April 30, 2011

Books Read in April


Update Time!

You can see my running list of books read so far in my Books of 2011 tab in the navigation bar above, so I'll just run a tally here:

Books read this month:17
Books read so far: 67
Out Do Yourself Challenge (2011/2010 ratio by this month): 67/42
Out Do Yourself Challenge so far: 67/121
100+ Challenge: 67/100
Aussie YA Challenge: 4/6
Contemporary Romance: 7/10
Historical Romance Challenge: 6/12
YA Reading Challenge: 29/50

And that's my month in books!

What say you?Alex

April 26, 2011

I'm taking a break

It's just a week but I kind of need it. I sort of got very behind with my reading and my Mum is home so I don't have much time to be on the compy anyway -  she disapproves of everything that is not cleaning the house top to bottom every day. 

So, I'm taking this week off to catch up with my reading, write some posts and follow all the Kate-William Royal Wedding craziness - what can I say? I'm a sucker for all that stuff.

In any case, I'll be back on Monday when she goes back to work and I go back to sleeping till 10 AM and staying up all night, reading.

Ah, the life of the idle unemployed.
Plus side: No bed time or wake up call.
Down side: Being the family disappointment and having to maneuver my sister into buying me books.

But oh, well, you win some, you lose some.

April 24, 2011

At the Movies: The Little Mermaid

Little Mermaid
At 16, Ariel is the youngest daughter of King Triton, the sovereign of the Mermaid Kingdom, and though she loves everything underwater, she can't help to be fascinated by the world above, so she spends her days treasure hunting - scavenging around for all type of human objects - trying to find a connection.

When she fails to show up for a concert -in which she was supposed to perform - she starts to get in trouble with her father, and in a show of rebellion, ends up going to the surface to see a display of fireworks, and that's where she sees Prince Eric for the first time, falling in love just like that. 

After she saves his life, and returns him to his kingdom, Ariel is more determined than ever to be part of his world, so she strikes a bargain with the sea witch Ursula, and sets about claiming the heart of her prince.

The Little Mermaid is one of my favorite movies ever, I'm old enough that I remember when my parents took me to see it as a little kid when it was first released - must have been about five at the time - and I remember how it was the beginning of this wonderful new era of Disney that we are still enjoying.

I think that it is with Ariel that you start to see the change, the heroines - princesses - become more proactive they do the rescuing rather than waiting around for their prince, and Eric! Eric has some lines!!! I don't think any prince had had any significant amount of dialogue since Prince Phillip in Sleeping Beauty, honestly! 

But Eric? Eric is swoony and handsome - I think he started my fixation with tall, dark and handsome - and he's kind. And he actually stops obsessing about the mythical girl he might never find a starts to see the wonderful, mute girl he has in front of him. I love him for it.

I know a lot of purists don't like the changes Disney made to the original story, and well, I've read the Hans Christian Andersen tale and I'm glad they changed it. Andersens' Little Mermaid is tragic and has it's own value because of it, but it would have broken my fragile psyche to have seen that on screen as a five year old. Sorry, but it's the truth!

Anyway, love this movie, I recommend you watch it if you haven't already - or just re-watch it, feel like a little kid again!
Personal Favorite

Love, Alex

April 23, 2011

Book Review: We'll Always Have Summer by Jenny Han

Summer 3
Warning: This review might contain spoilers about The Summer I Turned Pretty and It's Not Summer Without You.

At First Sight: Belly and Jeremiah have been together for two years, even attending the same college. And Belly is sure they will be together forever. And even after Jeremiah makes a mistake that shakes their relationship, she still forgives him and says yes when he asks her to marry him.

No one takes the news well, everyone saying they are too young and that if they want to live together they should just move in together and wait. But the more people oppose to the idea, the more stubborn they are about it.

So they set their minds on an end of summer wedding, at Cousins Beach, and go full steam ahead, even when the cracks in their seemingly perfect relationship begin to show. Jeremiah is always working, hardly helps with the planning, and Belly finds herself practically living with Conrad at the summer house.

Conrad has done his best to stay away from Belly these past two years, but with the end of summer approaching, Conrad can't stop thinking of the choices he made, the choices that pushed everyone to where they are now.

