Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Bookish Buys: Outlander Edition

I haven't done one of these posts in awhile but I'm trying to get back into regular blogging so here's hoping this will be the first of many regular features to get back up and running. I'm reading (or rather, listening to) Outlander by Diana Gabaldon at the moment and even though I'm basically hating it I know A LOT of people love it, so out of curiousity I thought I'd see if there were many related products available and, unsurprisingly, there is! Like...

Outlander book necklace
Outlander coasters

Jamie and Claire earrings

Claire-inspired ring

Outlander scented candle

Sassenach bookmark

Craigh na Dun necklace

Je Suis Prest necklace

Jamie necklace

Sassenach mug

Thistle earrings

Buttons

Time and place necklace

Dragonfly necklace

J+C earrings

Necklace 
Claire and Jamie card

Jamie doll

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Top Ten Books On My Wishlist


1. Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins. I probably don't need to explain this one - I think if you're a book blogger and don't already own it, you want it!

2. The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet by Bernie Su. I adored the web series so I'm interested to see how they've adapted it as a book.

3. Well-Read Women: Portraits of Fiction's Most Beloved Heroines by Samantha Hahn. This book of illustrations of female characters looks gorgeous.

4. Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake. This one has been sitting on my wishlist for years. No idea why I haven't managed to get my hands on it yet.

5. Since You've Been Gone by Morgan Matson. I loved Matson's first book and liked her second so I'm really keen to read this one too.

6. Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan. I've heard mixed things about this book but I adored Lanagan's Sea Hearts when I read it last year and have been meaning to check this one out since.

7. His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman. I am one of those terrible people (or possibly the only one?!) who is yet to read this series. I almost bought it recently but held myself back because I was buying other books - but I will have to get this one some day soon.

8. Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson. This is another book that has been on my wishlist since it came out, a couple of years ago now. For some reason it's never made it to the TBR pile, but I still really want it.

9. The Messenger by Markus Zusak. Despite loving The Book Thief A LOT, I haven't read any of Zusak's other books, which I kind of kick myself over every so often. I need to remedy that.

10. Bossypants by Tina Fey. I was desperate to read this when it came out and then never got around to buying or reading it. Again, I really need to!

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. 

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Review: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart


I don't know what I can say in this review that hasn't already been said by many other reviewers. But I can't not say anything about it because this book affected me so much. So I'm adding my voice to the chorus. It's true what they say. We Were Liars is an incredible book. And the less you know about it going into it, the better. Suffice it to say it's about four teenagers - three cousins and a friend - called the Liars, who spend each summer on a private island together. But nobody wants to talk about what happened two summers ago, when there was an accident that caused Cady to lose important memories. As she tries to piece together the past, she has to come to terms with the messed up present - with the help of her Liars, of course.

So yeah. This book is a mystery. But it's also about friendship and family, anger and love, grief and desire... you know, all the big little stuff - or little big stuff. It's simply beautiful. I know the writing style is not for everyone (many other reviewers have mentioned how it bugged them), but I ADORED it. It's rich and elegant, the kind that you want to read out loud, that evokes the texture and taste and smell of a place and a story and the people in it.

And oh, the people in it. This book is not about poor little rich kids that you can't feel sorry for. Cady and her Liars are all interesting and real and loveable. Along with Cady, I especially loved Gat, the outsider on the island who belongs and yet doesn't. He got under my skin, as did all the Liars. The one part that was mildly annoying was that it's never clear why they were called the Liars in the first place. But that was no big deal. A surface issue. What really matters is the amazing story and the brilliant characters and the vivid emotional core.

