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Blog Tour: Victoria Schwab’s Perfect Day IRL

Victoria’s Perfect Day IRL

It all starts with tea.

Actually, it starts by sleeping late and yet miraculously waking early, which is impossible I know but this is my perfect day so I’m going with it. Then there’s tea, a banana, and some peanut butter. Okay, to be fair, that’s how all my days start—I’m quite particular about breakfast foods—but this would be a perfect cup of tea. Then I’d sit down to the computer, and the words would just…flow. Without having to shore myself up against self-doubt, without checking email and websites and other forms of avoidance. I’d write all morning, and get my words down before lunch. Then I’d watch an episode of the Flash, eat a sandwich, and take myself off to a coffee shop with friends. We wouldn’t talk much, just sit and read and be alone together (can you tell I’m an introvert). While we’re sitting there I’d see someone sitting alone in a booth, reading my book, a small smile on their face, and that moment would make everything—all those days of doubt, all the deletions, all the wondering if I’m doing the right thing—worth it. I’d swing by a bookstore on the way home, and sign some stock of my newest book, and then go home, take my dogs for a walk and think about what an amazing job I have, and answer some emails before settling in for the night to watch a show and read a book.

And here’s the thing: that day above, that’s just about a perfect day. And I’ve had it. Maybe not all at once, maybe not in that order, but I’ve had all the pieces, and they add up. Because I’m lucky enough to do this crazy, amazing, hard, wonderful job, and I’m grateful for it every day.


A Darker Shade of Magic (A Darker Shade of Magic, #1)A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

My rating: 4 of 5 teacups

Every night of the year, the market lived and breathed and thrived. The stalls were always changing, but the energy remained, as much a part of the city as the river it fed on. Kell traced the edge of the bank, weaving through the evening fair, savoring the taste and smell of the air, the sound of laughter and music, the thrum of magic.

I’m already a Victoria Schwab fan after reading her good vs evil superhero urban fantasy novel – Vicious – so I couldn’t wait to get reacquainted with her addictive writing style, complex characters and wonderfully-conceived fantasy worlds. As it turns out, A Darker Shade of Magic was even more than I’d expected.

This book feels more like traditional fantasy than Vicious with the style, the invention of a new language, the large cast of characters, the magic, and the focus on royal/political dynamics. And yet, to use the word “traditional” anywhere near this novel is an injustice because it’s unlike anything I’ve ever read before.

The characters are weird and colorful, somehow without feeling gimmicky. We have a protagonist – Kell – who is strong and badass enough to root for, but also complex and layered enough for us to truly care about and relate to at times. Plus, he has a coat that has many sides, which he turns around depending on how he wants to look – insane, unique, wonderful. Schwab’s imagination clearly knows no bounds.

We also have a cross-dressing pirate who happens to be a tough, infuriating and lovable female character – Lila. And a promiscuous prince, villains who are blood slaves, evil twin rulers and much more.

And then there’s this bizarre world that just played on every one of my senses. The author asks us to believe in a setting that is incredibly farfetched and yet she breathes life into this world with evocative language and makes the unbelievable something we can picture in our heads. She shares little stories from this world’s history to flesh out the picture:

The infamous Krös Mejkt, the “Stone Forest,” was made up not of trees but of statues, all of them people. It was rumored the figures hadn’t always been stone, that the forest was actually a graveyard, kept by the Danes to commemorate those they killed, and remind any who passed through the outer wall of what happened to traitors in the twins’ London.

What’s all this about the “twins’ London”? Well, in this world there are four different versions of London that only the Antari like Kell can move between. Technically, there are only three these days because Black London fell, consumed by its own misuse of magic. The others are Grey London (the one we know), Red London (the one Kell is from) and White London (ruled over by the sadistic Danes twins).

Everyone, it seems, is out to use magic for their own selfish goals in this book. And when a mysterious relic from Black London – a relic that should have been destroyed – reappears, Kell and Lila must do what they can to protect it from all those who wish to claim it as their own.

Nothing short of a wild, fast-paced adventure.

Posted on Tuesday, February 17th, 2015 - filed under 2015, 4 Teacups, Blog Tour, Emily, Fantasy, Guest Post, Review, Young Adult .
Little Peach by Peggy Kern

Little PeachLittle Peach by Peggy Kern

My rating: 5 of 5 teacups

“You only missin’ if somebody looking for you.” Kat’s words slice through the air. “Understand? We ain’t missin’, Peach. We just gone.”

I cannot give this heartbreaking, awful little book any less than five stars.

