Friday, 27 November 2009

Evermore - Alyson Noel

Since a horrible accident claimed the lives of her family, Ever can see auras, hear people's thoughts, and know a person's entire life story by touch. Going out of her way to avoid human contact and suppress her abilities has branded her as a freak at her new high school—but everything changes when she meets Damen.

Damen Auguste is gorgeous, exotic and wealthy. He's the only one who can silence the noise and random energy in her head—wielding a magic so intense, it's as though he can see straight into her soul. As Ever is drawn deeper into his enticing world of secrets and mystery, she's left with more questions than answers. She has no idea just who he really is—or what he is. The only thing she knows to be true is she's falling deeply and helplessly in love with him.

Once upon a time Ever was your stereotypical teenage girl, she was blonde, popular, beautiful and a cheerleader. But when her father swerved to miss a deer and the ensuing car crash killed her who family all that changed. In that accident Ever straddled the line between life and death until something pulled her back to life. After that moment she's developed the ability to hear the thoughts of those around her. Nothing silences the sound of the voices of the people's thoughts until the mysterious Damen shows up in one of her classes. Damen is mysterious, drop dead gorgeous and one touch from him quiets all the noise in Ever's head.

Ever, now just a shell of her former self, is reclusive, anti-social and an outcast blames herself for the death of her family and has a major case of survivor's guilt. She wants nothing more than to join her family on the other side adding to the yearning for her family is her regular visitations from her dead younger sister, Riley, who wants to live out her teenage years vicariously through Ever.

I really loved this book - I read it in one day. The characters were so well rounded and described to perfection, I could picture them perfectly. There were moments when I welled up with tears and moments which caused me to giggle. It was so easy to relate to Ever and feel every emotion she was going through, feel the gut wrenching heartache of being the sole survivor of a devastating car accident, the mixed emotion and indecision about Damen - this book was just so completely beautifully written, I will be quickly going back for another read of this one.

Friday, 20 November 2009

Hush, hush by Becca Fitzpatrick

Synopsis: A sacred oath, a fallen angel, a forbidden love...This darkly romantic story features our heroine, Nora Grey, a seemingly normal teenage girl with her own shadowy connection to the Nephilim, and super-alluring bad boy, Patch, now her deskmate in biology class. Together they find themselves at the centre of a centuries-old feud between a fallen angel and a Nephilim...Forced to sit next to Patch in science class, Nora attempts to resist his flirting, though gradually falls for him against her better judgment. Meanwhile creepy things are going on with a mysterious stalker following her car, breaking into her house and attacking her best friend, Vi. Nora suspects Patch, but there are other suspects too - not least a new boy who has transferred from a different college after being wrongly accused of murdering his girlfriend. And he seems to have taken a shine to Nora...Love certainly is dangerous...and someone is going to have to make the ultimate sacrifice for it.

If I hadn't read the synopsis or other various online reviews of Hush,hush, I wouldn't have clock on at the start of the book that Patch was a fallen angel. He seemed cocky, arrogant and there was a hint of danger to him but he didn't appear to be bad guy to me. I did feel empathy with Nora as she felt on edge around him and something about him unnerved him but I also found her to be slightly neurotic and paranoid but in the end her instincts were correct. I noticed that while half the time the trouble Nora found herself in was because of Patch but the other half of the time when trouble found her or she was in trouble because of her friends; Patch was the one who came to her rescue and even when his intention was to hurt her he couldn't seem to stop saving her. He was just as drawn to her as she was to him.

I found the character of Patch to be quite irresistible; he was torn between being good and doing evil deeds to serve his own purpose. I think deep down to his core he is actually good but he just wanted something so badly that he was willing to do anything possible to get it. I enjoyed the whole cat and mouse relationship Patch and Nora had and found it entertaining how skirmish she was around him and how she was constantly ignoring the attraction she felt towards him. I think that's what made the book so alluring - that and the fact that Patch also felt a pull towards her and was conflicted between the two parts of himself.

What I'm reading right now

Here's the thing: I am a book addict, I have a serious problem, I can't walk past a book shop without going in. The books call to me, they whisper to me, flirt with me, wink at me and seduce me. This week I wandered into the lovely bookshop in the town I live in, it comes complete with three floors and a coffee shop, anyway, I toddled into the shop with a list of books I wanted; turned out they didn't have half the books on my list and I ended coming out with the list being twice as long. So, here's what I did pick up; Dead to the World by Charlaine Harris. It's part of the Sookie Stackhouse series - what the True Blood television series is based on. I've watched the tv show because it stars Anna Paquin - a fellow New Zealander, so it's all about patriotic loyalty. So I thought I'd give one of the books a shot....I'll let you know how it goes.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Air Kisses - Zoe Foster

When I still lived in New Zealand the Austrailian version of Cosmopolitan Magazine was my version of a bible, I particularily enjoyed the articles by beauty editor Zoe Foster so when I read on the net that she had written a novel I just knew I had to read it. To be honest it was slightly difficult for me to get my hands on a copy, I scoured the net, searched the shelves at the book shop meticulously and finally found a copy on ebay. There may have been a squeal of delight when I saw it on ebay but anyway I purchased it and waited in eager anticipation for it to come all wrapped and brand new through my mail slot.