I hope it's not spoiling too much to say this book made me ugly cry. Hard. FOR HOURS. I am not exaggerating. I can't remember the last time a book made me cry so much. It didn't help that I wasn't expecting it to be so emotional, and I was up late reading it long after everyone else had gone to bed (because yes, it's impossible to put down), and so suddenly I found myself alone and CRYING AND CRYING AND CRYING AND CRYING AND CRYING. It hurt so much. I went to bed and cried some more. My husband woke up and was all "WHAT'S WRONG?!" and I had to be like "This bo-oo-ooo-oooooook." And he hugged me and I cried some more until I finally fell asleep. And then in the morning I woke up and remembered and CRIED SOME MORE.

To be fair, I read this book along with Bree at 1 Girl 2 Many Books and I don't believe she cried at all. So it could have just been the right book at the right time (or maybe the wrong book at the wrong time) for me. It might not make you cry so much. But I just want you to know that it tore my heart out and stomped on it a bit and offered it back to me slightly mangled.

But it was worth it. This is a beautiful book. One of my favourites of the year. You should read it. With some tissues and somebody to cuddle nearby.

Rating: 4.5/5

Fine Print
Published: 2014, Allen & Unwin
Source: Netgalley
Get It: Abebooks

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Audiobook Review: Bedbugs by Ben H. Winters, Narrated by Elisabeth Rodgers



Bedbugs is a pretty standard horror. A young family moves into a new home and it seems like a dream come true, until of course things start to go wrong. Strange smells, strange noises, strange neighbours, and increasing tension within the family itself. Where it differs from a lot of horror, however, is that this time it's the mother, rather than the father, who is affected by the new place and whose sanity slowly starts to unravel and turn her against her own family.

I really liked this different perspective on the classic horror narrative. I liked the family at the centre, and loved Susan and Alex's relationship, making it hard to watch it start to unravel. True, Susan thinks some awful things even before she starts to go crazy, but that didn't make her an awful character - I found her to be incredibly realistic, actually. Everyone has bad thoughts they wouldn't ever say out loud, and it was kind of refreshing to see them on the page. I also really related to Susan's own guilt and anxiety, particularly about her painting - she left her job to focus on her art, and finds a million things to instead so she doesn't have to begin and risk failure. I wasn't expecting to connect so much on an emotional level in a simple horror story, but I guess deep down good horror is about everyday anxieties amplified.

Which I suppose is why this book puts the hysteria over bedbugs that happened in New York a couple of years ago at front and centre. It's a good device, a threat that most people recognise, and yet I do feel like it wasn't used entirely effectively here. What was most interesting was Susan's inner chaos, and the bedbugs could have been substituted with any kind of threat or annoyance, really. They didn't form an essential part of the story. If anything they made Susan's unravelling seem a little more unrealistic, because not a lot actually happens regarding bedbugs before she's totally freaking out over them and becoming obsessive. I get that there were other things affecting her but it just seemed a little ridiculous in spots.

There's a slow build to this book that I quite liked but it did drag in spots. It was very creepy for the most part but sometimes I just wanted something to happen. But when something did happen I was a little disappointed, the creepiness disappeared and it just felt a little... silly. I still liked it overall but I didn't LOVE it.

I listened to this on audiobook and the narration for the most part was very good. Elisabeth Rodgers captured Susan's voice really well and the supporting characters were great, with one exception - Emma, Susan and Alex's daughter. I get that it's hard for a grown woman to do a toddler's voice but it really got on my nerves. I think part of that was also the writing - some of the dialogue coming from Emma just didn't sound authentic to me, it was frequently overly cutesy, like how someone thinks a toddler would sound and not how a toddler actually sounds. But otherwise it was a pretty good listening experience.

