Thursday, 30 April 2015

Brianna Reviews // Breaking the Rules by Katie McGarry

Published: 8th December 2014
Publisher: MIRA Ink
Format: Kindle
Synopsis:  “I wish life could be like this forever,” I say. “We’d be okay then. We’d forever be okay.”
For Echo Emerson, a road trip with her boyfriend is the perfect way to spend the last summer between school and college. It’s a chance forget all the things that make her so different at home. But most of all, it means almost three months alone with gorgeous Noah Hutchins, the only boy who’s never judged her.Echo and Noah share everything.But as their pasts come crashing back into their lives, its harder to hide that they come from two very different worlds. And as the summer fades, Echo faces her toughest decision – struggle to face the future together or let her first love go…

After finishing Pushing the Limits (review here) I needed more of Echo and Noah! Breaking the rules picks up almost immediately after Pushing the Limits. It's summer and Echo and Noah have graduated. This summer trip is sort of a last chance of fun before the seriousness of college sets in. Echo plans to visit Art Galleries to sell paintings, partly to make a name for herself and partly to prove that she can make it by herself without her mother… It doesn’t quite go to plan. Noah spends the majority of the time doubting if he is good enough for Echo, he’s trying, trying so hard to be the person he feels he should be for her coupled with finding out he still has living relatives. Echo decides she’s too tame, she doesn’t take enough risks… coupled with finding out that her mother had called ahead to the galleries she been visiting.

Needless to say their carefree summer road trip crashes back down to earth quite rapidly. Noah’s insecurity over being good enough for Echo becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy culminating in Noah being arrested, at which point he does something that for a split second does make him not good enough, a fact Isaiah makes very clear to him if Echo hadn’t already got the message across. And Echo is too busy trying to please everyone else, prove something to everyone else.  Katie McGarry approaches this book in the same way that she did Pushing the Limits… No fairy Godmothers, Echo and Noah work it all out for themselves, and this time they even do it without so much support from the other. I wouldn’t go as far as to say this book has a moral but it does seem to have a common theme. Echo has to realise that she doesn’t need to prove anything to anyone else and that she should make the right choices for herself. Noah also has to come to terms with the fact that being good enough for Echo has nothing to do with how people see him and is all about supporting her even if the outcome is not what he wanted. They mature even more in this book, it takes them until the end but they get there. You also see both Noah and Echo deal with their grief in Breaking the Rules, Echo finally opens up about Aries, and the fact that she is angry at him for leaving her. Similarly Noah finding out he has living relatives, after having been told by his mother as he was growing up that she had no living relatives makes him angry at her. Luckily Mrs Collins is there to tell them that it’s okay to be angry, just because they are dead doesn’t mean they can’t be angry. 

Mrs Collins unfortunately got left out of my review for Pushing the Limits, I didn’t mean to because I love her character, I love the mind games that her and Noah play with each other. Talking of supporting characters, Beth and Isaiah are back. This is a fact that I like and Beth and Echo even get along for a couple of seconds.

I’ve seen a few people who have expressed disappointment at Breaking the Rules especially with the fact that Echo and Noah seem to be in a worse point in this book than when they were in Pushing the Limits, well I’m sorry but that is life. It doesn’t get to a good point then stay good, there is always another drama, even the smallest thing can become a big thing especially with the backgrounds that Echo and Noah have. And I respect Kaite McGarry for being true to reality, which isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, its compromise and small victories which so far I think these books have shown rather well.

On to the next books :)

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Caragh Reviews // Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Published - 26th August 2014
Publisher - Broadway Books
Format - Kindle
Synopsis - On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne's fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick's clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn't doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife's head, but passages from Amy's diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media--as well as Amy's fiercely doting parents--the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he's definitely bitter--but is he really a killer? As the cops close in, every couple in town is soon wondering how well they know the one that they love. With his twin sister, Margo, at his side, Nick stands by his innocence. Trouble is, if Nick didn't do it, where is that beautiful wife? And what was in that silvery gift box hidden in the back of her bedroom closet?

Gone Girl is one of those books that I literally knew nothing about one day, and then it was everywhere. I'm obviously way behind the times here as it's such a huge book now and a major movie adaptation. Being totally honest here, the only reason I picked this up to read was because i'd heard great things about the movie and i'm getting pretty desperate to see it. However, i'm still a fan of Hank Green's 'Readit1st', despite the fact that I don't think it's still going. So in order to watch it, I was just going to have to read it - which I did.

