Sandra with welcome arms, not everyone is convinced – especially the brother. It’s quirky, it’s cute and full of charm.

Roman Holiday

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Another film mentioned in Alex, Approximately, it’s definitely my favourite Audrey Hepburn film, and full of cute moments that any romantic will love. Basically, Audrey plays a European princess who bunks off duty for the day with Gregory Peck, not knowing he’s actually a journo wanting a scoop. It’s hilarious, it’s fun, it’s Rome, and it’s a feel good film. Plus Audrey Hepburn is a goddess and Gregory Peck isn’t bad on the eyes either!

My Best Friend’s Wedding

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I challenge any one to not love this film! Julia Roberts, Dermot Mulroney, Rupert Everett, Cameron Diaz. It’s the perfect cast. Full of hilarious moments, a musical number that will leave you clapping along and an ending so sweet. Basically Julia Roberts plays a woman who discovers that her best friend is marrying someone else…only problem is, she’s in love with him. So of course she’s going to go and break them up. Hijinks ensue, and you’ll finish thinking how glorious it was that perms went out of fashion because Julia, honey, that hair.

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

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NOT the badly done 80s version, but we are talking musical here guys. The best thing you’ll ever see. I adored this MGM classic as a kid – and still do! Small town girl Milly accepts a marriage proposal from a farm boy, only to realise that he wants a housekeeper for him and his six brothers more than he does a wife. The musical numbers are glorious, the boys are cute af, and you can’t help but be impressed with the way Milly whips the boys into shape.

Have you seen any of these movies? Or do you have any other recommendations? Feel free to let me know in the comments below!

 

 

 

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Magical, Mysterious & Mesmerizing: Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Posted February 5, 2017 by Hannah in Reviews, Young Adult / 3 Comments

Magical, Mysterious & Mesmerizing: Caraval by Stephanie GarberCaraval Series: Caraval #1
by Stephanie Garber
Published by Hodder & Staughton, Hachette Australia on 31st January 2017
Pages: 416
Format: E-Book, E-ARC
Source: Publisher, Netgalley
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Two sisters bound by love and a father they fear escape their tiny, secluded island for the wondrous performance of Caraval, where the audience plays along in a mysterious and magical game of determining what's real and what's fantasy. And where only one sister might be brave enough to win the ultimate prize of 'an impossible wish'...

Scarlett Dragna has never left the tiny isle of Trisda, pining from afar for the wonder of Caraval, a once-a-year week-long performance where the audience participates in the show.

Caraval is Magic. Mystery. Adventure. And for lonely Scarlett, it represents freedom, an escape from her abusive father and from her own dark past.

Still, Scarlett is too scared of her father to leave Trisda. Until she is kidnapped by her wild younger sister Donatella and a dangerous yet oh-so-seductive sailor named Julian and taken to the mystical Isla de los Suenos, the site of this year's Caraval. When they arrive, her sister immediately disappears. Since protecting Tella is all she knows, Scarlett is forced to join forces with Julian and find her before the evil Master of Caraval does...

You’ll hear a lot of pretty words used to describe Caraval – spellbounding, mystical, magical, breathtaking, atmospheric – pretty much all are accurate and true. Caraval is one of those stories that is so visually stunning, that for a debut author, Garber has cemented herself as an author whose words truly leap off the page.

So what’s all the fuss about? What we have is our heroine, Scarlett, who haslonged to participate in Caraval, the legendary magical circus-come-scavenger hunt. When she is gifted three tickets – one for her, one for her sister Tella, and one for the fiancee she’s never met. But when Tella goes missing on their arrival and Scarlett is left with Julian, the enigmatic sailor who whisked them to the island, Scarlett must play the game – and win – in order to get her sister back, and alive.

Caraval is full of plot twists, which is part of what makes the book so delectable. If you think you’re getting the stock standard YA fantasy, then you’re wrong. I was so caught up in ‘playing the game’ with Scarlett and trying to second guess every next step and play that I was completely swept up in the book, and couldn’t put it down. Was it real or not real? Only a game or not? I’ll leave you in suspense and make you go read the book.

The relationship between Tella and Scarlett was amazing, and sadly, I just wanted more and more. As you can tell, Tella isn’t present for a lot of the book, popping every now and again but there was a such a strong sense of love and devotion between the two. They were two incredibly different characters, and at times I felt that there could have been more depth to both. At times I felt Scarlett to be quite a judgemental character, but I was impressed at her determination in never giving up in finding Tella. And a character with synesthesia? I’d never heard of that before now, and at first it was a little confusing, but once I begun to understand Scarlett, it made a great aspect of the novel. Speaking of relationships – I can’t not mention Julian, who was probably my favourite character. I loved the banter between him and Scarlett, and the way he pushed her to be a better person.