This 200-page story really really affected me. I managed to just about keep it together until the end of the last chapter, but then I read the author’s note about why she’d decided to write about this topic and the tears started to pour. It’s so powerful and horrific. I couldn’t look away.

This is one of those books that grips you immediately. There’s no warm-up period – from the very first chapter we’re thrown into Michelle’s life and we feel every bit of her pain, fear and hope. The author knew exactly how to get me emotionally invested and I soon found myself picking this book up at every opportunity – even for brief moments like when waiting for the kettle to boil.

It has the short, powerful punch of books like Living Dead Girl, only this was a much more detailed, multi-layered story that introduced us to a number of characters who demanded our sympathy. I doubt many readers will make it through this book without feeling sad, furious and scared for these young girls.

In this book, Michelle runs away to New York to get away from her drug addict mother and the leery eyes of her mother’s boyfriend. When there, she gets taken in by a kind man called Devon who gives her food, buys her clothes and treats her with fatherly affection. Even though I knew what this story was about, the author is good enough to make the reader become seduced by Devon and the life he offers. We’re right there inside Michelle’s mind, sharing her hopes that now everything is going to be alright.

Not surprisingly, though, it isn’t.

She soon meets Devon’s other girls – Kat and Baby – and finds herself caught up in the world of child prostitution. It’s a very dark novel, made even more so by the truths that linger behind the fiction. This really does happen. And it’s so awful because Michelle, Kat and Baby are all such well-developed characters. I felt so much sympathy for them but was delighted when the author made them strong, clever and sneaky individuals who were far more than just victims.

In the afterword, the author attempts to answer the question of what people can do about child prostitution in the United States. She gives this advice:
Outrage is a good place to start. Awareness is a good place to start. Compassion is perhaps the most important component we can bring to this issue.

Well, Ms Kern, I think your book will deliver a lot of those three things to all the people who read it.

Posted on Thursday, February 12th, 2015 - filed under 2015, 5 Teacups, Contemporary, Emily, Review, Young Adult .
All the Rage by Courtney Summers

All the RageAll the Rage by Courtney Summers

My rating: 5 of 5 teacups

You know all the ways you can kill a girl?
God, there are so many.

This story… these characters… those words… Courtney Summers has done it again.

I don’t think, on the whole, I am a person who is afraid of much. I’d even go so far as to say I have a somewhat reckless, risk-taking personality at times. But I am scared of a few things… you want to know what one of my biggest fears is? Telling the truth and having no one believe me. Honestly, I think that’s truly terrifying. Knowing you’re being honest, knowing what you know, and being powerless to do anything about it. That’s the first reason this book affected me so much.

What I mentioned above is a running theme behind the scenes of this story, but Summers incorporates many other elements that she excels at. For one, the author has an incredible understanding of teen girl politics – as shown previously in Some Girls Are. I should mention this book is nasty, graphic and contains some coarse language, but I guess that’s high school for you.

…how can you put something so golden, a girl who can barely open her eyes or her mouth – how can you put something like that in front of them and expect them to be better people?

Summers’ writing improves with every book she releases, writing scenes with words that manage to somehow be beautiful and horrific at the same time. But most of all, she has a talent for getting inside the thoughts, feelings, worries and insecurities of teenage girls. She paints unlikable characters and still breathes humanity into them, something that so few authors can do successfully.

As well as all of this, All the Rage also looks at small town life and the alliances that can exist within small communities of people. It makes it easy for your crimes to be overlooked if you’re friends with the right people, or be called a liar if you’re not.

I want to explain to you why I think her books are so different from other YA “issue” novels that deal with angsty teens, but it’s difficult to do without just pushing one of her books into your hands. I guess there’s something very raw, painful and honest about her stories that still steers clear of emotional manipulation. Even the characters we are supposed to find sympathy for are complex and flawed in their own way. I like that.

I hope she writes more soon because, as you may have guessed, I’m an unapologetic fangirl.

Posted on Tuesday, February 3rd, 2015 - filed under 2015, 5 Teacups, Contemporary, Emily, Review, Young Adult .
The Winner’s Crime by Marie Rutkoski

The Winner's Crime (The Winner's Trilogy, #2)The Winner’s Crime by Marie Rutkoski

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Marie Rutkoski has upped her game.

I was one of that annoying minority who didn’t really like The Winner’s Curse. I mean, it was okay, but proved once again that most writers of YA fantasy focus on the flirtations and romancing and forget about pretty much everything else. However, the way that book ended had me curious about the potential new directions of book two…

I was right to be curious. I was right to take my chances on the sequel.

