Friday 27 September 2013

Friday Link Dump: Pugs, Sesame Street and Vampire Academy

-The Vampire Academy movie has launched an official Tumblr, which is kinda like a Gossip Girl-esque in universe site. (Tumblr) Meanwhile if you want to stalk anyone who has anything to do with the movie, Penguin Teen Australia has got all the accounts you need to follow. (PTA)

-Which literary character are you? Apparently I'm someone from Lord of the Rings, which I haven't read, so doesn't have a lot of meaning to me. (Abebooks)

-Rainbow Rowell has some brilliant things to say about the censorship of her books. (The Toast)

-Meanwhile, Fiona Wood has some brilliant things to say about sex in Young Adult fiction. (The Midnight Garden)

-I am so excited about Disney's new movie, Frozen. Could do without the naff snowman, but hopefully it's not as goofy as it appears. (YouTube)

-Kit Harington. Wet. (Wonderland)

-Mash-up blog of the week: Teen Wolf meets New Girl. (Tumblr)

-Speaking of Teen Wolf, before he was the adorkable Stiles, Dylan O'Brien was an adorkable YouTuber. (YouTube)

-The creators of Once Upon a Time sure do know how to cast a hot guy, as this gallery shows. (Imgur)

-Not that I ever needed an excuse to love Prince Eric, but it's nice to see him get some recognition as the best prince ever. (BuzzFeed)

-Clem Ford names the ministries Tony Abbott should create to restore Australia to its former glory. And it's hilarious. (Daily Life)

-Apparently I'm not the only 20-something who can't make decisions or, you know, be an adult. How reassuring. (BuzzFeed)

-These photos of divers in front of the Eiffel Tower in 1912 and these of a woman dancing on the beach in the 1920s are are amazing. (Vintage Everyday)

-Proof that pugs are the best ever. (BuzzFeed) If that's not enough, here's more. I want one. (YouTube)

-Get ready to go gooey over these guest spots on Sesame Street: Henry Cavill, Lena Headey and Peter Dinklage. (YouTube)

-Jimmy Fallon has been going off this week. There's the hashtag conversation with Justin Timberlake, Lip Sync Battle with Joseph Gordon-Levitt and a performance with the folks from... wait for it... Sesame Street. (YouTube)

-This gif list will warm your heart. Even if it's stone cold. (BuzzFeed)

-These comics about depression are so powerful. (BuzzFeed)

-Jon Hamm holds cute baby animals. It's as amazing as it sounds. (BuzzFeed)

-This interview with Jennifer Lawrence reinforces everything I love about her. (YouTube)

-Forget turning a webpage into a Ryan Gosling shrine, now you can get the Cookie Monster everywhere all the time. (Omnomnomify)

-If you need more cuteness in your Instagram feed, check out these adorable animals. (Mashable)

Wednesday 25 September 2013

Bookish Buys: Pop Culture Patterns At Wee Little Stitches

I am obsessed with the pixel people cross-stitch patterns that Wee Little Stitches creates. They are all inspired by awesome movies, TV shows and books and I want pretty much all of them. I have a couple so far but I have told myself I must actually use one (or at least start on one) before buying any more. That doesn't stop me from admiring them, anyway. I've selected some of my fave bookish patterns to feature here, but the whole shop is worth a look - it's pretty amazeballs.

Harry's foes

Tolkien quote

Lord of the Rings

Wesley and Buttercup 
Lupin and Tonks


Review: Every Day By David Levithan

Do you ever read a book and think, “Am I reading the same thing as everyone else”? This is exactly how I felt with Every Day. All the reviews I’d seen were full of praise. I was expecting it to be amazing. It was not.

It's a shame because I liked the concept of “A” waking up in a different body each day, content to do so until falling in love with the girlfriend of one of the bodies. Intriguing, right? Unfortunately, the execution didn’t work for me. The writing itself was gorgeous and there was more than one quotable line, but the plot and characters drove me nuts.