Here's what the back cover says: Is love really more important than lip gloss? Hannah Atkins - the girl most likely to be sporting streaky fake tan and a wobbly trail of liquid eyeliner - has bluffed her way into the position of beauty editor at Gloss magazine. Just as she's carving a path into the gorgeous world of guerrilla air kisses, she reads about her boyfriend and another girl in the gossip pages of the local newspaper. Then she gets dumped. By text.

Vowing to claw back some dignity and make her ex regret what he's done, Hannah adopts some hard core rules - look fabulous, steer clear of unsuitable men. But as her resolution starts to slip away, she finds herself having to decide on more important things than the perfect mascara....

My preconceived notion of what this book would be like was that there would be a love interest come into Hannah's life, heal her broken heart and prove to her that love still exists and that her ex is a plonker. This did not happen. The story is focused on Hannah and her sorting her life out for her and finding ways to be happy that doesn't revolve around a man. It's about her finding where she fits in at her new job, carving her own little place in the world and discovering who she is for herself. I found this to be a refreshing approach (though I still secretly hoped for a hunky man to sweep Hannah off her feet) as so many novels have romances and have the love interest as the defining point in the heroine's life. At the start Hannah is a girl who is fumbling about in a job she's not sure she deserves or can do and has a boyfriend she discovers has been cheating on her, as book progresses we see her gain confidence within herself and realise that yes she can actually do the job and do it well.

Another little quirky point of difference which makes Air Kisses stand out is each chapter is headed up with a beauty tip which coincides with the title of the chapter and the theme running through it.

Overall, even though I was slightly hoping for a bit of a romance, I really enjoyed this book, it was quirky, sweet, intelligence and I really found myself rooting for Hannah and feeling all the emotions she rode on her own personal emotional roller coaster.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

What I'm reading right now.....

At the moment I have about three books on the go....

First is Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick and let me just say that I can see what all the hype is about. I think I'm a little bit in love with Patch. He's a great bad boy/rebel without a cause character but at the same time is as sweet as can be. I imagine him to be very similar to the character of Jess from Gilmore Girls just a bit more defined.

The second book I'm reading is The Anarchist's Angel by Gareth Thompson. I haven't got very far into this book yet so I don't really know the characters well enough to form an opinion but the premise is interesting, here's what the back cover says: Samson Ashburner always felt like an outsider - even before the farm accident that left his face scarred and confidence shattered. With taunts of local children and his mother ringing in his ears, samson malingers like a dark cloud over the Cumbrian landscape. His only refuge is an ancient charcoal-burning hut in the nearby woods. It is here that he first encounters Angel Obscura, a beautiful gypsy girl who teaches Samson that not everybody takes him at face value. But Angel may be hiding scars of her own and Samson is drawn into a web of deceit and shady dealings with an explosive outcome.

The third book I'm reading is by Zoe Foster who was the beauty editor for the Australian Cosmopolitan magazine, Air Kisses is her debut novel and it's light and girly and hilarious.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

Synopsis: For years, Grace has watched the wolves in the woods behind her house. One yellow-eyed wolf--her wolf--is a chilling presence she can't seem to live without. Meanwhile, Sam has lived two lives: In winter, the frozen woods, the protection of the pack, and the silent company of a fearless girl. In summer, a few precious months of being human . . . until the cold makes him shift back again.
Now, Grace meets a yellow-eyed boy whose familiarity takes her breath away. It's her wolf. It has to be. But as winter nears, Sam must fight to stay human--or risk losing himself, and Grace, forever.

While I am a fan of the Twilight Saga (I have a secret, guilty infatuation with Edward) there was just something that made me click more with Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater than the Twilight books. Honestly, I find Bella to be self-depricating and to have a bit of a complex. While in Twilight the relationship between Bella and Edward is slightly unbalanced in my opinion, Bella holds Edward on a pedalstool and views him through rose coloured glasses, the relationship between Grace and Sam is more balanced; this could be because the book jumps between Grace's point of view and Sam's point of view but I think this gives us a more rounded picture of the story and a clearer view of each of the character's and the world they live in rather than just seeing it from a single character's perspective.