This book just has everything. I would liken it to what Maas did when she took us from the romantic, fantasy-lite Throne of Glass to the clever, action-packed Crown of Midnight. Rutkoski gets vicious in this book. Kestrel must make the hardest of decisions, sacrifice people for the “greater good”, and outwit the emperor and his armies. There are no such things as friends and allies in Kestrel’s world anymore; the only person she can rely on is herself.

It’s amazing how much more I liked the relationship between Kestrel and Arin when it was slipped into the background behind all the treason, revenge and backstabbing going on. The moments when they did meet had more love/hate tension and I found myself angsting over what would happen between them. Because this second book is very clearly not a romance and I felt the complete lack of guarantee in a happy ending on every single page.

The Winner’s Crime is much more tightly-plotted and full of genuine surprises than the first book. I could hardly look away as it zipped along at a wonderful pace, twisting one way and then another. I like how Kestrel is a complex heroine and not wholly good; she’s allowed to be selfish and make choices we don’t necessarily agree with.

I also feel like we got a better sense of Kestrel’s intelligence and ability in this book. Now she has bigger concerns than her romance with Arin and high society life, we get to see her plotting, being damn sneaky, and outwitting the emperor. It gave me a new kind of respect for her and I can’t wait to see where her story goes.

One thing I like a lot about these books is the way each ending has promised a very different kind of story. I only picked up this book because the ending of the last seemed to suggest an entirely new setting and array of problems… and the end of this one does the same. I can already see that the third book will bring something very different.

I’m excited to see what that is.

Posted on Saturday, January 3rd, 2015 - filed under 2015, 4 Teacups, Emily, Fantasy, Review, Young Adult .
Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge

Crimson BoundCrimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Her dreams were a tangled mess of blood and shuddering trees.

This book is damn near perfect.

I just don’t know how to review this wonderful, creepy, gory, clever, twisty fairy tale and be able to do it justice. How do you sell a book to people when it does so many different things and does them all marvelously? I just cannot wait for Cruel Beauty fans to read this.

Crimson Bound is a story full of villains who are allowed to love and heroines who are allowed to murder and be selfish. Rosamund Hodge does not do simple characters – they are all tangled up in a bizarre web of friendship, fear, love, hate, desire and loyalty. You can never quite be sure which characters are trustworthy – if, indeed, any of them are.

If you like fairy tale retellings to stay close to the originals, then Hodge’s imaginative new worlds and mythology may not be for you. I, however, love it. This tale is woven with nods towards the Red Riding Hood story we all know but it wanders far from it into brand new, extremely creepy territory. There are no wolves in this story, at least not in the literal sense, but there are things far far worse.

In the darkest shadows of the wood stands a house. The walls are caulked with blood. The roof is thatched with bones. Within that bloody house lived Old Mother Hunger, the first and eldest of all forestborn.

As with Cruel Beauty, this book is marketed as YA but I would stress that it is probably for the older end of that age group or adults. There are plenty of gruesome battles, sexy scenes and things younger teens might find disturbing.

Now for the story; but I cannot tell you too much because you deserve to discover everything in this book on your own. Anyway, the story is about Rachelle who carelessly strays from the forest path and meets a forestborn who marks her. The rules are thus: a marked human has three days to kill someone and become a slave to the forest’s power or else die. Rachelle makes her choice and will spend the rest of her life paying the price.

Every day for the last three years, she had thought she deserved to die. She still didn’t want to. She wanted to live with every filthy desperate scrap of her heart.

Now older, Rachelle is haunted by her guilt and propelled by the dark power of the forest and the evil Devourer that hides at its centre. Feeling like she has nothing left to lose, she will do anything to stop the Devourer from seizing control of the human world with his darkness. Little does she know that there is always something left to lose.

It’s just wonderful. She’s just wonderful. And complex and selfish at times, but always badass:

“Speechless?” asked Erec. “Don’t be ashamed. I bring all ladies to that state sooner or later.”
“Too bad for you,” she said, “I’m not a lady.”

The book twists about all over the place, never letting you guess how it’s going to end. The tension never leaves and the author is just evil enough to convince you that any and every character you love might die.

I swear my heart was literally racing for the last quarter… so much awesome, so many perfect quotes that I won’t put in this review because they should be discovered at exactly that point in the story. It feels like I’ve been waiting forever for this book and it was oh so worth it.