A was The Worst, spending the whole time talking about being good but actually doing terrible things. There’s no build up of this “good” aspect before it gets compromised, making it very hard to like the protagonist. I didn’t buy the connection between A and Rhiannon (hello, insta-love!), and the way A obsesses over her is really quite icky. I know A changes bodies every day, but there was not much personality there beyond that obsession. Oh, and judging people. A judges everyone.

Like Rhiannon for not being able to always see past the physical. One of the themes of the book is that you love the person, not the body. The notion of biology being separate from identity is an interesting one, and could have been fascinating to explore, but Every Day only goes as deep as A getting angry if Rhiannon felt a bit weird seeing a girl’s body. Which is completely understandable because, yeah, sexuality is fluid, but if you identify as straight you can’t be expected to suddenly find the same sex attractive (and vice versa). And I know they say love is blind, but you still have to be attracted to the person you’re with. A judges Rhiannon pretty harshly for liking some bodies better, which I thought was unfair.

A is also super judgemental of Nathan, one of the bodies used, when he feels, well, used. A had snuck out of Nathan’s strict parent’s house to go to a party to see Rhiannon, lying to Rhiannon, drinking, staying too long and driving too late, ending up with Nathan waking up on the side of the road having no idea where he is or what has happened. I know A can’t control going into different bodies, but seriously? That’s abduction. The idea that so many bodies were being used against their will was quite discomforting. Particularly when A wanted to get more physical with Rhiannon. Not cool.

But A’s worst judgement is reserved for one of the last bodies described in the book. A wakes up inside an overweight teen boy, and turns on so much judgment that Simon Cowell looks like an open-minded puppy dog in comparison. A treats the teen as lazy, disgusting, stupid and… wait for it… shallow. Yep. Coz apparently being obese means you can’t have “emotional depth”. It’s really disappointing, because it could have been an opportunity to explore the very deep and complex emotions that often go along with weight problems. Instead, it reinforces prejudices against overweight people rather than using it as a chance to undermine them.

Rhiannon is not a lot better than A. She's pretty two-dimensional. Some of the bodies A spent a day in felt more developed than her. She accepted the A thing way too quickly and fell in love too easily. She was incredibly passive. A judges (there’s that word again) Rhiannon’s boyfriend for being horrible to her, but A doesn’t treat her a whole lot better, and she goes along with it. She doesn’t have any agency. Even at the end, A is in control of what will happen to Rhiannon “next”. So not romantic.

It was a shame that the bland, unromantic love story was the central plot, when the concept had so much potential. There is a bit of a subplot about people being after A, but it develops slowly and sporadically before finally fizzling out.

Despite the beautiful writing, Every Day was a very average read.

Rating: 2.5 stars

Fine Print
Published: 2012, Knopf
Get It: Book Depository

Mini Review: Crossing the Line by Katie McGarry

After loving Dare You To I wanted to devour anything I could get my hands on by Katie McGarry. Which happened to be this novella, Crossing the Line. Set in between Pushing the Limits and Dare You To, it tells the story of Echo's best friend, Lila - or a snippet of her story, anyway.

Lila is by herself at home for the first time ever, and freaking out about not only being alone for the night, but being alone when she goes away to college, too. Enter Lincoln, the guy she has been writing to for years but has only ever met once. He was meant to go to college with her but has screwed things up somehow. He travels across the country in an attempt to make it up to her. Cue fights - and making up, of course.

I liked both Lincoln and Lila. They're as fleshed out as they can be in the limited space. This is a short story that gives a snapshot of a lovely romance but not much more. The concept of a penpal love story is great, but while there are some cute moments and a decent amount of tension, there's no space for a whole lot to actually happen. You get an outline of the past through letter excerpts, which is a nice framing device, and there's a pretty clear picture of where these two are going in the future. But that's all there's time for, really. Still, it's an entertaining way to spend half an hour, and will tide you over slightly if you're hanging for the next book in this series (like me!).

