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Book #154 – The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer

11408650This is my last book review from 2014, I think. Since we’re now almost two weeks into January, I’ve decided to not bother review the rest of the books on my list (most of which were chick-lit borrowed from my mother, or re-reads) and start moving on to review the books I’ve read this year (which, admittedly, have been all chick-lit or re-reads, but, uh, that’s different. Somehow).
Thus, my last review from the 2014 list! This was a Christmas present from my little sister, which I read in the space in a day, because I was left all alone on a plane while my two sisters and brother-in-law sat together across the aisle from me. Nobody would sit with me, I had three seats all to myself. Tragic.
Anyways. This book, yes, it was a Christmas present from my sister, although I’ve been meaning to read the trilogy for a while, since I saw Girl in the Pages‘ review of it. Anyways. I got it eventually, and consumed it on that lonely plane ride. The next two will be read before too long, I assure you.

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer – Michelle Hodgkin

Mara Dyer doesn’t think life can get any stranger. She wakes from a coma in hospital with no memory of how she got there or of the bizarre accident that caused the deaths of her best friends and her boyfriend, yet left her mysteriously unharmed. The doctors suggest that starting over in a new city, a new school, would be good for her and just to let the memories gradually come back on their own.

But Mara’s new start is anything but comforting. She sees the faces of her dead friends everywhere, and when she suddenly begins to see other people’s deaths right before they happen, Mara wonders whether she’s going crazy! And if dealing with all this wasn’t enough, Noah Shaw, the most beautiful boy she has ever seen can’t seem to leave her alone… but as her life unravels around her, Mara can’t help but wonder if Noah has another agenda altogether…

I don’t know what it was that drew me to this book – maybe the strange cover, with a floaty girl with no head. Maybe the idea of an amnesiac heroine, which I quite enjoyed in What Alice Forgot, at the start of 2014, or maybe the rave reviews it’s gotten on other blogs. Whatever it was, I knew I wanted to read this, so I was pleased when it showed up under my Christmas tree, and I had it finished before the year was out.

It’s a weird and sort of eerie-feeling atmosphere throughout the book, as the protagonist struggles with PTSD, moving to a new area, settling into a new school, and all of the usual teenage drama which everyone has to deal with. Throughout the book I was wondering whether or not it was a paranormal thriller or a psychological thriller, and you were kept guessing until quite near the end.
The character of Noah wasn’t, for me, a swoon-worthy hero, but perhaps I’m just not romantic enough for that kind of reaction, since I never seem to have it. Oh well. He was certainly interesting, and there was, eventually, justification for why he instantly took a shine to the loner new girl at his school.
Jamie, the best friend, seemed to me like a walking cliché, thrown in for the sake of some diversity, although it was done in such a tongue-in-cheek way that I’d nearly forgive that.

The book doesn’t really conclude, though, rather just setting itself up for the rest of the trilogy. Although a frequently-employed plot device for selling more books, it never fails to get my heckles up, and was the thing which caused me to drop this book from a five-star rating to a four-star. It won’t stop me getting the second and third in the trilogy, though.

Four Stars
****

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Book #72 – Attachments

8909152My third Rainbow Rowell book, this one is aimed more at adults, but is of similarly high quality to her YA offerings.
Rowell, it seems, can do no wrong – she won Best Fiction at the GoodReads choice awards this year for Landline (which is still on my to-read list) and is a generally beloved doyenne of YA realism – on tumblr I regularly see posts which say that Rowell just ‘gets’ what being a teenager is like.
I wasn’t worried, then, when reading Attachments, that I was going to get something trite or untrue to life. I maybe should’ve been, though.

Attachments – Rainbow Rowell

“Hi, I’m the guy who reads your e-mail, and also, I love you . . . ”

Beth Fremont and Jennifer Scribner-Snyder know that somebody is monitoring their work e-mail. (Everybody in the newsroom knows. It’s company policy.) But they can’t quite bring themselves to take it seriously. They go on sending each other endless and endlessly hilarious e-mails, discussing every aspect of their personal lives.

Meanwhile, Lincoln O’Neill can’t believe this is his job now- reading other people’s e-mail. When he applied to be “internet security officer,” he pictured himself building firewalls and crushing hackers- not writing up a report every time a sports reporter forwards a dirty joke.

When Lincoln comes across Beth’s and Jennifer’s messages, he knows he should turn them in. But he can’t help being entertained-and captivated-by their stories.