Like many people, I was drawn in pretty quickly. Though i'll tell anyone who will listen that mysteries are just not my thing, that's really not true. From the offset I NEEDED to know the outcome. I think that's why I don't read too many books like this. I get filled with this uncontrollable urge to just KNOW things and it makes me an anxious reader. Anyway.. so I started reading it and wondering what the deal was between Nick and Amy. 

As I read this book so long after everyone else, I feel like I lost out a little. I didn't know what was going to happen in any way, but I had this huge expectation that something incredible was going to happen; that a twist would appear that would knock me off my seat. That didn't really happen. I was let down by my own expectations (not for the first time) and ended up finding it kind of...dull? I'm not sure that's the right word. I could see what was coming a mile away and so it felt predictable in a really strange way. Obviously, anybody who is familiar with Gone Girl will know what I mean when I say it wasn't entirely normal, but because i'd built it up in my head, it wasn't really surprising either.

One thing I will say for Gone Girl though, it definitely got a rise out of me. Every single character, at some point anyway, was absolutely infuriating. I talked briefly to a friend at work who quite rightly said 'every character gets what they deserve'. That's so true! Nobody was likeable, nobody deserved a happy ending - maybe with the exception of Go but she was such a rigid character anyway that you barely even remember her by the time things are wrapping up.

I rated Gone Girl 3 stars, purely for the intrigue and the way it so immediately pulled me in. It wasn't a bad book in any sense of the word - it was just a little flat considering all of the great things i'd heard. I really need to start reading new releases when they're still new rather than pushing them aside for a while and hoping for the best. 

Monday, 13 April 2015

Caragh Reviews // Enchantment Lake by Margi Preus

Published - 11th March 2015
Publisher - Minnesota Press
Format - Kindle
Synopsis - A disturbing call from her great aunts Astrid and Jeannette sends seventeen-year-old Francie far from her new home in New York into a tangle of mysteries. Ditching an audition in a Manhattan theater, Francie travels to a remote lake in the northwoods where her aunts’ neighbors are “dropping like flies” from strange accidents. But are they accidents?
On the shores of Enchantment Lake in the woods of northern Minnesota, something ominous is afoot, and as Francie begins to investigate, the mysteries multiply: a poisoned hot dish, a puzzling confession, eerie noises in the bog, and a legendary treasure that is said to be under enchantment—or is that under Enchantment, as in under the lake? At the center of everything is a suddenly booming business in cabin sales and a road not everyone wants built.
To a somewhat reluctant northwoods Nancy Drew, the intrigue proves irresistible, especially when it draws her closer to the mysteries at the heart of her own life: What happened to her father? Who and where is her mother? Who is she, and where does her heart lie—in the bustle of New York City or the deep woods of Minnesota? With its gripping story, romantic spirit, and a sly dash of modern-day trouble (evil realtors and other invasive species), Enchantment Lake will fascinate readers, providing precisely the charm that Margi Preus’s readers have come to expect.

Like most people I think, what attracted me the most to this book was the absolutely GORGEOUS cover! You can't deny that this cover doesn't immediately grab your attention and shout 'read me'. I hadn't heard of Preus before and so i'm totally unfamiliar with her writing style and whether this is her preferred writing genre etc so I have nothing to compare it to.

In total honesty, this book had what I like to call 'Darren Shan Syndrome'. By that I mean that as I was reading it, I really wasn't that impressed but by the end of the book I had been caught hook, line and sinker. I don't get through many books these days but I actually finished this in just 2 sittings.

When I requested it for review, I didn't even read the blurb so I went in completely unaware of what to expect. What I found was a cute little mystery novel with an appealing main character. Francie is young, yet sassy and I love that. She takes it upon herself to go out to the lake where her Aunts live and see if she can uncover the mystery going on there. Enchantment Lake is full of mysteries and secrets. If you can imagine a picturesque little island with weird and wonderful residents then you're already 70% familiar with this book.

It wasn't a particular surprise when the answer was revealed at the end but strangely that didn't seem to take anything away. It definitely wouldn't surprise me if this is part of a series as a lot of the book seemed taken up with getting to know Francie and the people around the lake. Plus after the events of Enchantment Lake, I would really like to know what happened next with the bones, the lake, the Aunts etc. It was just a little cute read really and i'm glad I got the chance to read it.

