Wednesday, 28 August 2013

The Moon and More - Sarah Dessen

For those that perhaps don't know I am a HUGE fan of Sarah Dessen. She is a writer that keeps performing for me, keeps giving me books that I devour and love for multiple reasons. If you haven't tried any books by her, I highly suggest you do especially my favourites The Truth About Forever, Just Listen or Along for the Ride (because this is Sarah Dessen, you can never have just one favourite). So when I heard about this book, I was beyond excited and knew it would be a book I would enjoy a lot regardless of how good it was compared to her other novels. So this was a guaranteed buy for me when I spotted it.

Synopsis: Emaline has lived in the beach town of Colby her whole life. She knows where to go and not to go, where the tourists in the summer visit and most of all the people. Including Luke, her all American perfect boyfriend who she has grown up with. But as it is the summer before going to college, Emaline wonders whether this life is what she really wants.
Enter Theo, an outsider from New York visiting the town to work as an assistant to a renowned filmmaker. He's confident, exciting and thinks Emaline is holding herself back. Emaline's father also thinks she could do better. Emaline likes the sound of this glittering, bright future they promise but would they suit Emaline, someone whose whole family and life is in a small beach town.

Review: This was the kind of book I needed. Right at that moment, right now on the verge of something sad, exciting and just plain scary.
The thing is that Emaline during the course of this book is in exactly the same situation as I am right this moment. I read this pre-results day when there was that trepdiation of whether I would get into university, whether I would enjoy it. The thing is I'm moving two hours away from the place I've always lived to a new town, a new way of living and new friends without anything I can hold onto as familiar. I sometimes wonder now maybe I should have applied to somewhere in London nearer home but then I wouldn't be going to Bournemouth. Emaline got into an Ivy League school (think Oxford or Cambridge for those in the UK) but turned it down after her father - now separated from her mother -  let her down. So she is going to a college that is an hour away from Colby, where most of the people she knows and has grown up with are going. Yet when her father arrives again in the picture as well as her new found friend of Theo telling her something vastly different from her friends and family, it's enough to make her a little confused about what she TRULY wants.

Throughout the novel, she tries to discover that, to see which life suits her and despite the ending she chooses, the novel showed me that I'm not the only one who is going to be freaking scared when they're moving to university but also how ever far or not far you move to go to university, it's still a scary and unreal situation whatever happens. I just needed Sarah Dessen to reassure me.

Now onto the proper review. While this isn't the strongest and the best novel of Dessen's, it certainly was pretty good. As always, her characters are just so rich and realistic. You can clearly see the characters she is is picturing as well as there being some kind of element you are assured to love about every single character. I read in one review that the blogger loved Sarah Dessen for her good character development. It's so true, it makes it that much more realistic, making me feel like I truly get to know her protagonists. Emaline is the perfect main character with a distinct voice and something about her that made her so likeable, so real. The setting and the characters add to this feel of something so familiar about the story and it's hard to get that in a lot of books, especially as I'm a UK reader reading about an American town. It's just so refreshing to see some equally great secondary characters.

No-one can say that Dessen writes the perfect summer reads. Although, I was a little apprehensive to start this as it features a love triangle. So yeah, it's not the most scariest thing in the world but as a disliker of the typical, cliched love triangles (there is a reason I didn't read Twilight) and having my favourite author include one, I was just hoping it worked. And it did! It's not your cliched love triangle in my eyes (THANK YOU) and the ending is rather different to both her other books and other books featuring the dreaded triangle. Luke is someone I kind of instantly didn't like, the kind of guy that oozes self-confidence that I stay well clear of, but throughout the novel, even though he isn't in the book THAT much, he still has an element of character development for me and I loved to see that even from a character that didn't have much page time. Theo, I kind of loved at the beginning. He was sweet and way too confident but somehow that made me like him (I don't know). But again, much like Luke, he develops throughout the book especially in relation to his relationship with Emaline and then at the end, I just wanted him to leave. It's weird how Dessen made me feel these different things about the characters.

While some readers hate the similarity between Dessen's novels, it's what makes me love them. I know what I'm getting from Sarah Dessen, I know also that I'll enjoy the book whatever happens or however it is shaped. There's also this whole world that she's created that after reading all of her books, I feel like I know the world pretty well. It was great to return to the Launderette, Tallyho and Clementines in this book alone seeing Auden, Tracey and Owen from Along For the Ride, Colie from Last Chance/Keeping the Moon - it just makes you enjoy a book more I think when you know that world already, you're not being introduced to something completely new.

