Review: Jenn Bennett – Alex, Approximately

Alex, Approximately
Jenn Bennett

Bailey has just moved in with her dad, in the town that her online heartthrob just happens to live in. After she gets a job at the only local job place, she instead finds herself trying to deal with the most irritating boy alive, with no time to stalk down the enigmatic Alex.

This novel just wasn’t breathtaking. It’s a typical love story where the girl moves cities to near her online boyfriend… without telling him. Then she wants to stalk him to find him in real life. Instead, she happens to meet the most annoying boy in the world. Then of course, it all turns out exactly as you would expect with no cliffhangers or doubt.

I like this novel because it covered some important topics as well as just fulfilling a typical teenage romance. It touched on cyber safety and not giving away your private details online. It also covered sexual activity safety, and the proper (although awkward) interactions to make sure that each partners is ready for sex. That really made up a lot of the humour of the novel since Bailey blushed so easily!

This is firmly in the YA category thanks to its frank discussion of drugs and sex. What I wasn’t sure about was how accurate the depiction of Alex and her father was. I get that he’s not a very strict parent but it seems like she really could get away with murder. Likewise, he’s not very observant. Drug use in this novel has an impact on the two main characters, but it had a satisfactory outcome. A very sad satisfactory outcome, but that was just the way it ended up.

I don’t know anything about California but seems like the weather is awesome and the beaches sound at least a bit like Australian breaches, where there is real sand. However, the West Coast versus the East Coast thing leaves me a bit confused. Anyway for a person who isn’t a beach person, the relevant interactions were great.

Guys, I failed miserably at reviewing this novel in a timely manner. I had jotted down some rough notes for myself, but saved them under the title ‘Alex, Absolutely’! So of course, when I went looking for the novel on GoodReads without my hard copy in front of me… well, I couldn’t find it until now. Past me had given it 3 stars, so I’ll stick with that rating.

Simon & Schuster | 1st April 2017 | AU$17.99 | paperback

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Interview with Danielle Ellison

Danielle Ellison is a nomad, a lover of make-believe, and a bit of coffee snob. Always on the lookout for an adventure and the next story, she has had more zip codes and jobs than she can count.

In addition to writing, she’s the founder of the NoVa TEEN Book Festival in Virginia and a teen librarian. When she’s not busy with books, she’s probably watching her favorite shows, drinking coffee, or fighting her nomadic urges.

She is settled in Georgia (for now) with her cat, Simon, but you can always find her on twitter @DanielleEWrites.

I’m not going to be reviewing your newest novel, but from your other published novels, is there one that is your own personal favourite?

Honestly, they each have a special place in my heart. Besides the newest one, which is probably my favorite – I’d say Days Like This. I worked really hard on that one. Or Salt because it was the first one I published.

Everyone has a ‘first novel’, even if many of them are a rough draft relegated to the bottom and back of your desk drawer (or your external harddrive!). Have you been able to reshape yours, or have you abandoned it for good?

Oh goodness, my first book is in the proverbial closet forever and it will remain there. I learned a lot from that book. Parts of it have been reshaped into other stories that I’ve written, but I’ve never really gone back to it. I don’t think I would now either. While that was a fun story, I’ve grown as a writer and I’d rather move forward instead of going back. Sorry, first book.

Some authors are able to pump out a novel a year and still be filled with inspiration. Is this the case for you, or do you like to let an idea percolate for a couple of years in order to get a beautiful novel?

It varies. Some stories take longer than others. The Sweetheart Sham was started two years ago, then shelved, then taken out and written with my editor. Other books, some published and not, have moved much, much faster and some longer. Unless I’m on a deadline, I try not to stress myself with writing in a certain timeframe. I don’t go seeking inspiration or any of that because I write characters, so as long as they are there, I’m writing them.

I have heard of writers that could only write in one place – then that cafe closed down and they could no longer write! Where do you find yourself writing most often, and on what medium (pen/paper or digital)?

