Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Review for The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith

The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith 
Publisher: Headline
Release: 15th April 2014
Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance, Travel
Source: Received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

"Owen lives in the basement. Lucy lives on the 24th floor. But when the power goes out in the midst of a New York heatwave, they find themselves together for the first time: stuck in a lift between the 10th and 11th floors. As they await help, they start talking...

The brief time they spend together leaves a mark. And as their lives take them to Edinburgh and San Francisco, to Prague and to Portland they can't shake the memory of the time they shared. Postcards cross the globe when they themselves can't, as Owen and Lucy experience the joy - and pain - of first love.

And as they make their separate journeys in search of home, they discover that sometimes it is a person rather than a place that anchors you most in the world."

The Geography of You and Me was one of those rare and special books that was so perfect that I felt like it was written especially for me. It’s almost as if I gave Jennifer E. Smith a list of ingredients that would make my ideal cute contemporary read and The Geography of You and Me is the end result. I’ve read and enjoyed all of Smith’s books but this one is hands down my favourite so far.

The book begins in an elevator in New York during a blackout that sweeps across the city on a scorching summers evening. Despite living in the same building Lucy and Owen have never met before but sparks fly as NYC plummets into darkness and the two get to know one another over free melting ice cream, cool kitchen tiles, and the rare sight of thousands of stars lighting up the sky. New York in the dark sounded strangely magical and exciting. It was such a fun note to kick start the book on and created the perfect backdrop for Lucy and Owen’s relationship to begin.

Lucy and Owen find each other just when they need someone the most. Both are incredibly lonely for different reasons. After spending that one whirlwind night together there’s hope that they will become something more but fate has other plans for the couple as Owen’s dad is taking him on a road trip and Lucy’s father has been offered work in London. Despite the distance between them and the unlikeliness of ever meeting again the two write to one another from all around the world. As they try on different countries and different cities all they really want is a place to call home but perhaps they’ve already found it in each other.

The Geography of You and Me has to be Jennifer E. Smith’s most beautifully written book to date. Her way with words really brought this global love story to life as we visit New York, London, Edinburgh, Paris and Rome to name only a few destinations visited during our characters travels. I loved seeing these places through Lucy and Owen’s eyes and there were times when they’d be thinking of each other at exactly the same moment on the other side of the world that would make my stomach dance with butterflies. The written postcards were another lovely touch to their story. You spend the whole book waiting in anticipation with the hope that they will find their way back to each other.

I was completely charmed by The Geography of You and Me it was over all too soon for my liking and I’m already craving a re-read. If you love cute contemporaries with gorgeous prose then you’re going to love this story of carrying your home in your heart.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Review for Spare Brides by Adele Parks

Spare Brides by Adele Parks
Publisher: Headline
Release: 13th February 2014
Genre: Historical Fiction, WW1, Women’s Fiction, Romance
Source: Received for review via Netgalley

"New Year's Eve, 1920. The Great War is over and it's a new decade of glamorous promise. But a generation of men and women who survived the extreme trauma and tragedy will never be the same.

With countless men lost, it seems that only wealth and beauty will secure a husband from the few who returned, but lonely Beatrice has neither attribute. Ava has both, although she sees marriage as a restrictive cage after the freedom war allowed. Sarah paid the war's ultimate price: her husband's life. Lydia should be grateful that her own husband's desk job kept him safe, but she sees only his cowardice.

A chance encounter for one of these women with a striking yet haunted officer changes everything. In a world altered beyond recognition, where not all scars are visible, this damaged and beautiful group must grasp any happiness they can find - whatever the cost."

I’ve read and enjoyed some of Adele Parks’ books in the past and Spare Brides is her first venture into Historical Fiction. After reading the synopsis I knew this was a book for me. There is a wealth of books set during WW1 and so I found the idea of a book set post war really refreshing. This book focuses on the outcome war had on society, particularly the women, a generation of ‘spare brides’ left behind after losing their men.

The book centres around four friends who have been affected by the war in different ways. Firstly there is Lydia who is more fortunate than most. She has her husband, money and title still intact but instead of feeling lucky she feels ashamed of her stay at home husband and so begins an affair with a Sergeant. Lydia brought out a range of emotions in me as a reader. At times she really frustrated me and other times I felt incredibly sorry for her. She’s a complex character that’s for sure and she constantly surprised me. Although not my favourite of the girls she was definitely the one I enjoyed reading about the most.