In all honesty, I'm bias about any Sarah Dessen book because she is a favourite of mine. She writes literature that I enjoy, I think about and just I relax while reading. I agree, this isn't the best of her books and it isn't a favourite, but it's still pretty darn good and I'm so glad that Dessen still has her writing mojo. For a brilliant summer read with some rather surprising twists, I would recommend THE MOON AND MORE. If you're a newbie to Dessen, I would direct you to my favourites - Just Listen and The Truth About Forever. Nothing can beat those books.

I give it a 4.5 out of 5

Author's Website:
Pages: 435
Publisher: Penguin
Challenges: None

Related Reviews:
What Happened to Goodbye - Sarah Dessen
Teen Idol - Meg Cabot
Confessions of an Angry Girl - Louise Rozett

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Smuggler's Kiss - Marie-Louise Jensen

Marie-Louise Jensen has been a favourite historical author of mine for a few years after I was blown away by The Lady in the Tower and The Girl in the Mask. She's also lovely on Twitter (although that does not interrupt my opinion of this book). A friend of mine in the blogging world read this and told me I needed to read it. I find good historical fiction can be quite hard to come by now (I guess I'm more critical) but I know I'll always find a brilliant, absorbing historical novel in Jensen.

Synopsis: Isabelle is rescued from drowning in the sea by a group of men who she finds out are smugglers. To Isabelle - a lady from a wealthy family - smugglers are dangerous and deadly. However, without escape on the ship, she soon finds excitement in deceiving the king's men and her loyalties changing as she becomes friends with the smugglers, especially one in particular. Isabelle doesn't want to return to her old life but she has to keep the truth from the smugglers in order to stay aboard.

Review: I'm a great lover of historical fiction especially if the author is British and even more when it's this writer. I find historical fiction can either be the kind that draws you in, keeps you wondering and then spits you out at the end - much like Queen's Gambit by Elizabeth Fremantle (review) was. Or they can be the fun kind that is just a lovely, relaxing read. Which is where this book falls.

Isabelle is a character which it is incredibly hard to like on the first page and I think that's why it took me a while to get into the story. She's so spoilt and selfish and SO WHINY. I was thinking at the beginning that I wouldn't like this book is she was going to be like this THE WHOLE WAY THROUGH but gladly, the book also shows her journey into learning about what it is like to live in poverty. This made her so much more likeable as the novel continues until the conclusion where I felt so much for Isabelle's situation. It's great to see this feisty and strong side to her personality flourish throughout as she adjusts.

One thing I really liked about this book was that the romance didn't dominate. I'm one that admits that I love a to dabble in a bit of historical romance but sometimes it can be too much, sometimes too unrealistic. This book is about the romance that evolves but it's also about status, class and the friendships and rivalries that form out of them. It's clear early on that she has a soft spot for Will, a younger smuggler who is a little different from the rest and keeps disappearing for a day or so. It was the mysteries behind Will and Isabelle's past that kept me reading, wanting to know the events that happened to lead both these characters to the smuggler's ship. 

I did really enjoy reading this book, it's not the best from Marie-Louise Jensen but still shows how great an author she is in the YA historical genre. It is full of details from the period as well as moments of high tension mixed with a few moments to make you smile.

I give it a 4 out of 5

Author's Website:
Pages: 304
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Challenges: Historical Fiction, BBC

Related Reviews:
The Lady in the Tower - Marie-Louise Jensen
The Disgrace of Kitty Grey - Mary Hooper
Vice & Virtue - Veronica Bennett

Thursday, 15 August 2013


So if you're a follower of mine on that little social networking site that recalls the sounds of birds, this will be OLD news to you.
I like to keep my personal and blogging life separate from one another but this is something that will impact the blog a lot. A LOT.

As of 6am this morning, I got into university. I am a new undergraduate starting September at Bournemouth University to study Communication and Media.
And I have to say that you guys are to thank for that. Blogging and reading in general turned from a hobby of mine into a love. That love made me realise that it was okay to love books and make that the THING about you. Most of the last two years have been about books. I chose to do Media out of that love for publishing and while it doesn't mean necessarily I'm aiming for a publishing career, it's certainly is an option now with THIS course.
I am so overly happy. Because Bournemouth is literally one of the best in the country for Media, being one of the best universities to provide it. Everyone I've spoken to over the last year about university has said that Bournemouth is renowned for Media. Which makes me even more excited.

In my A levels, I was dreading seeing the results more than knowing whether I got in or not. Because my exams went terribly especially my English Lit exam which left me in a pool of tears as I walked out (English Lit is one of the hardest A levels). My History exam was on a Monday morning and after a weekend of intensive revision and praying that the Tudor religion question would come up, I looked at the paper, did a happy dance that I had the questions I wanted and then, my brain preceded to go blank. I did so much revision for the subject and could have gone better, my nerves just kind of took over. My Media exam was the best overall and I needed a C at least to get the B I needed in the subject for university. However, my teacher this year was AWFUL as well as being put with a load of students who didn't have any idea why they were there. So the subject I wanted to do and I felt the most confident in was the subject I had the worst teacher in. Because that ALWAYS helps.