Rating: 3/5

Fine Print
Published: 2013, Harlequin Teen
Get It: Harlequin

Sunday 22 September 2013

Review: Dare You To by Katie McGarry

To be honest, I don’t know what possessed me to read Dare You To. I wasn’t a massive fan of Pushing the Limits and the idea of a book focused on Beth, a character I couldn’t stand in the first book, wasn’t exactly appealing. Plus the suggestion that Beth would somehow ditch the sweet, caring Isaiah sounded awful. Combine that with the fact that people who did love Pushing the Limits didn’t love Dare You To, and I thought I would surely hate it. I wasn’t going to bother.

So don’t ask me how I ended up staying up until 2am reading this. I honestly can’t say how I started. Only that once I had, I couldn’t stop.

Dare You To is told from a dual perspective, like Pushing the Limits, only this time it’s about troubled Beth and baseball jock Ryan. The two meet at a fast food restaurant and don’t exactly hit it off. When Beth has to live with her uncle, a baseball superstar, Ryan is keen to get back into her good books – especially with a dare riding on a date with her.

You can totally see where this is going, right? But it doesn’t matter. Because getting there is so much fun. Having insight into Beth’s thoughts and motivations makes her a much more sympathetic and, dare I say, likable character. I understood why she’s awful to Echo. I understood why she treats Isaiah the way she does. And boy, did I understand why she likes Ryan.

Ryan is adorable. OK, he’s a bit of a douche to start with and does get a little possessive in a couple of instances, but it’s nowhere near as bad as Noah in Pushing the Limits, and Beth doesn’t exactly put up with it. There’s great chemistry between these two, and their budding relationship – and the complications that go along with it - feels quite realistic. There are some really sweet, not to mention totally hot, scenes, and I loved the fact that the usual tropes were reversed and Ryan was a virgin while Beth wasn’t. I am so over the pure, good girls being seduced by experienced, bad guys. It’s so not true to life and reinforces restrictive roles and screwed up expectations. It was really great to see something different here.

While I loved the romance, I really liked the other aspects of the plot, too, and appreciated that there was more going on in each character’s life. Perhaps because my husband is obsessed with baseball, I actually found myself enjoying that part of Ryan’s story, and I felt for his family situation, too. But of course, Beth’s story is much more dramatic and emotional. My heart broke for her, yet the terrible moments made the good ones that much sweeter.

In addition to liking the two leads, I adored the secondary characters in Dare You To. Ryan’s friends are great, and there are some very funny moments between them. I especially loved Lacy, Beth’s childhood friend and Ryan’s current friend. The way she accepts Beth back into her life and has her back in the end is so awesome. On Beth’s side, we see Noah and Echo make a few appearances, which is nice, even if I’m not their biggest fans, and Isaiah, oh Isaiah... I felt for him, but at the same time I was happy with the way things turned out. I’m looking forward to Isaiah hopefully (who am I kidding - definitely) getting his own happily ever after in Crash Into You.

So, despite thinking I would hate it, I actually really loved Dare You To. It was a page-turning, swoony, emotional ride. I’m so glad I went on it.

Rating: 4.5/5

Head Cast

Austin Butler as Ryan

Ksenia Solo as Beth

Bonus: Couple shot courtesy of Life Unexpected.
Katie McGarry includes a playlist in the back of Dare You To, which I compiled here. It is a bit too country for my taste, but fits the book pretty well overall.

Fine Print
Published: 2013, Harlequin
Source: Netgalley
Get It: Book Depository

Tuesday 17 September 2013

Top Ten Books TBR In Spring

I always write these lists with the best of intentions but I get distracted by other books. For instance, I only read ONE book off my winter TBR. Isn't that terrible? Oh well, maybe I'll do better in spring...

1. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. I want to reread this before the movie comes out, and The Midnight Garden are holding a readalong so it's the perfect opportunity.

2. Hate is Such a Strong Word by Sarah Ayoub. I've heard great things about this new Aussie YA.

3. All the Truth That's in Me by Julie Berry. There has been a lot of hype around this book so I'm excited to read it soon.

4. Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo. Jaz from Fiction in Fiction in Fiction lent me this and gave it glowing praise (like many others who have read it) so I want to get to it asap.

