Jessica Shirvington’s Between The Lives blew my mind

betweenthelivesBetween the Lives by Jessica Shirvington

Published: (this edition) August 2014 by Orchard Books 

Genre: Romance, Contemp/Fantasy

Format: eBook

Rating: An impressive gust! Four birdies

I received an ecopy of Between the Lives to review from Netgalley – this in no way effects my opinion

The perfect life or the perfect love. You choose.

For as long as she can remember, Sabine has lived two lives. Every 24 hours she shifts to her ‘other’ life – a life where she is exactly the same, but absolutely everything else is different: different family, different friends, different social expectations. In one life she has a sister, in the other she does not. In one life she’s a straight-A student with the perfect boyfriend, in the other she’s considered a reckless delinquent. Nothing about her situation has ever changed, until the day when she discovers a glitch: the arm she breaks in one life is perfectly fine in the other.

With this new knowledge, Sabine begins a series of increasingly risky experiments that bring her dangerously close to the life she’s always wanted. But if she can only have one life, which is the one she’ll choose?

A compelling psychological thriller about a girl who lives two parallel lives – this is Sliding Doors for the YA audience

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A book with heartfelt meaning, overflowing with messages and exploding with serious questions and concepts – I really loved this carefully plotted story

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Between the Lives was creepy, awesome, interesting and meaningful. This is my first read from Shirvington, and I’m impressed! I really enjoyed this book and its quirkiness. The only downside for me was that the romance was a little rushed, but otherwise, I have nothing but good to say!

Between the Lives follows Sabine, who literally lives a double life. She resides in two different realities, where she is the same, but her situation is not. She “shifts” every 24 hours at midnight into a her other life. The story takes place after Sabine realizes a difference in her lives that could change everything.

First up, I really loved the concept and I totally congratulate Shirvington for writing it so carefully. I love the idea of having lives in two different realities and being aware of them. I could see so many opportunities for plot holes and inconsistencies, except there weren’t any. Nope. They were carefully avoided or they were explained in detail. Which is awesome! My mind kept trying to pick at things, but it couldn’t. Leaving me to read in peace.

I really enjoyed the characters in Between the Lives, though some were a bit cliché. It’s hard for me to say if Sabine was developed or not, because, she was two different people. But then again, even though she was different, it was because she forced herself to be different, and it’s that underlying voice that we get a real picture of. She’s the same person with this ideal that she has to be a certain way in each world; not understanding that she can just be herself.

Meaning! This book was more than just your action packed, tell-a-story book, but it held meaning and depth which I just love. Life should be treasured is one meaning, whilst the other I saw was about being yourself. I thought both were explored and portrayed really well!

In saying this, I didn’t believe the romance in Between the Lives. It was there, but I think it was a little too rushed to have the depth it was meant to have. I almost believed it, but I needed a little more connection and a little slower/ more gradual climax for total impact.

Otherwise, Between the Lives had just enough description to satisfy my needs, and I liked how each world was complex, how everything wasn’t perfect or bad. Her journey to deciding which life is better is interesting and sets up some great questions!  I didn’t quite connect with the romance, though the plot, characters and messages the book explores are great! I definitely recommend Between the Lives!

  • The content in Between the Lives is explicit. I recommend for older teens and up.

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justbreezy!

Julia Hoban’s Willow makes me weep

willowWillow by Julia Hoban

Genre: Contemp, YA

Published: 2009 April, by Dial

Format: Paperback

Source: Bought my own copy from Booktopia 


Seven months ago on a rainy March night, Willow’s parents drank too much wine at dinner and asked her to drive them home. But they never made it–Willow lost control of the car, and both of her parents were killed.

Now seventeen, Willow is living with her older brother, who can barely speak to her. She has left behind her old home, friends, and school. But Willow has found a way to survive, to numb the new reality of her life: She is secretly cutting herself.

And then she meets Guy, a boy as sensitive and complicated as she is. When Guy discovers Willow’s secret, he pulls her out of the solitary world she’s created for herself, and into a difficult, intense, and potentially life-changing relationship.