Posted on Saturday, December 6th, 2014 - filed under 2014, 5 Teacups, Emily, Fantasy, Young Adult .
House Immortal by Devon Monk

House Immortal (House Immortal, #1)House Immortal by Devon Monk

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’m just not sure why more of my friends aren’t fangirling over anything Devon Monk puts out… c’mon, folks! Not only is she in my Big Four, but she’s never, not once, let me down with a book. I can’t even say that for Ilona Andrews (shakes fist Magic Breaks!).

The story is like nothing I’ve ever read before, and actually, that’s the common thread for all of Monk’s books: they’re all so unique and original. On top of that very exciting reality is the fact that Devon Monk’s world building is amazing -seriously. The characters, the setting, the story, the tension, the humor, the feels, GAH! I think that this series might become my favorite of hers, even overtaking Allie and Shame… wow, it’s like saying I could like someone else more than I like Kate – never thought I’d say that. I’m not saying that about Kate, just making the comparison so you all know how much I love Allie.

Allie’s series is special to me because I’ve always fantasized about magic being real and the story makes it all so believable; Shame is one of my favorite characters from that story, so his own series is special to me, too. But this book really blew my socks off. Usually there’s that moment when you’re a couple books into a series and realize that first one wasn’t that great, and you’re surprised you kept reading, but this first one doesn’t feel like that. I can only hope it’s going to be as long as Allie’s series.

The story is about Matilda, and the theme I’d choose to describe it would be acceptance. Learning to accept yourself and all that comes with that. There are a cast of characters that are all really interesting, and several beasts that were crazy awesome – like the kitten sized sheep with endless wool that Tilly’s grandma used to knit with – I really want those. The antagonist was wonderfully evil, and the romantic interest was ridiculously sexy. Our MC isn’t the kind to sit back and be taken care of, and you know how much I appreciate that. She was funny, courageous, humble, loyal, and in my opinion, authentic.

A believable dystopian novel featuring a cast that you can’t help but feel curious about, and a story that keeps you up late into the night even though you have stuff to do the next morning… that’s what I want more of.

Posted on Thursday, November 13th, 2014 - filed under 2014, 5 Teacups, Brandi, Dystopian, Review, Science Fiction .
The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey

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The Infinite Sea (The 5th Wave, #2)The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey

My rating: 4 of 5 teacups

Ever since I finished The 5th Wave, the very thought of this sequel has inspired a reaction something like:

I really LOVED the first book. I read it in the middle of my college exam period and it was the only thing that kept me sane in between studying. The atmosphere was just right, the writing was engaging to me, and I thought each of the characters brought something important to the table. Damn, I even wrote a (not very good) song about it. Such love is hard to follow.

When I opened this book I was both excited and nervous. My expectations were so high that I knew it was dangerous. And, what can I say? I really needn’t have worried. While I don’t view this book as the same alien-wrapped perfection we got in book one, there is something so entirely compelling about Yancey’s writing that makes me think we would be great friends in real life.

This book has more faults, not quite as much eerie atmosphere now the big secrets are out, and more gory action… but, overall, it is a worthy sequel that didn’t fail to punch me in the gut numerous times. If you were a little worried that Yancey wouldn’t be able to pull out another good ‘un after The 5th Wave – don’t be.

“The world will burn for a hundred years. Fire will consume the things we made from wood and plastic and rubber and cloth, then water and wind and time will chew the stone and steel into dust. How baffling it is that we imagined cities incinerated by alien bombs and death rays when all they needed was Mother Nature and time.”

I think the first book is a quieter novel, which had different effects on different readers. I, personally, thought it was one of the book’s strengths. The Infinite Sea is a different kind of book. We finished the first after a huge climax of action and drama; the secrets were out, covers had been blown, we were suddenly dropped into the middle of a war that only escalated with this second book. Here things go from bad to worse; people are lost, distrust lingers between the characters, these kids have had to grow up faster than kids ever should.

To get the negative out of the way…

The biggest – or most annoying – fault of this book is Cassie. I am relieved that Yancey chose to write in a style that moves from perspective to perspective effectively because she might have driven me crazy otherwise. Yancey’s characters are so different and have so many layers that I don’t believe for a second that the author was chanelling his own beliefs through Cassie, but that didn’t stop me from hating the slut-shaming, self-righteous little… I can’t think of anything to call her that isn’t too offensive or British slang.

