Friday, 22 May 2015

Review: The Leveller by Julia Durango

The Leveller (The Leveller, #1)The Leveller

Author: Julia Durango
Series: The Leveller
Pages: 256
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release date: 23 June 2015

Synopsis: (Goodreads)

Nixy Bauer is a self-made Leveller. Her job? Dragging kids out of virtual reality and back to their parents in the real world. It’s normally easy cash, but Nixy’s latest mission is fraught with real danger, intrigue, and romance.

Nixy Bauer is used to her classmates being very, very unhappy to see her. After all, she’s a bounty hunter in a virtual reality gaming world. Kids in the MEEP, as they call it, play entirely with their minds, while their bodies languish in a sleeplike state on the couch. Irritated parents, looking to wrench their kids back to reality, hire Nixy to jump into the game and retrieve them. 

But when the game’s billionaire developer loses track of his own son in the MEEP, Nixy is in for the biggest challenge of her bounty-hunting career. Wyn Salvador isn’t some lazy kid looking to escape his homework: Wyn does not want to be found. And he’s left behind a suicide note. Nixy takes the job but quickly discovers that Wyn’s not hiding—he’s being held inside the game against his will. But who is holding him captive, and why?

Nixy and Wyn attempt to fight their way out of a mind game unlike any they’ve encountered, and the battle brings them closer than either could have imagined. But when the whole world is virtual, how can Nixy possibly know if her feelings are real?

Gamers and action fans of all types will dive straight into the MEEP, thanks to Julia Durango’s cinematic storytelling. A touch of romance adds some heart to Nixy’s vivid, multidimensional journey through Wyn’s tricked-out virtual city, and constant twists keep readers flying through to the breathtaking end.

Review: 4 out of 5 stars

Phoenix ‘Nixy’ Bauer is a leveller, she is paid to drag kids out of a virtual reality known as the MEEP and return them to their parents. When the games developer loses his son in the MEEP and with no one able to retrieve him, he turns to Nixy for help.

Wyn Salvador as far as his suicide note says doesn’t want to be found but when Nixy makes her way through difficult obstacles to retrieve him she realises that he is being kept there against his will and they both have no way of returning home.

One of the first things you notice when you start The Leveller, is Julia Durango certainly knows her gaming – the lingo, the setup etc. was all done very well; despite not being a gamer myself I enjoyed this aspect. The MEEP was explained well, the concept sort of reminded me on Elusion by Claudia Gabel/Cheryl Clam; Gamers are able to remain suspended in a sleep like state in a virtual reality building worlds as an avatar – a relatively new technology.

Nixy was a fun, snarky and likeable character; she was confident and sassy, really well developed. Wyn was an interesting character but not as developed as Wyn, he didn’t have as much page time but what we saw of him I liked.

I enjoyed the detailed virtual world setting, the smidgeon of romance, and the many twists, turns and betrayals – I didn’t know who could be trusted and I was baffled by the reasoning of why Wyn had been held hostage, I enjoyed the overall concept and how it came together.

The writing is engaging and entertaining, the plot was fast paced with many thrilling moments and the world-building was done well, I flew through this book in no time and couldn’t wait to find out what was going on.

Overall, an action packed adventure filled with twists, turns and a betrayal I never saw coming. The romance isn’t at the forefront of the story and the storyline is highly entertaining, I am looking forward to reading the next book in the series.

Thank you to HarperTeen via Edelweiss for the opportunity to read and review The Leveller.

Julia DurangoAbout the author

Julia writes books for kids of all ages in a small town by the Illinois River. Cha-Cha Chimps, her picture book for youngest readers, is a 2014 ILLINOIS READS title. Upcoming books include The Second Guard fantasy series (Disney Hyperion 2015) and her debut YA novel, The Leveller (HarperTeen 2015).

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Review: The Summer After You and Me by Jennifer Salvato Doktorski

The Summer After You and MeThe Summer After You and Me

Author: Jennifer Salvato Doktorski
Series: -
Pages: 320
Publisher/Source: Netgalley/ Sourcebooks Fire
Release date: 1st May 2015

Synopsis: Goodreads

Will it be a summer of fresh starts or second chances?

For Lucy, the Jersey Shore isn't just the perfect summer escape, it's home. As a local girl, she knows not to get attached to the tourists. They breeze in during Memorial Day weekend, crowding her costal town and stealing moonlit kisses, only to pack up their beach umbrellas and empty promises on Labor Day. Still, she can't help but crush on charming Connor Malloy. His family spends every summer next door, and she longs for their friendship to turn into something deeper.
Then Superstorm Sandy sweeps up the coast, bringing Lucy and Connor together for a few intense hours. Except nothing is the same in the wake of the storm, and Lucy is left to pick up the pieces of her broken heart and her broken home. Time may heal all wounds, but with Memorial Day approaching and Connor returning, Lucy's summer is sure to be filled with fireworks.

