Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard

It all begins with a stupid question: 

Are you a Global Vagabond? 

No, but 18-year-old Bria Sandoval wants to be. In a quest for independence, her neglected art, and no-strings-attached hookups, she signs up for a guided tour of Central America—the wrong one. Middle-aged tourists with fanny packs are hardly the key to self-rediscovery. When Bria meets Rowan, devoted backpacker and dive instructor, and his outspokenly humanitarian sister Starling, she seizes the chance to ditch her group and join them off the beaten path. 

Bria's a good girl trying to go bad. Rowan's a bad boy trying to stay good. As they travel across a panorama of Mayan villages, remote Belizean islands, and hostels plagued with jungle beasties, they discover what they've got in common: both seek to leave behind the old versions of themselves. And the secret to escaping the past, Rowan’s found, is to keep moving forward. 

But Bria comes to realize she can't run forever, no matter what Rowan says. If she ever wants the courage to fall for someone worthwhile, she has to start looking back. 

Kirsten Hubbard lends her artistry into this ultimate backpacker novel, weaving her drawings into the text. Her career as a travel writer and her experiences as a real-life vagabond backpacking Central America are deeply seeded in this inspiring story.

Gorgeously written and completely authentic (it comes as no surprise to me that Hubbard is a travel writer and backpacker herself) Wanderlove is a book that took me by surprise. 

I have to confess, I got off to a rocky start with Wanderlove. From the beginning, I liked the prose (loved the cadence of certain lines). Hubbard writes fantastically, she gets right in under Bria’s skin, perhaps painfully so: Bria felt so inferior, so uncertain, at the beginning and the feeling was so perfectly conveyed that I felt awkward. It made me uneasy, watching her lie to impress, stumbling her way along. Enter Rowan, he had his instant charms, sure, but he irked me as well: that kind of suave confidence that comes from knowing you’re hot, being young and invincible and over-all knowing everything. It also did not sit well with me when Hubbard portrayed middle-aged (often overweight) tourists as inferior, ridiculous and people to be sneered down upon (from the backpackers perspective). Then again, perhaps this is how teens/young adults view regular tourists? It did not endear the backpacking culture to me. 

Despite my initial reservations, there was a certain authenticity about the writing that drew me in and I decided to make it to 50% and see if it grew on me. MY GOSH ~ I am so glad I did not abandon this book. In fact, the second half so enthralled me that I ended up staying up past midnight to finish it off and I read the last page with a happy sigh ~ I really, really liked it. 

Here’s what I loved (in the end): 

The way Hubbard evoked all five senses, casting a kind of spell over the reader so I felt as if I were travelling (it gave me itchy feet) 

The way Hubbard showed (expert) restraint in crafting the romantic subplot. It was the perfect amount of sexual tension, ambiguity and genuine connection between Bria and Rowan. 

The crafting of the plot: it snuck up on me, all the little threads and foreshadowing which gave it a constant momentum. Even as I could see where many of the character arcs were headed, I was alongside them, hanging out to get there. 

The illustrations. GUYS, they are gorgeous, evocative and stunning. It added so much to the experience, I looked forward to each picture. I can still conjure up the pictures even now, in my minds eye. LOVE. 

Overall: okay, I know the beginning of my review sounded harsh, but don’t let it put you off reading this book. It is a stand-out of the year (read in 2011) and I am so glad Kirsten Hubbard is writing for teens as I feel they will connect so well to her characters. I am really hanging out to see what she writes next. What a talented author, hey :) 

Wanderlove will be out March 13, 2012
Wanderlove @ goodreads

Thanks to Random House Children's Books and Netgalley

FYI: I attempted to read Kirtsen Hubbards debut, Like Mandarin, and it wasn't for me (thematically, topically and I found the prose overbearingly pretty at times), so if you had a similar experience with Like Mandarin, I urge you to give Hubbard another go, Wanderlove truly is fantastic. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Books of the Month: January

Inspired by one of my fave bloggers, Angie of Addicted to Books,  I have decided to use her feature/meme on my blog (thanks Angie)

I really like the idea of chatting about the books I read in the month, as I can casually talk about the books I have loved (ones that I may not ever get a chance to reviewing).