Then we have Sarah, Lydia’s opposite, who lost her husband and money to the war and is left bringing up their children alone. Although we don’t hear from Sarah as much as the other girls I loved her character and felt sympathy for her situation.

Ava is a modern and forward thinking young woman. She’s the life and soul of the party and a flapper through and through. She embraces the idea of this new future war has given her and all the exciting new opportunities that come along with it for women.

Then there’s Beatrice who has an opposite attitude to Ava. A single and plain woman with no fortune she faces a life alone without the husband and babies she so desperately wanted for herself. Beatrice is incredibly lonely and my heart ached for her.

I loved the different vantage points having four very different heroines provided and each lady had a different story to tell and brought out different emotions in me. Each voice stood out and sounded authentic and I adored the women’s friendship. In a new world that was different and uncertain in many ways all they truly had was each other.

Sexy, scandalous and sad Spare Brides perfectly captures the mood of the early twenties from the grief of what was lost to the hope of a new future and tells the untold story of a generation of women who lived and endured through it all.

Friday, 4 April 2014

Review for A Kiss in the Dark by Cat Clarke

A Kiss in the Dark by Cat Clarke 
Publisher: Quercus
Release: 3rd April 2014
Genre: YA, Contemporary, UKYA
Source: Received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

"When Alex meets Kate the attraction is instant. Alex is funny, good-looking, and a little shy - everything that Kate wants in a boyfriend. Alex can't help falling for Kate, who is pretty, charming and maybe just a little naive... But one of them is hiding a secret, and as their love blossoms, it threatens to ruin not just their relationship, but their lives."

Cat Clarke has struck gold yet again with her latest book A Kiss in the Dark. Her stories feel like they come straight from teenager’s hearts and A Kiss in the Dark is no exception. The synopsis for this book is very vague not really giving anything away about this story so I’m unsure of how much to say in this review so I’m going to keep this short and sweet.

In a nutshell A Kiss in the Dark is a tale of first love gone wrong. It’s about love and hate, betrayal and revenge, secrets and lies, boy and girl and how they’re not all that different. They are each a side on the same coin and A Kiss in the Dark shows two sides to the same love story.

Reading A Kiss in the Dark is like watching a train wreck in slow motion. You know it isn’t going to end well for the characters and you’re on the edge of your seat waiting for the impact that is inevitable and will change the characters’ lives forever. Needless to say I couldn’t put this book down and read it in a few hours.

At its heart A Kiss in the Dark is a story about identity and loving blindly. It was such a beautiful and powerful read and yes I had a little cry over the ending. Alex and Kate’s story touched my heart; they are two characters whose journey will stay with me for a long time to come. Despite my brief review I hope I’ve said enough to get you interested in picking this book up. If you love complicated love stories that blur right and wrong I couldn’t recommend this book more.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

March Round Up and Book of the Month

March's Book of the Month is A Hundred Pieces of Me by Lucy Dillon

So last month I didn't get as much read as I wanted to. I caught a cold I couldn't shake off and then I was really busy so my reading took a back seat during the last two weeks of March. Although I didn't read much what I did read was FANTASTIC! Everything got a 4 star rating or higher and there were a couple of books that could rightfully be March's book of the month but in the end I decided to go with A Hundred Pieces of Me. I'm really loving women's fiction this year and this book was so emotionally captivating and offers something really different too. It was such a beautiful, hopeful story about living for now and I know that it's going to have a special place in my heart for the rest of the year. To read more of my thoughts on this book check out my review here.

Read in March
19.) Spare Brides by Adele Parks (4*)
20.) A Hundred Pieces of Me by Lucy Dillon (4.5*)
21.) Far From You by Tess Sharpe (4*)
22.) Split Second by Kasie West (4*)
23.) A Kiss in the Dark by Cat Clarke (4.5*)
24.) Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira (4*)

Monthly Book Awards
Best Plot: A Kiss in the Dark by Cat Clarke
Best Writing: Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira
Best Cover: A Hundred Pieces of Me by Lucy Dillon
Best Characters: A Kiss in the Dark by Cat Clarke
Best Ending: A Hundred Pieces of Me by Lucy Dillon
Best Romance: Far From You by Tess Sharpe
Most un-put-down-able: A Kiss in the Dark by Cat Clarke
Most Memorable: A Hundred Pieces of Me by Lucy Dillon
Best Moral: A Kiss in the Dark by Cat Clarke

Top 3 Most Recommended Books: A Hundred Pieces of Me, A Kiss in the Dark and Love Letters to the Dead

Books I’m Looking Forward to Being Released in April
The Break-Up Artist by Philip Siegel
Precious Thing by Colette McBeth
The Forever Song by Julie Kagawa
The Year of the Rat by Clare Furniss
The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith
Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige
Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor
What I Thought Was True by Huntley Fitzpatrick

 What was the best book you read in March? 
And what are you looking forward to reading this month?