Her love for Evan is a little more nauseating in this sequel than in the first, but I am glad that this whole situation introduces us to a minor but fascinating character called Grace. This is her from Cassie’s perspective:

“a tall girl with a cascade of honey-blond hair and striking Norwegian-model-type features, piercing blue eyes, full, pouty, collagen-packed lips, and the willowy figure of a runway fashion princess.
“Hello, Evan,” Cosmo Girl said. And of course her voice was deep and slightly scratchy like every seductive villainess ever conceived by Hollywood.”

*eye roll* and then later…

“Why don’t you tell me,” I shot back. “You extraterrestrial slut.”

Allow me to point out that she is a “slut” because she used to be with Evan before Cassie came along. Cassie and Evan are like the Mary Sue and Gary Stu at the centre of this book who angst over each other with emo poetry. If these things bug you too you might be wondering how this book still manages to pull out a load of awesome and get a high rating…

Because – and I should probably stress this – Cassie and Evan are only a very small part of The Infinite Sea. This book is full of different characters and interesting little back stories that it’s easy to just ignore those two. As I said, we get to meet Grace who I found fascinating. We hear the back story between her and Evan so she becomes something more interesting and well-rounded than merely Evan’s ex who is being used as a tool to make Cassie jealous. And we learn Poundcake’s disturbing history and find out just why he never speaks.

But my favourite character? Ringer. She was rapidly becoming my favourite in the first book and this one just cemented my love for her. I love everything about her. From the rage that bubbles beneath the surface:

“My anger is greater than the sum of all lost things.”

To her flirtations with Zombie, her intriguing back story and the way she tells Cassie exactly how it is:

“Beats hanging around here waiting for your alien prince to come.”

Hahaha! You bloody tell her!

In the end, this was a really good sequel with plenty of action, drama, twists and turns. I didn’t reread the first book before I started and that surprisingly didn’t affect my enjoyment, I got sucked back into the world and story instantly. I feel like I’m just completely on the same wavelength with Rick Yancey because his writing always just works for me; he can be writing about action or characters or philosophical musings… and I genuinely enjoy reading it. Can’t wait for the next book.

Posted on Monday, September 22nd, 2014 - filed under 2014, 4 Teacups, Dystopian, Emily, Review, Science Fiction, Young Adult .
The Providence of Fire by Brian Staveley

The Providence of Fire (Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne, #2)The Providence of Fire by Brian Staveley

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a really difficult book to review because it’s one of those books that is an experience rather than a story. Brian Staveley is not only an invaluable new voice to the epic fantasy genre, and the literary world at large, but he’s on his way to being one of the greats.


Don’t wait until HBO or some film producer pick up the rights before you read this- it’s that good. Actually, if the people who produce GoT took this on I’d expect it to live up to its awesomeness. I hope this happens because I need that in my life.

I’m not going to get into the plot further than the synopsis says because this is a book that everyone should go into not knowing what to expect, and this comes from someone who usually has no qualms with spoilers, but since I have an ARC I’m not even going to reiterate just in case there’s a change before print. I will tell you that this is has multiple storylines that are all connected but told fairly separately. It works beautifully though. I have a plethora of updates that I recommend looking over- I included several non-spoilery quotes.

One of the very best things about this story are the characters, it’s a character driven story for sure, and not only the fact that they’re all complex and fleshed out, but that each voice is so discernible. There is a big cast here, and they’re not all from the same place and such, no, they’re bringing differences that are great and small and not once did I feel like I was reading the same voice. Not one single time. I can’t even find the words. Still. I’ve been trying to think of it all day what I could say that would impress upon you all that it’s a need, not a want, for yourselves.

Superbly written, sublimely enchanting, utterly engrossing, grabs-you-by-the-throat-and-refuses-to-let-go, and then you’re a shell of a person once you’re finished. Laughing, crying, incredulity, frustration, shock, and disturbed are just a few of the feelings you should prepare yourself for.


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Posted on Wednesday, August 27th, 2014 - filed under 2014, 5 Teacups, Brandi, Fantasy, Review .
My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories

My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday StoriesMy True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories by Stephanie Perkins

My rating: 3 of 5 teacups

Like almost all short story collections by various authors, this one is a mixed bag of hidden gems and ones I didn’t even finish. If you’d asked me beforehand to name a list of YA authors that I’d like to appear in a short story collection, many of the ones here would have made that list: Stephanie Perkins, Laini Taylor, Holly Black, Gayle Forman, David Levithan and maybe Rainbow Rowell (I like but don’t love her books).