I was so excited for this novel. Depression and cutting is not something I read very often, for fear of it been done wrong. Sadly, I didn’t think it was done right at all. There was so many cringe worthy moments in this book, with sickly romance and a weird writing style. I didn’t like Willow.

Willow’s story starts after an accident that left her parents dead, and her deep in depression. We follow her road from cutting to forgiveness with the help of Guy (very original name), our love interest.

That was probably the biggest turn off for Willow. The romance was shocking. Let me tell you why.

–          Insta love. At times, I could definitely see a connection between Willow and Guy. They liked a lot of the same things and had plenty to talk about. BUT. That didn’t happen very often. Nope. The majority of their conversations focused on Willow’s cutting situation. What a romance buzzer. I’m sorry, but how can I believe love is in the air when all they ever talk about is cutting and other depressing topics? I can’t. I just can’t.

–           Love conquers all. A boy can fix all of you problems because he constantly tells you how ugly your scars are. Because your biggest conversation starter is the price of razors.  Because having someone love you for those reasons alone makes you feel better, even when you are all sorts of messed up. Ugh. I can’t stand it.

–          Sex can redeem and change you. Yup. Our love interest says so himself (in more subtle words).

P.S The sex scene is REALLY AWKWARD and un-romantic. It was the most cringe worthy thing I have ever come across in a YA novel. Not exaggerating.

Okay, moving on from the god awful romance, the way this was written was really odd. It was third person, present tense. It took me two thirds of the book to get over it. It was just the weirdest combo. I constantly had to re-read sentences because at times, they sounded wrong and I was constantly being disconnected from the story. Very jarring, and prevented me from properly connecting to the story and characters.

Another problem I had, was that I didn’t agree with the way cutting was portrayed. I’m probably going to sound really insensitive here, especially since I have never experienced the kind of depression that urges me to harm myself. But I found it really odd how carefully she looked after her cuts. I did understand and agreed with a lot of it – her reasons for doing so, her worry of someone finding out, the great lengths she goes to keep it hidden. It was just the cynical way she acted about it that felt wrong. I needed something a little more frantic and less logical. It’s hard to explain, but while so much of it felt real, there was just a little something that didn’t sit right with me and left me judging it the entire time.

Okay, so I touched on something there that I actually did like – a lot of the time, Willow’s emotions were very believable. Her train of thought and reasoning was often very relatable and understandable and I could totally picture myself thinking like that if I were in her position. Again, though, it was missing an edge of urgency and pain. It felt almost too logical for something so traumatic.

Sadly, that isn’t enough to redeem itself. I couldn’t connect to the characters, even though Willow was relatable, the writing just ruined any chance I had with her. I disliked the entire romantic aspect of Willow, and I cringe just thinking about it. I can only recommend this book if you can ignore tense and enjoy corny romance. For those more like me, I wouldn’t recommend Willow.

myrating

barelyrockstheboat

Not Fangirling Over Fangirl

fangirlFangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Genre: YA, Contemp. 

Published: September 10th, 2013 by Pan Macmillan 

Format: Paperback

Source: Bought my own copy. 

Cath and Wren are identical twins, and until recently they did absolutely everything together. Now they’re off to university and Wren’s decided she doesn’t want to be one half of a pair any more – she wants to dance, meet boys, go to parties and let loose. It’s not so easy for Cath. She’s horribly shy and has always buried herself in the fan fiction she writes, where she always knows exactly what to say and can write a romance far more intense than anything she’s experienced in real life. Without Wren Cath is completely on her own and totally outside her comfort zone. She’s got a surly room-mate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words …And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone. Now Cath has to decide whether she’s ready to open her heart to new people and new experiences, and she’s realizing that there’s more to learn about love than she ever thought possible …

Oh I can already smell the controversy this review may cause.

WHY do I not like the books everyone dies hard for?

Again, as I do for most popular books, this will not be my typical style of review.

What I didn’t like:

Simon Snow.