Rating: 3.5/5

Head Cast
I pictured Alice Eve as Susan and Michael Rady as Alex.

via Dreamworks 
via CBS

Fine Print
Published: 2011, Audible Studios
Get It: Audible

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Audiobook Reviews: The Importance of Being Earnest and A Woman of No Importance by Oscar Wilde


The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde, narrated by James Marsters, Charles Busch, Emily Bergl, Neil Dickson, Jill Gascoine, Christopher Neame and Matthew Wolf.
Although I've seen the movie, I'd never read - or listened to - the original play, so I was excited when I came across this audiobook performance on Audible. It didn't disappoint. I loved the story of mistaken identities, long-lost family and rich people's shenanigans, and the characters were all charming and endearing in their own way. The language is obviously gorgeous and witty, and it was brilliantly delivered by the actors in this edition. It all flowed really well and was just a delight to listen to.
Rating: 4/5

A Woman of No Importance by Oscar Wilde, narrated by Miriam Margolyes, Samantha Mathis, Rosalind Ayres, Jane Carr, Judy Geeson and Martin Jarvis. 
After really enjoying The Importance of Being Earnest I was keen to give this audio a try, and while it was good, it wasn't great. It too has long-lost family, mistaken identities and rich people's shenanigans, but it just wasn't as fun. The characters weren't as compelling, and the story wasn't as engaging. The performances weren't as great here either, they FELT like performances rather than like you were listening to actual conversations between the characters. I was also surprised that several of the lines were exactly the same as those found in Earnest - of course, this came earlier and so Wilde must have reused them for Earnest, and they ARE great lines, but I didn't like the repeated use. I wouldn't listen to or read this again.
Rating: 3/5

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Audiobook Reviews: The Too Far Series by Abbi Glines


Do you ever read the first book in a series and not particularly like it, but you keep reading the series anyway? And then you read the second and you still don't really enjoy it, but for some reason that you can't quite explain you keep going? Until you reach the third in the series, or worse even the fourth? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

Yeah so that's what happened with the Too Far series for me. I picked up the first one, Fallen Too Far, when it was for sale on Audible. The sample sounded OK and I had a vague impression that Abbi Glines is an author I'd enjoy. People I follow seemed to like her. So I listened and look, it was entertaining. The narrator was quite good and the story itself was a bit of trashy fun. It's about Blaire, an innocent girl (coz there's no other kinds of girls in romance apparently) who goes to stay with her new step-brother after her mother passes away. You can see where this is going, right? There were parts that annoyed the crap out of me (hello, insta-love, characters not acting their age, guys acting possessive, ridiculous melodrama, etc), but I can admit I still enjoyed the book overall. The chemistry between the two main characters was pretty sizzling and the sex scenes were hot. With the exception of one which was distractingly annoying but also significant to the plot which in turn made me want to bang my head against the wall...

So yeah. The first book was fun enough but also annoying and I knew the series would probably get more annoying as it went on. But maybe a small part of me hoped it would get better, I don't know, because I continued anyway. Next I went with Rush Too Far which is Fallen Too Far told from the perspective of the love interest, Rush. It is testimony to how hot the chemistry is that I endured the exact same story, with the exact same dialogue and only a few new scenes, all over again. Rush annoyed me more here than he did in Fallen Too Far, what with being in his head the whole time. He showed the first signs of hardcore possessiveness, and I should have known it would only get worse.

Boy, did it get worse. Never Too Far and Forever Too Far, the second and third books in the series (technically Rush Too Far is the fourth I think), alternate between Rush's and Blaire's points of view. Blaire is annoying as hell and does some really really silly things, but Rush was just unbearable. He is so freaking possessive and controlling, handling Blaire like a doll, obsessing over what she eats, what she wears, who she talks to... and Blaire is all "lol aw so cute and caring". HONEY NO. This is some fucked up shit right here. And ugh, all the family drama was so tedious, and the way each character handled said drama was ridiculous and unrealistic and plain stupid.

All that being said I was still tempted to continue the series because the focus shifts to other characters and I'm nothing if not optimistic/a masochist apparently. But after reading reviews and seeing the other guys in the following books are even MORE possessive than Rush I just couldn't do that to myself.

I am now pretty baffled by the popularity of Abbi Glines. A few hot scenes does not make up for all the idiocy and awfulness that surrounds them. And there is so, so much. Blergh.

