Sunday, 27 October 2013

Dare You To - Katie McGarry

Katie McGarry was a surprise author for me when I read her first book Pushing The Limits (review) last year. I thought it would be full to the brim on eye rolling moments at the cheesiness and corniness of the narrative. I was completely wrong. It was an immersing read that had both that lovely bit of romance I love to read about as a guilty pleasure but not too much that I wanted to throw the book across the room.
This is the second book in this 'series'. Reading this doesn't particularly ruin anything for readers who haven't read Pushing The Limits - just gives a bit of context for the characters of Echo and Noah in this book.

Synopsis: Beth has had a tough life but if anyone knew the truth about her family, her mother would surely go to prison so she protects her no matter what. Until the day her uncle - thinking he's saving her - swoops Beth away from her hometown to live in a place to different from what she is used to and with an aunt who hates her. No-one understands her except one person.
Ryan is the perfect teenager. A baseball player, he has hopes of being the next big thing in the sporting world as well as being clever and popular. In what begins as a dare becomes something else completely between Beth and Ryan despite their different personalities and backgrounds.

Review: I started this book thinking that I wouldn't be a huge fan by the time I finished. It just seemed like it would confirm what I was predicting in Pushing the Limits in the cheesiness of the romance and the obvious 'bad girl-good guy' relationship between Ryan and Beth. I could almost see how this was going to end.

However, I was completely wrong. So there is still some elements of cheesiness when it comes to the romance and at times particularly in the middle, the cynical side of me wanted to throw up but it was far better than I think I, the cover and the reviews I had read made it out to be.
There is a certain depth behind Katie McGarry's writing that makes this not ALL about the love story at the heart. And books that do that make me want to give the authors a hug.
Beth and Ryan are very different people when we meet them at the beginning of the book and I could completely and utterly not see them together. Beth has had a difficult upbringing with no father around and a selfish, carefree mother who has basically left Beth to grow up alone. So when she goes to live with her uncle, a man who left her alone with her complicated family to pursue his own dreams, things aren't going to go well. It was interesting to see her relationship develop under the guidance of her uncle and aunt who are so far removed from her.
Ryan also doesn't have the perfect life however it may seem on the surface with a father who is all about appearances - the reason behind his brother deserting them when he announced he was gay. Again, it was good to see this issue throughout the book and put a more human side to Ryan in showing the imperfections of his character.

Beth and Ryan are such likable characters and I found myself really rooting for both of them, particularly Ryan. Beth is quite a hard character to understand compared to Ryan yet the way McGarry portrays them is very realistic. They have their moments - Ryan can be a bit of an arrogant jerk at times and Beth can be such a meanie too - but McGarry shows that isn't ALL they are. Like I read in one review, she shows now to trust the stereotypes through Ryan and Beth.

I thought Pushing the Limits was pretty good but this just proves that McGarry is not a one hit wonder so to speak. This second brilliant book by her shows she is the queen of character development. She's made a romance that once again ticks all the boxes. This is the perfect book to keep you up until 3am or to read on a windy and rainy Sunday afternoon or on a long journey. Whether you liked or disliked Pushing the Limits or even haven't read that book, I'm sure this book will be enjoyable.

I give it a 4 out of 5

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

Author's Website: http://www.katielmcgarry.com/
Pages: 456
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Challenges: None

Related Reviews: 
Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry
Teen Idol by Meg Cabot
The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Guest Post

Hello! Hope you are all well. I'm currently on a break from reading with coffee, biscuits and Gabrielle Aplin playing while it chucks it down outside.

Today, I guest posted at Emma's blog 'EmmaIsWriting'. She is the one of the sweetest, loveliest bloggers around. My guest post is my top 5 favourite books (believe me it was SO hard to narrow it down to just five). Go check it out and have a search around her great blog while you're there!

I'll hopefully be doing some mini-reviews to catch up this week but I have three assignments to do, reading and I'm going home for my best friend's birthday on Thursday so I'm not sure WHEN that will happen.

Have a lovely Sunday!

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Love Is The Higher Law - David Levithan

I've read quite a few of David Levithan books - The Lover's Dictionary and Dash and Lily's Book of Dares - which I loved his writing. So when there was the 9/11 anniversary last year and I found out about this book, I knew it would be a book I would enjoy.

Synopsis: On the seemingly perfect morning of 11th September 2001, the lives of three teenagers are altered permanently. Claire is at school, her first thought is that she needs to get to her younger brother. Jasper wakes up to frantic phone calls from his family and Peter, a classmate of Claire, is waiting outside a record store for the new Bob Dylan record. None of these teens know each other well at all. Yet in the years that follow, they will become best friends all shaped by the catastrophic events of 9/11.

Review: I was 6 when 9/11 happened so as you can probably guess, I don't particularly remember much about that day only what my parents have recounted. They said it was strange because there was something about me that was different from the young schoolgirl in the morning to the Rebecca in the evening. I knew something big and horrible had happened, I just didn't understand what. Everyone I think has their own 9/11 story because of the horrible, horrible events of that day. For me, experiencing and growing up in the aftermath of 9/11, no amount of documentaries, news broadcasts and stories I consume will make me understand that day. I may have not been in New York that day, but there were plenty of people who were.