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Brianna Reviews // Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry

Published: 31st July 2012
Publisher: MIRA Ink
Format: Kindle
Synopsis: They say be a good girl, get good grades, be popular. They know nothing about me. I can’t remember the night that changed my life. The night I went from popular to loner freak. And my family are determined to keep it that way. They said therapy was supposed to help. They didn’t expect Noah. Noah is the dangerous boy my parents warned me about. But the only one who’ll listen. The only one who’ll help me find the truth. I know every kiss, every promise, every touch is forbidden. But what if finding your destiny means breaking all the rules? A brave and powerful novel about loss, change and growing up, but most of all love

I came across this book in a round about way on Goodreads. Its loose sequel (4th book) Take Me On was nominated for best YA fiction and it’s cover caught my eye, having read the description it sounded really good, and although this series isn’t a strict series – they all take place in the same ‘world’ and some of the characters cross over, each book can be read like a true standalone – I had to start at the start. I downloaded the free sample, and bought the full book as soon as it finished. I’m not sure if I put my kindle down…

So we start off with Echo, when we meet her she is sort of reclusive, keeps to herself, a bit of a loner, but she wasn’t always that way, she used to be popular. That all changed one night when she ended up in the hospital. It was a night that left her arms covered in scars, a night she doesn’t remember. Her parents have split up, her brother died in Afghanistan, there is a court order stopping her mother from seeing her and her dad is in a relationship with her ex-childminder.

Now Noah is the ‘bad boy’ he skips school, his grades are poor, he smokes weed, drinks and often ends up in fights. Noah is a smart kid, his poor grades are a lack of effort and everything else is because in Noah’s mind what is the point, he doesn’t see anything in his future. Noah is also a Foster kid which is where is low expectations have come from.

Echo meets Noah in the school Councillor's office, and they definitely don’t get on, and they are from totally different worlds. Echo’s dad is fairly well off, Noah doesn’t even have a bed. Inevitably they do get together and fall in love, that’s no spoiler – it’s kind of the expectation. But what I really like about this book is how they get there. It’s not a straightforward love story, in fact I would argue that the love story is in the background because what this book is really about is Echo getting her confidence back, to be able to walk through the school without a jumper pulled down over her hands. For her to find out what did happen that night, to forgive her dad, come to terms with Ashley (the childminder) and to basically come to terms with the ways in which her life has changed and to take ownership of that. And with Noah, the story is really about him, his brothers (who were adopted unlike Noah) and the meaning of family. Yes they help each other through those events, support each other and fall in love, but what they gain in this story is much more than love.

Pushing the Limits is written from the POVs of Echo and Noah, roughly alternating between the two of them. It works well, especially as the characters in this book often outwardly show a different emotion to what they are feeling (I suppose everyone does) but the complexity of these emotions mean that it’s nice to be able to have an insight to what they are thinking. To understand why he just did that or why she said that. It also means you have a front row seat to watch how the way in which Noah and Echo think changes. I mean they essentially ‘grow up’ in this book, not all the way they still have some growing to do, which you can read happening in Breaking the Rules which comes into the series as #1.5 (if you enjoyed this book I recommend it... obviously).

Through this story I also fell in love with Noah’s best friend Isaiah and I even warmed up to Beth. I didn’t think much of Echo’s friends. I don’t know if it was just because I didn’t like them or because it doesn’t focus on them much you see a lot of Beth and Isaiah because they are a big part of Noah’s life.  I look forward to reading Dare You To (#2) and Crash into You (#3) and they focus on Beth and then Isaiah.

I might be repeating myself but I love the way this book deals with the issues Noah and Echo have, they aren’t magicked away, they aren’t perfectly fixed at the end. Basically this book deals with real life and it doesn’t give it fairytale endings but it does give a realistic and I think positive end
So in case you hadn’t realised I loved Pushing the Limits, I recommend it to everyone, and I’m going to hopefully devour the next in the series: Dare You To, which I bought as soon as I finished this (at work using wifi from someone’s phone… I needed it that badly).

Monday, 6 April 2015

Brianna Reviews // Nothing Lasts Forever by Roderick Thorp

Published: 17th December 2012 (originally 1st January 1979)
Publisher: Graymalkin Media
Format: Paperback
Synopsis: High atop a Los Angeles skyscraper, an office Christmas party turns into a deadly cage-match between a lone New York City cop and a gang of international terrorists. Every action fan knows it could only be the explosive big-screen blockbuster Die Hard. But before Bruce Willis blew away audiences as unstoppable hero John McClane, author Roderick Thorp knocked out thriller readers with the bestseller that started it all.