By the time Lincoln realizes he’s falling for Beth, it’s way too late to introduce himself.

What would he say . . . ?

I am, generally, a huge fan of epistolary novels. I loved Jaclyn Moriarty’s Ashbury/Brookfield books with a passion (still do), and Where Rainbows End remains my favourite of Cecelia Aherne’s books (meaning that I’ll probably end up going to see Love, Rosie at some point soon). Attachments is a sort of semi-epistolary novel, with Jennifer and Beth’s emails interspersed with traditional prose narration, which made for an unusual (although still entertaining) reading experience. I’m sure there are other semi-epistolary novels out there, but none are coming to mind as I think right now, so I’m giving points for originality to Rowell there.

However, the premise of the novel, that Linc is reading Beth and Jennifer’s emails, and falling in love with Beth in the premise, is sadly the most original part of the book, with the rest of it being decidedly lacklustre.
It’s several months since I read this book, and honestly, I’m struggling with details. I recall Lincoln being desperately awkward, and a mildly amusing case of Beth’s emails about Lincoln being read by him, but it certainly wasn’t a book to set ablaze any burning passions for Rowell’s writing.

Nothing wrong with this book, not at all. I quite enjoyed reading it. However, there wasn’t anything really brilliant about it either – it remains one of many women’s lit novels I read this year, and doesn’t do anything to push itself ahead of the pack.

Three Stars
***

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Sarah Dessen Mega-Post

I’ve reviewed two Sarah Dessen books already – here and here – but I’ve read lots of them over the course of the year, so I decided that I’d do one big post to round up the other six I’ve read so far this year.
So!

sarahdessenbooks-1
Book #91 Someone Like You
Book #110 The Truth About Forever
Book #121 This Lullaby
Book #122 Keeping the Moon
Book #124 Dreamland
Book #132 Lock and Key

It’s probably worth noting at this point that I’ve really enjoyed all of Sarah Dessen’s books so far (I’ve two more to read, yet, but I’m sure they’ll be similarly strong), so it’s sort of a given that all of the books in this post are getting thumbs ups (thumb ups? Thumbs up?) from me!

Someone Like You

Halley has always followed in the wake of her best friend, Scarlett. But when Scarlett learns that her boyfriend has been killed in a motorcycle accident, and that she’s carrying his baby, she was devastated. For the first time ever, Scarlett really needs Halley. Their friendship may bend under the weight, but it’ll never break–because a true friendship is a promise you keep forever.

This is, as far as I’m aware, one of Dessen’s earlier books. It’s certainly a stronger offering than That Summer, but it hasn’t quite reached the peaks of later offerings. Halley takes center stage this year, supporting her best friend Scarlett, who’s dealing with an unexpected pregnancy, and developing a relationship with bad boy Macon (how is that pronounced, though? Like Bacon?), while struggling against her overbearing mother. Characterisation of a teenage girl was spot-on here, as Halley deals with a relationship which might not be as perfect as it seems in the beginning. Lovely book, some really good spots, and a pretty good midpoint between That Summer’s dullness and the strength of later offerings.
3.5 stars, but I can’t do that, so it got bumped to four!
****

The Truth About Forever

A long, hot summer…
That’s what Macy has to look forward to while her boyfriend, Jason, is away at Brain Camp. Days will be spent at a boring job in the library, evenings will be filled with vocabulary drills for the SATs, and spare time will be passed with her mother, the two of them sharing a silent grief at the traumatic loss of Macy’s father.
But sometimes, unexpected things can happen—things such as the catering job at Wish, with its fun-loving, chaotic crew. Or her sister’s project of renovating the neglected beach house, awakening long-buried memories. Things such as meeting Wes, a boy with a past, a taste for Truth-telling, and an amazing artistic talent, the kind of boy who could turn any girl’s world upside down. As Macy ventures out of her shell, she begins to wonder, Is it really better to be safe than sorry?

Very strong offering, showing Macy’s development as she tries to deal with the grief of losing her father and her mother’s subsequent retreating into her shell, leaving Macy feeling very alone. Combined with her super-brain boyfriend being away for the summer, she has a lot to gain from her new catering job and the eclectic collection of workers she meets there. Even characters whose vocabulary consists of no more than three lines – donneven! – are fleshed out as Macy begins to open up and admit how deeply losing her father has hurt her.
Four Stars
****

This Lullaby

When it comes to relationships, Remy doesn’t mess around. After all, she’s learned all there is to know from her mother, who’s currently working on husband number five. But there’s something about Dexter that seems to defy all of Remy’s rules. He certainly doesn’t seem like Mr. Right. For some reason, however, Remy just can’t seem to shake him. Could it be that Remy’s starting to understand what those love songs are all about?