I didn’t like the Simon Snow bits in-between chapters or when Cath read out her Fan Fiction. WHY? It felt so pointless. I GOT that Simon Snow is Cath’s life, okay? I didn’t need to read a book inside of a book to understand that. I barely coped with the snippets at the start of each chapter, but when Cath started reading her fan fiction? I have one word – boring. It was boring, useless, didn’t really add to the story. I read Fangirl for Cath NOT SIMON SNOW. I DON’T CARE about Simon Snow. I just needed to understand that Cath does, but I didn’t need to read pages and pages of pointless Simon Snow fan fic to understand that.

I actually didn’t find Cath all that relatable. Sometimes, she would say or do something and I was like AH, THAT’S ME! But it didn’t happen very often and it wasn’t all that spectacular. I can find a little of myself in a lot of fictional characters. She wasn’t something special for me like she is for a lot of my bookish, fangirl friends.

I didn’t like Levi all that much – in saying that, I probably related to him more than anyone else in the book. I also didn’t believe Cath and Levi’s attraction. They were a weird couple and I just couldn’t invest myself in it because I didn’t believe they liked each other.

I DID like Raven, though again, I thought Cath and Raven’s friendship was really weird. I just didn’t get it.

I liked the other components of the book – it was told really well, all the characters were unique and real (ish), I followed the story easily and enjoyed it! Though it didn’t make me feel anything. I didn’t get emotional. It was entertaining, but didn’t reach that spectacular level because it didn’t get me, the girl that can cry over anything to feel anything.

So… 3 breezy birds from me.

asoftbreeze

Schizophrenia at it’s best – A Blue So Dark by Holly Schindler

abluesodarkA Blue So Dark by Holly Schindler

Genre: Contemporary, YA

Published: May, 2010 by Flux

Format: Paperback

Source: Bought from Booktopia  

Fifteen-year-old Aura Ambrose has been hiding a secret. Her mother, a talented artist and art teacher, is slowly being consumed by schizophrenia, and Aura has been her sole caretaker ever since Aura’s dad left them. Convinced that “creative” equals crazy, Aura shuns her own artistic talent. But as her mother sinks deeper into the darkness of mental illness, the hunger for a creative outlet draws Aura toward the depths of her imagination. Just as desperation threatens to swallow her whole, Aura discovers that art, love, and family are profoundly linked—and together may offer an escape from her fears.

 

A Blue So Dark is one of those books that stays with you. What really stood out for me the most is its honesty. Brutal honesty. It was thought provoking, insightful and beautiful. It explored so many issues – not only of schizophrenia; but the effects it has on everything else. It looks at loosing friendships, broken families, mending relationships, poor socio economic area’s, teen pregnancy, health effects, stress. There is just so much packed into 300 pages that I’m a little overwhelmed.

A Blue So Dark follows Aura as her schizophrenic mother descends into a dark place. Aura is striving to keep her mother’s condition a secret, while still look after her. In turn, Aura goes through things no girl should at her age. We see her develop and learn from her experience, and I loved watching her mature as the story progresses.

In fact, all the characters were just great. Every single one was layered, individual and Schindler does not turn the blind eye at the bad stuff – she embraces it and makes her character real.

In saying this, there is an exception. A Blue So Dark included romance, but it was the most minor part of the book, you can hardly notice it. This is a great example of where the main character gets their act together before going into a relationship. And the love interest is nothing more than just that – a cute guy that pops up every now and again to remind us that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. He gives us something to look forward to in Aura’s future. We really don’t know much about him at all.

Schizophrenia isn’t something I know much about, which is why I found this book really insightful. I had no idea what to expect or how the characters were going to react to the different situations posed to them. I found it really intense and I was shocked – actually shocked that some people live with this, like this. It was definitely eye opening.

I also enjoyed how art plays such a big part. I love reading about artists. It’s close to home. My Mum’s a painter, and I think my mind sways more to the artistic side at times. It’s interesting to see how Aura’s interpretation of art is tainted by her mother and her illness, and she begins to shun that part of her.

Not only does it talk about artists, but the whole book is an art piece. The way it’s written is beautiful. The descriptions were just enough to satisfy my need for visuals.