There were a few minor niggles that made Caraval a four star instead of five star read, and I hope that they’ll be explored more in coming books (oh please tell me there’s more books!). Firstly is the world building – you get a brief sense of the world that Scarlett lives in, a conglomerate of islands ruled by governors, but you don’t get much beyond that. And I always find fantasy worlds so fascinating, so this left me a little disappointed. I wanted to know more about the culture, the history – from my sense, I got a very Italian vibe, especially with the names and costumes. Look at me, always wanting more!

So if you are wanting a book that is visually rich as it is enchanting, then look no further than Caraval. And if you don’t do it for the story, those covers, am I right?!

A huge big thanks to Hachette Australia who provided me a copy in exchange for review. Caraval is out now in all major bookstores and retailers.

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Fire & Ice Rarely Play Nice: Frostblood by Elly Blake

Posted January 2, 2017 by Hannah in Reviews, Young Adult / 0 Comments

Fire & Ice Rarely Play Nice: Frostblood by Elly BlakeFrostblood Series: Frostblood Saga #1
by Elly Blake
Published by Hodder & Staughton, Hachette Australia on 10th January 2017
Pages: 304
Format: E-Book, E-ARC
Source: Publisher, Netgalley, Won
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The first in a page-turning young adult fantasy series perfect for fans of Victoria Aveyard's Red Queen and Sarah J. Maas's Throne of Glass series.

In a land governed by the cruel Frostblood ruling class, seventeen-year-old Ruby is a Fireblood who has spent most of her life hiding her ability to manipulate heat and light - until the day the soldiers come to raid her village and kill her mother. Ruby vows revenge on the tyrannous Frost King responsible for the massacre of her people.

But Ruby's powers are unpredictable...and so are the feelings she has for Arcus, the scarred, mysterious Frostblood warrior who shares her goal to kill the Frost King, albeit for his own reasons. When Ruby is captured by the Frost King's men, she's taken right into the heart of the enemy. Now she only has one chance to destroy the maniacal ruler who took everything from her - and in doing so, she must unleash the powers she's spent her whole life withholding.

Frostblood is set in world where flame and ice are mortal enemies - but together create a power that could change everything.

Frostblood is the first fantasy release of 2017 that I’ve read, and boy oh boy, does it set the bar high for the rest of 2017’s fantasy releases. If this is the calibre of books coming out, then please, by all means, hit me with them.

Ruby is our heroine, a girl with fire running through her veins who watches her mother die at the hands of the ruling Frostbloods and imprisoned. Years later, she is rescued by an order of monks, who wish for her to help them depose of the Frost Throne and in turn, the ruthless King. When Ruby is captured by the Frost King’s men and forced to fight for her life, what she must overcome in order to survive will be her greatest test.

There is so much to love about this book. The two opposing sides, Frostbloods and Firebloods, have a tumultuous history that Blake is able to weave into the story without info dumping like a boring world history lesson. Instead, what we do learn about Sudesia and Tempesia and the world Ruby lives in is given to us in little pockets, making you wish for more. In fact, if it’s the only thing I didn’t like so much was that I wanted to know more about the history of the world and the Gods and how the Frost & Fire Bloods became to be, but that’s probably just me being greedy.

I loved Ruby as a character too, which is interesting because at first, she bothered me a lot in that at time, she was quite whiny and petulant. But all characters must grow, and so does Ruby, and I loved that she wasn’t a stereotypical “Chosen One” character and in fact at times pushed against the notion of her abilities and strengths. Watching her come to terms with who she was and what she could do was great, and I loved that her vulnerability shone through at times as well. She wasn’t perfect, and we need more YA heroines like her because let’s face it, none of us are.

And I’d be remiss to leave out the romance too, because of course who doesn’t love a mysterious brooding interest? Arcus was great, albeit a little predictable in his character arc, and the banter between him and Ruby as their relationship grew is the sort of romance that fuels me, and once again I’ve lost myself to a fictional character. Arcus made me want to weep in parts with what he’s been through, and to see him grow and learn through Ruby (and vice versa) was just great. They may say that “affairs between fire and frost rarely end well”, but they’ve clearly never met Arcus and Ruby, have they?

