Apple and Rain (Sarah Crossan)

Apple and Rain (Sarah Crossan)Apple and Rain by Sarah Crossan
Published by A&C Black on 14-08-2014
Pages: 336
Source: NetGalley, Purchased
Goodreads

When Apple's mother returns after eleven years away, Apple feels whole again. But just like the stormy Christmas Eve when she left, her mother's homecoming is bittersweet. It's only when Apple meets someone more lost than she is that she begins to see things as they really are.

A story about sad endings.
A story about happy beginnings.
A story to make you realise who is special.

Plot: ★★
Characters: ★★★
Readability: ★★★★

The storyApple has spent the last eleven years wishing for her mother.  Wandering why she left and why she never came back, all Apple wants is for her mum to come home.  She loves living with her nan, but she’s also beginning to chafe at being picked up from school and generally not being let out of sight.  She also wishes she had her mum to just talk to about things she couldn’t discuss with her nan, things like boys, petty arguments at school and make up.  When Apple’s mum does show up out of the blue though, it isn’t exactly the seamless family reunion Apple expected, and she has to face up to the reality of a mother she’s only ever imagined until now.

I found the story a bit predictable but very enjoyable and VERY hard to put down! Between how quick the story moves, the very short chapters and the easy-to-get-lost-in voice of Apple, I told myself ‘just one more chapter’ for far too long when reading it.  The fact that the story was a little predictable didn’t particularly bother me, because it’s just as much about the journey and the character development as it is about the end result.  In that respect, and with Apple’s clear voice, it reminded me a little of something like Thirteen Reasons Why.

Apple tries to build a relationship with her mother as she fears her relationship with her best friend is disintegrating, she goes through so many upheavals, and then on top of all that she’s also given a new English teacher, who tries to engage the class with poetry.  The poetry in Apple and Rain is used really well, and it really helps to see exactly how Apple feels – although her voice is very clear, she’s not always upfront with herself about how she feels, so the poetry gives you that little bit of insight beneath the mask.

The characters

I don’t want to say too much about the characters because learning about them was one of the highlights of the story for me and I don’t want to take that away if you haven’t read it yet!  So just a few quick thoughts from me on each of them.

Apple is great – although she’s only 13 she comes across as more mature.  At the start of the story Apple definitely comes across as younger and more naive – she idolises her mother, she worries about Nana making her look uncool etc but she grows brilliantly throughout the book.  Sure she makes mistakes, but what teenager human doesn’t?!

Rain and Del are both brilliant characters.  I couldn’t decide on an overall favourite character but it’d definitely be one of these two!

Apple’s mother Annie is really well developed.  I loved the fact that she was shown as making mistakes and having flaws without being the villain.  Unfortunately for me this was overshadowed a little by Apple’s issues with her dad, who she seemed determined to see as the bad guy and which I found a little frustrating.

 

 

final thoughtsApple and Rain was a quick, cute, enjoyable read, but it wasn’t the emotional rollercoaster I was expecting.  It can be a little bleak at times, but it’s fundamentally a heart-warming story about families, relationships, and growing up.  I’ve seen so many great reviews for Apple and Rain, and I really enjoyed it, but it wasn’t as deeply emotional as I was expecting, so I liked it but wasn’t overwhelmed unfortunately.

 

Buy it? This is one I’d borrow or pick up on a deal.
In a nutshell: All in all a good read, but didn’t have the impact I was expecting.

 

Other Reviews of Apple and Rain: Fluttering Butterflies | YA Midnight Reads | Reading Lark

One StarOne StarOne Star

Echo Boy (Matt Haig)

Echo Boy (Matt Haig)Echo Boy by Matt Haig
Published by Random House on 06-02-2014
Pages: 398
Format: eARC
Amazon
Goodreads

Audrey's father taught her that to stay human in the modern world, she had to build a moat around herself; a moat of books and music, philosophy and dreams. A moat that makes Audrey different from the echoes: sophisticated, emotionless machines, built to resemble humans and to work for human masters. Daniel is an echo - but he's not like the others. He feels a connection with Audrey; a feeling Daniel knows he was never designed to have, and cannot explain. And when Audrey is placed in terrible danger, he's determined to save her. The Echo Boy is a powerful story about love, loss and what makes us truly human