Grace knows what Sam is, accepts it, sees all his flaws and loves him inspite of it not because of it. Sam on the otherhand is full of insecurites about what he is and at the same time sees through Grace's bravado and sees her insecurites (sometimes ones she isn't even aware of herself), they lean on each other and support each other, it's a nicely balanced, equal relationship where they both give and take in equal measures.

While Shiver is based in the realm of the supernatural the book is more about the relationship between the two main characters (one of whom just happens to be a warewolf) which is what endeared me to the book it puts the character development and the romance before the supernatural.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

The Wild Party by Joseph Moncure March

This book is really a really long poem which was written in 1926 but wasn't published until 1928 because it was deemed too saucy. It was also a banned book in Boston. It was later published in 1968 but was a censored version until 1994 when it was re-published (again) but this time as the original with illustrations by Art Spiegelman - which is the one I read.

In a nut shell it is about a night of debauchery - a night in the life of Queenie and her man Burrs. It starts with a lover's quarrell between the two which then turns into a house party with the pre-requiste alcohol, lust, music and sex. Fights break out, Queenie indulges in a smutty little affair designed to get back at Burrs for calling her a slut, she inevitably gets caught in a moment of passion and somewhere along the way a murder is committed.

Brilliantly written, it is a poem written in narrative form or rather a novel written in the form of poetry - either way it is exquisite. The rhythm of the rhyming is almost like that found in a nursey rhyme but at the same time it has a kind of sensual flow to it. The lines are reduced to merely one word in parts to speed up the rhythm and to highlight the action.
My favourite passage is:

Some love is fire: some love is rust:
But the fiercest, cleanest love is lust.
And their lust was tremendous. It had the feel
Of hammers clanging; and stone; and steel

But the artwork is what really did it for me, black and white, completely devoid of colour and in an film noir style to reflect the period and tone and style of the poem, it adds an extra vibrancy and visual effect to the original poem.

Saturday, 7 November 2009

One-hit wonder - Lisa Jewell

Synopsis: Bee Bearhorn had a number-one-hit single in 1985 and was never heard of again. Fifteen years later she is found dead and nobody seems to care. Ana Wills has always daydreamed about the exotic half-sister she hasn't seen for years. When she comes to London to clear her flat, Ana begins to unravel Bee's life: her missing cat, her secret country cottage and her mysterious weekends away. So, instead of going back to Devon, Ana tracks down Bee's closest friends, mad Lol and strong, silent Flint and together they set out to discover exactly what happened to Bee.

This was a book which was given to me by one of the customers at the pub I work at and I decided to read it because I wanted something light and fluffy. Chick-lit. And this book had had good comments and feedback.

To me the characters seemed quite cliched: the ex-pop star who met a tragic end and was on paper - a bitch but was actually an incredibly nice person, the sister who didn't realise just how beautiful she really is and all it took to discover this was a nifty makeover. Then there was the gorgeous, strong silent man-whore who upon meeting the sister saw the error of his ways.

While I found the writing quite witty for the most part, I found myself skimming through pages, it just didn't seem to hold my attention. I expected the secret and mystery surrounding Bee's death to be an exciting scandal but it was more a case of it being exactly what it appeared to be. The concept was an intriguing one to me; a mystery about a one hit wonder but unfortunately the book just didn't do it for me.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

The Pact - Jodi Picoult

Synopsis: The Hartes and the Golds have lived next door to each other for eighteen years. They have shared everything. Chris and Emily are joined at the hip so it's no surprise to anyone when their close bond becomes a romance - after all it's what their parents have been hoping for. But everything is shattered when a midnight call comes from the hospital, Emily is seventeen and dead from a gunshot wound which Chris is responsible. Chris says the plan was for them both to die - it was a suicide pact, he says the second bullet was meant for him.

The Pact is intricately written and is ultimately the story of how far you'd be willing to go for the love of your life. It begs the question: Would you kill for them? Or rather, would you kill them if they asked you to? At the same time it is also the story of how far a parent would go to protect their child.

Throughout the book I got a sense of Chris being more in love with Emily than she was with him, sure she loved him but even she wasn't sure it was the same kind of love. From her side I felt a sense or need to please everyone and to live up to this lifelong expectation. I found myself to be sympathetic towards Chris, he loved Emily and would do just about anything for her but perhaps wasn't willing to die for her and his sense of guilt throughout the book is overwhelming.