Ratings:

Fallen Too Far: 3/5
Rush Too Far: 2.5/5
Never Too Far: 2/5
Forever Too Far: 1.5/5

Mini Reviews: Snow, Life Was Easier When Boys Were Stupid And Boys And Toys

Snow by Maxence Fermine, translated by Chris Mulhern
This is a gorgeous book both inside and out. The cover is simply stunning and the writing itself is elegant and lyrical. It's about a man who is obsessed with poetry and snow, and the prose really embodies both of these themes. It is bright, stark, and sparkling. The whole thing has a whimsical, fable-like quality. It's a short, beautiful read, however I didn't really connect to it emotionally. It's a pleasure for the eyeballs but doesn't really reach a deeper level.
Rating: 3.5/5
Life Was Easier When Boys Were Stupid by Sarah Billington
I knew this was a short story but I didn't realise just how short until I finished it in under 10 minutes. It is the kind of story that belongs in a bigger anthology, I'm not sure how I managed to get it on its lonesome. It's been on my kindle for so long I thought I'd finally get to it. It was OK, but seriously it's one scene - a girl thinking about kissing this hot guy but he seems jerky so she walks out and sees this nerdy guy and THAT'S IT. The writing was fine but I didn't get anything from reading this. I mean I know it's only a short story but short stories should still make you feel something. Anything. Not nothing.
Rating: 2/5
Boys and Toys by Cara Lockwood (via Netgalley)
Liv's super conservative parents can't find out she sells sex toys for a living. So things get super awkward when a colleague of her dad's requests a private show. Cue sexy times, awkward times, sexy times, really awkward times, kinda romantic times, drama times, sexy times and happy times. This wasn't terrible but it wasn't particularly good either. The emotional and family issues were probably the best part, the main relationship didn't really grab me and the sex scenes weren't all that sexy. The whole "private party" thing was just a bit ooky to be honest. Overall this left me feeling "meh".
Rating: 3/5

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Top Ten Fave TV Shows I'm Watching Right Now



1. Orphan Black. Tatiana Maslany plays a group of clones trying to find out where they come from - and who is murdering them. She is amazeballs and this show is amazeballs.

2. True Detective. The first season was amazing. I am so excited for the new season I just hope the cast is a bit more diverse.

3. Game of Thrones. Because duh.

4. The Mindy Project. I love Mindy, I love Danny, I love everyone and everything on this show.

5. Catfish. I just binge-watched all three seasons. It was great.

6. Teen Wolf. It has romance, horror, comedy, drama, hot guys, hot girls... in other words, everything.

7. The Vampire Diaries. It has its ups and downs but it's always a lot of fun.

8. American Horror Story. Every season is a different story so it can be a bit hit and miss but I really enjoyed Coven and am looking forward to Freak Show

9. Adventure Time. It's silly and weird and it makes me so happy.

10. Once Upon a Time. Sometimes it's amazing and sometimes it's pretty terrible but I always love it.

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by the Broke and the Bookish.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Review: Amy & Matthew - A Love Story by Cammie McGovern


I was immediately drawn to the bright, textured cover of this book in the bookstore, and when I read that it was about a boy with OCD and a girl with cerebral palsy falling in love I knew I had to buy it. These are not the kind of characters you often see in YA, and I was curious about how they would be handled. Having anxiety myself, I was especially interested in seeing how Matthew's condition was explored.

I have to say initially it made me really anxious. Matthew's worries are not my worries, and yet they did spike my anxiety a bit. It's probably impossible not to feel a little anxious if you're putting yourself in the shoes of such an anxious character. Once I got more lost in the story I stopped worrying so much and started appreciating the way Matthew's OCD had been written. It was really well done, very realistic without being completely over the top. There were lots of little things that people with no experience with such a condition probably wouldn't even notice, but for me it was incredibly validating.

