26 December 2010

Review: REVOLUTION by Jennifer Donnelly ****

BROOKLYN: Andi Alpers is on the edge. She’s angry at her father for leaving, angry at her mother for not being able to cope, and heartbroken by the loss of her younger brother, Truman. Rage and grief are destroying her. And she’s about to be expelled from Brooklyn Heights’ most prestigious private school when her father intervenes. Now Andi must accompany him to Paris for winter break.

PARIS: Alexandrine Paradis lived over two centuries ago. She dreamed of making her mark on the Paris stage, but a fateful encounter with a doomed prince of France cast her in a tragic role she didn’t want—and couldn’t escape.

Two girls, two centuries apart. One never knowing the other. But when Andi finds Alexandrine’s diary, she recognizes something in her words and is moved to the point of obsession. There’s comfort and distraction for Andi in the journal’s antique pages—until, on a midnight journey through the catacombs of Paris, Alexandrine’s words transcend paper and time, and the past becomes suddenly, terrifyingly present.
Revolution is the story of a teen girl called Andi, who has suffered the devastating loss of her younger brother Truman in a tragic accident, for which she blames herself. She struggles with her feelings of guilt and grief, and thus does some stupid things to cope with the pain. However, before she completely falls apart, her father takes her with him to Paris on his trip on which he is to investigate if the heart in the jar really belonged to Louis XVII, the young king who was locked up in a tower during the Revolution since some people speculate that Louis was somehow saved.

So our Andi finds herself in Paris and is determined to meet her father's conditions in order for him to let her go home asap. While staying at her dad friend's, she comes across a diary from the Frech Revolution days that was kept by Alexandrine, a young girl who went from a street performer to living in the castle and entertaining Louis XVII. When his parents were killed and he was imprisoned, she went around the town setting off fireworks because she knew he was watching and that they made him smile. She was on a mission to save Louis from the tower and Andi goes completely engrossed in her diary entries, hoping that she was successful ... But was she?
Andi hates staying in Paris at first, but she soon makes some friends and does some interesting research for her thesis on Amadé Malherbeau, a musician from the late 18th century. Just when she's almost ready to go back home, something interesting happens to her during a late-night visit to the catacombs ...

But enough about the plot, before I give too much away - let's focus on writing next. I thought the novel was beautifully written. I liked Andi's snarky narrative voice and I felt that both 18th century and modern day Paris were so vividly described that I easily being there - I just got sucked into the world described in the novel. The author must have done an awful lot of reserach on the French Revolution - I mean, I'm no expert on the subject, but it all seemed very believable to me. The author sure didn't sugarcoat anything so certain scenes might not be for the squeamish - let's just say that Paris was quite nasty and smelly back then and that the gruesome guillotine scenes made me a bit queasy, heh. But overall reading about the French Revolution was a rather fascinating experience.

As I said, the novel is written from Andi's perspective and I really enjoyed her narrative. As I read what happened on that fateful day, my heart just broke for her and for her poor little brother. Her grief was so strong that her pain was tangible so I wasn't at all surprised by all the stupid things she did to cope because what happened on that day was really too horrible to bear. Apart from prescription pills etc., Andi also copes with the help of music, which is very important to her and she feels it deeply. Music is another important topic that's really well researched.

All in all, I was rather impressed by this book, although not completely blown away. The historical part was far more interesting than I expected, even though this is not my favourite period to read about. The time travelling bit will require you to suspend your disbelief, but other than that, this novel was very realistic and well written, plus the cover's fantastic! Ms Donnelly is certainly a superb author and I look forward to reading her other three novels (Tea Rose, Winter Rose & Northern Light), all of which I already own, I just have to get around to finally reading them and they all sound great!

overall rating:
plot: 4/5 | writing: 5/5 | characters: 5/5 | cover: 5/5

22 December 2010

Waiting On Wednesday: The Time-Travelling Fashionista

Goodness gracious, it's been a while, eh?! :( Due to my hectic life, I just can't seem to muster enough time or energy to be creative or productive online and I hate it. I have a few reviews drafted, but they're just not finished yet so I have to work on that ... Meanwhile, please enjoy this latest installment of WOW - it's for a book that I've been looking forward to for ages, and now that I've finally seen the cover and the summary, I'm even more excited about it! How amazing does this look & sound?! :)

by Bianca Turetsky
[5 April 2011]
When Louise Lambert receives a mysterious invitation to a traveling vintage fashion sale in the mail, her normal life in suburban Connecticut is magically transformed into a time traveling adventure.