Which is where Levithan's novel comes in. It is told from the point of view of three teenagers - Jasper, Peter and Claire - as they tell their stories of that day, the aftermath and the years proceeding that day. All this is done in a way where it's like you are there, leaving within the moment that they are, seeing it all happen again. You are quite literally immersed in the story, which is both amazing in writing but also horrible in putting you there within that terrible moment, experiencing it again.

This book is simply beautiful in many ways. It is short with only 160 pages which is exactly how this book needed to be. The writing is so focused on the enormity of this event for the three protagonists that the messages and voice is felt from the very first line. I finished this book feeling quite different from when I started it, it makes an impact that is both emotional yet somehow positive (it's incredibly hard to explain this so yeah, sorry if that made like no sense).

Claire, Jasper and Peter are all such different people with really no real, tangible connection yet somehow their lives become intertwined with one another in a rather lovely way. From this emotional, troubling event, there comes this glimmer of hope. As I think I read somewhere in a review for this book, while you're so disgusted and horrified at this dreadful event, there's also this hope that equally intertwines and becomes more prominent at the story progresses.

This is a short book. And if only for that reason, this is a book that everyone should read. Whether you remember the events on 11th September 2001 or not, this book resonates with anyone and everyone and should be appreciate far far more than it is currently. This is an incredibly hard book to review and to properly describe the magnitude it leaves you with when you finish the last page. All I can say is this is one of the most beautiful and well written books I have read in a while.

I give this a 5 out of 5

Author's Website: http://www.davidlevithan.com/
Pages: 176
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday
Challenges: None

Related Reviews:
Dash and Lily's Book of Dares - David Levithan & Rachel Cohn
The Lover's Dictionary - David Levithan
Will Grayson, Will Grayson - David Levithan & John Green

Friday, 11 October 2013

Blogging

So I'm still here, still alive and well.

I've been at university for a month now and whoa, has a lot of things happened. For the most part, I am enjoying my course a lot, although there is a huge amount of reading for it. Particularly, there is one module about adaptations that I love. I have lovely flatmates (who know and are cool with me having a blog, hey guys if you're reading this) and I've met some nice people on my course who we share our sighs for 9am lectures, assignments and the search for the one book that all 160 people on my course want. It's been good. It's different but it's really good. I haven't felt particularly homesick which is a little weird but I'm not complaining.

However, more pressingly, university is a fresh start for nearly all the people who attend it. While I'm basically the same person, I entered my flat as 'Rebecca, the girl from West London', not as just plain Rebecca that people have known for years.
And it's that which I think has changed my perceptions of blogging now (somehow). This is a fresh start and a new phase in my life and I'm not sure whether blogging is included in that. I love blogging, I really do, but anyone who looks at my archive can see that over this year, even over the last few years, the amount of effort I put in to this blog has declined. And in the changing face of the blogging world now, that's not good enough.

I started blogging three and a half years ago. Then, blogging was literally a hobby especially book blogging. It was so casual, everyone was so nice and friendly although the world was dominated by older American bloggers than myself. In the last few years, the amount of English bloggers as well as younger bloggers has risen so much. I love that it has especially with having more English bloggers around and more British groups and memes like Project UKYA. I also like that there are more younger bloggers around because let's face it, YA is aimed at teenagers.
However, in the last few months, it's daunted on me that these changes (not just the two I mention) have also introduced a new kind of philosophy to the blogging world in that you HAVE to always be posting, always having the best authors on your blog, always around and interesting. And it's so exhausting. I can't keep up with this pressure. Blogging is supposed to be fun but recently it's felt like a bit of a chore, something I feel I should carry on for the sake of being around for the last 3 years. I do want to be able to say 'I'm a blogger' but sometimes I think I'm kidding myself when I say that because in the last year, I really haven't been just that. I liked it when everything was casual, it didn't matter if you posted one review in two weeks - no-one cared. But now, it's completely different even if we don't realise it.

I'm 18, I'm away from home at university. I really don't need or want any extra stress at writing reviews, getting posts published, constantly trying to think of new and exciting things to post. I'm just juggling a lot of things at the moment - moving out, work, university work, assignments, all the reading for uni (THERE'S A LOT), meeting people - sometimes it gets a little bit too much already.
One of my flatmates has a beauty blog and she gets so excited over writing posts, thinking of ideas, designing her blog, taking pictures - it makes me sad watching her sometimes because I used to be that enthusiastic about blogging, I used to have all these ideas - I'm not sure where that's gone.

This isn't an end post. This is a post letting you guys know what's going on in my head right now.
I love reading, I love books, I love blogging, I love what I've achieved through this blog that I never would have had the opportunity to do so before. I love all of that.
But I'm just unsure if I can carry on. Blogging has become far too stressful.