5. Crash into You by Katie McGarry. Although I wasn't a fan of the first book in this series, I loved the second (review to come!), so I'm super keen to check out the third.

6. The Returned by Jason Mott. People returning from the dead? Sounds spooky, and awesome.

7. A Story of Grief by Michaela McGuire. This explores the public grief over Jill Meagher's murder last year. As someone who was quite deeply affected, I'm really interested in what it has to say.

8. Wild Cards by Simone Elkeles. Sometimes you just need a trashy teen romance. Simone Elkeles does them best.

9. A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin. I've been wanting to read the rest of this series for a few months (in fact, it was on my winter TBR!), I just need to find the time to do it.

10. Stardust by Neil Gaiman. An upcoming South Pacific Book Chat will be discussing Gaiman and I've never read his books before, so this is the perfect kick up the butt.

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

Saturday 14 September 2013

Review: Pushing The Limits by Katie McGarry

I am in the minority on this book. Coz I didn't love it. I did like it. Kind of. It was a quick read and entertaining enough, but so many things annoyed me about it. I was actually quite perplexed as to what people see it in that I didn’t, especially at the beginning. There’s been a lot of comparisons to Perfect Chemistry and I can definitely see the connection: the dual narrators, the good girl and the bad boy who are paired together for school and find themselves falling hard for each other, the melodrama and the cheesiness. I was worried it would be too similar, but in the end there were enough differences to separate the two stories, and it was actually something else that annoyed me entirely. Noah.

Noah is a foster kid, separated from his little brothers since their parents died a few years ago. He's been in bad situations and has a serious chip on his shoulder. The only thing he cares about is getting his family back together. Until he meets Echo. Cue sparks and professions of undying love. While it's not quite insta-love, it's pretty damn close. Noah's internal monologue, especially when he's thinking about Echo, didn't feel authentic to me. It was like a fantasy of a guy, as opposed to a real teen boy.  I also didn't really buy the bad boy act - for most of Noah's life, he had a stable family and a promising future. I know what he's been through would screw someone up, but I don't think it would change your personality that dramatically. I could be wrong, but it bugged me anyway. But what really bugged me was his possessiveness. Note to YA/NA authors: this is not romantic. At all.

As for Echo, I didn't like or dislike her. Except for her name. That's just really stupid. Other than that, "meh" about sums up my feelings about her. Like Noah, she's been through a lot, and she has the emotional and physical scars to prove it. I was interested in discovering what had happened to her to make her this way, but I have to say I was a little dissatisfied with the resolution of that plot point. The way mental illness was dealt with made me a little uncomfortable at times.

Something that made me really uncomfortable was the fact that the only explicitly black character in the book dropped her Gs. This was something I noticed with the portrayal of non-white characters in the Perfect Chemistry series too. A lot of people probably drop their Gs in real life, but why is it only non-white characters that seem to do it on the page? It annoyed me so much in Pushing the Limits I almost stopped reading at the 10 per cent mark.

I'm glad I kept reading, because it did get a bit better. It was predictable, but it still kept me turning the pages. Despite my problems with it, it was highly readable. Though I still don't quite get the hype around it.

Rating: 3/5

Head Cast
Steven R. McQueen as Noah

Holland Roden as Echo
Fine Print
Published: 2012, Mira Ink
Source: Netgalley
Get It: Book Depository

Tuesday 10 September 2013

Top Ten Books I'd Love To See As A Movie/TV Show

1. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins. It's a fun, fluffy and fabulous teen book that would make a fun, fluffy and fabulous teen movie.

2. The Lumatere Chronicles by Melina Marchetta. I would love to see Marchetta's fantasy series as a TV show. I love the characters so much and it would be awesome to see them brought to life.

3. Sea Hearts by Margo Lanagan. This atmospheric tale of selkies and magic would make a moving and whimsical movie or mini-series.

4. The Queen's Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner. Another fantasy series with great characters that would be fantastic on screen - especially the titular thief, Eugenides.

5. Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey. Amazing and Aussie movies don't always go hand in hand unfortunately, but I think this could be a great one - or even a good TV mini-series. We seem to be doing better in that medium lately.

6. The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons. Epic love story set across the back-drop of Russia during World War II. Swooooon.

7. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. The visuals alone would make this a gorgeous movie, and I think condensing it could only improve the rather slow story.

8. Amy & Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson. Who doesn't love a roadtrip movie?

9. Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell. Some classics, mainly those by Austen, Dickens and the Brontes, have been adapted to near death. I'd love to see a different text brought to the screen - like this one!

10. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs. I adored this weird and wonderful book, right up until the cliffhanger ending. I think it would make an awesome, eerie movie, with hopefully more resolution at the end.

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

Monday 9 September 2013

Bookish A-Z Survey

I saw this doing the rounds and nabbed it from Nylon Admiral because why not...

Authors you've read the most books from: Oh god, this is embarrassing. V.C. Andrews. It's V.C. Andrews.

Best sequel ever: I don't know about the best ever, but the one that immediately sprang to mind was Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins. It was my fave in the The Hunger Games series.

Currently reading: Worlds of Arthur by Guy Halsall. It's about the historicity of the Arthurian legend. I'm only about 10 per cent in and it's quite dense so far but I'm hoping it picks up.

Drink of choice while reading: Tea. Always tea.

Ereader or physical book: I love Betsy, my kindle, but nothing beats the experience of a physical book.

Fictional character that you probably would have dated in high school: I fell in love with Mr Darcy in high school.

Glad you gave this book a chance: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins. I totally judged this book by its (terrible) cover. I was swayed by the amazing reviews and good thing too - because I freaking loved it.

Hidden gem book: Fury by Shirley Marr. Apparently it's not very widely available but it's an awesome Australian YA book featuring awesome characters and an intriguing mystery.

Important moment in your reading life: Probably reading Emma by Jane Austen. I had to read it for school, but it lead me to Pride and Prejudice, which lead me to the rest of Austen's books, which lead me to Charles Dickens, which lead me to Wilkie Collins, which lead me to Elizabeth Gaskell, which lead me to the Brontes... well, you get the picture.

Just finished: A Straight Line to My Heart by Bill Condon. It was just an OK read for me.

Kind of books you won't read: I try to avoid books by (usually self-published) authors who have had tantys and attacked reviewers over less than perfect reviews. So not worth the risk.

Longest book you read: According to Goodreads, that would be It by Stephen King, which clocks in at 1,090 pages. I don't remember it being that big!

Major book hangover because of: The Lumatere Chronicles by Melina Marchetta. I'm still recovering from that series.

Number of bookcases you own: Two. It's not enough. There are book piles everywhere. Some day I hope to have my own library.

One book you've read multiple times: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. Before I started blogging, I used to reread it a couple of times a year. I miss it.

Preferred place to read: At the park on a beautiful, sunshiney day.

Quote that inspires you: "I am no bird, and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will." - Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.

Reading regret: Is there such a thing?

Series you started and need to finish: The Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris. I only have the last book to go. But I know what happens and I really don't like it. And the last few books have been freaking awful, so there's not much compelling me to read it other than my need to finish what I start.

Three of your all-time favorite books: In no particular order... David Copperfield by Charles Dickens, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen and The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.

Unapologetic fangirl for: Melina Marchetta. I will read anything and everything she writes.

Very excited for this release: Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins. I love her writing.

Worst bookish habit: I dog-ear pages. What was that? Did someone say something? Ahem.

X marks the spot! Start at the top left of your shelf and pick the 27th book: Persuasion by Jane Austen.

Your last bookish purchase: A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess. I couldn't resist the (orange) Popular Penguin edition.

Zzz-snatcher. Which book kept you up way late?: Most recently it was probably Dare You To by Katie McGarry. Totally cheesy but totally addictive.

Saturday 7 September 2013

Friday Link Dump on a Saturday: Casting News, Andrew Garfield's Lips and a Book Tour of NYC

I wish I had an awesome excuse for not posting this yesterday, like I was out partying with the rich and fabulous, but no... I crashed on the lounge pretty early, like the 70-year-old I am inside. So here are some links for your Saturday...