I write on the computer. It’s just easier for me. Sometimes I will venture into a notebook, but then it’s always typed up. I’m not really sure on the one place thing. I can write anywhere, I think. I do like having a go-to place, and when I lived in Georgia I had that. But here in Oklahoma, I don’t have that yet, but I only moved recently so I’m hoping to find it with my new routine.

Before going on to hire an editor, most authors use beta-readers. How do you recruit your beta-readers? Are you lucky enough to have loving family members who can read and comment on your novel?

My beta readers are always my agent and typically a friend or two, depending on the story and the kind of feedback I need. I have a beta reader, Traci, who reads EVERY book as I write it. We started that a couple years ago and now she can’t get away from me. She used to be a book blogger, and then when I was an editor at a small press, she was one of my editing interns. One day I asked her for an opinion on one of my stories, and ever since then she’s been one of my first sets of eyes. It’s great to have someone to talk to while drafting. I am very lucky.

I walk past bookshops and am drawn in by the smell of the books – ebooks simply don’t have the same attraction for me. Does this happen to you, and do you have a favourite bookshop? Or perhaps you are an e-reader fan… where do you source most of your material from?

I love bookstores. I was a bookseller for years and years, so bookstores hold a special place in my heart. I think indie stores, especially, are filled with passionate staffers and readers. My favorite bookshop is One More Page Books in Arlington, VA: great selection, atmosphere, awesome staff. (But I’m biased.)

That said, I love e-books too. I think there’s enough room in the world for both!

I used to find myself buying books in only one genre (fantasy) before I started writing this blog. What is your favourite genre, and do you have a favourite author who sticks in your mind from:

  1. childhood? 

Goosebumps. Hands down. Those were my jam.

  1. adolescence? 

VC Andrews – I read the first one  in 5th grade (the Orphan girls/Runaways series)—and Lurlene McDaniel. I thought all books ended sadly.

  1. young adult? 

Harry Potter. I was a teen in love.

  1. adult?

YA books, the whole genre really.

 Social media is a big thing, much to my disgust! I never have enough time myself to do what I feel is a good job. If you manage your own profile, please tell me as much as you are comfortable with in regards to your preferred platform and an estimate of time you spend doing it [and whether you like doing it!]

I use twitter and instagram, and I have an author facebook, but I’m not as good about it as I want to be. I love using it because it’s an instant connection with readers and other writers. That’s the best part for me. I get why people don’t like it. Sometimes, it can feel like you’re shouting into the void, but if you shout enough then someone will hear you. It’s changed a lot the last two years, so I’m still figuring it all out for the current climate of things. As far as how much time I spend, probably not enough.

About The Sweetheart Sham:

In a small town like Culler, South Carolina, you guard your secrets like you guard your cobbler recipe: with your life. Georgia Ann Monroe knows a thing or two about secrets: she’s been guarding the truth that her best friend Will is gay for years now. But what happens when a little white lie to protect him gets her into a fake relationship…and then the boy of her dreams shows up?

Enter Beau Montgomery: Georgie’s first love, hotter than ever, and much too much of a southern gentleman to ever pursue someone else’s girl. There’s no way to come clean to Beau while still protecting Will. But bless their hearts, they live in Culler—where secrets always have a way of revealing themselves.

Disclaimer: This Entangled Teen Crush book contains a hilarious “fakeship,” a scorching-hot impossible relationship, and a heartwarming best-friendship that will make you want to call your best friend right here, right now.

Buy link: https://entangledpublishing.com/the-sweetheart-sham.html

 

Author Links:

Website, Twitter, FacebookInstagram and Newsletter.

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Review: Gwyneth Rees – Libby in the Middle

Libby in the Middle
Gwyneth Rees

Libby is the middle. She’s the average sister out of three, doomed to always sit in the middle of the car back seat. When she moves to a new town, Libby just wants to fit in – but will that be possible around her family’s secrets?