Plot: ★★★
Characters: ★★★★
Readability: ★★★

In a world dominated by technology, and changed almost beyond recognition by global warming, echoes have almost become part of the landscape.  Enhanced flesh and bone robots built to look and sound like humans, echoes are used for anything from household chores to manual labour.  Finally, after much coaxing, Audrey’s famously anti-echo father agrees that they can have a household echo of their own, to help with Audrey’s schooling mostly.  Audrey has always been a little creeped out by echoes but she has no idea just how much her world is about to be changed by one.

I really really wanted to love Echo Boy. I raved about Matt Haig’s last novel, The Humans, to anyone who would listen and it was one of my favourite books of last year.  Even without knowing Echo Boy was written by Matt Haig though, it was a blurb I would have been unable to resist.  So, a great blurb and an author whose work I’d previously loved – sounds like a guaranteed winner right?  Well…yes and no.

I loved Daniel – an echo who isn’t quite like the other echoes.  He shouldn’t feel anything, he should just obey orders, pretty much mindlessly.  Despite that, he can’t quite defy his need to protect Audrey, to save her from the danger he knows she is in.  Although the bulk of the story is from Audrey’s point of view, we have a few chapters from Daniel’s which really help you get inside his head.

Audrey is a fifteen year old girl, facing grief and fear, forced to question everything she believes.  She’s been raised by a very publicly anti-echo father who believes that eventually there will be an echo uprising.  She is now faced with her uncle, who profits substantially from echoes and believes they are a great thing.  But for the first time, Audrey is now beginning to question her own feelings about echoes, and I loved reading about her struggle to find her own opinion.  Despite the terrible events throughout the book, Audrey is a pretty normal teenager – she makes mistakes, she takes a while to figure things out, she has mood swings and self-confidence issues.  Those little flaws made her feel three-dimensional and easy to relate to.

Whilst I really liked Audrey and Daniel separately, I wasn’t sold on the romance in Echo Boy.  It felt almost like there was no real relationship and then a sudden tipping point, and although I could believe the bond between the two, I didn’t really feel like there was any chemistry.  The two go through a lot in the book, but the relationship almost felt just like a devoted friendship.

From Rosella to the Neanderthals, from Iago to 15, I loved the supporting characters.  Matt Haig managed to create a diverse background of individuals, with their distinct personalities and flaws, each of whom had their own parts to play, rather than feeling like random extras.

The world-building is fantastic in some areas – the effects of climate change for one thing are wonderfully done.  I could perfectly picture Audrey’s stilt-house, Alex Castle’s home, the Resurrection Zone and the protestors.  Whilst those physical elements were clear, I found it difficult to exactly quantify the echoes, and a lot of my complaints are the same as those in Ellie’s review.  Are the echoes androids or cyborgs or something else altogether? As Ellie pointed out, the echoes seem almost identical to humans, but the abuse of echoes is pretty much just accepted.  I guess I’m just not quite sure why, in a world with such advanced technology, the echoes would have been created. It seems as though advanced androids could have been made to do the same job (or near enough) without causing the protests and moral debates that must have cost echo manufacturers money and generally been a PR disaster.  I’m not sure how the first echo designer would have been given ethical approval, and I would have liked to hear more about how and why the echoes were implemented. I expected more of an ethical/moral dilemma based on the blurb, and felt like this could have been explored more, but perhaps the action was focused on more because Echo Boy is YA.

I did enjoy Echo Boy, but I also think it’s a prime example of how hype can do a book a disservice.  For me it was a solid three-star read, so it wasn’t a bad book by any means, it’s just that, because I so loved The Humans, I had such high expectations that I can’t help feeling a little disappointed.  Sadly, this fell into the same category as Pawn – one of those dystopians with a great premise that just fell slightly flat.  Still well worth a read and if a sequel is announced, you can guarantee I’ll be reading it.

Buy it? This is one I’d either buy on a deal or borrow.
In a nutshell: An intriguing premise and great characters, I liked it but found it slightly disappointing.