Second Glance: We'll Always Have Summer is the final book in the Summer Series and I was really glad we got to see a little bit of Conrad's POV in this one. I needed it. Because in the past two books I didn't find him appealing - Belly said he was, but I never saw it until I saw things from his perspective. And I was surprised at how touching it was, there were moments when Conrad really got to me, as he went through the reckoning of the things he had set in motion. I even cried a little because of him.

However, I had big problems with Jeremiah and Belly. From the beginning of the series, I found Jeremiah a little whinny, with an inferiority complex and in this book I also found him a little manipulative, and woe-is-me - which hardly makes him hero material in my book.

And Belly... Belly, Belly Belly. She lost me the second she took Jeremiah back after what he did. And for most of the book I kept thinking that she would have GREATLY benefited from a Sassy Gay Friend to jump in and tell her: "What are you doing? What-what-what are you doing? Look at your life. Look at your choices."

To talk about the ending, I'm entering a SPOILER ZONE though I'm not discussing it in detail.

SPOILER ZONE (highlight to see)

I felt cheated out of the ending. 

If I can say something about Jenny Han's writing is that she makes a point of showing rather than telling - is part of what drove me crazy during The Summer I Turned Pretty -  so I got to see all the sad, all the bad choices, all the consequences to the half cooked plans and not well thought out ideas. But when we get to the happy? It happens off the page and is vaguely summarized in two pages, and it felt like such a cop-out. 

I suffered and struggled with Belly, Conrad and Jeremiah for three books and close to 900 pages, and I never got to see them happy.


Bottom Line: I was surprised to discover how involved I was with Belly's story. One of my friends even asked me why I kept reading if it was making me so frustrated and I told her I didn't know. I still don't know, but I think that's part of the power of this story. I didn't love it, sometimes I didn't even like it, but I'm not sorry I read it, I think it's a really good read and I can see how a lot of people will love it.

Favorite Quote: "There are moments in every girl's life that are bigger than we know at the time. When you look back, you say, that was one of those life-changing, fork-in-the-road moments and I didn't even see it coming. I had now Idea. 
And there are the moments that you know are big. That whenever you do next, there will be an impact. Your life could go one of two directions. Do or die. 
This was one of those moments. Big. They didn't get much bigger than this."

"Conrad was first, and I loved him in a way that you can really only do the first time around. It's the kind of love that doesn't know better  and doesn't want to - it's dizzy and foolish and fierce. That kind of love is really a one-time-only thing."

April 22, 2011

Retro Friday (11) - Honor's Splendour by Julie Garwood

Retro Friday
Retro Friday is a weekly meme hosted at Angieville and focuses on reviewing books from the past. This can be an old favorite, an under-the-radar book you think deserves more attention, something woefully out of print, etc. Everyone is welcome to join in at any time! 

This week I chose, Honor's Splendour by Julie Garwood, which was first published in 1991.

HonorsAt First Sight: Lady Madelyne was already planning to escape the home of her stepbrother Baron Louddon when Baron Duncan of Wexton happened to be taken prisoner. Madelyne has always felt like it was her duty to protect those who couldn't protect themselves, so she decides to release the prisoner before setting on her way. What she doesn't know is that Duncan already has a plan in place, even as Madelyne is helping him, his men are gaining access to the fortress and Madelyne is their true target.

Some weeks prior, Louddon raped and nearly killed Duncan's sister Adela, and to he seeks retribution by stealing Louddon's sister. Only that Madelyne is nothing like her brother and, even though she's captive, she starts to steal the hearts of Duncan and his brothers.

Once in his fortress, and unwilling to give her up - particularly after she proves to be a positive influence on his sister - Duncan decided to marry her and keep her forever. Madelyne wasn't entirely happy with the arrangement at first, but she does come to love the Wextons -whom are honorable and care for each other - so she sets about making a home with them.

But her brother will stop at nothing to destroy Duncan, which puts everyone in jeopardy.

Second Glance: I've meant to read Honor's Splendour for the longest time, a lot of friends told me it was something of a classic. So I was very excited to read it, but it didn't quite measure up to my expectations.

