Source: Bought

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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Goodreads

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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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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The Books We Read & The Things We Love: Words In Deep Blue by Cath Crowley

Posted October 31, 2016 by Hannah in Reviews, Young Adult / 0 Comments

The Books We Read & The Things We Love: Words In Deep Blue by Cath CrowleyWords in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley
Published by Pan Macmillan Australia on 30th August 2016
Pages: 352
Format: Paperback
Source: Bought
BoffinsDymocksBooktopiaPublisher
Goodreads

This is a love story.
It's the story of Howling Books, where readers write letters to strangers, to lovers, to poets.
It's the story of Henry Jones and Rachel Sweetie. They were best friends once, before Rachel moved to the sea.
Now, she's back, working at the bookstore, grieving for her brother Cal and looking for the future in the books people love, and the words they leave behind.

There aren’t enough words in the English dictionary to accurate describe how wonderful this novel is, but I’m going to try my best. Because this is a book where words can’t do it justice – you have to read it to experience its beauty. Cath Crowley shows just how much of a natural storyteller she is by really getting to the heart of every book lover and explaining why literature and words are so important, so revered.

Words in Deep Blue is, at heart, many things. It’s a love story. It’s about family, and relationships between friends. It’s about not necessarily letting go of the past and moving on, but accepting it and conquering life when road blocks pop up. And it is so, so much more than that. The central point of Words is Howling Books, the secondhand bookstore Henry’s family owns. The plot itself is simple and short – in a time when books are considered to be a dying art form (ha!), Henry’s family must decide whether to keep or selling the secondhand bookshop that is an integral part of their lives – and the lives of so many others.

From here we have our two main characters, Henry and Rachel, who were best friends once, until time and distance drew them apart. When Rachel moves back to the city, a different person than she was before, her life is entwined with Henry’s once again, and it’s from here we have this beautiful story.

Cath Crowley’s writing is positively magical in this book, and if you’re a person who loves words and books and poetry and just literature in general, than this is one for you. And what really made me love this book even more is that I’m not a poetry person – in fact, I abhor most poetry (it’s been the bane of my existence this semester). But there’s one poem I love, and I’ve loved for years, and it’s probably the only one I’ll ever love, and I’ve never been able to explain exactly why I love it – until Words in Deep Blue came along. You see, that poem is The Love Song of Alfred J Prufrock by TS Eliot, and it features heavily in Words, as Henry’s favourite (great choice, Henry). And it’s Henry’s explanation to Rachel that makes me realise why I love this poem so much:

do-you-need-to-understand-it-to-love-it-you-think-its-beautiful-thats-enough

And in talking about Cath’s amazing way with words, it shines through her characters. Rachel is very easy to fall in love with – her past is sadly tragic, and we all love a jilted heroine trying to be stronger than the people who sought to tear her down. I loved seeing her take back control of her life, to find meaning and passion past her brother. And Henry, God it was so easy to hate him at times, but even then one of the great things about this novel was not just Rachel finding herself, but Henry too. And Henry opening his eyes to the world and past his own little sphere.

I know this book isn’t out in the States until next year, when you get an amazingly pretty hardcover of your own, but if you get the chance to read Words in Deep Blue, I implore you to pick it up and savour it. Enjoy the magic and power of words – because you won’t regret it. At all. do-you-need-to-understand-it-to-love-it-you-think-its-beautiful-thats-enough-1

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Empire of Conflicted Emotions & Feelings

Posted October 3, 2016 by Hannah in Reviews, Young Adult / 1 Comment

Empire of Conflicted Emotions & FeelingsEmpire of Storms Series: Throne of Glass #6
by Sarah J. Maas
Published by Bloomsbury ANZ on 6th September 2016
Pages: 693
Format: Paperback
Source: Bought
BoffinsDymocksBooktopiaPublisher
Goodreads

The long path to the throne has only just begun for Aelin Galathynius. Loyalties have been broken and bought, friends have been lost and gained, and those who possess magic find themselves at odds with those who don't.