As far as Amy is concerned, I don't know a great deal about cerebral palsy, so I couldn't judge how accurate the depiction of her situation was, but it certainly seemed authentic. More than anything, you really get the sense of how frustrated Amy is, and how incredibly isolated and lonely she can be at times. Through both her and Matthew's points of view, the novel explores the notion of control - or lack thereof - over your own body and actions and how that impacts your emotions. Both of these characters are trapped in their bodies in very different ways, and as they connect with each other their own worlds begin to expand and it's quite wonderful to follow.

But this book is about so much more than disabilities. Indeed, as Amy and Matthew strive to be seen as something other than disabled or disordered, they become some of the most complex and fully realised characters I've read in YA in a long time. They do amazing things but importantly they also screw up really really badly. They love each other, but they also hurt each other. It can be frustrating to read but it's also an important part of their growth, and part of what's make them great as characters. They're not martyrs or symbols, they're people. People make mistakes. And sometimes you love them all the more for it.

The secondary characters are also incredibly well developed in this book, and I especially loved the changing relationships Amy has with her peer helpers (of which Matthew is one), and Matthew has with his new co-workers at the local cinema. Their families also play important parts, and while it's hard not to hate them at times, you also sympathise with them.

The dual third person narration is really effective in telling both Amy and Matthew's individual and interconnected stories; it's great to be able to see how they see themselves and then how they're seen by others. Ultimately the book is about finding yourself and growing into the person you want to be,  as well as the important relationships you forge along the way. Beginning in the last year of high school and going through to the first year post-high school for Amy and Matthew, it is a true coming of age story - unique, emotional, messy and beautiful.

Rating: 4/5

Related
I was inpsired by Mands to have a go at matching nails with this fun cover, so here's my crappy picture of that!


Fine Print
Published: MacMillan Children's Books, March 2014
Get It: Book Depository

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Mini Reviews: Take Me On, Flirty Dancing And The Kissing Season



Take Me On by Katie McGarry (via Netgalley)
I was pretty excited to read this one because I've enjoyed McGarry's Pushing the Limits series so far. It's not amazing but it's entertaining, and this book pretty much followed suit. Although I have to say it's probably my least favourite in the series. I don't know if I just wasn't in the right mood, but while I liked it I didn't enjoy it as much as I thought I would. I didn't particularly connect with any of the characters and I didn't find the romance very swoon-worthy. It did have some cute moments but I just wasn't rooting for these guys as much as I have for other characters and couples in the series. I am not really into fighting sports or stories based around them, so that didn't help as that's the main focus of this book. But if you're a fan of McGarry I'm sure you'd enjoy this.
Rating: 3/5

Flirty Dancing by Jenny McLachlan (via Netgalley)
The title and cover initially drew me to this book, and when I read the synopsis I knew I had to read it. I love dance stories with a bit of romance thrown in (hello, Dirty Dancing!), and the whole awkward girl entering a dance competition with the popular guy sounded too fun to resist. It IS very cute and fun but, unlike a lot of YA, it doesn't really transcend the age bracket to provide a satisfying read for not-so-young adults. Instead of reading a good book about teenagers, I felt like I was reading a good book FOR teenagers. There's nothing wrong with that, of course. That's what it IS. And if I was 15 I would have loved the pants off of this book. I'd definitely recommend it for actual teens, but not necessarily adult YA fans.
Rating: 3/5

The Kissing Season by Rachael Johns (via Netgalley)
I've had this book on my Kindle for so long and I finally got around to reading it. Although it's a Christmas story, it was still fun to read in the middle of the year. It's set in a small coastal town, where the children of two families have come home for the holidays. Hannah has sworn off men for the moment but Matteo really gets under her skin, and playboy Matteo meanwhile finds he can't stop thinking about her. Their early interactions were kinda ridiculous and unrealistic in my opinion, but they had some really cute and hot moments too, and I quite liked both characters. This was a fun, quick read, and definitely makes me want to try more of Johns' books.
Rating: 3/5