Other Reviews of Echo Boy: Being Anne | Mab is Mab | Ashley James

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Sea of Shadows (Kelley Armstrong)

Sea of Shadows (Kelley Armstrong)Sea of Shadows by Kelley Armstrong
Series: Age of Legends #1
Published by Harper Collins on 08-04-2014
Genres: Fantasy & Magic, Horror & Ghost Stories, Love & Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 416
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Amazon
Goodreads

In the Forest of the Dead, where the empire’s worst criminals are exiled, twin sisters Moria and Ashyn are charged with a dangerous task. For they are the Keeper and the Seeker, and each year they must quiet the enraged souls of the damned.

Only this year, the souls will not be quieted.

Ambushed and separated by an ancient evil, the sisters’ journey to find each other sends them far from the only home they’ve ever known. Accompanied by a stubborn imperial guard and a dashing condemned thief, the girls cross a once-empty wasteland, now filled with reawakened monsters of legend, as they travel to warn the emperor. But a terrible secret awaits them at court—one that will alter the balance of their world forever.

Plot: ★★★
Characters: ★★★★
Readability: ★★★★

I was really intrigued by Sea of Shadows, because the blurb sounded amazing.  I was a little apprehensive too though, because while I loved Kelley Armstrong’s Women of the Otherworld series to begin with, I’ve yet to make any progress with Haunted because I found it quite slow to begin with.

Moria and Ashyn have grown up knowing that their role is to quiet the souls that live in The Forest of The Dead.  After chaos erupts in their village, Moria and Ashyn are separated, and the two set off on a quest to find each other – and to figure out just what happened to their village.

The premise of Sea of Shadows was amazing, and I absolutely loved the beginning.  I loved the Forest of the Dead, learning about the twins, and the truly eerie atmosphere Armstrong created when the village is found devastated.  I found some of the middle a little slower going, but the story soon picked up again, and overall I really enjoyed the plot.

Sea of Shadows flicks back and forth between Moria and Ashyn’s point of view, but as the twins are so very different in personality, it’s easy to keep track of who’s chapter it is.  Moria is the feisty, short-tempered Keeper.  She scares the children with tales of mythical monsters – and they love her for it.  Ashyn is the quieter, more responsible Seeker.  It’s her job to go into the Forest of the Dead, locate bodies of the dead and put their spirits to rest.  I enjoyed both characters, and the two had a really interesting relationship – not too sugary-sweet, but still fundamentally loyal and good.  I also especially loved the girls’ pets.  Moria’s wildcat Daigo, Ashyn’s hound Toga, were great and the girl’s relationship with their pets made them that much more likeable.

I found Sea of Shadows a little strange genre-wise at first, because the beginning is pretty damn creepy (for me at least, though I admit to being a wimp!), whilst the rest is more of a standard fantasy-adventure.  Although I found the mix a little strange to begin with,  I enjoyed it overall – think a YA fantasy adventure with some creepy elements in the same sort of vein as the  Game of Thrones White Walkers.

My only real complaint with Sea of Shadows was the world-building, which I found a little lacking.  For a long time, I had only the vaguest sense of what Ashyn and Moria were supposed to do, or how.  Whilst some mystery can be a good thing, this went on a little too long so instead of feeling like intionally building intrigue it sometimes felt more like an accident.   While I found the world-building a little disappointing, I enjoyed the plotline and the characters, and I think the series has great premise, so I’ll definitely be checking out book two.

Buy it? This is one worth buying for me, but I’d probably buy it on a deal.
In a nutshell: Great premise and interesting characters – a very promising start to an exciting new series.

Other Reviews of Sea of Shadows: Dark Faerie Tales | My library in the making | The Diary of A Bookworm

One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

Fangirl (Rainbow Rowell)

Fangirl (Rainbow Rowell)Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
Published by Macmillan on 10-09-2013
Genres: Contemporary, Girls & Women, New Adult, Young Adult
Pages: 448
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Amazon
Goodreads

A coming-of-age tale of fan fiction, family and first love.

Cath is a Simon Snow fan.

Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan . . .But for Cath, being a fan is her life — and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving. Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.

Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to. Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words . . . And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.

For Cath, the question is: Can she do this?  Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories?

And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?

Plot: ★★★★
Characters: ★★★★★
Readability: ★★★★★

Cath and Wren are twin sisters, who until now have done everything together, including write hugely successful Simon Snow fanfiction.  Now that they’re going off to college though, Wren wants them to be a little more independent.  She’s slowly become less of a Simon Snow fangirl and she wants to go and have the college experience – and that doesn’t mean sharing a room with her twin.

While Wren bonds with her new roomate Courtney, settles in to the party lifestyle, and generally loves college so far, Cath is finding it a little harder to adjust.  She’s always been the quieter twin, and she’d really rather stay in her room and write than try to figure out the chaos that is the dining hall.  Not to mention that her roomate sort of seems to think she’s a freak, and that Cath is worried about her father, who’s alone for the first time and hasn’t always had the most stable mental health.

“There are other people on the Internet. It’s awesome. You get all the benefits of ‘other people’ without the body odor and the eye contact.”

Do you know how sometimes, a book just clicks with you, and you aren’t quite 100% sure why?  When you love a book, but can’t decide on the exact thing that takes it from a four or five star read to “Keep, recommend, re-read a thousand times” status?

When I first finished Fangirl, it was one of those books, but I think I’ve decided what it is that makes Fangirl a new favourite.  It’s not the plot, the characters, the romance or the writing (all of which I loved) – it’s the combination of those things, and the way that Rowell makes everything so easy to relate to.  I texted countless quotes from this to my partner and friends.  I want to buy everyone close to me a copy and say “THIS. THIS IS HOW MY BRAIN WORKS!”. 

Rainbow Rowell has managed to capture the fears of starting college perfectly.  She manages to include the little things like worrying about proper dining room protocol and the endless train of what ifs – like what if my roomate wants her boyfriend to stay here overnight?  On top of the little things, there are the bigger concerns, like her relationship with her sister, worrying about her father, and keeping up with both her work load and her Simon Snow stories.  And of course, there’s the romance!  Rowell has perfectly encapsulated Cath’s fears, and I think they’re something everyone (even those not as anxious as Cath) can understand.

“I’d rather pour myself into a world I love and understand than try to make something up out of nothing.”

The plot line is basically a coming-of-age story, with Cath adjusting to college, worrying that Wren is maybe adjusting a bit too enthusiastically, the twins’ relationship, their new love interests, and their’ father’s instability.  What really makes the story, is the characters.  Cath and Wren are very relatable, in totally different ways.  Although there will be times when one or the other baffles you (as their behaviour is sometimes pretty opposite, logic says you won’t always love both!), there will also be moments you can completely relate to.  Whether it’s hitting the party lifestyle or holing up in your bedroom, Rowell has captured the sometimes slightly skewed adjustment of first year students.

I freely admit, not only did I love Fangirl, but it also reminded me how much I love fanfiction, and being a crazy fangirl about the things that are important to me.  You know those quotes people always pin about being a geek? (You know the ones, the John Green and the Will Wheaton quotes and so on).  Fangirl is like an entire book that says the same things: that being enthusiastic is okay.  Not just okay in fact, but fun.  That being a geek makes you you, and the important people will understand if you absolutely need to go to a midnight release or spend hours reading every Game of Thrones conspiracy theory or whatever else it is you want to do to celebrate whatever you’re passionate about.

 

“What’s that thing you wrote about Simon once, that his eyes followed Baz ‘like he was the brightest thing in the room, like he cast everything else into shadow’? That’s you. You can’t look away from him.”

While I liked Eleanor and Park, I loved Fangirl. I loved the characters, the slow-building romance, the snippets of Simon Snow stories that made it feel like a real fandom.  I loved that Rowell had included sex, and partying hard, and plagiarism concerns, that the girls didn’t always get along perfectly and that Cath was anxious and geeky without being a pushover.   It’s never explicit, and yet it doesn’t shy away from those real concerns, those things that happen at college.  I think the reason Fangirl stands out, to me, is because it doesn’t feel like a cookie cutter version of something else; it’s unique, and it’s relatable.  It reads like it could literally be a story about one of the bloggers you follow.