Review: 3 out of 5 stars

The Summer After You and Me by Jennifer Salvato Doktorski appealed to me when I first read the synopsis, it is a young adult contemporary romance about a seaside town on the jersey shore. 

Our MC is Lucia ‘Lucy’, a sweet, kind and compassionate character who lives in the Jersey Shore, the storyline takes place after the events of Super storm Sandy which left much destruction in its wake. Lucy and her friends have a no getting attached rule when it comes to the local tourists or the families who reside there during summer break, but things happened during the storm with her long-term crush and next door neighbour Connor Molloy that she can’t forget despite now dating her best friend, Andrew.

Lucy was a realistic character and maybe I am a tad old for this type of story but I felt she over-reacted in some instances; yes I would be mad about what happened at prom with Andrew but I feel she was looking for an easy way out in some instances rather than facing responsibility. I also felt her friends treatment of her after the prom event was a little too much, her brother Liam was a complete ass – there was too much immaturity and drama at times.

Connor was also a little mysterious, I didn’t like him initially because of his man-whore reputation but I came to enjoy his interactions with Lucy and the way he looked out for her, their shared moments were the parts I really enjoyed, despite having a girlfriend you could see how much he respected Lucy and wanted to make things right.

Lucy’s passion for marine biology was an aspect I enjoyed; I found the paragraphs at the beginning of each chapter to be interesting. I also found the tidbits about the repairs and re-building of the area after the storm to be intriguing; the devastation was heart-breaking and the aftermath and how the residents were dealing was an aspect you don’t often hear about. It wasn’t easy on Lucy’s family and how they were still trying to fix everything as well as keep the money flowing.

The Summer After You and Me was an entertaining read overall and was written well, unfortunately I felt it was a little immature at times and my interest tapered – I think this book also would have benefitted from a prologue and dual POVs.

Thank you to Sourcebooks Fire for the opportunity to read and review The Summer After You and Me.

Jennifer Salvato DoktorskiAbout the author: Jennifer Salvato Doktorski is the author of the YA novels, How My Summer Went Up in Flames (Simon Pulse 2013), Famous Last Words (Henry Holt and Co., 2013), which was a Bank Street College Best Children’s Book of the Year, and the forthcoming The Summer After You and Me (Sourcebooks Fire, May 2015). 

Her first paid writing gig was as an editorial assistant for the North Jersey Herald & News, where, in addition to developing a life-long passion for coffee and news, she wrote obituaries for eight months. She also worked as a speech writer, bank teller, ghostwriter, bookkeeper in a lampshade factory, pet shop clerk, and music zine editor.

She lives with her family in New Jersey and spends her summers “down the shore,” where she dreams of taking surfing lessons and observes sea life while keeping her toes in the sand.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Review: Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen

Saint AnythingSaint Anything

Author: Sarah Dessen
Series: -
Pages: 432
Publisher/Source: Penguin BooksAustralia
Release date: 5th May 2015

Synopsis (Goodreads)

Peyton, Sydney's charismatic older brother, has always been the star of the family, receiving the lion's share of their parents' attention and—lately—concern. When Peyton's increasingly reckless behavior culminates in an accident, a drunk driving conviction, and a jail sentence, Sydney is cast adrift, searching for her place in the family and the world. When everyone else is so worried about Peyton, is she the only one concerned about the victim of the accident?

Enter the Chathams, a warm, chaotic family who run a pizza parlor, play bluegrass on weekends, and pitch in to care for their mother, who has multiple sclerosis. Here Sydney experiences unquestioning acceptance. And here she meets Mac, gentle, watchful, and protective, who makes Sydney feel seen, really seen, for the first time.

The uber-popular Sarah Dessen explores her signature themes of family, self-discovery, and change in her twelfth novel, sure to delight her legions of fans.

Review: 3 ½ out of 5 stars

Sarah Dessen books tend to be hit or miss for me, for some reason there always seems to be something that I don’t connect with, Saint Anything was a cute read but unfortunately it didn’t wow me or make it to my favourite YA contemporary list.

The story itself is centred on Sydney, a young woman going through a big transitional phase in her life after her brother Peyton is put in prison. She is a likeable character; she blends in never taking the spotlight or wanting attention like her brother did. She is intelligent, brave and smart but she struggles with the fallout of her brothers mistakes.