After a brief encounter with two witchy salesladies and donning an evening gown that once belonged to a beautiful silent film star, Louise suddenly finds herself onboard a luxurious cruise ship in 1912. As Alice Baxter, the silent film star, Louise enjoys her access to an extensive closet of gorgeous vintage gowns and begins to get a feel for the challenges and the glamour of life during this decadent era. Until she realizes that she's not just on any ship -- she's on the Titanic!

Will Louise be able to save herself and change the course of history, or are she and her film star alter ego, destined to go down with a sinking ship in the most infamous sea disaster of the 20th century?

12 December 2010

In My Mailbox #65

Here are the books I got in the past week - all purchased by me:

MATCHED by Ally Condie - My UK paperback finally arrived and I look forward to reading it after hearing SO many good things about it!
PRETTY LITTLE LIARS by Sara Sheppard - I just couldn't resist this, it's sucking me in! I haven't read the series or watched a single episode of the TV show, but I totally think I should! Now if only I had the time, le sigh ...
ONE DAY by David Nicholls - I've been urged to read this so I got myself a copy. I hate the UK orange cover so I got myself a US edition, which looked pink & black online, which is lovely, buuuut instead the cover text is actually in hot pink & hot orange - whoever decided to mix those two colours must've been out of their goddamn mind as it looks horrible, ew.
SINCE YOU'VE BEEN GONE by Emma Heatherington - Been wanting to have a copy of this forever so this felt like a good time to order it!
SO WHAT IF I'M BROKEN by Anna McPartlin - I love love love the title and the cover of this one! I was offered the UK version (called The One I Love) for review, but turned it down because I just adore this cover & title. Wonderful and I just hope the plot is equally good, but from what I've heard it shouldn't disappoint.

I'm really happy with my book haul and I hope you all got awesome books too! :)

8 December 2010

Waiting On Wednesday: New Amy Huberman!!!

You might remember that I read this book called Hello, Heartbreak a while ago that I *really* enjoyed and I was over the moon when I learned that the author, Amy Huberman, has a new book coming out in 2011!!! Are you excited? I sure as hell am!

I'm afraid I find the cover a bit meh, but I do appreciate the ice skates. I'm really liking the title though and the plot sounds great - gimme gimme gimme! :D

by Amy Huberman
[9 June 2011]

The eagerly awaited funny, stylish and romantic follow-up to the No 1 bestselling Hello, Heartbreak

When you put your heart into it, anything's possible …

Annie has cornered the market in quirky style, but her love of all things fashion is not exactly fulfilled by her job: styling well-to-do ladies who have way more money than fashion sense.

At least her love-life is perky, although she's not getting misty-eyed at the idea of walking down the aisle. Which is more than a bit of a problem when she sees her boyfriend about to go down on one knee.

Into her muddled-up life comes silver-haired Sylvia - vintage clothing queen, ex-Hollywood costume lady and one hell of a woman. Sylvia has seen it all and done it all. She tells Annie that the secret of happiness is to discover your heart wish. Now, if only Annie can work out what her heart's greatest wish really is …