-It's the Federal Election in Australia today. This could end really badly or really, really badly. As Jacob Coote said, we need to vote to keep the worst party out. Here's hoping it happens. (YouTube)

-This is what it would look like if Game of Thrones was a romcom. Spoiler: It's hilarious. (YouTube)

-The booklover's guide to NYC. (BuzzFeed)

-Adam has been cast in If I Stay. He could work. (IMDB)

-From the person who created the Ryan Gosling colouring in book, comes one dedicated to beefcakes. I want. (Amazon)

-Andrew Garfield's Lips is my new favourite Tumblr. (Tumblr)

-Asshole Disney is my second new favourite Tumblr. (Tumblr)

-Here's what 22 celebs looked like when they were young. Some were surprisingly hot and others surprisingly not. (So Bad So Good)

-This mini That Thing You Do reunion is more awesome than I ever could have imagined. (BuzzFeed)

-Move over Public Shaming, it's all about Selfies in Serious Places. (Tumblr)

-This collection of vintage yearbook quotes is pretty great. People were sassy back in the day. (BuzzFeed)

-The woman behind I Fucking Love Science on Facebook has created a YouTube channel. Making science fun! (YouTube)

-Cookie Monster + Tom Hiddleston = Squeegasm. (YouTube)

-Hot men. So many hot men. (BuzzFeed)

Thursday 5 September 2013

Review: Life in Outer Space by Melissa Keil

Life in Outer Space is an adorable Aussie contemporary YA novel. It’s told from the perspective of Sam, a film nerd who gets bullied on a daily basis. His world is rocked when the quirky, cool Camilla shows up at school – and surprisingly takes an interest in him. She provides a welcome distraction from his best friend’s strange behaviour and the fact that his family is slowly falling apart. Maybe too much of a distraction…

I really liked that this book was told from a guy’s perspective - it’s not something you get very much in YA these days, and Keil does it really well. I loved all the film references, the relationships Sam has with his mum and his mates, and the many cute moments in the budding relationship between Camilla and Sam. The secondary characters all had substance and played an important part in the story. I am torn on how I feel about Camilla. She annoyed me a bit at first because she just seemed like the perfect Manic Pixie Dream Girl, but as the plot unfolded and she acted on her own dreams and dealt with her own issues I warmed to her a lot more.

I enjoyed the subplots a lot, even more than the main romance plotline at times. The reason Sam’s best friend, Mike, quits his much-loved karate is an intriguing mystery, and the effect of the disintegration of Sam’s parents’ marriage on both him and his mother is heartbreaking and touching. Keil beautifully combines this drama with a snarky, pop culture-laced humour to create a very fun read.

What stopped this book from being perfect for me were the few things that were hard for me to believe. Like the fact that Camilla managed to make friends with everybody, and Sam's bullying mysteriously stops when she appears. Sam acknowledges this “magic” in the story, which helped a little, but it still didn’t feel realistic to me. There was also the fact that from the descriptions, Sam and Mike don’t sound like the kind of guys who really get bullied or even ignored. But the thing that really bugged me was the fact the high school had more of an American vibe with the lack of school uniforms and the spring dance and so on. I wanted to recognise Australia and what it's like to grow up here more than I did.

But these were only minor niggles in what was overall a really enjoyable book. It’s a quick, easy read, with just the right mix of humour and heart. And, of course, plenty of my favourite thing - pop cultural references!

Rating: 4/5

So I'm pretty sure he looks nothing like how Sam is actually described, but I think because I've been watching way too much Dance Academy lately, I couldn't help but picture Sam as Thom Green, who plays Sammy on DA.


And in a sign that I watch a ridiculous amount of teen TV, I pictured Kaya Scodelario, a.k.a. Effy on Skins, as Camilla.

Fine Print
Published: 2013, Peachtree Publishers (this edition)
Source: Netgalley
Get It: Book Depository