From the intermittent parts of this novel that I have read, Libby is a nice enough 8th grader who is just really pliable when it comes to helping her big sister out. After I read the first chapter out loud, I then missed a bunch of chapters up to chapter 8. However, it seemed like nothing had even happened in the novel! This is not a fast-paced enough novel for me.

The 8 year old reader in my household decided that this was a good novel for her to read independently. It does contain some content that I would consider inappropriate for her age group (eg. stealing, lying, getting together with a boyfriend your parents don’t approve of). However, I believe it is the first novel she has ever read that contains NO PICTURES so I’m not going to be picking on her choice too much.

This novel was deemed “My review so far – AWESOME!” by my younger reader, so I’ll be giving it 4 stars. She did say it wouldn’t be a reread, so that takes it out 5 stars. I guess I might have to come up with baby Dragon eggs or something!

Bloomsbury | 1st January 2018 | AU$12.99 | paperback

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Interview with Nicky Blue

An Interview with Nicky Blue, author of Escape from Samsara

Everyone has a ‘first novel’, even if many of them are a rough draft relegated to the bottom and back of your desk drawer (or your external harddrive!). Have you been able to reshape yours, or have you abandoned it for good?

My first novel is still sitting in my desk drawer. I have so many ideas moving forward, I don’t have the inclination to revisit it yet. I think the book has quite a solid plot and I still stand by a lot of the imagery. It would take a lot more work to get it ready for publication.

Some authors are able to pump out a novel a year and still be filled with inspiration. Is this the case for you, or do you like to let an idea percolate for a couple of years in order to get a beautiful novel?

Ideas come easily for me I’m pleased to say. I like to write fast and get things down as quickly as they come to me. I change/ update ideas in my edits. I aim to write 2-3 novellas a year.

I have heard of writers that could only write in one place – then that cafe closed down and they could no longer write! Where do you find yourself writing most often, and on what medium (pen/paper or digital)?

I can write anywhere on any medium. My favourite is the local library in town as it is full of students typing away. I join their rhythmical flow.

Before going on to hire an editor, most authors use beta-readers. How do you recruit your beta-readers, and choose an editor? Are you lucky enough to have loving family members who can read and comment on your novel?

I have family members to read my stuff work but you don’t get the objectivity. I am lucky to have a team of people on my mailing list that read my work and give me feedback.

I walk past bookshops and am drawn in by the smell of the books – ebooks simply don’t have the same attraction for me. Does this happen to you, and do you have a favourite bookshop? Or perhaps you are an e-reader fan… where do you source most of your material from?

I love old musty bookshops, the dustier the better, I source most of my material leafing through bookshops in Brighton my hometown. Ebooks have their place though, especially on trips away.

I used to find myself buying books in only one genre (fantasy) before I started writing this blog. What is your favourite genre, and do you have a favourite author who sticks in your mind?

Tom Holt was my favourite in adolescence, I used to only read comedy. I started reading Dystopian novels in my early twenties. I loved Aldous Huxley. Now I read across all genres. If it comes recommended I will read it. I am currently rereading Dune by Frank Herbert.

Social media is a big thing, much to my disgust! I never have enough time myself to do what I feel is a good job. What do you do?

I manage my own social media profiles but hire a virtual assistant for admin related tasks. I only spend 1-2 maximum a day on social media, normally in the evenings.

It is my belief there is a lot of hype around social media. It is wise to have a presence but it won’t make you a better writer. If you are a good writer people will find you.

Answering interview questions can often take a long time! Tell me, are you ever tempted to recycle your answers from one to the next?

It’s tempting but I enjoy the writing!

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Review: Nowhere Near You – Leah Thomas

Nowhere Near You
Leah Thomas

Ollie is out to see the world. Clad in his rock wool beanie to stop himself shorting out every electronic in sight, he’s going to document the stories of every weirdling out there Moritz is getting out to see the world too – and having people accept him, eyeless face and all.