Remy has it all figured out – she’s in the interim between high school and college and come the end of the summer she’ll go off to college without any ties left behind, a fresh start and no lingering ties holding her back. But her cold and sometimes standoffish method of dealing with people is turned upside down by Dexter and his rag-tag band of misfits who rock into town at the start of the summer, as Remy learns that you can’t cut the ties which bind you as easily as you might think. This is a cute one, where Remy, who has it all figured out, develops something of a heart in the eight weeks of summer.
Four Stars
****

Keeping the Moon

Colie expects the worst when she’s sent to spend the summer with her eccentric aunt Mira while her mother, queen of the television infomercial, tours Europe. Always an outcast — first for being fat and then for being “easy” — Colie has no friends at home and doesn’t expect to find any in Colby, North Carolina. But then she lands a job at the Last Chance Cafe and meets fellow waitresses Morgan and Isabel, best friends with a loving yet volatile relationship. Wacky yet wise, Morgan and Isabel help Colie see herself in a new way and realize the potential that has been there all along

One of Dessen’s earlier offerings, while there’s nothing wrong with Colie’s story of a former fat girl realising how beautiful she is and how much she has to offer, with the aid of a rag-tag bunch of people she met at her new job, it’s just lacking the power of later offerings.
Three Stars
***

Dreamland

Wake up, Caitlin

Ever since she started going out with Rogerson Biscoe, Caitlin seems to have fallen into a semiconscious dreamland where nothing is quite real. Rogerson is different from anyone Caitlin has ever known. He’s magnetic. He’s compelling. He’s dangerous. Being with him makes Caitlin forget about everything else–her missing sister, her withdrawn mother, her lackluster life. But what happens when being with Rogerson becomes a larger problem than being without him?

Caitlin (nice Irish name there, I approve) has always lived in the shadow of her sister, but when her model sibling ups and runs away from home, Caitlin is left adrift and seeks solace in the arms of bad boy Rogerson Biscoe. But things are sometimes exactly as they seem, and Rogerson is a bad boy through and through. The trouble is, Caitlin’s in too deep before she realises it, and leaving could be far harder than staying.
Dreamland is deep and complex and satisfying, painting a portrait of how people can end up in a situation that’s far beyond their control without realising how badly they could get hurt. Caitlin is interesting and relatable, and her relationship with Rogerson is beautifully portrayed so it’s not hard to see how she got to where she ended up. I really enjoyed this book, although it was hard going at times, and would rank it very highly among Dessen’s offerings.
Four Stars
****

Lock and Key

Ruby, where is your mother?
Ruby knows that the game is up. For the past few months, she’s been on her own in the yellow house, managing somehow, knowing that her mother will probably never return.

That’s how she comes to live with Cora, the sister she hasn’t seen in ten years, and Cora’s husband Jamie, whose down-to-earth demeanor makes it hard for Ruby to believe he founded the most popular networking Web site around. A luxurious house, fancy private school, a new wardrobe, the promise of college and a future; it’s a dream come true. So why is Ruby such a reluctant Cinderella, wary and defensive? And why is Nate, the genial boy next door with some secrets of his own, unable to accept the help that Ruby is just learning to give?

Best-selling author Sarah Dessen explores the heart of a gutsy, complex girl dealing with unforeseen circumstances and learning to trust again.

For once, in this book, Sarah Dessen turns her normal dynamic of girl meets boy, boy saves girl, on its head, and Ruby very much saves herself – in learning to trust her sister and brother-in-law and settling into the opportunities she’s been handed, while also accepting the damage that her mother has done, Ruby puts herself on the right track, and is certainly not saved by a knight in shining armour. I found this really refreshing especially since the guy who would be the knight is actually in need of a little saving himself. This book was really powerful, in showing Ruby’s fractured relationship with her sister and mother, and also in showing how the issues between Nate and Ruby develop over the course of the book. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and it might be my favourite Dessen so far, although it’s vying for top spot with Just Listen.
Four Stars
****