As the kingdoms of Erilea fracture around her, enemies must become allies if Aelin is to keep those she loves from falling to the dark forces poised to claim her world. With war looming on all horizons, the only chance for salvation lies in a desperate quest that may mark the end of everything Aelin holds dear.

Aelin's journey from assassin to queen has entranced millions across the globe, and this fifth installment will leave fans breathless. Will Aelin succeed in keeping her world from splintering, or will it all come crashing down?

Reading Empire of Storms was hard. Really hard. In so many ways I love this behemoth of a series and what it has become. If someone had have told me five years ago that Throne of Glass would have extended well beyond princes and kings and assassins, I wouldn’t have believed them. But this whole entire series has just transcended into something so much more than the first book; something that’s equal parts a story of epic proportions and equal parts frustrating.

Please note: this review alludes to spoilers, but don’t actually mention them. If you’re not comfortable with that, because you’ve not read this series (WHAT?!) then maybe don’t continue. If you want to read my spoilery, incoherent thoughts, then click on the spoiler link down the end of my Goodreads review.

What I Liked
The Secondary CharactersEven though there are a multitude of characters in EoS, I much preferred them to Aelin and Rowan. But I feel like since Heir of Fire, the secondary (if you count anyone who isn’t Aelin secondary) characters are the brightest stars of this novel, even though the major secondary characters have a way of getting shoved off to the side (cough). While at times it does seem like the cast list is a bit too high, like I did in Queen of Shadows, I enjoyed seeing Erilea from the perspective of other people. Like Manon – oh my gosh, that woman is so freaking badass. Her entire history is laid bare, and I loved seeing her arc grow from the monster she was in Heir of Fire to who she is now. Seeing the vulnerable side of Lysandra change to a strong woman who was growing into her shifting ability, Elide grow a personality around Lorcan (who I totally ship even though I wish I didn’t). Every single character comes into their own in this book and it’s worth reading just for them alone.

Aelin Is Still Badass Crazy in a Good Way and We Get to See That Old Celaena Charm (Yay!) – I’m still getting used to ‘Aelin’, and I still don’t like her as much as Celaena, I think a lot of her vulnerabilities came through more and her days of taking shit are long gone. However in saying that, I think her transition from Celaena to Aelin was still too quickly done, and to forcefully deny a part of who you were is one of her downfalls. Celaena is a part of Aelin no matter what, and we get that through her cunning plans, and the more Aelin pushes that part of her life away, the more I don’t like the character she is becoming. She needs to be all-accepting of every part of her, and her life as Celaena shaped a huge part of who her person was and still is. Life could have easily have just swung a different way for her, Elena or no.

Girls, Who Run The World – Take a backseat boys, because we don’t need you. I loved how Lysandra and Aelin teamed up, how Elide grew her spine, and of course Manon not taking shit from even her Matron for the love of her Thirteen. I know a lot of people argue about the “feminist” part of these novels, but for me, at the end of the day, these girls are women of their own making, and (most of the time) no man shall stop them.

The World Building – Erilea is amazing. Maas has been able to weave such a rich tapestry of world history and geography that I don’t think rivals anyone (except maybe Tamora Pierce). When I read about where everyone is, the page comes alive. The imagery for the hot Stone Marshes, the Caribbean-esque jungles of Skull’s Bay…I feel like I’m immersed in this world that it’s easy to forget I’m not on Planet Earth. I just wish we got to see more than places we’ve already heard about.

The Insane Plot Twists (Well, Most of Them) – Yes, THAT ending. Except for the fact that there are so many inconsistencies behind the whole ending, I just love the way Maas creates a twist that will always leave me with my mouth hanging open.

(Most of the Time) I Love Sarah’s Writing – Maybe it’s because I’m in fierce study mode, but Empire of Storms was so poetic at times. That alliteration (roaring river rushed), the way she was able to entangle sentences…it’s one of the things I’ve always loved about this series, and that ties into the world building as well.