SO. My grades were:
Media Studies: A 
English Literature: B (HOW?!?)
History: B 

And I needed BBB for Bournemouth so I'm in and confirmed and everything. I'm just incredibly happy at the moment even more so when the welcome pack came through the door this morning as well...
Thanks guys again, reviews will be winging their way soon!

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

University Thoughts

So at the moment I'm in a bit of a limbo period. 
It's my summer, yes. But unlike those at college or school, I literally have no idea what I'll be doing when September rolls round and with only a few weeks of August feels so so weird. 

My place at university relies on my results that I get in 2 DAYS time. 2 days. After waiting months for these results after my exams at the beginning of June, the fact that they're SO soon...I can't quite fathom it. Then, within a month from my results if I'm successful (which after reflecting over my exams, it's a bit IF) I have to learn to live independently, have everything ready to move and start my course while also trying to desperately see my best friends. They're all going to different areas of the country...

The thing is this university stuff is scary. Being someone who doesn't do things on impulse that often, the idea of my life turning around within a month is just... I can't quite imagine it. I know I'll be fine eventually, I'll get into this whole moving away business and I'll make new friends (as well as my parents being a nice 2 hours away). But it's just that uncertainty at the moment that I constantly keep thinking about. The 'ifs' and plan A and B's, the idea of living alone... Teenage years are scary and new enough but this has to be the scariest part of all. 

I will next post on Thursday 15th with my results. If you follow me on Twitter, you may be lucky enough for a marathon of tweets as I find out. Until then, guys. 

Thursday, 8 August 2013

The Disgrace of Kitty Grey - Mary Hooper

I will hold my hands up and say that Mary Hooper is one of the best historical fiction novelists for children/teenagers. Actually, Mary Hooper is the author that got me into the genre - and Young Adult books in general - after I read her book The Remarkable Life and Times of Eliza Rose set during the 1700's. I guess, it opened my eyes to the best books of that genre. Furthermore, I actually met Mary Hooper a couple of years ago (that was a surreal moment with her sitting next to Patrick Ness), where I handed her my dog-earred copy of Eliza Rose, smiling broadly and then having a long conversation with her about how much I loved her books. I think she also asked some advice on something in one of her books if I remember correctly.
Anyway, I was so happy to hear that Mary Hooper would be releasing another book this year and even more happy when I discovered it available on Netgalley.

Synopsis: 15 year-old Kitty Grey lives happily in the countryside working as a dairy maid in the dairy of a rich, grand family. She is treated well and loves her job. There's also her sweetheart, Will, the river man, who she sees regularly. The only worry on her mind is whether, and when, he will ask her to marry him.
Suddenly, one day, Will disappears leaving his young orphaned sister, Betsy, with Kitty. Kitty is distraught, was he leading her on? Has he gone to London to find his fortune?
When Kitty is given the chance to go to London to get a copy of the new Pride and Prejudice, she goes with the chance of finding Will. But London is very different from the countryside and soon, Kitty is left penniless, alone with a three year-old who everyone thinks is her own, in a town she doesn't understand or belong within. And so charts her fall from grace.

Review: I entered this novel with high expectations to say the least. Mary Hooper is a favourite author of mine and I was worried that the things I loved in her books when I was younger would be different now I'm older. But I didn't have to worry as I was faced with a beautiful, rich and detailed historical novel from Hooper which stayed with me once again after the last page.

This is an interesting subject and something that isn't particularly shown in many historical novels. While we're always shown the glittering, glamourous worlds of the rich in the 1800's, Hooper changes that and displays the simple things that disgrace an innocent person because of the unfair judicial system, something reflected perhaps in present day. The blurb for the book gave the impression to me that I would find out about that glittering world that we associate with Jane Austen of balls, muslin dresses, Mr Darcy (or just Colin Firth) and manners. But that is completely turned on its heard in this book and the contrast between the two classes becomes all that much clearer as the novel progresses.

Kitty is an interesting character. It is very clear from the beginning that she is quite naive as she's always lived in the idealic countryside in the same comfortable house in the same job which she loves. Her headstrong side of her character only comes evident at the start of her disgrace and she continues to be a good narrator. The disgrace made me incredibly sympathetic for her especially as things get worse and worse. I found Betsy on the other hand one of the most annoying characters I've read and it seemed to me that her role in the narrative at the beginning was unnecessary. She was just a little bit too whiny for my liking!