I’ve read six Sarah Dessen books now, and I really enjoy the way she writes sisterly relationships. I was surprised to find out that she’s actually an only child, as a lot of what she writes rings true for me – and I would know, having two sisters. I have the same sort of feelings about To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before – the interpersonal relationships, especially between family members, are a really strong part of Dessen’s writing. I’m thoroughly looking forward to the last two Dessen books I have to read (and as I read more and more, I’m spotting more of the nods to different characters in later books, e.g. Annabel from Just Listen’s radio show is mentioned in another book (maybe Lock and Key), Scarlet from Someone Like You is a love interest for a minor character in This Lullaby, Rogerson from Dreamland is mentioned in Lock and Key as having been in prison previously) and will be sorely disappointed to have to wait like everyone else for her newest arrival next year.

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Book #118 – Panic

21081556I first read Lauren Oliver a good few years ago, picking up Before I Fall (or maybe Sinéad picked it up, I don’t recall…) in a bookshop and thoroughly enjoying it. The Delirium trilogy followed not long after, and while I enjoyed them all (Requiem reviewed here), I didn’t think that the dystopian trilogy really lived up to how good Before I Fall was.
Panic, then, is a return to modern-day, to a quiet and hot small town in America, and a bunch of bored teenagers participating in a high-stakes game which has the potential to change everything for them.

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.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, racing through it on a plane journey home, I think, before handing it over to Sinéad, as she has the rest of the Olivers in her bookcase.

It was strange, I have to admit, to read an Oliver book which was completely, totally realistic – the dystopian Delirium trilogy, of course, is full of technological advances, Before I Fall has the surreal repetition of the same day several times, and even Rooms, Oliver’s recently-released Adult novel, is a ghost story. Half the time, while I was reading this book, I was expecting something other than gritty realism.
That’s not a disadvantage, though. Oliver writes realism very well – the heart of her books are the human interactions, which remain the same regardless of whether they’re in nowhere town Carp or Appalachia, many years from now.
The characters are the best thing about Panic – you really feel like you’re getting to know these four teenagers, in tat in-between time after high School has finished, but before college starts, in a hot and hazy summer, playing the game of their lives to win big, and get away from this backwards town.

The romance, too, in Panic felt lightly handled, not overdone, and just the right kind of blind ignorance that teenagers have (and adults, too) about how others feel about them. I thoroughly enjoyed Panic. It’s definitely, in my opinion, the second-best of Oliver’s books, ranking above Delirium, but below Before I Fall which, as you may be able to tell from my earlier review, I think is a masterpiece.

I had only a few small complaints about Panic, one being a twist which was obvious from the beginning, and the other being the sheer unlikelihood of certain events coming to pass in the way they did, but in fiction, you have to suspend disbelief sometimes. Nothing massive, and certainly not enough to mar my enjoyment of the book, or stop me from recommending it quite happily.
The Goodreads reviews complain about Panic’s blurb reading like The Hunger Games. It’s not. It’s totally different, and not better or worse, but certainly don’t go into this book expecting the Hunger Games, because you’re doing a disservice to this book, which stands admirably on its own merits.

Four Stars
****

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Book #42 – Pictures of Lily

81bTjxSHP8L._SL1234_I’m actually not sure at all where this book came from. I suspect it was being given away free at some point, because I found it in my iBooks with no recollection of actually having bought it, which is probably just as well, because I would have immensely regretted any money I spent on it.

Pictures of Lily – Paige Toon

‘Will you marry me?’ I think of you, then. I think of you every day. But usually in the quietest part of the morning, or the darkest part of the night. Not when my boyfriend of two years has just proposed. I look up at Richard with his hopeful eyes. ‘Lily?’ he prompts. It’s been ten years, but it feels like only yesterday that you left. How can I say yes to Richard with all my heart when most of it has always belonged to you? I take a deep breath and will myself to speak…Ten years ago when Lily was just sixteen, she fell in love with someone she really shouldn’t have fallen in love with. Now, living in Sydney and engaged to another man, she can’t forget the one that got away. Then her past comes back to haunt her, and she has to make a decision that will break her heart – and the heart of at least one of the men who love her.

From the blurb of this book, it’s pretty easy to see where this book is going to go. Whatever happened when she was sixteen, Lily fell in love, but it was totally inappropriate and wrong because she was sixteen and he was a lot older (I’m talking like, twelve years older, if I recall correctly). But it’s okay, because she’s never gotten over a teenage infatuation, and when he shows up again ten years later, it’s then fine for them to start a relationship based on her teenaged infatuation with a man who was friends with her stepfather. It’s not in any way strange that she breaks off an engagement to a guy on the basis of a teenaged love affair that never was, and if it had been, it would have been strange, abusive, and an awful abuse of power on the part of the guy.