For fans of Red Queen and Throne of GlassFrostblood will dazzle you with fiery passion and fast paced adventure that will leave you burning for more at every page (see what I did there?!). It’s safe to say that its sequel will be just as explosive, and I can’t wait to find out what happens next.

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Hungry for Wonderland: Heartless by Marissa Meyer

Posted December 1, 2016 by Hannah in Blog Tours, Reviews, Young Adult / 1 Comment

Hungry for Wonderland: Heartless by Marissa MeyerHeartless by Marissa Meyer
Published by Pan Macmillan Australia on 8th November 2016
Pages: 464
Format: Paperback, ARC
Source: Publisher
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Long before she was the terror of Wonderland, the infamous Queen of Hearts, she was just a girl who wanted to fall in love.

Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland and a favourite of the unmarried King, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, she wants to open a shop and create delectable pastries.
At a royal ball where Cath is expected to receive the King's marriage proposal, she meets handsome and mysterious Jest. At the risk of offending the King and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into a secret courtship.

Cath is determined to choose her own destiny. But in a land thriving with magic, madness and monsters, fate has other plans.

I kind of have a love/hate relationship with Marissa Meyer and her books. I love her as a person – her writing advice is solid, she’s a beautiful person, and she has a great knack for creating really interesting worlds. However…I just don’t ever seem to enjoy the plots of her books. In saying that, I’ve only read Cinder, and haven’t as yet continued with the series. So I was looking forward to reading Heartless, a fantasy standalone back story to the famous Queen of Hearts from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

Like many, many people, I’ve been a huge Lewis Carroll fan since I was a young girl (thanks Mum!). I can remember pouring through this really old copy of Through The Looking Glass we had and absolutely being besotted with the rhymes, idiocies and illustrations. So whenever a unique retelling or reimagining crops up, I am there faster than the White Rabbit.

The best thing for me about Heartless was the world. Meyer has created a fantastic backdrop to the story, and it’s probably the reason I kept on reading. Heartless has the whole host of Alice characters we know and love coupled with unique twists that will make any Alice fan smile. I also loved how there were sly little references to other nursery rhymes. For example, one of the characters is Sir Peter, a reference to the nursery rhyme Peter, Peter.  The way it was all put together was simply amazing, and I had so much fun reading all the little details, from the flamingos (‘Ah like shrimp’) to the jumble group of Hatta’s tea parties.

Sadly, that’s where things tend to go a bit south for me. Everything else I found…rather boring. Which is a shame, because I really wanted to love this novel. Cath seemed like a character that I could understand solely for her love of food. But even all the references to sweets and pies and chocolate seemed too much. There isn’t a lot of plot going on in Heartless until the last quarter of the book, as this is, essentially, an origin story for the villainous Queen of Hearts we all know from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. The plot is simple: Cath wants to open a bakery, but her parents want her to marry the King of Hearts. Then Cath meets Jest, the new court joker, and everything evolves from there. I can see where Meyer was wanting to go with this – the whole idea of living your own destiny, following your own heart and not the wishes of others – but it just didn’t resonate with us. I felt as if Meyer had spent so much time creating such a wonderfully vivid world that the characters and the plot were swept aside. Even the romance seemed forced, and for a book that’s over 400 pages long, way too instalove for my liking. I would have preferred to get to see Jest and Cath’s feelings develop slowly, rather than all at once. In saying that, my favourite character was probably Hatta, aka the Mad Hatter, and I think Heartless is well worth the read for his story alone.

It’s sad when something doesn’t quite live up to its full potential, but if you don’t mind a (very) slow plot and can look past instalove for the great world building, Heartless definitely belongs on your TBR.

Check out the other blogs on the Australian Heartless blog tour below!

 

 

 

 

 

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Moon Chosen by P.C. Cast

Posted November 21, 2016 by Hannah in Blog Tours, Reviews, Young Adult / 2 Comments

Moon Chosen by P.C. CastMoon Chosen Series: Tales of a New World #1
on 25th October 2015
Pages: 600
Format: ARC, Paperback
Source: Publisher
BooktopiaPublisherThe Book Depository
Goodreads

Mari is an Earth Walker, heir to the unique healing powers of her Clan; but she has cast her duties aside, until she is chosen by a special animal ally, altering her destiny forever. When a deadly attack tears her world apart, Mari reveals the strength of her powers and the forbidden secret of her dual nature as she embarks on a mission to save her people. It is not until Nik, the son of the leader from a rival, dominating clan strays across her path, that Mari experiences something she has never felt before…

Now, darkness is coming, and with it, a force, more terrible and destructive than the world has ever seen, leaving Mari to cast the shadows from the earth. By forming a tumultuous alliance with Nik, she must make herself ready. Ready to save her people. Ready to save herself and Nik. Ready to embrace her true destiny…and obliterate the forces that threaten to destroy them all.