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Author Cammie McGovern Guest Post: Writing a Character With OCD

Last month I had the pleasure of reading an incredibly special book a month before its release date and ever since then I've been trying to persuade everybody to pre-order a copy. That book is Amy and Matthew. It's a beautifully written YA Contemporary with realistic characters that is absolutely perfect for fans of Eleanor and Park. But what really stood out to me was Matthew a character who has crippling OCD. Having OCD myself I really connected with his daily struggles of managing mundane tasks that other people may not think twice about. Cammie wrote one of the most realistic fictional portrayals of OCD that I've ever read so I invited her on to the blog today to talk a little bit about her experience writing a character with OCD to celebrate the release date for Amy and Matthew which is out in the UK today. If you'd like to hear more on my thoughts about Amy and Matthew check out my review here.

Writing About OCD by Cammie McGovern 

The most interesting discovery I made in writing Matthew, a character with OCD, is how many people read a little bit about OCD and think they have it. As I researched, I diagnosed seeds of it in myself as a teenager. I also recognized it in my oldest son who is seventeen and has autism. For me, though the real surprise came when my fourteen-year-old son read Amy and Matthew and came into my room afterward. It was late at night and he whispered softly, “You based Matthew on me, didn’t you?”

Of our three children, he is our most outgoing and most social kid. In his group, I think of him as the relatively easy-going one who navigates the moodiness and hilarity of his friends with an even keel. “God no,” I said, stunned. Where had this idea come from? Most nights, as I lie on my bed reading, he leans into my bathroom mirror, examines his face for new patches of acne, and tells me stories about his crowd that get me laughing so hard I get tears in my eyes. “I do all that stuff,” he whispered that night. “I make deals all day long—if I make it to my locker in ten steps, my test will go well…If I don’t step on any lines, I’ll get an A…”

He’d never told me this before. In fact, I’d never thought of him as particularly anxious or as someone who would dabble in the—I’m not sure how else to put it—the illogical comforts of OCD deal-making. I remembered doing it all the time when I was a teenager, but I was far shier and less social than he. I didn’t travel school hallways with a pack of friends, so I had plenty of time to walk on blue tiles only and touch certain heating vents.

When my youngest son, the ten year old, overheard us talking about it again the next morning, he cornered me that afternoon and whispered, “Those things you and Charlie were talking about, I do them too. All the time—"

By this point, it was slightly less of a surprise, or maybe I’d learned something, not about my children, but about OCD. In my research, it’s often described as the mental illness that afflicts the otherwise sanest people you’ll ever meet. Frequently very bright, people with OCD nearly always recognize the irrationality of compulsive thoughts. They know the stove has been turned off; still their brain insists on checking. They know step counts won’t effect a test score; still their brain insists it will.

Perhaps in the chaotic pressure of navigating adolescence and all the changes one has no control over, OCD thoughts provide the comfort of some illusory control. I know they did for me without becoming too obtrusive later in life. They kept me busy as I navigated hallways filled with people who weren’t my friends. I don’t mean to equate an adolescent propensity toward mild OCD with the more serious, more debilitating form that Matthew and so many others experience. I only mean to say that if you have it and talk about it, I suspect you’ll be amazed at how many people recognize immediately what you are saying. It’s not as illogical or ridiculous as you suspect it might be. It’s a complicated bargain with the abstractions we have all wrestled mightily with: perfection, luck, safety, hope. It’s our brain playing games to keep us well. If I do these things, everything will work out. Maybe it’s a kind of creative faith, or a tool. Or maybe it’s a way for a fourteen year old kid with a lot on his plate to seem easy-going. I’m not sure. I just know you’re not crazy and you’re not alone.


Thank you so much for this wonderful post Cammie! 
 If you'd like to hear more from Cammie follow her on Twitter @CammieMcGovern 
 Amy and Matthew is available to buy in all good bookshops across the UK as of today

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