No, no, it was fine then, and now that she’s grown up, the power dynamic wouldn’t be at all the same.

I just didn’t enjoy this book at all, it was full of all sorts of weird power dynamics and strange relationships, and not ones which were thought-provoking, but more just provocative for the sake of it. I do not recommend at all.

Two stars
**

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Book #66 – Eleanor & Park

9781409157250Darling of Tumblr and widely praised for her accurate portrayal of what it is to be a teen, this was not the first Rainbow Rowell book I read. Having been very so-so on Fangirl, I decided to give Rowell another go, as Eleanor & Park was consistently popping up in my tumblr feed with rave reviews, and, to be honest, I was glad I did.

Eleanor & Park – Rainbow Rowell

Two misfits.
One extraordinary love.

Eleanor… Red hair, wrong clothes. Standing behind him until he turns his head. Lying beside him until he wakes up. Making everyone else seem drabber and flatter and never good enough…Eleanor.

Park… He knows she’ll love a song before he plays it for her. He laughs at her jokes before she ever gets to the punch line. There’s a place on his chest, just below his throat, that makes her want to keep promises…Park.

Set over the course of one school year, this is the story of two star-crossed sixteen-year-olds—smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try.

Eleanor & Park is a first love story set in 1986 between awkward misfit Eleanor and quiet comic book nerd Park. It’s a tender and poignant first love story, where two teenagers bond over comic books and mix tapes. Little snatches of what it was like to be a teenager in the eighties were wonderful – things like the batteries running out on your walkman just aren’t an issue for modern teenagers, but the retro feel just added to the sweetness of the story.

Eleanor & Park is no insta-love story – they bond slowly, and awkwardly, and face multiple issues along the way. At only 16 each, they’re still navigating the rocky waters of adolescence, but trying desperately to make it easier for each other.
Rowell really captured the intense feelings of falling in love for the first time, and really got inside the heads of both characters as they faced issues with both his and her families, in school and out of school, and all the while fell deeper and deeper in love with each other.
It’s also far deeper and more poignant than I thought it would be, and deals with some pretty heavy issues. The climax of the book is almost inevitable, but it still hurts.

My only disappointment with this book was that it lacked just a little of the emotional punch for me. Perhaps, though, I’m just stone-hearted, as I know my reaction is the complete opposite to most of what I’ve seen on Tumblr.

Nonetheless, an achingly sweet, sad, and beautiful teenage love story.

Four Stars
****

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Book #71 – The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight

10798416I got this for Sinéad for her birthday, mostly because it has the word statistical in the title, and she’s a giant maths nerd. I read it a few weeks ago, and found it to be a very middling coming of age story, coupled with a hefty dollop of romance (as most coming of age stories are.)

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight – Jennifer E. Smith

Who would have guessed that four minutes could change everything?

Today should be one of the worst days of seventeen-year-old Hadley Sullivan’s life. Having missed her flight, she’s stuck at JFK airport and late to her father’s second wedding, which is taking place in London and involves a soon-to-be stepmother Hadley’s never even met. Then she meets the perfect boy in the airport’s cramped waiting area. His name is Oliver, he’s British, and he’s sitting in her row.

A long night on the plane passes in the blink of an eye, and Hadley and Oliver lose track of each other in the airport chaos upon arrival. Can fate intervene to bring them together once more?

Quirks of timing play out in this romantic and cinematic novel about family connections, second chances, and first loves. Set over a twenty-four-hour-period, Hadley and Oliver’s story will make you believe that true love finds you when you’re least expecting it.

There’s a hefty dose of unrealism in this book. Naturally, when believing that Hadley would meet her one true love on a plane, because she missed the previous plane by four minutes, and therefore had several hours sitting next to a beautiful British boy named Oliver, you have to understand that it’s really not statistically likely at all. But luckily, despite the title, there was more than just instalove between Oliver and Hadley – there was also the wedding of her father to get to.
Much like in That Summer, which I reviewed yesterday, there’s not much thought given to the father’s new wife, just that she exists. Luckily, this book does a much better job of fleshing out the story behind their wedding, her father’s motivations, and indeed the slow journey she’s taken to this point, and whether or not she’ll actually forgive him. That was probably the best part of the book, much more than the romance between Hadley and Oliver. Another hefty dose of unrealism was required there as they both took jaunts across London in order to find each other on days when they really both should’ve been totally preoccupied with major family events.