First off, I decided to consciously read less books this year, so I am really pleased and a little stunned with my count. This is the lowest reading month I have had in a few years. November and December of 2011 were really slow for me as well, but I am really enjoying the pace of not racing through books all the time and immediately diving into the next one. 

I also decided to only read and finish books I am genuinely enjoying (I am pretty good at this, but sometimes persevere at the urgings of others who love a book I am struggling with, not going to do that any more ;)).

Just like Angie, I am going to do a quick recommendation using the * symbol. 

* means I really liked it
** means it's a favourite

(both these * ratings mostly reflect my personal taste and enjoyment rather than the books brilliance)

Books I read in January:

1. The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E Smith
Read this one with my book club and it didn't really charm me like I was hoping it would. Cute enough though (my review)

2.** Bittersweet by Sarah Ockler
I am officially an Ockler fangirl. This one made me ache and I thoroughly enjoyed it. A n early fave for the year. (my review)

3. The Fault in our Stars by John Green
I can see how this book is (probably) brilliant. However, I must be jaded or something as it wasn't for me. Maybe more on this one later (in a full review). A side note: this took me nine days to read (and I was exclusively reading it), and not because I was savouring it :/

4. * Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella
Oh, I love Kinsella. She always hits the spot for me. Have to confess, the beginning few chapters of this one were a little tedious/painful (nearly to the point of DNF) but the book got much better as it progressed. Kinsella is the master of embarrasing/humliating her heroine, but in such a fun way. I was (surprisingly) touched by Sadie's tragic love story :'( And, as always, Kinsella's leading men bring on the swoon. YUM. Also, best meet cute ever, haha. Still chuckling. If I were the editor, I would have pared some of the superfluous scenes down (especially in the first half). However, this book is as crazy, silly and fun as her other novels and is the perfect rainy day comfort read. I am seriously craving some more Kinsella now, can't wait for her 2012 release :) 

5. Angelfall by Susan Ee
A self-published angel, post-apocalyptic title making some waves in the YA community.  I started out impressed, had some fun times (it is compulsively readable), but in the end felt lacklustre about the whole thing. I'm recommending this to fans of (darker) angel/post-apocalyptic stuff.  (some of the scenes in this one were too gory for my tastes)  (my brief review on goodreads)

6. *How it Ends by Laura Wiess
Oh, I really liked this one, I just finished last night, so my thoughts are a little scrambled. Not at all what I was expecting. Hopefully more on this one later.

My Audio Books for January:
For my birthday/Christmas I (finally) got an iPod. So I tried out my first ever audio books and am really enjoying the whole audio book scene.

Both of these are re-reads (well, you know what I mean, I didn't actually "read" them ;))

1. While I Live (The Ellie Linton Chronicles #1) by John Marsden
I still love Ellie, but I think Marsden was really onto something with the whole gang dynamic in the Tomorrow series. Really missing that in this one :/

2. **Anne of Green Gables by L M Montgomery
Oh, I am ever so nostalgic to read the whole series now. I will revisit them throughout this year for sure. Love Anne and Prince Edward Island and the whole cast of characters there <3 (I cried in this one. every time I cry...)


Here's my kids yesterday after their first day back at school. It stopped raining (ever so briefly) so we went to our local headland for some kite flying. Our poor beach is so trashed (see the top pic) after so much rain and some flooding :/ It's thundering down as I type this O.o (back to being on flood warning)

It's been pretty much non-stop rain for a couple of weeks now. And Coffs Harbour rain is not pretty, gentle stuff. Here's a sneak peek of my week ahead *groans*

Next up in February:

I am really looking forward to some of my February reads, a little batch of reservations have arrived at my library for me to collect, including an urban fantasy (hope I am saying the right genre, haha, that's how clueless I am about it) that is completely outside of my comfort zone, but I am going to give it a try :)

Also really looking forward to reading on of Jess's favourite YA books, The School for Dangerous Girls.

Currently listening to Kate Morton's The Distant Hours. It's al gothic-y and intriguing, but gosh, it is LONG, 24 hours, I am about 7 hours into it...