What I Didn’t Like
Too Much Romance – Okay, I get it. The world’s in chaos and you don’t know what the next minute will bring. But honestly, the fact that everyone needs to be paired up as if being in a romantic relationship is the be all and end all is getting a little old, really fast. What I, as a single woman, want to see is one, just one, character who at least doesn’t need to have a guy/girl in their life to make them worthy of something. Even romance was hinted at the end with some of the minor characters. Why can’t we be strong enough without someone by our side romantically? Why can’t things ever be platonic? And that’s one of the biggest issues I have with Maas and her books. Right from Throne of Glass.

The Relationship Between Aelin and Rowan – Ever since Heir of Fire, their relationship has always felt forced and strained romantically. They just don’t suit each other, and through the course of 2 and a half books, the reader is constantly having to be told about their “feelings” rather than the emotions coming naturally like it did with Sam, Chaol and even Dorian. Then there’s the whole blood oath thing, which shits me off to no end. If you want to understand more of why I will never, ever ship this couple, check out my spoilers.

Absence Makes the Heart Grow Angrier – Yes, I’m referring to that spoiler. I’ll talk more about that later. But I’m not happy about it. After reading the short that is in the special WH Smith’s edition, I’m even more mad about the whole thing.

So Many Plot Holes, I’m Surprised They Didn’t End up in China – Having completely binged the series, it seems really clear (at least to me) that there’s a division in how the plot was supposed to go from The Assassin’s Blade to Crown of Midnight. My biggest problem was that it feels like a different series, with different characters, and changes halfway through. That’s even after taking into consideration that these characters are older, that they are maturing, Life changes. But that’s not what I’m talking about. There are inconsistencies all the way through Elena’s story, and the Maeve arc just seems so…pointless considering there’s now only one book to go.

Was I Reading a Throne of Glass novel or A Court of Thorns & Roses Novel? -I don’t think even SJM knew at times. There was so much rehashing of ACOMAF language, dialogue and ideas (“A court of dreamers?” Come on! Give us a break, we readers aren’t stupid.) that it sometimes was hard to distinguish the two. Maas is too caught up in this Fae fantasy (excuse the pun), and it really showed in Empire of Storms. The lines were too blurred, and I think that’s why a lot of the inconsistencies were noticeable, because the story became too much about Fae and wasn’t as well rounded as it had been before.

A part of me can understand my feelings about this book, and looking about on the series. Empire of Storms certainly showed how incredibly massive the world of Erilea and beyond is, and I’m sure it has surpassed the scope of all our imaginations. However the inconsistent nature of terribly done subplots (read: Rowaelin) in order to fulfil a certain narrative are what truly stop Empire of Storms from being what could have been such a fantastic read.

Regardless of all that, Empire of Storms is one hell of an emotional roller coaster that never seems to end, full of twists and turns that will leave you speechless and desperately wishing it was next year already – but don’t wish too hard, because I’m not sure we’ll be able to cope with the end of this series.

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Love, Lies and Spies, Oh My!

Posted August 19, 2016 by Hannah in Reviews, Young Adult / 0 Comments

Love, Lies and Spies, Oh My!Love, Lies & Spies by Cindy Antsey
Published by Pan Macmillan Australia on 19th April 2016
Pages: 368
Format: Paperback
Source: Bought
BoffinsDymocksBooktopiaPublisher
Goodreads

Juliana Telford is not your average nineteenth-century young lady. She’s much more interested in researching ladybugs than marriage, fashionable dresses, or dances. So when her father sends her to London for a season, she’s determined not to form any attachments. Instead, she plans to secretly publish their research.

Spencer Northam is not the average young gentleman of leisure he appears. He is actually a spy for the War Office, and is more focused on acing his first mission than meeting eligible ladies. Fortunately, Juliana feels the same, and they agree to pretend to fall for each other. Spencer can finally focus, until he is tasked with observing Juliana’s traveling companions . . . and Juliana herself.