I have a few issues with Oliver and Hadley – firstly that it’s notable that he’s British – like a British boy is some exotic fish which must be collected. Trust me, I’ve lived in England for ten years now, and English boys are not that great. Scottish boys, though, that’s a different story…
Furthermore, Oliver is in college, and Hadley is in school (by college, I mean Uni, by the way). I just can’t get with that kind of partnership – it’s weird and creepy when they’re in such different stages of life. But, since the book only takes place over one day, that never really is addressed as an issue, so I guess they’ll work it out once they get back to their American hearts and flowers romance.

Lastly, there was not enough statistics in the book – for a title like that, there was really a disappointingly low number of references to anything even resembling anything that could conceivably be called statistics or probability – plus, really, several of the events in the book were laughably unlikely. Again with the unreality.

As a whole, though, it’s a light and fluffy book which was perfect to read on a train and while away a few hours without taxing my brain or accidentally bursting into tears.

Three Stars
***

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Books #83 & 90 – After the Wedding/One Summer

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13553785I made a booboo with these books – I read them the wrong way around. One Summer takes place two years before After the Wedding, on the same small island of Roone, off the west coast of Ireland, and with largely the same cast of characters. That meant that I knew most of the major plot points of One Summer before I even picked the book up. Happily, though, that didn’t detract from my enjoyment of it.

One Summer – Roisin Meaney
After the Wedding – Roisin Meaney

On Roone, an island off the west coast of Ireland, stands a stone cottage by the edge of the sea. The locals are convinced that it brings luck to those who live there and Nell, its current owner, is certain there’s something to it. After all, it drew her back to the island from Dublin and it brought her Tim, her fiancé, whom she’s set to marry in a few short months.
So when Nell decides to rent out the cottage during the summer to raise money for her wedding, deep down she hopes that it will work its magic and attract the right tenants to her home.
But as the summer unfolds and Nell’s carefully-laid plans for her wedding start to go awry, she begins to question her decision to let out her beloved cottage.
As the arrival of each of the tenants brings about unexpected change to the lives of the islanders, Nell is forced to face some home truths about herself and answer one increasingly burning question . . .
One thing’s for sure, it’s a summer on the island that nobody will ever forget.

I really enjoyed both these books. They were nice, fluffy, summery reads about a little community of Irish people living off the west coast of Ireland on an island with a little bit of magic in everything that happens there. Both books have a large cast of characters with a lot of overlap between the two.
There’s not much to complain about with Meaney’s writing – it’s nice and easy to read, her characterisation is good and fleshed out, if at times a little predictable. The motivations are believable, and the little touch of Roone magic adds a little something to everything she writes.
The first book, One Summer, is divided into time periods – at first, months, then when it comes to summer, into the two-week chunks of the lodgers. While it makes sense for the story progression, I found that it made the book a little hard to read at times, and it felt like it needed breaking up into smaller chunks.
I also don’t like Meaney’s constant POV-switching, where you can’t always tell who is talking to whom (although at times that’s deliberate). Two little jarring things which make two otherwise very pleasant and enjoyable books just that little bit less.

Still, though, decent marks for each.
One Summer – Three Stars ***
After the Wedding – Four Stars ****

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Book #69 – To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

15749186Sinéad suggested I try this book. And I suspect she got the recommendation from Tumblr, because that’s where she finds lots of things. I love the cover of this book – it’s really simple, but really pretty, and the handwritten title is evocative of the mood of the book in general.

So!

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before – Jenny Han

This is a YA book about Lara Jean, who’s 16, and just about to enter her junior year. The middle of three girls, Lara Jean has always written love letters to the boys she loves – once she’s finished with them, that is, she writes all her feelings about them in a letter on her good, thick writing paper, seals them, addresses them, and then puts them in the hatbox her mother gave her, under her bed, never to be sent. Until, that is, the hatbox disappears one day, and her letters get sent.  The recipients of the letters then begin to come forwards, including her first kiss, the boy from summer camp and, horror of horrors, her sister’s ex-boyfriend. But dealing with her feelings instead of writing them down and forgetting about them may lead to some unexpected results.