Saint Anything is a story of longing, self-discovery and friendships. Sydney has had a rough time and her parents are seemingly oblivious to how she is feeling or the seriousness of what her brother did so when she meets siblings Layla and Mac Chantham and their family who run the local pizza shop, she begins to see what true family and friendships are like and how to deal with the everyday problems caused because of her brother/family.

Sydney forms a sweet friendship with Layla and a growing romance with Mac who was an absolute sweetheart, the Chantham family were complete opposite to her own but she fit into their crazy life beautifully. Dessen excels in writing wonderful family dynamics.

All of the side characters were written well, Sydney’s brother Peyton really needs his own book, I found his story interesting and would love a book of redemption for him. Ames was a complete and utter creep! I didn’t understand why Sydney didn’t speak up about this guy, he was odd! I loved Layla, she was a fabulous best friend. Sydney’s relationship with Mac wasn’t at the forefront of the story but was sweet and slow moving.

Sarah Dessen’s writing is wonderful – the themes and message she conveys was done very well and the characters were each interesting, the story-line was engaging and kept me entertained.

Thank you to Penguin Teen Australia for the opportunity to read and review Saint Anything.

Sarah DessenAbout the author (From Hi. I’m Sarah. Writing a bio is always a little weird, if only because it seems completely self-absorbed. I have a standard one that I send out, which lists where I got my degree, the names of my books, all the same boring basic facts. But for this website, I’m supposed to do something more, give a sense of who I really am. So here goes.
The books I read when I was teenager, the good ones anyway, have stuck more in my mind than anything since. I still love books, but while I couldn’t tell you complete plots of novels I read even six months ago, I do remember even the smallest descriptive details from Lois Lowry’s A Summer to Die or Judy Blume’s Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. I think it was because back then books were still somewhat new to me, and when I found an author who seemed to say just what I was feeling, it really struck me and resonated. I hope that my books do that for the people who read them: I think it’s the best thing to which any writer can aspire. I’ve also been lucky enough to teach writing and see my students find their own voice. Teaching was great for me, because I got to show people how writing can really change the way you see not only yourself but the world. I’ve found in my own life that if my writing isn’t going well, not much else will. It is the one constant, the key to everything else.

Now that I’m writing full time, I have my good days and bad days. But I’d rather be doing this, even on the worst days, than anything else. As far as my other life, my non-writing life, I live in the country with my husband, my daughter, and two very spoiled dogs. I like to work in my garden—although I have not yet perfected the art of keeping everything alive—-and, in my weaker moments, shop. What else can I tell you? I love Starbucks mochas but they make me way hyper. I subscribe to too many magazines. I make a mean bean salad. I could go on, but the truth is, my books are much more exciting than I am, and that’s a good thing. It’s always more fun to make stuff up anyway.

Monday, 18 May 2015

Review: Last Year’s Mistake by Gina Ciocca

Last Year's MistakeLast Year’s Mistake

Author: Gina Ciocca
Series: -
Pages: 256
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Release date: 9th June 2015

Synopsis: (Goodreads)

Kelsey and David became best friends the summer before freshman year and were inseparable ever after. Until the night a misunderstanding turned Kelsey into the school joke, and everything around her crumbled—including her friendship with David. So when Kelsey's parents decided to move away, she couldn't wait to start over and leave the past behind. Except, David wasn't ready to let her go...

Now it's senior year and Kelsey has a new group of friends, genuine popularity, and a hot boyfriend. Her life is perfect. That is, until David's family moves to town and he shakes up everything. Soon old feelings bubble to the surface and threaten to destroy Kelsey's second chance at happiness. The more time she spends with David, the more she realizes she never truly let him go. And maybe she never wants to.

Told in alternating sections, LAST YEAR'S MISTAKE is a charming and romantic debut about loving, leaving, and letting go.

Review: 2.5 out of 5 stars

I have been eager to read Last Year’s Mistake since I first glimpsed the cover and read the synopsis, I usually enjoy these types of books but this one has left me conflicted.

Kelsey couldn’t wait to get out of her home-town despite having to leave her best friend David, the opportunity to start afresh away from drama, a misunderstanding and people she no longer considered friends made the move a relatively easy decision. I liked Kelsey but I did have a difficult time understanding her actions. David on the other hand I thought was wonderful and ‘real’ he was popular, loved baseball and the girls adored him.

The characters were at war with one another for the majority of the book, they were supposedly the best of friends and inseparable at one stage but they treated each other terribly; there was a lot of jealousy, angst and unnecessary drama as well as one thing I can’t really handle in books – cheating, I had many issues with a few things that took place, maybe a teen could relate more but I was left shaking my head. I think this book would have appealed to me a lot more if they weren’t in relationships with other characters for a majority of the book, I couldn’t feel or appreciate their attraction or the bond they shared.