Buy it? Definitely one worth buying – a new favourite.
In a nutshell: Fantastically relatable characters, a perfect reflection into starting college and the mind of a fangirl.

Other Reviews of Fangirl: Wondrous Reads | Daisy Chain Book Reviews | Recovering Potter Addict

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Panic (Lauren Oliver)

Panic (Lauren Oliver)Panic by Lauren Oliver
Published by HarperCollins on 04-03-2014
Genres: Friendship, Girls & Women, Love & Romance, Social Issues, Young Adult
Pages: 416
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Amazon
Goodreads

Panic began as so many things do in Carp, a dead-end town of 12,000 people in the middle of nowhere: because it was summer, and there was nothing else to do.

Heather never thought she would compete in Panic, a legendary game played by graduating seniors, where the stakes are high and the payoff is even higher. She’d never thought of herself as fearless, the kind of person who would fight to stand out. But when she finds something, and someone, to fight for, she will discover that she is braver than she ever thought.

Dodge has never been afraid of Panic. His secret will fuel him, and get him all the way through the game, he’s sure of it. But what he doesn't know is that he’s not the only one with a secret. Everyone has something to play for.

For Heather and Dodge, the game will bring new alliances, unexpected revelations, and the possibility of first love for each of them—and the knowledge that sometimes the very things we fear are those we need the most.

Plot: ★★★★
Characters: ★★★★
Readability: ★★★★★

Panic is one of those books that seems to have confused people’s expectations. I’m not sure whether it’s because people had preconceptions of Lauren Oliver, or whether the blurb was too vague, or whether it was a bit like a game of chinese whispers, but I saw so many people who tagged/referred to Panic as dystopian.

Panic is most definitely not dystopian. It’s a contemporary story of a group of teenagers who push themselves to their limits (and beyond) to try and win a jackpot that would change their lives forever.

For Dodge, Panic has always been on the cards. He has a secret, and Panic is a key part of that secret, and coping with it. For Heather, Panic is a spur of the moment decision, fuelled by anger, unhappiness, and a desire to prove herself. For Nat, Panic is about the money. For Bishop, Panic is a risk, one he wishes his friends wouldn’t get themselves into. The teenagers each have their own motivations, but all four are drawn into a world of secrets, drama, and danger.

Panic is of course, about the game, and once the game began, I was hooked. I wanted to know what the next challenge would be, who would go through, who would drop out, and above all, who would win. The game keeps you hooked: it’s the dramatic, high intensity plot-line that has you flicking through pages feverishly, up until 2am dying to know what happens next. Despite that, it’s definitely not all the book is about, and Panic is a truly multi-layered story.

As well as the game itself, there’s also romance, which I enjoyed. Perhaps most brilliant is the way Lauren Oliver has written the characters, the insight into their personalities as they cope with the psychological toll of the game, and the way they grow throughout the story. Whether you like the characters or hate them, I found all four to be three-dimensional, and completely realistic.

I found I had to suspend my disbelief a few times in the story, because in a tiny dead-end town like Carp, where everyone knows everyone’s business, there were an awful lot of secrets. The banned game of Panic is not particularly discreetly played, there are relationships and associations people know nothing about, and a fair amount of law-breaking. In that sense, Panic felt a bit unbelievable, but once I suspended my disbelief, I enjoyed it.

My only real issue with Panic was the ending, which I was slightly disappointed by. Obviously I can’t say much about that without spoilers, so all I’ll say is that I felt it was a little too neat for me. If you’re curious, there’s a spoiler-laden paragraph further down the page!

Buy it? This is one that’s worth buying for me (but probably on a deal).
In a nutshell: Great characters, and a quick, gripping read, but this didn’t live up to Delirium.

Other Reviews of Panic: Miss Page-Turner’s City of Books | Little Birdie Books | It was Lovely Reading You

SPOILER ALERT

I have a few thoughts on the ending that I wanted to share, so don’t read on if you haven’t read the book yet!

Continue reading

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