A dozen heavily armed terrorists have taken hostages, issued demands, and promised bloodshed all according to plan. But they haven't counted on a death-defying, one-man cavalry with no shoes, no backup, and no intention of going down easily. As hot-headed cops swarm outside, and cold-blooded killers wield machine guns and rocket launchers inside, the stage is set for the ultimate showdown between anti-hero and uber-villains. Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good fight to the death. Ho ho ho!
[This review shouldn’t really need the above synopsis, I mean who doesn’t know the general plot to Die Hard which this book is the basis for]

I first heard about Nothing Lasts Forever way back sometime in 2011in a newsletter encouraging people to read the book first before watching the film. Until then I had absolutely no idea that Die Hard was based on a book – This is where I admit that Die Hard is my favourite film, and I don’t care if you judge me for that. Unfortunately when I immediately tried to buy Nothing Lasts Forever I couldn’t, it was no longer in print and all the second hand copies were ridiculously expensive. I broken-heartedly pushed the idea of reading it out of my head. In late 2013 Caragh found out that it was back in print (it’s only writing this review that I realise that it came back in print only a year after – oh well). Once it was attainable there was no doubt that I would read it. I’m also sorry that this review is going to continuously refer to the film, it’s just too hard not to.

Joe Leland (aka. John McClane although it is important to point out that Leland is NOT McClane) is flying to LA to attend a Christmas party at his daughter’s office (that’s right, not his wife). Joe isn’t young; he was in the war before being a detective and at the time of Nothing Lasts Forever he is self-employed as a consultant on security and police procedures. After arriving at Klaxon’s tower block, Joe goes to freshen himself up; which is convenient as a group of 12 terrorists seize control of the building holding the guests hostage. Leland then spends the rest of his time trying to stop the terrorists.

I think the thing that surprised me most about this book is the fact that Joe Leland is not a hero, he’s not dashing and his thoughts are rather dark at times. It’s quite gritty and most importantly this book isn’t Hollywood, (though it does take place near Hollywood) so if you are looking for action where the hero saves the day and everybody. This is not your book.

 Another noticeable difference is that the makeup of the terrorist group is different in Die Hard the terrorists are all male and motivated by greed, in Nothing Lasts Forever a number of the group are young females and they are idealistically motivated. I think it’s a shame that the film sexistly wimped out of killing women, I understand that it came out in a different time, but the book could stomach it a whole decade earlier, I think that if Die Hard was made today it would feature the women. 

The book is written from Joe Lelands perspective. In the film the spaces between the action are filled with McClane’s amusing mutterings to himself. In Nothing Lasts Forever Thorp uses the down time to explore Joe Lelands past; His time in the war (WWII), his career as a detective, the breakup of his marriage, the breakdown of his relationship with his daughter (he didn’t like her husband), his ex-wife’s death and rekindling the relationship with his daughter. He also thinks through strategy (it helps). Over all you come out of the book feeling that you really know who Leland is, I suppose in a way in the 4th Die Hard Film the John McClane in that is as close to Leland as he gets.

In some places I found the descriptions of the action hard to follow, in some places being able to picture the film helped me to keep track of what he was doing as a lot of the action was taken right out of the book – in fact I have to give the film credit for mostly being fairly true to the book – including the chair bomb down the lift shaft (sorry no Yippe-Ki-Aye Mother******), the fire hose stunt off the side of the building, the glass in his feet. I did not expect it to be so close, which is fantastic as you get the same feel and action from the film but with a whole lot more character depth and grit. 

The head police guy is just as much of an ass, at one point they even hang Leland out to dry, luckily Al is there the save the day. And the news teams are as lecherous as they can be. I like Al Powell, he seems like a general all round nice person, dragged into something huge when all he really wants to do is go home to bed. I think he might be the only main character who’s morals/actions aren’t up for debate, (so long as you discount the incident at the end – I’m still shocked)and he also provides some much needed character interaction for Leland; it breaks up the long stretches of his reminiscing. Leland also has another member to his team in the form of Taco Bill who lends a hand with this impressive radio equipment.

Overall I loved the book, I especially liked the depth to Leland (you would hope he had some as the entire book is centred on him and for the most part he is alone). I also like the fact that it’s not all cut and dry. Even Steffie, his daughter isn’t an innocent party – right and wrong in this are really all in a grey area. And I even learned something: that LAX is the only airport known by its baggage code… I genuinely thought that was the airports name… apparently not, which is good, it’d be an odd name.
I would recommend this book to anyone who even remotely liked the film and to anyone  really unless death, gun fights and explosions isn’t something you like!