The secondary characters weren’t memorable, Kelsey’s boyfriend Ryan was an ass and Violet, David’s girlfriend came across as demanding and high maintenance. The only characters I didn’t mind were the parents and Kelsey’s new best friend – Candy, she was a great support.

Last Year’s Mistake is told from Kelsey’s POV, it would have been the perfect book to have dual POV’s, getting to know David’s thoughts would have helped to understand his actions a lot more. I couldn’t fault Gina Ciocca’s writing which was entertaining but unfortunately, at this time this book wasn’t for me.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Review: Powerless by Terra Lynn Childs & Tracy Deebs

Powerless (The Hero Agenda, #1)Powerless

Author: Terra Lynn Childs & Tracy Deebs
Series: The Hero Agenda
Pages: 320
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Release date: 2nd June 2015
Amazon – TBD

Synopsis (Goodreads)

Kenna is tired of being "normal". The only thing special about her is that she isn't special at all. Which is frustrating in a world of absolutes. Villains, like the one who killed her father, are bad. Heroes, like her mother and best friend, are good. And Kenna, unlike everyone else around her, is completely ordinary— which she hates.

She’s secretly working on an experiment that will land her a place among the Heroes, but when a Villain saves her life during a break-in at her lab, Kenna discovers there’s a whole lot of gray area when it comes to good and evil and who she can trust.. After all…not all strength comes from superpowers. 

Review: 3 out of 5 stars

This book surprised me, I am not a big fan of superhero teens and at the beginning I felt it was quite juvenile and I had no idea what was going on but as it progressed it became entertaining but it isn’t a book I could take seriously at all for some reason.

Our MC is snarky and witty Kenna Swift, a powerless girl and the daughter of a renowned scientist and a long-dead superhero. Kenna was a fabulous kick-butt character that was fearless and wonderful, her inner dialogue was great.

I found the plot to be interesting but there were many unanswered questions - when a group of villains break into the top-secret hero lab and demand information from Kenna, I expected a little more angst and drama but it wasn't to be. The whole secret society aspect was interesting but I don't feel it was explained as well as it could have been.

What was missing from this book was world-building, I needed to know what had happened and what was going on, it wasn't explained - it all just exists. What is the main purpose of the villains/heroes - why are they needed & how come everyone is completely oblivious? I was baffled, there was no saving or heroics or freaky bad behaviour.

The side characters were each interesting but we don't get to know them too well, I would have loved more information about them and their pasts and powers - hopefully in the sequel this will be expanded on.

I enjoyed the writing style, the banter between the characters was an aspect I really enjoyed. The pacing started of slowly but then by the midway point it seemed to flow at a rapid pace, I would have loved it to be evened out to emphasise certain aspects such as the danger.

Powerless was an entertaining, fun read but It was light-hearted and a book I couldn't take it seriously unfortunately. 

Thank you to Sourcebooks Fire for the opportunity to read Powerless.

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

How do you get out of a blogging and reading slump?

Hi everyone, I hope you are having a great week! It's is cold and rainy here in Australia at the moment - the perfect snuggling, reading weather but unfortunately for me I have hit a reading and blogging slump (my comments are a little lazy lately too sorry!).

So what I'm wondering is How do you personally get out of a blogging and reading slump?

It’s a situation I think many of us have found ourselves in at some point and I'm curious about what you do when you hit a slump? read an old fave, take a break, start something new?? When I first started blogging four plus years ago, the ideas were flowing and I was eager to pick up my next book and then sit in front of the computer to draft my review but my motivation levels these days are next to zilch BUT I love reading and blogging so don’t want to give it up.

I have tried starting a few ARCs that I have received that I'm sure would be amazing but I barely get past the first chapter, I'm also the sort of reader who doesn't return to a book until a later time when someone I know has read and loved the book I have previously put down. Do you believe I have only rated three books this year with a 5* rating! that's out of 64 books I have read :-0

I have been in slumps before but not like this. I can go days on end without reading (this is coming from someone who took a stash of books on my honeymoon and into the hospital when I had my children). I am really hoping it is a short phase, I am just thankful that I have a number of posts scheduled so that the blog doesn't look abandoned ;-)

It’s become apparent since talking to other bloggers and readers that it’s a common occurrence. Some of us take a break whilst others leave blogs or their book piles to stagnate, have you personally been through this? How did you find your way out?

I’d love your thoughts on this topic or do you have a book that always gets you out of a reading slump? For me, it’s usually the Fever series or The Sea of Tranquillity but they haven’t fixed the problem this time around. I'd love a few YA/NA recommendations.