Then if you’d asked me what kind of short story collection I’d like to have from these favourites of mine, you would have got all kinds of weird and wonderful suggestions from me… but a collection of holiday-themed romances would never have occurred to me as something enjoyable. I’m not much of a romantic or a Christmas person, to be honest. I’m more of a Halloween type of girl – and all the genres that could possibly go with it. But I did get some really nice surprises here. I’m not sure it’s worth buying the entire collection but it would be sad for you to miss out on the better ones. And it is a pleasingly diverse set of stories, filled with people of all races, ethnicities, religions and sexualities *thumbs up*

Personally, I think this book starts and ends with the two best stories, from Rainbow Rowell and Laini Taylor respectively. Taylor’s work came as no surprise but I didn’t see Rowell’s tale coming. She really hit me where it hurts (in a good way). The story made me sit up and take notice in a collection that I wasn’t sure would be my thing. I’m not going to review every single story properly because some didn’t pique my interest and some I skim-read, but here’s what I thought.

“Midnights” by Rainbow Rowell – 5/5
This was my favourite story and it probably wasn’t a good idea for it to appear first because so many that followed received unfair comparisons with it. It tells the story of the midnight countdown on New Year’s Eve over several years, revisiting the same characters in a non-chronological order and slowly filling in the blanks on their personalities and relationship. It amazed me how much I fell in love with the two protagonists, how well-developed their characters were in so short an amount of time and pages.

“You’re a kaleidoscope. You change every time I look away.”

It was a funny, sweet, wonderful little story. With a hint of melancholy, as all the best New Year stories should be. There’s something really sad about the possibility of the new and moving on and becoming someone else, not being who you once were. Rowell captures that hint of fear people have about growing up and everyone they once knew changing around them.

“The Lady and the Fox” by Kelly Link – 2/5
This was one I didn’t read properly. It started well and had an intriguing premise but I grew bored.

“Angels in the Snow” by Matt De La Pena – 3/5
I really liked the idea of this one and my only real problem with it was that I didn’t like the female love interest. It was refreshing to see a YA romance told from a male perspective and I liked the subtle exploration of race and racial stereotyping that existed without overtaking the main story. It’s about a guy who is house-sitting for his boss over the Christmas period and is slowly starving in a house with no food (he is broke). An encounter with his pretty neighbor sparks an interesting and unlikely relationship that is built up through the telling of stories.

Indulging more and more tidbits about each others lives, the two grow closer. But how much of what they tell each other is the truth?

“Polaris is Where You’ll Find Me” by Jenny Han – 2/5
It must just be something about Jenny Han’s writing style that doesn’t agree with me because I’ve been unable to like any of her books. I started to skim read this story and I can’t actually remember what it’s about. Hence, no real review. Oh well…

“It’s a Yuletide Miracle, Charlie Brown” by Stephanie Perkins – 4/5
I’m really not surprised that Perkins delivered. It was her name that I saw first on this collection and I added it immediately before checking out who else was included. Her stories are always so cute and sweet, but without too much of the cheesy. This one is no exception.

Unlike Rowell’s story – that deals with a relationship over the period of several years – Perkins tells us a love story that takes place over just a few hours. And it is surprisingly effective. She builds instantly likable characters and uses her gift for dialogue to convince you to root for the two protagonists even after such a short amount of time. It is one of the more feel-good, enjoyable stories in here, but it also deals with anxieties about the future and the expectations other people have of you.

“Your Temporary Santa” by David Levithan – no rating
I didn’t read far enough with this one because I felt no connection to the characters, which is why I’m not leaving a rating or review. I’m extremely pleased that an LGBT romance was included in the collection, I know some romance collection publishers in the past have been douches about it, but I wasn’t grabbed by the story. As much as I have enjoyed Levithan’s work in the past, most of his more recent stuff hasn’t really worked for me.

“Krampuslauf by Holly Black” – no rating
Sometimes I love Holly Black so much that I get pulled in and completely addicted to her stories. And sometimes her style does nothing for me. This time was the latter. Didn’t finish.

“What the Hell Have You Done, Sophie Roth?” by Gayle Forman – 3/5
This story is about a Jewish girl who moves to college in a small, very Christian place where she feels like a complete outsider. There she meets a black boy who is equally treated like an outsider and these two big city small town misfits find something important in each other. I liked it okay.

The characters were interesting enough that I read to the end and enjoyed reading about their relationship. However, I think the story was built up solely around addressing racial and religious stereotypes, which I agree is important, but here it overshadowed everything else that happened. Most of the dialogue was made up of the two protagonists discussing the way other people saw them in this new town. I understand the idea about outsiders coming together, but I got the impression that these two got together simply because she was Jewish and he was black. Plus, the ending got a little too cheesy for me.