6 December 2010

Review: MEN I'VE LOVED BEFORE by Adele Parks ****

How do you know when you’ve met the one you’re meant to be with?
Neil and Nat are a match made in heaven. They hate marmite and the opera. They love smelly cheese and the missionary position. And they both absolutely do not want children.
At least that’s what Nat thought. But now Neil seems to have softened to the prospect of dirty nappies and sleepless nights, and he’s practically begging her for a baby. Nat, however, has no intention of swapping her high-flying career for a life of endless self-sacrifice. As the cracks start to show, Nat wonders if Neil really is the man of her dreams. Or is it possible that someone from her past could actually be ‘the one’?
Nat’s little black book, filled with the names and addresses of previous lovers, could hold the answers she’s looking for. Or it could be a one-way ticket to all kinds of trouble. And is the perfect match too much to ask for?
This book hit so close to home that it was actually getting a bit scary, heh. Based on the description, I knew I'd be able to relate to it, but once I started reading it, it all sounded almost too familiar, especially the thoughts and the feelings and fears of Nat, the main character. As you can see above, the main twist of this story is that Nat and Neil, a happily married couple, have both agreed that do NOT want children, period. However, that changes overnight when Neil realizes that he actually wants to have children - he longs to become a father so his kids could have the same great childhood he had. So he goes all soft and mushy and mumbles: "Let's make babies." Nat thought he said, "Let's make love, baby," so you can imagine her shock when she learns what he really meant - yeah, EEK!

Obviously, this is a HUGE deal breaker in a relationship so their marriage goes into a massive crisis. They drift apart and start living separate lives, hiding the truth from one another. Neil finds comfort in a stripper with a cute little daughter and Nat starts meeting up with her exes, just double checking if any of them might be The One since Neil obviously doesn't seem to be ...

Firstly, I think the title of the book is completely WRONG because this novel is hardly about Nat's men she's loved before - all those men are barely mentioned (granted there were quite a few so the book could get rather long if those scenes were more detailed), plus all that stuff felt more like a filler to me and rather far fetched. I can't understand why that was chosen as the title of the book, when it's definitely not the main issue, but I suspect it's due to the commercial reasons - not many people relate to not wanting children, whereas everyone has people they've loved before so it sounds more relatable, right? I'm just guessing.

As I said above, I could really relate to the topic of the book so it's not at all surprising that I found it very engrossing. Like Nat, I'm also determined to never ever have children, which tends to shock people. Don't get me wrong, it's not like I don't like children (in fact, I adore them) or don't want to have them (I do actually ... I guess?), but I just feel like I shouldn't have children in this crazy, insane, horrible world ... I don't want to get into the reasons why because it's a long story and most people don't understand me, but this is something that's very important to me and something that I've promised to myself a looong time ago. My lovely boyfriend, on the other hand, is not so opposed to the idea of reproducing for the same reasons as Neil. He'd make a fantastic dad and he's the kind of person I'd love to have children with, but I really shouldn't and can't. So obviously this is bound to become a deal breaker for us too eventually, but we're only in our mid-20s so it's not something we actively think or argue about now, but we know each other's point of view. That's why I was so fascinated by this book - to see what happens when an important thing like that becomes an issue ...

Nat also has her own strong reasons for not wanting to become a mother - her reasons are completely different to mine, but I could still really relate to her feelings. She bears a secret that she hasn't even shared with Neil, which I found quite surprising, but I suppose that 'thing' just hurt her so much that she couldn't bear to talk about it, which is something that I understand. But still, I was surprised that not even her husband knew about something so basic.

I'm not too sure how I feel about the ending of the novel ... I appreciated the twists & turns because I was wondering what all the mess would result in. I suppose I shouldn't say I was disappointed by the ending because that's really not nice, but honestly I was happy for them and even got a little teary, aww.

Personal aspect of the novel aside, I thought the book was really well-written and definitely an improvement from Love Lies, which is the only other Adele Parks book I've read and was slightly unimpressed by it. This one, on the other hand, kept me on the edge of my seat the whole time, but I guess I'm a little biased, hehe.