So many lies! So many betrayals! So many twists! So much still unsaid! This novel was filled with excited Ollie chatter, and it filled me with his infectious glee as well. And of course, Moritz’s mainly calming influence. Two boys who grow up (at least a little bit), by facing the world. And just because they are different doesn’t mean that they don’t face the usual teenage problems like falling in love or learning how to deal with school

Oh why didn’t Ollie get to say goodbye? It was already too late after all. Except that ‘Stashe was still trying to hide the truth. Seriously dude, leave it already! The truth always outs, or something like that. That message forum was brilliant. I can’t wait to see what comes out of it. The internet is a wonderful thing.

Why did I wait so long to review this fabulous novel? Well, the problem was that it was the sequel to Because You’ll Never Meet Me, and I didn’t have access to a copy! I had started reading this one, but felt completely confused so I returned it. I got a local library membership recently and actually used it to read the eBook.

I want a sequel. Surely there is something for Ollie! It’s so unfair, but when is life? At least he should be able to keep himself occupied a little better… I’m giving this 5 stars, I was so taken by it. I have a friend I am going to lend it to asap as well.

Bloomsbury | 1st March 2017 | AU$15.99 | paperback

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Review: Leah Thomas – Because You’ll Never Meet Me

Because You’ll Never Meet Me
Leah Thomas

Oliver and Moritz are two unlikely penpals. One has a strange allergy, yet affinity, to electricity. The other’s heartbeat is maintained by a pacemaker, so they can never meet. Although it takes a while for Moritz to warm up to Oliver, the two friends become fast friends – but will they still be able to share their secrets with each other?

I distinctly felt the two writing styles of Oliver and Moritz, and although at first I was worried about a text that consisted of letters the formatting ended up working well (i hate everyone but you got rejected from my bookshelf due to its text/email correspondence)). Even as the characters mature, the text styles stay different enough that it is obvious who is who.

This novel had me invested in the two characters and how they grew as people. At the same time as Oliver learning to focus, Moritz learnt how to reach out to people. I think more could have been made of the ‘superhero’ aspect, but at the same time, the novel was already well focused on their personal struggles. I kept expecting them to start writing a comic together though!

PS: There is a twist you won’t see coming AT ALL. Do tell me what you thought of it!

I can’t wait to read the second novel in this duo, Nowhere Near You. A road trip will be awesome! I put up with reading an eBook of this novel so that I could read its sequel ASAP. I’m giving this 4 stars for an interesting and intriguing storyline.

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Review: Libba Bray – The Diviners

The Diviners
Libba Bray

Evie O’Neill has freed herself inadvertently from her boring old hometown of Ohio by telling too much of the truth. Now in New York, she has the run of the town – but Naughty John is on a occult killing spree that she has to prevent.

I got almost half-way through this novel, and nothing had happened. No-one I cared about was in real danger, and the Beast didn’t actually feel like a real threat for ‘normal’ people. From what I read from the blurb I think the myriad of characters eventually team up? But I didn’t see any of that, and instead I found myself again wondering why I cared about anyone’s outcome.

Let’s be honest here. I was probably never going to like a novel that was set in the 1920s, where the main character was a drunk flapper girl who didn’t appreciate the gift she had. I like a touch of the supernatural as much as the next person, and I realise that not everyone has morals when using a gift. But honestly? Evvie is an idiot.

I received the third novel of this series for review from Allen and Unwin, but I will not be reading it. Don’t waste your time on this novel either. DNF – 1 star.

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Review: Vic James – Tarnished City

Tarnished City
Vic James

Luke is now a different kind of prisoner – actually imprisoned on an island to await torture and very eventual death. His sister Abi is determined to free him – but who will she end up having to side with to get there? The Jardines are determined to have power, but how many of them are actually interested in it?