Welcome to my stop on the Blog Tour for Moon Chosen by P.C. Cast, hosted by Pan MacMillan Australia!

I don’t know quite what I was expecting with Moon Chosen, but I was equally parts pleasantly surprised and equally…not bothered?

Moon Chosen is a really unique fantasy that centres around Mari, who is part of a clan called Earth Walkers. Her mother is the Moon Woman of her clan, who by right is a powerful figure within her clan, one whose abilities are passed down to Mari. However Mari’s own powers have had to be remained hidden – and Mari ‘out of sight, out of mind.’ When Mari’s clan is attacked, and her world forever changed.

I’ll admit – it was a struggle to get through most of Moon Chosen. It’s a massive book, almost 600 pages long, and a lot of it is just world building and setting the tone for what is to come, which makes it a bit of an adventure to read itself. I felt like most of the time I couldn’t connect with the characters, and I kept having to flick back through pages as I found myself skim-reading a lot of it, and then missing important things.

In saying that, I think Moon Chosen was such a different type of fantasy than what I’m used to, which was refreshing. Nik (the love interest) came across a bit bland sometimes, and Mari was a tough nut to read for a good chunk of the book, but one aspect of the book that did progress was their character development, and I will say, I’m quite intrigued as to where the series is heading, especially as the last 100 pages or so picked up quite a bit on the action front.

And the best part? The Companions, of course! I loved the concept of having animals that were bonded with certain tribe members. I could definitely do with a Companion.

If you don’t mind books that delve into a lot of back story and world building, then I think you’ll enjoy Moon Chosen. It’s definitely not for everyone, but it does leave you anticipating more, and I am curious to see where the story leads!

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Shining Brightly: Where The Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller

Posted November 2, 2016 by Hannah in Reviews, Young Adult / 0 Comments

Shining Brightly: Where The Stars Still Shine by Trish DollerWhere The Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller
Published by Bloomsbury ANZ on 24th September 2013
Pages: 352
Format: E-ARC, Paperback
Source: Publisher, Bought
Goodreads

Stolen as a child from her large and loving family, and on the run with her mom for more than ten years, Callie has only the barest idea of what normal life might be like. She's never had a home, never gone to school, and has gotten most of her meals from laundromat vending machines. Her dreams are haunted by memories she’d like to forget completely. But when Callie’s mom is finally arrested for kidnapping her, and Callie’s real dad whisks her back to what would have been her life, in a small town in Florida, Callie must find a way to leave the past behind. She must learn to be part of a family. And she must believe that love--even with someone who seems an improbable choice--is more than just a possibility.

Trish Doller writes incredibly real teens, and this searing story of love, betrayal, and how not to lose your mind will resonate with readers who want their stories gritty and utterly true.

I’m not sure how many times I’ve read this book now in the aim of writing a review, but every time I do read it, I still love it just as much – and maybe a little bit more – each time I do. Trish has a beautiful gift for storytelling – as we saw in her raw, emotional debut Something Like Normal, and is ever present in Where The Stars Still Shine.

Where the Stars Still Shine centres on a storyline that (morbidly, I know) fascinates me. Callie and her mother have never really settled in one place, until a routine traffic stop gives her the reason why – Callie’s mother kidnapped her at a young age, and now, with her Mom facing jail time, Callie is given back to her father and his large Greek family.

The novel isn’t very plot centric, so if you are looking for a contemporary with a lot of “action,” then this may not be for you (but still read it anyway!). However, what we do is a wonderful novel that centres around Callie coming to terms with her new family, as well as trying to understand why her mother did what she did. The way that the book deals with mental health as well was one that I loved; it wasn’t in your face or too preachy, but rather understated the whole way through.

As this book is about characters and the way they entwine with each other, we get a great host of secondary characters that are easy to fall in love with. From Callie’s relationship with her father and her new half brothers, to Kat her new best friend/cousin, and of course the gorgeous Alex, who is facing demons of his own.

This is a novel about family, about finding your own strength but realising that it is okay to lean on others as well. It’s about falling in love, all coupled with that beautiful writing style that will make Doller a firm favourite with any one.

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