Julie Garwood certainly knows how to create engaging characters, her stories are usually both funny and touching, and Honor's Splendour is all that.. but it also reminded me a lot of my favorite Garwood novel - one of my over all favorites - Saving Grace. Now, I know Honor's Splendour was written first, but I read it second and for me it could never quite live up to Saving Grace, particularly because I found the beginning a little slow.

I did love the characters and it was a fun read, it just wasn't all that great for me.

Bottom Line: Though it didn't live up to my expectations, it is an very funny, engaging read, perfect for an afternoon lazing about and reading. 

April 21, 2011

Book Blogger Hop #17

Book Blogger Hop

Book Blogger Hop is a lovely, weekly meme hosted by Jennifer@Crazy for Books. The Book Blogger Hop is a place just for book bloggers and readers to connect and share our love of the written word!  

This is an awesome opportunity for book bloggers to connect with other book lovers, make new friends, support each other, and generally just share our love of books!  It will also give blog readers a chance to find other book blogs to read!  

This week's question:

 "If you find a book you love, do you hunt down other books by the same author?"
 Yeah, I do!

I can't help myself, if I love a book then I definitely go into a reading binge with the author - which sometimes can lead to an overload, but I usually don't mind.

I remember when I first discovered Julia Quinn's Birdgeron books, I picked up number 3 by mistake, and then I had to go back and read 1 and 2 and then went ahead up to book 6, which was the latest. And then I went and read all of her back list in chronological order. I think I had my head filled with JQ for a month or so! But it was fun.

Also, I used to be a lot more methodical about it, now I mix it up a bit more.


April 20, 2011

Book Review: It's Not Summer Without You by Jenny Han

Summer 2
Warning: This review might contains spoilers of The Summer I Turned Pretty.

At First Sight: A lot can happen in a year, and Belly found out the hard way. At the end of last summer, it seemed like things were finally heading in the direction Belly wanted them to: she and Conrad - the boy she had loved all her life - were kind of together, and they even shared one magical night in the winter that had Belly thinking they would be together forever.

But then Susannah - Conrad's mom and Belly's favorite person in the world - lost her battle against cancer and things got bad quick, it was all over, and she and Conrad broke up in a two part debacle that left Belly feeling sorry and ashamed.

So next summer, when Conrad's brother Jeremiah calls and asks Belly for help with finding Conrad, who had taken off from school without a word and was at risk of being expelled, Belly jumps at the chance at making things right.

Their search takes them back to Susannah's summer house in Cousin's Beach, where the three of them have no other choice but face all the things they have been running from: Susannah's memory, their grief, the memories, and their feelings for each other.

Second Glance: It's Not Summer Without You is hard to talk about without giving things away, and I hope I didn't.

I'm going to start with the good stuff and say that I definitely enjoyed this book more than I The Summer I Turned Pretty. This book has a quicker pace and a more defined narrative arch, which was a great improvement for me since I found the first book a little aimless. I think I really got a better sense of Belly this time around, as well as Jeremiah and Conrad - but more on that later.

What still didn't work so much for me was the actual relationships between Conrad, Jeremiah and Belly; I felt they expected a bit much of each other and were constantly letting each other down.  This book infuriated me so much at times, there were just so many misunderstanding and near misses, and it was a little heartbreaking how things happened.

Belly and her not entirely thought out choices frustrated me a little but I also got to know her better that way. Same with Conrad and Jeremiah, but I still remain unimpressed by either of them. Jeremiah seems a little, well both like he's always trying to please and expects people to know and give him what he wants without him actually asking for it most of the time, and then he complains when he doesn't get it. And Conrad, maybe I'm just too practical but not even at sixteen I found moody, unreliable boys attractive.

Bottom Line: I definitely liked It's Not Summer Without You, it was a more dynamic read, and though I wasn't completely happy with where everyone ended up, I'm reading the last book - We'll Always Have Summer - right away, because I'm intrigued to see how it all ends.

Favorite Quote: "I didn’t get home that night until after midnight. We stopped and got dinner at a diner off the highway. I ordered pancakes and french fries, and he paid. When I got home, my mother was so mad. But I didn’t regret it. I never regretted it, not for one second. How do you regret one of the best nights of your entire life? You don’t. You remember every word, every look. Even when it hurts, you still remember."