“Beer Buckets and Baby Jesus” by Myra McEntire – no rating
I didn’t read this one. Someone tell me if it’s good and I’ll go try it :)

“Welcome to Christmas, CA” by Kiersten White – 3/5
White is not one of my favourite authors. I’ve tried a bunch of her books and never been able to get into them or understand the hype. So I didn’t have much hope for this one, but I tried it and it was better than expected. Unlike most of the authors in this collection, White goes with a quirky, funny style that was easy to digest and enjoyable. The characters weren’t as memorable as some of the others, but I did get a few laughs from it.

“Star of Bethlehem” by Ally Carter – no rating
I didn’t try reading this one either because it just didn’t appeal to me. Feel free to let me know if it’s good.

“The Girl Who Woke the Dreamer” by Laini Taylor – 5/5
*sigh* And finally… Laini Taylor is so reliably, consistently good in her storytelling and her beautiful, evocative language. In a collection full of contemporaries, she manages to take us into her own fantasy world and breathe some magic and wonderful prose into the holiday season.

All evening long, real snow would fall from the ceiling to glitter on the lashes of dancing girls and ardent boys, but Neve and the Dreamer didn’t linger. They had other things to do: all of them. All the things, dreamed and undreamed, in the depth and breadth of the whole spinning world.

Posted on Thursday, August 21st, 2014 - filed under 2014, 3 Teacups, Emily, Review, Romance, Young Adult .
Unteachable by Leah Raeder

UnteachableUnteachable by Leah Raeder

My rating: 5 of 5 teacups

I’ve had several comments on my reviews of the NA experiment books asking why I insist on putting myself through all this torture. The simple answer: to find books like this one. Unteachable isn’t a perfect book. It sits comfortably within the contemporary romance genre that we’ve come to expect from New Adult and – plot-wise – it cannot be considered groundbreaking. But the writing, the mood, and the characters made this a book I couldn’t put down. You want to get some idea what this book is like? Look at that cover. Look at the explosion of bright colours winding off into a neon portrait of a young woman. That might give you some idea. A gif to represent this book? Here you go:

But really, what is Unteachable? I’ll tell you. It’s a lyrical, intoxicating novel that creates an atmosphere of such feverish intensity you feel a little high, a little out of control, just by reading it. I fell into this story and got lost amongst the lights of the carnival, the smell of beer and sweat, and the MC’s apprehension. I felt the pull of this story from the very beginning when Maise takes a ride on that fateful rollercoaster at the carnival and her life starts to change forever. Because this book is a romance and the romantic aspect is the foundation of the story, but it’s also about something else. I suppose it is really a coming-of-age tale. Of being a young woman balanced between childhood and the scary world of adults. It asks what it means to grow up. And if any of us ever really do.

Maise O’Malley is the star of this show and I loved her instantly. I didn’t expect her to be so funny. She’s wickedly sarcastic, she’s shamelessly rebellious, she’s not afraid of being more than a little crude at times. But, of course, she’s so much more than all of that too. Maise is a fascinating combination of:

And a bitter, sad fragility. She feels more real that any of the NA protagonists I’ve met with recently, there’s something genuine about the way she boxes her troubles up and locks them away behind doors with sexy, devil-may-care smiles. I feel like there’s something known about pain here. All these NA novels I’ve read about girls with issues, girls running from dark pasts, girls who were abused… and none of them seem to capture that darkness, that melancholy of being fucked up for a very long time. There’s something sadder about the way Maise brushes it off with a shrug and a joke about Freud, it affected me more than the melodrama of other novels. I don’t know the author’s story, but she certainly writes with a convincing flair that suggests some level of firsthand experience with the thoughts and emotions swirling away behind Maise’s closed doors. I love it when an author writes something, a thought or a feeling, that you never realised was exactly how you felt at a certain time or in a certain situation until it was laid out before you in a book. Inexplicable sensations are suddenly explained and it’s hard not to smile or laugh or cry along with the characters.

Raeder’s writing was, for me, perfect. Atmospheric, pretty without quite hitting the purple end of the scale, just beautiful. Like this:

I biked up to the water tower on the hill overlooking the prairie. Climbed the rust-eaten struts up to a crow’s nest some stoners had hammered together out of Mississippi driftwood. It wasn’t as hot tonight, and a restless wind raked through the grass, smelling of loam and barley. From here the carnival lights looked like fireflies swirling madly in place, trapped under an invisible jar. Just like me.