The writing was excellent as always and Hooper successfully illustrates each stage of the disgrace. It's wonderfully detailed historically and you get a real idea of the ideal setting of the countryside compared to the hustle and chaotic feeling of London. This was such an easy read for me, the perfect book to spend an afternoon or evening reading. However, the book is pretty depressing following how Kitty becomes less and less civilised and further away from her innocence, it's not a book to make you feel better about yourself! The beginning and end were good, and rather engaging, it was just the middle section which dragged a little because of how sad and depressing it was really. The ending is perfect for the book, although it does end a little abruptly for my liking.

Overall, this was another great novel from Mary Hooper, a master at historical fiction. This wasn't my favourite ever book of hers but it certainly reminded me why I love her books so much. THE DISGRACE OF KITTY GREY is great, an alternate read to other books set in this time. Can't wait for what Hooper will throw at us next! If you haven't read anything by her, you've been missing out! I highly recommend any of her books.

I give it a 4 out of 5

Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for giving me the opportunity to review this book. 

Author's Website:
Pages: 288
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Challenges: Historical Fiction, BBC

Related Reviews: 
Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
I was Jane Austen's Best Friend - Cora Harrison
Debutantes - Cora Harrison
Fallen Grace - Mary Hooper

Monday, 5 August 2013

On My Bookshelf (41)

This meme for originally inspired by 'In My Mailbox' created by The Story Siren
Other versions are:
Letterbox Love created by Narratively Speaking
Stacking the Shelves created by Tynga's reviews
Showcase Sunday created by Books, Biscuits and Tea

I have a confession to make.
So here goes....I'm a little bit obsessed with Netgalley.

All the shiny covers. The sparkly 'Request' button. JUST ALL THE BOOKS THAT I WANT TO READ. I sincerely hope SOMEONE agrees with me on this...


- Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein - I've heard so much about Elizabeth Wein and her first book Code Name Verity yet I was a little apprehensive about picking it up for some reason. However, when I saw the synopsis for this, it sounded so, so good. 

- The Kissing Booth by Beth Reekles - There was a feature in a magazine recently about Beth Reekles, an 18 year old who published her book online originally before it was published in paperback when it got so popular. I'm intrigued to see how she writes especially as I'm the same age as her. I've read some dodgy reviews about the book and the cover and name makes me cringe a little bit but this should be an enjoyable, light-hearted read. 

- Acid by Emma Pass - After seeing Lucy at Queen of Contemporary's review, reading the synopsis and finding out Emma Pass is British, I was kind of sold in terms of this book. I've always loved a good dystopian and the fact this is written by a British author just makes me anticipate it more. May have to read this soon...

- Witchstruck by Victoria Lamb - I've just finished a History A-level specialising in the Tudors so I KNOW this period of history pretty well (I've already spotted a few historical timeline mistakes in The White Queen). But it's also a period that you don't see particularly many YA books on. I'm not usually a fantasy/magic kind of girl in reading but this sounds pretty good. Also, some of my go-to bloggers for historical books gave this book a great review so I hope I agree. 

- Heartbeat by Elizabeth Scott - Ah, Elizabeth Scott. She's an author I've heard SO much about yet never read anything by her so I was SO HAPPY and SO EXCITED to find I'd been approved to read Heartbeat on Netgalley. Although this isn't the right cover, I actually really like it because of its simplicity. 


- Wolf Hall & Bring Up The Bodies by Hilary Mantel - I've been wondering and wondering whether to read these books for over a year now, since Hilary Mantel won her second Man Booker prize. I've been given countless recommendations by customers at work but it was the sheer size of them that was a bit daunting. Like I said above, I love the Tudor period and know a lot about what happens. I've always felt a bit sorry for Thomas Cromwell as well so I'm probably the best candidate to read these. I may start these when I start university as I probably won't be reviewing much then as I settle in. 

- I Capture The Castle by Dodie Smith - A colleague at work told me she read this when she was about 16 and it really kind of changed her. It sounds really interesting and something I would enjoy in a book so I thought I'd give it ago. 

Have you read any of these books? What did you think? Let me know! Link back to your own versions of On My Bookshelf and I'll take a look at what you received this week. 

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Guest Post on E-books versus Physical Books

Just a quick heads up that I wrote a guest post over at Fluttering Butterflies run by one of my blogging friends, Clover (who is one of the most genuine, loveliest bloggers I have come across).

It's all about the pros and cons of e-books and physical books written from my perspective - someone who is both a bookseller and a blogger that uses both those formats. I know it's something a lot of, if not all, people have an opinion on so check it out, and let me, and Clover, know your opinions on the topic - I like to know everyone's view on discussions such as this.

Coming up on the blog this week...well, in between my working schedule I've *somehow* written some reviews and a memo. Phew, this whole five-day-a-week working thing WITH blogging is HARD.

Also check out the discussion I posted yesterday about the topic of sex in Young Adult literature. ANOTHER topic I think we all have an opinion of.