This is the same lovely mix of magic and slavery that I enjoyed in the first novel of this series, Gilded Cage. I waited impatiently for this novel, and I was not disappointed. What is it about these novels that draws me in?

I find the method of torture practiced on Luke to be interesting, and it’s great that Vic James has spent a lot of time developing a selection of different story lines. This is one of the few novels in which I actually enjoy the multiple perspectives because each character has a very distinctive ‘voice’.

When I returned to my main bookshelf to install this novel in its rightful place, I wanted to revisit the first novel immediately! But it has now been some time since I read this novel, and of course still more novels vie for my attention. In my opinion, the first novel might have been more exciting for action and daring, but this novel is filled with intrigue.

I’m giving this novel 5 stars for its gripping and sometimes unexpected plot, and also giving an appreciative mention to the interesting philosophical questions that it raises.

Pan Macmillan | 12th September 2017 | AU$19.99 | paperback

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Review: Ruth Lauren – Prisoner of Ice and Snow

Prisoner of Ice and Snow
Ruth Lauren

Valor is heartbroken without her sister, so badly that she is determined to rescue her sister from a prison that no-one has escaped in over three hundred years. Valor is sure that her love for her sister will be enough – and her plan will surely succeed. But what will happen next?

This novel was a wussy one. It revisited old tropes of a sister being wrested away unfairly because of a crime she didn’t commit, and then her sibling doing something equally ‘awful’ in order to be sent there so that they can escape. And then it turns out, surprise surprise, that there is someone else working there who could potentially help them!

Although there was potential for action, it seemed like all the plans Valor had in place were too predictable to succeed. Somehow, the guards just happened to be a lot stupider than the last 300 years? Valor herself is fine, but there are plenty of other strong female protagonists that you can get behind in other, better novels.

I left this novel far too long to review after reading it, and I now don’t remember as much as I should. Slightly off topic, but why is ‘Valor’ as a name always just with an ‘o’, but ‘valour’ as in the personality trait has an ‘ou’? I’m well aware that the Americans use the ‘o’ and Australians use ‘ou’, but it still makes no sense! 

I’m not going to be looking out for another novel in this series. This one was tolerable, but nothing special. If you are looking for this trope, try Gilded Cage and Tarnished City. I’ll give it 3 stars because it did at least try to keep my attention.

Bloomsbury | 1st April 2017 | AU$12.99 | paperback

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Review: Kerry Drewery – Day 7

Day 7
Kerry Drewery

At the last moment, Martha Honeydew has been pardoned from Cell 7, because the true killer stepped forth – just as they had always planned. Unfortunately, that’s when the plan stops working because Martha is still a target, and so is everyone she is close to. Will justice be able to be served for anyone?

Honestly, my enthusiasm for this novel waned over time. After reading Cell 7, I was very excited for what could come next. Cell 7 had what I think was a unique approach to crime, even if it was flawed! Day 7 departed from Cell 7 in offering a range of methods for punishing wrong-doers. These are once again flawed towards people that have money being able to push the judgement, and in fact this is used to Martha’s advantage.

I like the understated cover, it reminds me of James Bond films, which traditionally start with Bond looking down the barrel of a gun. This novel doesn’t have quite as much action as all that though. It tries, but with one character in a cell, and the other hidden to avoid being hunted, it’s difficult to have anything other than words exchanged.

Oh Martha, why can’t you just be sensible and stay out of the way? Her sometimes childish behavior, which I wouldn’t expect from someone who has been on death row, put me off her as a heroine. Isaac on the other hand seemed way too laid back about death. Maybe it is possible to lose too much?

I will need to read Final 7, which should be the concluding novel of this trilogy (but you never know). Although Day 7 wasn’t as awesome as Cell 7, I would still like to find out what the conclusion is for Martha and Isaac. Because of this, I will grant this novel 4 stars rather than 3 stars. Funnily enough, the consensus on Goodreads is the same!

Allen & Unwin | 30th August 2017 | AU$19.99 | paperback

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