Saturday, May 27, 2017

Stargazing for Beginners by Jenny McLachlan

Science geek Meg is left to look after her little sister for ten days after her free-spirited mum leaves suddenly to follow up yet another of her Big Important Causes. But while Meg may understand how the universe was formed, baby Elsa is a complete mystery to her. 

And Mum’s disappearance has come at the worst time: Meg is desperate to win a competition to get the chance to visit NASA headquarters, but to do this she has to beat close rival Ed. Can Meg pull off this double life of caring for Elsa and following her own dreams? She’ll need a miracle of cosmic proportions …

Fans fell in love with the warmth, wit, romance and fierce friendships in Flirty Dancing, Love Bomb, Sunkissed and Star Struck, and Stargazing for Beginners has all that and galaxies more. This is the best kind of real-life fiction – with big themes and irresistible characters, it goes straight to your heart.

Stargazing for Beginners was an unexpectedly awesome a new fave for me - swoony, fun and a little bit quirky. I found the whole novel to be so charming and completely refreshing and addictive reading experience. 

I love it when my fave literary things align to create a a brilliant read. Stargazing for Beginners had so many magic components for me: 

  • Meg is just so delightfully endearing. 
  • Though there are deeper issues in this book ~ it did not cast a dark shadow over the whole tone of the book. I love finding novels that are funny, whimsical and light-hearted at the same time as dealing with some more serious themes. 
  • I love how a motley crew of friends slowly assembled - the side characters felt like protagonists of their own lives - fully nuanced and unique and diverse in a way that reflects real life. 
  • Some of the teachers in this novel really steal the scene. So. Hilarious and bumbling and charming. And, sneakily, caring and making a real difference. I love seeing teachers advocate for students - and teachers who don't mind being seen as daggy for the sake of genuinely caring for their students and wanting to inspire and nurture them.
  • The comedy! The laughs! Those awesomely awkward situations and moments! 
  • And Ed! Swoon! Fun! Antagonistic kind of rivalry with this slow burn of maybe liking? So many classic scenes together. LOL at the science fair, and the takedown moment on the science excursion. And the showstopping finale! 
  • Science! Smart kids. The whole universe and solar system and all that stuff :)

Finishing this book left me with a warm buzzing glow and I was straight away texting some reading BFF's to get on with reading it asap. Stargazing for Beginners was an ultimate feel good read with depth. Take note: it opens fairly dramatically and perhaps some of you may think: Eh? What's going on here? This might be too quirky for me? 

But it really settles into a groove and everything becomes so genuine and heartfelt I really believe so many people will find a lot to love in this upbeat, warm and fierce novel. Absolute fave for me - I'm still smiling just thinking about it now. 

Add this contemporary YA to your TBR if you're looking for a breezy, charming read with a smart lead character.

Stargazing for Beginners @ goodreads

Friday, May 19, 2017

The Night That Changed Everything by Laura Tait and Jimmy Rice

Rebecca is the only girl she knows who didn't cry at the end of Titanic. Ben is the only man he knows who did. Rebecca’s untidy but Ben doesn’t mind picking up her pieces. Ben is laid back but Rebecca keeps him on his toes. They're a perfect match.

Nothing can come between them. Or so they think.

When a throwaway comment reveals a secret from the past, their love story is rewritten.

Can they recover from the night that changed everything? And how do you forgive when you can’t forget?

The Night That Changed Everything is a funny, feel-good and bittersweet story, told in alternate chapters by Laura Tait and Jimmy Rice.

This was so, so good! I loved the characters, the leads and all their crew, and the overall storyline, which felt fresh and unexpected. This book had the perfect mix of levity, humour, and heart-in-stomach moments. I was completely swept up, equal parts swooning and bereft. 

Laura Tait and Jimmy Rice are really onto something with their alternating chapters (each author writing their male/female counterpart POV). I enjoyed their combo in their previous work as well ~ they have the right blend of humour and realism without ever getting too soppy or over-the-top ridiculous. It's authors like these and Mhairi McFarlane that have ruined me for other books in this chick-litty genre. 

I have a real love for these kinds of cruisey chick-lit novels set in the UK and spend considerable time sampling so many authors in the genre. So far these two authors and Mhairi MacFarlane are my faves! They both have a cruisey addictive feel, and manage to give real depth to their characters and stories (plus plenty of humour, swoon and unpredictability).

Also! I could not put this book down. A very addictive, unpredictable and immersive reading experience. That ending! 

Waiting for news of Jimmy Rice and Laura Tait's next novel is killing me (please let it be soon!). If you're in a romantic comedy/drama kind of mood I absolutely recommend this to you! Especially if you favour spending bookish time in the UK. This was a stand-out read of 2016 for me and a new fave - so much love for this!

The Night That Changed Everything on goodreads

Also very good and completely recommended is their (2014) debut title The Best Thing That Never Happened To Me :Everyone remembers their first love. 
Holly certainly remembers Alex. But she decided ten years ago that love wasn't about mix tapes and seizing the moment - though she's not exactly sure it's about secret dates with your boss, either. 

But what if the feelings never really went away? 
Alex wants to make every moment of his new job count. It's a fresh start in a big city, and he's almost certain that moving to London has nothing to do with Holly. Almost. 

How do you know if it was meant to be... Or never meant to happen at all? 