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Liebster Award

The absolutely lovely Maddie and Bee from Heart Full of Books nominated Loaded Shelves for a Liebster award. Granted, i'm not entirely sure what a Liebster award is but i'm excited anyway! Thanks girls :)

The Rules:
  1. Thank the person who nominated you and link to their blog!
  2. Give your readers 11 random facts about yourself.
  3. Answer the 11 questions from the blog who nominated you.
  4. Nominate a number of bloggers to receive this award.
  5. Come up with 11 questions for your nominees!

Oh wow, 11 facts is a LOT. I'll do my best.
1. So very British of me, but I love a good strong cup of tea.
2. I've been to London 3 times in my whole life, and they were all for book related reasons.
3. My favourite snack is Cadbury's fingers dipped in peanut butter and I tell EVERYONE about it.
4. I'm slightly obsessed with avocado and i'm always looking for ways to eat it differently.
5. I am an avid list-maker and have exceptional organisational skills.
6. I love Yankee Candles so much. I pretty much always have one lit when i'm in the house.
7. Once Upon A Time is my current TV show of choice but my all time fave is Charmed.
8. Maria V Snyder said I should be nicer to my boyfriend because he's the best ever! Coincidentally, she's totally right too.
9. Halloween is my favourite holiday and I wish we celebrated it more like America.
10. One of the hardest decisions to make in life is which book to read next.
11. I'm half way through more than 10 series of books because I just can't bring myself to read the whole thing at once.

Questions from Maddie and Bee: 
1. How long have you been blogging?
I've been blogging in general for over 10 years but I didn't start blogging about books until 2009, which is when I started Loaded Shelves.

2. What inspired you to start blogging?
An absolutely terrible memory. Seriously. When I was at University to study English Literature I was reading all the time and just couldn't remember which book had which story! I started just writing it all down to remember and never really stopped.

3. What Hogwarts house would you be in?
Slytherin! I'm highly ambitious and would do almost anything - but that doesn't mean i'm evil! Honest ;)

4. Is there a book that you really didn’t like?
This probably sounds bad but any book written by L.J.Smith. I read the first volume of Night World when it was released and it's still to this date the only book I have ever put in the bin! I later went on to read the early Vampire Diaries books (not knowing it was the same author until much later) and didn't enjoy those either. The books got much better later when I suspect LJ stopped writing them. Her particular writing style just isn't for me.

5. If you could have any fictional creature as a pet, what would you choose?
I'd quite like a dragon like Saphira in Eragon. Badass female AND flying? Yes please.

6. Which fictional character would you like as a best friend?
I could spend hours trying to figure this out so i'll go with the first ones I thought of - Claire and Eve from Rachel Caine's Morganville series! They're both so incredibly different and yet similar to each other and therefore me too. I think we'd have a lot of adventures and awesome girls nights in with Eve doing makeovers.

7. What fictional universe would you choose to live in?
Probably an overused answer but definitely the world of Harry Potter. I'm a little bit lazy with my imagination these days so living in a universe that I already know how to deal with (with added awesome!) is right up my street. The whole idea that there could be another type of world amongst the one we live in, without us ever knowing it, is incredible and exciting. I'm a huge Potter fan and could definitely see myself living in that universe. (Alternatively i'd pick Morganville again.)

8. What are your other hobbies besides reading?
People DO things besides reading? ;) Erm, I don't really know. As I said before my job has crazy hours which means I don't have a lot of daylight hours to do things in. I watch Netflix a lot and post a lot of pictures of food on Instagram.

9. Have you set yourself any reading challenges this year? If so, what are they?
Last year I was incredibly busy. I found myself with a full time (and big time!) job almost straight out of university with crazy hours, a full time boyfriend who I eventually moved in with and away from my comfort zone totally and was left with very little time. This basically meant I failed literally everything I challenged myself to in 2014. So for this year i'm quite content with just the good ol' 50 Book Challenge and see if I can manage that again before stretching myself!

10. What book do you wish more people would read?
I swear i'm not saying this just because I recently met her - but Poison Study! It's been one of my favourite books for years and years and have already pushed it on at least 5 people that come to mind instantly. It should be way more recognised than it is. Yelena is one of my favourite female protags of all time.

11. Which author, alive or deceased, would you like to have dinner with?
He's not an author as such, but i'd have to say William Shakespeare. I've been a huge Will fan my entire life and he has inspired so much of the literature that we've been graced with since. Plus I think he'd be really down to earth and a big charmer!

Bit of  a cop out but i'd like the following bloggers to answer the SAME questions that Maddie and Bee asked me. They're great choices and i'd love to see your answers.

Misty @ The Book Rat
Michelle @ Fluttering Butterflies
Kelly @ The Book Faeries Nook
Anya @ An Awful Lot of Reading
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