April 18, 2011

Book Review: Starfish Sisters by J. C. Burke

At First Sight: Three weeks at surfing camp are about the change the lives of four very different girls. 

First there is Georgie, a natural surfer who's starting to feel the pressure of being great at something. Georgie's best friend Kia most of the time hears only the bad and lets it get to her. Micki is another natural talent who can't wait to see if she's good enough to break away from the things that are tying her down. And lastly, there is Ace, the girl who seems to have everything together but really doesn't.

They get stuck together in the Starfish Cabin and form an uneasy bond as they get to know each other and start to show the cracks in the lives, the ones that let you see what's really going on inside. 

As the days go by, they start to connect and let the preconceptions of each other fall away, they laugh and they bicker and are there for each other and fight like sisters do, because that's what the become, in the end.

Second Glance: I loved Starfish Sisters. There is some seriously real heart and soul to this story because for me Georgie, Ace, Micki and Kia felt so real from the moment I started to read their story. What's more, I felt like I had been each one of the girls at one point or another and it felt so powerful to me. 

The story is told by the four girls in alternating chapters - going from Georgie to Kia to Micki to Ace, over and over - and I think that was genius as I really got to know each of them and I could see how everything intertwined. I loved Georgie and Micki right off the bat, but Ace and Kia took a little more warming to. 

Also, I loved how the camp - those three weeks- became such a pivotal moment in these four girls' lives. The camp wasn't the catalyst, they didn't get there and everything changed, it was more of a meeting point where the four of them collided in such a way that made all the problems they were carrying around come to head at that particular time, both because of each other and because it just was time - J.C. Burke did a great job of summarizing what had taken the girls to where they were at the beginning of camp in just the first chapter (or two) that each of the girls narrated.

Another thing I love, is that I so got the story even though I know nothing about surfing - other than what I've picked up watching Blue Crush and Baywatch - because it was written in such a way that it could have been any sport or competitive situation, though I admit I loved the descriptions of the waves and the sea and surf, even if half the time I had no clue what the surf moves were.

Bottom Line: Starfish Sisters is a book that left me aching but happy, it's another of those books that linger and I can't wait to read the sequel, Ocean Pearl. Can't recommend it enough, and it's definitely going into my favorite reads of the year list.

Favorite Quote: "I loved the ocean. I loved how every day it was different. And in a strange way, I loved the fact you couldn't control it, that made it seem like real magic." - Georgie
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April 17, 2011

It's my Blog's Birthday!


I can't believe I've been blogging for 3 years, sometimes it feels like forever and others like I'm just starting. 

I've learned so much, met so many amazing people and read some seriously awesome books, the blog has gone through so many changes! And I'm just so happy that some night back in 2008 I took the plunge and I stuck to it - like I rarely stick to thinks in my life - and now I'm here. 

CupcakeThanks to everyone who has helped me and answered my questions, to the wonderful bloggers that are always inspiring me and tempting me to give it a try to the awesome books they read too, and to everyone who has ever visited the blog and stuck to it and me. 


Now, lets eat some Blogversary cupcakes! :)

April 16, 2011

Book Review: The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han

The Summer I turned Pretty
At First Sight: Belly thinks of her life in terms of summers, because they mean the staying at Cousins Beach with her mom's best friend Susannah and her sons Jeremiah and Conrad. 

Every summer plays pretty much the same: the boys and her brother Steven run around and she runs after them trying to get into their fun, and when she can't, she's happy to hang around with Susannah and her mom.

Over the years, Jeremiah and Conrad have been everything to Belly - her friends, the ones helping her brother flip her into the pool, her unofficial brothers and protectors, her crushes. But Belly has always known that The One for her is Conrad- the older, moody one who sometimes got the others to include her, who once taught her how to dance, the one who sometimes seems not to care at all. 

But the summer of her sixteenth birthday, everything changes. Belly has finally grown into her looks, the kind of looks that make Jeremiah look at her twice, the kind of looks that Conrad tries but can ignore, especially after another, new guy, Cam, notices them too and shifts everything off balance. 

But, in the end, that turns out to be the least of all changes that summer, as something sad is brewing in the background.

Second Glance: I'm going to come right out and say it: For me, this book didn't live up to the hype. I agree that the writing is so good and that really puts you there, in that summer house at a moment when everything is changing... but I also found the narrative rambling and aimless at times. 