I especially love the use of past tense in this book, the way Maise tells the story from a present the reader is far away from reaching. She keeps talking about how “I didn’t know back then” and “I wonder what would have been different had I made another choice that day” and I actually loved it. The hindsight makes the whole thing seem somehow tragically inevitable. It works. You know certain things are coming and, rather than dampen the tension, it heightens it an incredible amount. I was sat there with a pounding heart, knowing what was coming, and sometimes wanting to hide behind my hands and not watch what I knew would happen. This, combined with the film metaphors woven throughout, made for a stunning, exciting novel.

Images and words flash past too fast to parse, like the cliche dying moment in film, when life flashes before someone’s eyes. Except that isn’t what happens when you die – it’s what happens when you live. It all flashes past. You barely have time to feel it before it’s gone.

Now for the relationship. Teacher and student. All kinds of wrong. All kinds of room for a really hot mess. But I think this relationship is used well here, not just to feed the reader’s forbidden fantasies. For one, it’s legal (phew) and they “hooked up” before the awkward classroom encounter and she had lied about her age. For another, he is so adorable I do not have words. I’ve got used to expecting a certain type of love interest from these NA novels. Arrogant, self-obsessed, controlling, annoying… Evan is none of those things. He is sweet, kind, considerate, he puts her first (which adds up to more than letting her come first) and he still manages to be totally sexy. His character development extends beyond his looks, he has faults and he has his own past that isn’t so peachy – I think if I could write an ideal NA male love interest, it would be exactly like him. I find it amazing that the NA relationship that is technically most inappropriate is the one that has felt most real and honest to me.

And because I liked Maise and I liked Evan… I loved them both together. And that made the sex scenes really hot. Just sayin’.

Now to get a couple of negatives out of the way. The most notable blemish to this novel’s perfection occurs around the middle where there is a slow chunk made up of nothing but sex. I know, I know, I’m such a spoilsport. But there were one or two sex scenes too many if you ask me. Your sex shouldn’t get tedious and there was a point somewhere between orgasms when I was hoping it would just move along a bit. Don’t worry, though, it picks up again. My other issue was with the handling of Hiyam’s character. I would have liked her to have been more well-rounded rather than just a mindless villain used as a tool to threaten the novel’s harmony. I also wish Maise had used a different term to describe insecure teenage girls than “bulimic”, it didn’t sit well with me and seemed to trivialize a serious illness. I understand it was Maise’s skewed view of them, but I ‘d just rather it wasn’t in there.

Now, let’s get back to the good! I haven’t mentioned the cast of secondary characters that I feel were extremely well-developed for a romance novel. Wesley, Siobhan… and I personally think Maise’s mum deserves a novel of her own because we barely scratched the surface with her. She is one of the worst mothers ever, but I’d love to get her story. The strength of all of them, I felt, was in the witty dialogue zipping back and forth. You could almost take out everything but the dialogue and it would still be a four star novel. I recall what I said in my recent review of Hopeless about how I wished the author had the guts to write a typically unlikeable “slutty” protagonist and make us love her. I got that here. I also got the closest thing to a feminist I’m probably ever going to find in these NA books. I imagined myself and Maise as partners in crime when I read this:

I looked at my desk. Someone had carved RIHANNA = SLUT. I thought about adding CHRIS BROWN = DOMESTIC ABUSER, but Mr Wilke probably would’ve caught me before I finished.

I really did like this book. A LOT. A lot more than I thought I was going to. It does the one thing I really wanted the NA genre to do from the start: capture that feeling of loneliness and desperation that occurs when you have no idea where you’re going next or who you’re going to be when it comes time to “grow up”. It’s about how teens grow up, and it’s about how sometimes adults never did. I don’t even care that the ending had more than a touch of cheese. I was ready for it. I was like an empty toasted sandwich, waiting to be cheesed <<<<<< Don't judge me, I will likely never again have chance to use that sentence.

One last quote, Emily? Well, if you insist:

That’s all life is. Breathing in, breathing out. The space between two breaths.

Posted on Wednesday, July 30th, 2014 - filed under 2014, 5 Teacups, Emily, New Adult Experiment, Review, Romance .
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Hi! I'm Emily May but feel free to call me Emily. I'm a nerdy, book-loving Politics graduate from the North of England.

Hey there! I'm Brandi; I'm a Navy veteran, Army wife, mother, feminist and book lover! My favorite genre would have to be paranormal-romance, but any fiction is game really.

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