Saturday, May 13, 2017

The Scared Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes

With a harrowing poetic voice, this contemporary page-turner is perfect for fans of Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak, Julie Berry's All The Truth That's in Me, and the works of Ellen Hopkins.

The Kevinian cult has taken everything from seventeen-year-old Minnow: twelve years of her life, her family, her ability to trust.

And when she rebelled, they took away her hands, too.

Now their Prophet has been murdered and their camp set aflame, and it's clear that Minnow knows something—but she's not talking. As she languishes in juvenile detention, she struggles to un-learn everything she has been taught to believe, adjusting to a life behind bars and recounting the events that led up to her incarceration. But when an FBI detective approaches her about making a deal, Minnow sees she can have the freedom she always dreamed of—if she’s willing to part with the terrible secrets of her past.

The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly is a hard-hitting and hopeful story about the dangers of blind faith—and the power of having faith in oneself. (less)

I was sold on this book when someone mentioned it was kind of in the same vein as Julie Berry’s All The Truth That’s in Me. Mate, I love that book hard. (Now, having read both, they are quite different, but both had the same unputdownable vibe with characters who are both tough and vulnerable). Plus this book has a few fave subjects I like in fiction: cults! mysteries! Fiery, tough and vulnerable characters!

I snuck a few chapters of this in between studying and then ended up abandoning all pretense of studying and reading this in nearly one-all-consuming sitting. The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly was intense and harrowing and painful, 100% compelling and, strangely, hopeful. I couldn’t look away. Not only was I engrossed in wanting to find out what happened and what was going to happen, but when reveals and twists came, it was unpredictable and the turns of the plot were really satisfying. Minnow got under my skin and into my heart and I loved watching her story unfold. I recommend this so much: for fans of good, relentlessly addictive books.

the Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly @ goodreads

So excited for Stepahnie Oakes follow up novel The Arsonist due to be released in August 2017! Three months to go :)

Saturday, May 6, 2017

April Favourites

April was a such a great reading month for me. Two weeks of school holidays meant extra reading time and I finally got my YA mojo back (after spending most of 2016 reading adult fiction titles). I saw a few of my goodreads friends reading some of my fave YA titles, which gave me reading envy and set me off on a bit of a reread binge of some old fave contemporary YA titles and it was perfectly like visiting with old friends.

April book total: 16
Books: 12 (including 4 rereads)
Audiobooks: 4

Fave read of April:

A List of Cages by Robin Roe
A List of Cages was heartcrushingly good. I knew very little about this book when I started (and I do recommend knowing little ~ so many reviews are absolutely spoilery) and I really did not expect the characters to win me other so completely.

If I were to make a word cloud of this book, included would be: hopeful, tense, devastating, brotherhood, secrets, cute, tears, powerful, smiley.

The seriousness of the subject matter is perfectly balanced with the levity of an outstanding cast of characters who were fun to hang out with and also reminded me of the life-changing power of teenagers who are awesome and stand up to make a difference. I rarely cry actual tears while reading but it was impossible to stay dry-eyed during A List of Cages.

Fave audiobook:

Highly Illogical Behaviour by John Corey Whaley
This was pretty cute and entertaining as an audiobook with dual narrators who definitely brought the story to life. I enjoyed the humour, pop culture nerdy/sci-fi references, and the underlying tension of the premise. I'm not sure I would have read this in book format, but the audio was good, light reading experience that kept me engaged.

Other recommendations:

Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett was an entertaining YA read that was cute and addictive with a summer boardwalk/theme park(ish) setting that felt alive and surprisingly unique (the whole cave/museum thing was great). It didn't personally get me swooning but it did keep me smiling and I think you may find a lot to love if you're looking for a new cute summer-love YA read.

Making Faces by Amy Harmon: I like the way Harmon writes and this story had a great message (that did not take over the narrative) with heartache, swooning, humour, and unexpected twists and turns. I didn't love it as much as I loved her fantasy The Bird and The Sword but it was an absorbing and worthwhile read that didn't shy away from hard topics. I liked the timeline of this book which spanned from early childhood, through high school and into early adulthood. If the premise appeals to you definitely give this a go :)

The Impostor Queen by Sarah Fine I was both captivated and intermittently frustrated with this original YA fantasy. I loved the world building and characters and the slow burn romance was also believable and satisfying, as was the unique and intriguing features of Fine's world. The only thing holding me back from listing this as a new fave were these weird pacing lulls where I would disengage with the story while waiting for things to keep moving. This complaint is more telling about me as a fantasy reader than the novel itself (I can be unfairly impatient with fantasy at times).

It Ends With Us is the first Colleen Hoover book I have read and I can see her widespread appeal. Hoover has a seamless writing style that drew me in and kept me turning the pages through the night. It was so easy to engage with her characters and get swept into the story. I knew little about this story going in and for that I am so glad (DO NOT read reviews of this one as I loved the way I was taken by surprise). This story was not what I expected> I was hoping for a kind of guilty pleasure, swoony, mindless read but this ended up being quite powerful and affecting. I would love any other Colleen Hoover recommendations as her backlist is rather intimidating and I have no idea where to start. I am not generally a fan of angsty YA/NA novels, but always a fan of absorbing books with captivating characters :)

What's the latest book you've read and loved?

:) Nomes