So! Romance-wise, this was a typical, possibly a little dull, teen romance, with confusion, stolen kisses, ex-boyfriends, ex-girlfriends, intrigue, lies, and a hottub. There was nothing objectionable about it, but nothing spectacular either. Yet I’d rate this book pretty highly. Why is that?

Well, it’s actually because of Lara Jean’s relationship with her sisters. She’s the middle of three girls, and I am too (although I have a brother as well), so she really resonated with me. Throughout the book there are loads of lovely descriptions of how her relationship with her sisters works, from her smartass younger sister directing when she drives (errr… yes, I need Sinéad to navigate for me) to her lies that everything is fine so as not to worry her older sister, even as far as little things like bribing her sister with cookies to get help with styling hair and her younger sister’s opinion on boys being very important. The relationship between the three Song girls really resonated with me, far more than the romantic entanglements (and they’re very entangled) between Lara Jean, her sister Margot, Margot’s ex Josh, Lara Jean’s first kiss Peter, and Peter’s ex Gen (who also happens to be Lara Jean’s ex-best-friend).

I really, thoroughly enjoyed this book. It wasn’t particularly deep, or thrilling, or in any way heart-rending, but it was cute, sweet, and loving, and did a wonderful job of depicting the relationship between three sisters.
One thing which irritated me a little was that it was written in present tense – lots of books which I’ve read lately are, but it grates a little on my nerves. Not enough to deduct a star though, just something worth noting.

It wasn’t quite all wrapped up neatly in the end, but I was satisfied with the ending. There have been a few reviews which I read on GoodReads who bemoaned the fact that it’s not a perfectly wrapped up ending. That’s in part due to the fact that there’s a sequel coming in 2015, called P.S. I Still Love You, and I’ll certainly pick that one up, too. However, I think the book is strong enough to stand on its own as well – there’s a definite sense of closure at the end of the book, while also retaining the possibility of future romances. And, let’s face it, isn’t that how most teenagers live their lives?

Four Stars
****

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Books #23, #33 & #34: Matched Trilogy

9780525426264_1These books I have seen pop up many times in recommended lists – it’s always ‘if you liked Delirium, try these!’, so eventually I did try them, and here is my opinion.

They’re alright. They’re not the worst books I’ve ever read, but they’re very much focussed on the love story (which I knew they would be) and they lack a lot of the depth which other dystopian books build on. Plus, the whole premise of the books is the love triangle, which really, really rankles with me.

Anyways. On to the review proper!

Matched – Ally Condie
Crossed – Ally Condie
Reached – Ally Condie

Cassia has always trusted the Society to make the right choices for her: what to read, what to watch, what to believe. So when Xander’s face appears on-screen at her Matching ceremony, Cassia knows with complete certainty that he is her ideal mate… until she sees Ky Markham’s face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black.

The Society tells her it’s a glitch, a rare malfunction, and that she should focus on the happy life she’s destined to lead with Xander. But Cassia can’t stop thinking about Ky, and as they slowly fall in love, Cassia begins to doubt the Society’s infallibility and is faced with an impossible choice: between Xander and Ky, between the only life she’s known and a path that no one else has dared to follow”

^ That’s the blurb from Matched, the first in the trilogy. As you can see, it sets up the love triangle from the very beginning. Cassia is your typical female YA protagonist – smart, pretty, fit, reliable: she’s your typical Mary Sue. I know she has one flaw (they always do) but I can’t remember what it is – that’s probably a sign of how forgettable a character she is.

The Matched trilogy is a good but not a great example of dystopia. I did enjoy reading it – I need something to entertain me on the train to work – but I wasn’t completely hooked on it the way I have been with other series (Gone, for example, is destroying my life, in a good way) and now that a few months have passed since I read it, I’m finding it very hard to recall details.

Matched is a forgettable example, jumping on a bandwagon of a currently popular genre – I don’t think it’s a series which will stand the test of time. For the hopeless romantics, who love to see couples who struggle with nothing more than being near each other at all times, surmounting impossible odds to make their love survive, this trilogy is probably right up your avenue – I was just expecting a little more than that.

(I’ve seen a few comments that the whole idea of The Society is lifted directly from Lois Lowry’s The Giver quartet, but I can’t really comment on that as I haven’t read The Giver. If true, though, it makes this book all the more disappointing – the totalitarianism of The Society was one of the only interesting things in it)

Three stars
***

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