I felt like nothing really happened in the book - the first half is just Belly remembering past summers that marked her relationships with both Jeremiah and Conrad - though things did pick up once Cam showed up, but in the end he was rather inconsequential. And when I got to the end, well, I would say it was cliffhanger-y, only that I also felt like nothing had really happened through the story.

For the characters themselves, well, Belly was likable enough if a bit self-absorbed (but nothing out of the ordinary for a teenager), Jeremiah and Conrad were OK, but I didn't swoon over either of them. And the moms seemed to be just there, in the background most of the time, and even if you can tell something is going on, and that you ought to be paying attention to that, Belly doesn't so you don't either, even if you guess what's going on before the end.

Bottom Line: Over all, I think The Summer I Turned Pretty is a very good summer read, but I kept wanting more and I didn't get it. At some points, though, Jenny Han hit these passages and did put me there and it was great, it just didn't happen as often as I hoped for. 

Favorite Quote: "The problem was, I didn't entirely know. I guessed it was mostly the way he was making me feel all mixed-up inside. Being nice to me one minute and cold the next. He made me remember things I didn't want to remember. Not now. Things were really going well with Cam, but every time I thought I Was sure about him, Conrad would look at me a certain way, or twirl me, or call me Bells, and it all went to crap."

April 15, 2011

Retro Friday (10) - Wuthering High by Cara Lockwood

Retro Friday
Retro Friday is a weekly meme hosted at Angieville and focuses on reviewing books from the past. This can be an old favorite, an under-the-radar book you think deserves more attention, something woefully out of print, etc. Everyone is welcome to join in at any time! 

This week I chose Wuthering High by Cara Lockwood. This is the kick off of one of my favorite series ever, the Bard Academy Books, and they are amazing, but very few people seem to know about them, so here we go. 

Wuthering High
At First Sight: Miranda Tate didn't deserve being sent to Bard Academy, at least, she didn't think so. Sure, she had taken her stepmom's credit card for a shopping spree, and she did destroy her father's new car. But still, being shipped off to Shipwreck Island, off the coast of Maine, seems like a bit much - not that she has a choice in the matter.

Once at Bard Academy, Miranda quickly realizes that there is something off at the Academy: the teachers are a bit strange, and never seem to sleep; Miranda's roomate is a Wiccan who claims there is a vampire lose on campus, she has made an enemy out of the school's Queen Bee; there is this guy called Heathcliff who's always showing up when Miranda needs him and who claims comes from a place called "Wuthering Heights"; and she keeps dreaming about a girl who might be Kate Shaw, a former Bard student who disappeared 15 years ago. 

On the other hand, there are a few nice things about Bard, like her new friends Hana and Samir and even her roommate Blade, sometimes. And Ryan Kent, the hottest guy on campus whom used to go to Miranda's old school and is now noticing her. And she has to admit that Heathcliff is nice too - at least to her, even if he insist on calling her Cathy from time to time. 

Yes, there is something odd about Bard, and when the life of her friends and fellow classmates starts to resemble famous literary works of fiction, Miranda starts to find the clues to uncover one of Bard's best kept secrets.

Second Glance: I'm always saying how much I love Wuthering High, and I'm so glad I picked it for a re-read. It's such a smart, funny paranormal book with a fresh take on the 'haunted boarding school' setting. Cara Lockwood's writing flows in such a way that I was amazed at how quickly I was going through the pages - the story has such great rhythm and pace and the 'mystery' plot of the book is well crafted. 

Plus, I really do like Miranda, she's fun and a bit cynic but sweet and smart too. She's not exactly an angel but she's not a bad kid either, even if she is at 'reform school'.

This is one of those books I vividly remember reading for the first time, I couldn't put it down and I was ordering the next two books in the series minutes after I finished this one, it's just that good. And just this week Cara Lockwood announced the BEST News Ever!!!, and said that there will be a Bard Academy 4, for which I SO can't wait.

Bottom Line: Without a doubt Wuthering High (and the Bard Academy in general) is one of my favorite reads ever. I get instantly sucked in each time I read it and I definitely think that more people should read this awesome book.

Favorite Quote
 Looking for one that doesn't spoil1
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