Jodi Picoult's books are always very enlightening - they tackle moral and legal issues which are not always so black and white which I find very realistic because in life there are shades of grey and Jodi Picoult manages to portray all angles.

In The Pact, she portrays the blurred perception of what reasonable doubt really is and how quickly love can change and turn into something else, how there really is a fine line between love and hate. I think in The Pact it is really up to the individual reader to decide if Chris is guilty of murder or not, it is a personal opinion because of the way it has been written which is what I found intriguing and endearing about the book and why it is an absolutely wonderful read, one of my new favourites.

Before I Die - Jenny Downham

Tessa is a sixteen year old girl who has been fighting off cancer for the past four years and now the end is nigh, there is nothing more they can do for her. Apparently the world is done with her...but she's not done with the world. There's still so much she wants to do. She wants her parent's back together, she wishes to be famous...but most of all she yearns for someone to love.

This is a unique book, narrated by Tessa, not yet a ghost but not completely living shut up in the solitude of her room scrawling her list on her wall. Jenny Downham takes the reader through the stages of grief through not only Tessa who grieves for the life she'll never have but also through the other characters who have taken the journey of terminal illness with Tessa but who can not hold her hand and accompany her into the next world. There's her heartbroken, loving father who is all about the denial, he needs to believe their is still hope, he needs to believe that he can save his baby girl. There's Cal, Tessa's little brother who appears flippant about the fact his older sister is dying but deep down can't deal with the reality of Tessa not existing. There's a sweet boy next door, Adam who when he first meets Tessa is ignorant of her illness and looks at her as if she is just an ordinary girl, not a girl who could very well collapse at any moment. As the story progresses, Adam gives her the gift she's so desperately been wanting: love. Zoey, Tessa's best friend goes through highs and lows of cheerfully helping Tessa achieve her list's goals and then being angry with her for being absorbed with her own problems. Tessa herself goes through periods of not wanting pity, being violently angry, rebelling and self-pity.

I found Tessa's story to be poignantly realistic, the emotions heartbreaking. I couldn't stop crying throughout this book, there is no moments of contrieved statements by Tessa about accepting her fate it is just beautifully honest about a life cut short too soon.

Monday, 2 November 2009

The Time Traveler's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger

Synopsis: Clare and Henry met when Clare was six and Henry was thirty-six and were married when Clare was twenty-two and Henry thirty. Henry suffers from a rare condition where his genetic clock periodically resets and he finds himself pulled suddenly into his past or future.

I had mixed feelings about this book, I'd heard all the hype about both the book and the recently released movie. At times I found certain parts difficult to follow, when in some chapters there are two Henry's - one present day, one from the future or past it is at times difficult to dissern which Henry is speaking or which one Clare is talking to.

Throughout the book, Henry is a tortured soul while for most of the book Clare is skipping happily along in life with versions of Henry and when we get to the point where Clare is sick of all the time travel and being alone while her husband keeps disappearing against his will I found it difficult to feel sympathy towards her as she had sought out the present day Henry, the Henry who at that time didn't know her yet, she could have walked away and never chosen to be with him. I felt perhaps she'd chosen her own fate and swayed more towards feeling sympathy for Henry, who had tried to steer her away from seeking him out. In one particular chapter where Henry is both twenty-eight and thirty three and Clare is twenty, Clare realises that while she met a version of Henry when she was six and has her whole life to fall in love with him, the twenty eight year old version of Henry has only just met her...."I didn't know you existed. I was unhappily dating Ingrid. I met you. I broke up with Ingrid. I mean infidelity isn't retroactive, you know?...very few people meet their soulmates at age six...." "...I see that he (Henry) doesn't recognize anything...the knife of realization sinks in deeper: all the little tokens and souvenirs in this museum of our past are as love letters to an illiterate."

I'm not usually a fan of time travel stories particularly those involving romances, purely because scenes involving an adult interacting with the child version of their love tend to come off as me as being slightly creepy but Audrey Niffenegger manages to pull it off in a way which is sweet and tender almost as if during Clare's early years Henry is an imaginary friend. Henry is portrayed as maintaining a certain amount of distance until Clare comes of age while at the same time having a sweet relationship with the child version of Clare. Once we are taken to the point in time when Clare and Henry finally meet up in the same time period, Henry is this struggling, damaged man searching for something he doesn't quite recognise until Clare comes along and the pieces suddenly seem to come together and fit perfectly.

For me, this was a difficult book to delve into because of me preconcieved notions about science fiction but once I got into it I found it to be charming, sweet, endearing and at it's very core a story about a couple very much in love and the time travel was just something that couldn't be helped. I would definately recommend this book to anyone and am looking forward to delving into Niffenegger's new book.