There are definitely not enough YA Historical Romances in my life!

Love, Lies & Spies is the quirky tale of budding romance and daring intrigue all set against the lush background of Regency England. Julianna would rather be studying lady beetles with her father & working on research that could give them accolades throughout the scientific world, despite it earning her the title of “bluestocking” amongst her peers. When an upcoming trip to London gives Julianna the perfect opportunity to sneakily find a publishing house for her research, she agrees to a Season with her cousin.

Love, Lies & Spies opens beautifully with our heroine dangling off a cliff, and the appearance of our hero, Spencer, who with the help of his friend rescues her. From the first page, Anstey held my attention with quick witted prose and hilarious banter between the characters.

While definitely a lot ‘tamer’ in the romance department than the adult historical romances that I’m guilty of loving, you can’t help but love every interaction between Spencer and Julianna. Spencer, eager to prove his worth with the War Office, was a little dense at times in a very Henry Tilney kind of way that made me fall in love with him a little bit more each time. I also loved that Julianna’s love for science didn’t overtake the story, but her passion for her work was present on every page.

If you’re a fan of Jane Austen’s work, especially Northanger Abbey, then pick up this adorable light read with the most gorgeous of covers!

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An Ending So Perfect in The Winner’s Kiss

Posted May 24, 2016 by Hannah in Reviews, Young Adult / 1 Comment

An Ending So Perfect in The Winner’s KissThe Winner's Kiss by Marie Rutkoski
Published by Bloomsbury ANZ on 24th March 2016
Pages: 496
Format: E-Book
BoffinsDymocksBooktopia
Goodreads

War has begun. Arin is in the thick of it with untrustworthy new allies and the empire as his enemy. Though he has convinced himself that he no longer loves Kestrel, Arin hasn’t forgotten her, or how she became exactly the kind of person he has always despised. She cared more for the empire than she did for the lives of innocent people—and certainly more than she did for him.

At least, that’s what he thinks.

In the frozen north, Kestrel is a prisoner in a brutal work camp. As she searches desperately for a way to escape, she wishes Arin could know what she sacrificed for him. She wishes she could make the empire pay for what they’ve done to her.

But no one gets what they want just by wishing.

As the war intensifies, both Kestrel and Arin discover that the world is changing. The East is pitted against the West, and they are caught in between. With so much to lose, can anybody really win?

It’s always hard to review the last book in a series, but just as hard to review one which is literally perfection personified. If you haven’t started The Winner’s Trilogy yet, I advise you to drop what you are doing and start – right now!

The Winner’s Trilogy is one of the most vividly lush fantasies I’ve read in a long time, and takes a special spot in my reader’s heart. The Winner’s Kiss is just as thrilling as the other two books in the series, and picks right up from the devastating ending that was The Winner’s Crime.

Marie Rutkoski (@marierutkoski) | Twitter:

For someone who has always struggled with fantasy – and third person point of views – this series has just blown me away from Book One. Rutkoski has such a talent with weaving beautiful prose into an action packed storyline that leaves you breathless with every moment. For most of The Winner’s Kiss I was on the edge of my seat, breath held, wondering what could possibly happen next – and how it could all be wrapped up, leaving no stone unturned. Everything about The Winner’s Kiss was fast paced and filled with action.

As usual, the characters – every single one of them, from Arin and Kestrel to the Emperor and Kestrel’s father – were amazing. The comic relief that Roshar provided wasn’t over the top, and like I said in my review of The Winner’s Crime, the bromance between Roshar and Arin was probably one of the highlights. Arin and Kestrel – oh man, I can’t help but gush over them. Fictional Couple Award of 2016 right there. All their trials weren’t for naught, and I loved how even in the last book – right up to the last page – they were still growing, their strengths and weaknesses working around each other. What a perfect romance.

The Winner's Kiss:

So basically, if you want to be emotionally wrecked from start to finish, then read this series. Because I can guarantee you (no money back!) you’ll fall in love just as much as I – and so many others – have done.

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