Overall, this books not only met my expectations, but also exceeded them. It was a bit of a scary read due to my familiarity with the main issue, but well carried out. I wonder how people with children or the longing for them feel about books with a theme like this one? Reading this, I was immediately reminded of BABY PROOF by Emily Giffin as the books are rather similar in many ways. I really enjoyed that one too (I read it as soon as it was published a few years ago) and I'm glad that there are a few brave authors who decide to tackle this topic that not a lot of people can relate to.

overall rating:
plot: 4/5 | writing: 5/5 | characters: 4/5 | cover: 3/5

5 December 2010

In My Mailbox #64

I've been so busy lately that I didn't get to do an IMM for a while so here are all the brilliant books I got & bought recently:

FROM NOTHING HILL WITH LOVE ... ACTUALLY by Ali McNamara - I bought this mainly for the goooorgeous cover. I'm not a huge film buff so I don't know if I could enjoy this book properly, but I just had to have it because of the cover! Wow!
50 WAYS TO FIND A LOVER & THE (IM)PERFECT GIRLFRIEND by Lucy-Anne Holmes - I bought these because I've heard SO many great things about them. They're meant to be hilarious and goodness know that's my favourite kind of books!
THE SECRET SHOPPER'S REVENGE & THE SECRET SHOPPER UNWRAPPED by Kate Harrison - These just sound cute and look absolutely adorable so when I saw them in real life, I just couldn't resist them!
SINFUL DECEPTIONS by Zoë Miller - I'm quite intrigued by this one and I've been waiting for the paperback for aaaages!
THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY by Lucy Dawson - Sounds like a good read so I just bought it.
BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY by Ruta Sepetys (ARC) - This one is bound to be horrifying. It takes place during WWII in Siberia. I've read a few pages and my heart was instantly broken. I know this won't be an easy read, but I still feel it needs to be read. You can find about this book at the website.
THE JEWEL OF ST PETERSBURG by Kate Furnivall - Another one I love the sound and look of! Had to have it.
LAKE OF DREAMS by Kim Edwards (ARC) - I wasn't expecting this one but the synopsis sounds quite good so I look forward to reading it!

That's it from me - what did YOU get? I can't wait to find out! :)

ps: I invite you all to check out Nadine's blog THE READING QUEEN. She's been blogging for quite a while and she's one of my favourite book bloggers out there, but since she's not really promoting her blog much, she doesn't have many followers yet. I think she definitely deserves many more so feel free to check her out & follow her. :)

1 December 2010

Waiting On Wednesday: Two amazing 2011 chick lit releases!

From what I've seen so far, 2011 will be the year of fantastic chick lit books and here are the first two I've decided to spotlight in this meme, with the rest to follow in the next few weeks ...

by Pippa Wright
[4 March 2011]
'Have you ever noticed that the modern romantic heroine can be, not to put too fine a point on it, a bit useless?'
Lizzy Harrison has everything under control. Lizzy Harrison isn't a romantic heroine. Not even close. She doesn't have a cat, owns no more shoes than the average person, and is in no way hopelessly scatty and disorganised. In fact her life is in perfect order, and that's just how she likes it.
Okay, so she hasn't met the right man yet, but she really doesn't have the time what with her busy job in PR and her packed schedule of improving activities. Her diary is planned months in advance and she's determined that nothing spontaneous will force its way into her life...hasn't she?
But when her best friend Lulu questions her need for control, Lizzy starts to wonder if she needs to let go a little. So when she's thrown into the arms of her boss' number one client, notorious comedian (and love-rat) Randy Jones, she reluctantly relaxes her hold on routine.
Lizzy Harrison is about to find out that losing control could win her more than she had ever imagined.

by Charlotte Kymberley
[17 February 2011]
It’s not you, it’s me - That’s the cowardly text message that Katie receives from Jack, her actor boyfriend of three years, when he dumps her. And things go from bad to worse when photos of Jack canoodling with a famous size-zero actress are splashed across every gossip magazine and tabloid soon after. Just how much humiliation can a girl take?
With the paparazzi camped out on her doorstep, Katie decides to preserve what’s left of her dignity. So she agrees to become her PR colleagues’ next project. They will make her over (hair, teeth, clothes, Botox, boobs – the works) and turn her into an instant celebrity in order to win back her ex and show the world that an ordinary girl can rival a beautiful bimbo.
But will a new life in the limelight be everything Katie dreamt of? Can she make it in the cut-throat world of the beautiful, rich and famous? Is Jack worth all the hassle or is there someone else out there who might love Katie just the way she is?
Ooh, I am LOVING the sound of both of these! But that's just a taste of what's in store for chick lit in 2011. I'm excited - are you? :)