Plain and simple – I just really enjoyed this book. To the amount of issues it explores, to art, to descriptions, to being just a real, honest book that opened my mind to something that I once shrugged at.  I got really emotional towards the end, because there are still some loose ties. But otherwise, I was really blown away by this little paperback I bought on a whim. I highly recommend!

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P.S – I just learnt that Holly Schindler is releasing a new book called Feral, that’s tagged to be like The Lovely Bones meets Black Swan. GIMME GIMME GIMME. 

DNF Glow by Amy Kathleen Ryan – sci-fi gone bad

glow

Glow by Amy Kathleen Ryan

Genre: Sci-fi, Romance

Published:October 2011, by  Macmillan Children’s Books 

Format: Paperback

Source: Bought 

 

I hate not finishing books. Luckily, this is only the second this year. But seriously. I wish I could finish this then say lots of great things about it and everything would be dandy with rainbows, unicorns and an unlimited supply of bookmarks.

But no. Books as bad as this somehow manage to make it mainstream and have a semi decent GR rating. So I pick it up, expecting something good, or at least readable, only to be deflated and have my breeze sucked out of me.

I don’t rate books I haven’t finished – just a personal rule. But I do write a mini review of why I couldn’t finish said book.

So, why was Glow so bad that I could barely read over 100 pages of it?

  1. The writing. I can’t remember the last time I read such a plain, boring style of writing. The descriptions were as basic as possible. The actions, scenes, explanations – everything was just so utterly boring to read.
  2. Has some of the most stupidest concepts I have ever come across in a sci-fi book – and that is seriously saying something.
    Get this – religion is a major, MAJOR theme in this book.Not that I have a problem with religion, just that it pretty much takes over the plot whilst attempting to be sci-fi. It just does not work and is way to over bearing
  3. The love triangle was obvious first chapter. The stinking first chapter.
  4. Humans = robots with bi-polar. One second their smiling, next their choking eachother, then hugging, then crying, admitting undying love. in a punch up – Just like that. No build up. Nothing.It was almost robotic. They just do it. And not only that, you can tell that female lead was meant to be kickass, but she was so so weak. Disappointing.

So, at just over a 100 pages in, I stopped and skipped to the end. Let’s say that I’m glad I didn’t bother.

On the other hand, sorry to dump all the negativity on you. I hate writing up things like this, but I feel as though I need to keep my blog as balanced and as honest as possible. Can’t have all the good and none of the bad.

 

Scent of Magic by Maria V. Snyder suffers second book syndrome

16129491Scent of Magic (Healer #2) by Maria V. Snyder 

Genre: YA, fantasy 

Published: This edition published January, 2013 by HarlequinTEEN Aus

Format: Paperback

Source: Bought second-hand. 

As the last Healer in the Fifteen Realms, Avry of Kazan is in a unique position: in the minds of her friends and foes alike, she no longer exists. Despite her need to prevent the megalomanical King Tohon from winning control of the Realms, Avry is also determined to find her sister and repair their estrangement. And she must do it alone, as Kerrick, her partner and sole confident, returns to Alga to summon his country into battle.

Though she should be in hiding, Avry will do whatever she can to support Tohon’s opponents. Including infiltrating a holy army, evading magic sniffers, teaching forest skills to soldiers and figuring out how to stop Tohon’s most horrible creations yet; an army of the walking dead—human and animal alike and nearly impossible to defeat.

War is coming and Avry is alone. Unless she figures out how to do the impossible … again

I don’t know how to feel about Scent of Magic. I was excited to read it, and I DID enjoy it, but by the time it ended I was left with an overwhelming “what even happened” feeling. It lacked a plot, lacked meaning and depth, and I still have a problem with the lack of description. I call second book syndrome! 

I couldn’t quite place why I was having this disappointed, I expected more feeling, until I re-read my review of the first book. Then It all became clear.

What did I love Touch of Power so much? It had goals, plot, motives, meaning, lesson’s, life questions and deep, meaningful messages and themes. This is everything that Scent of Magic lacked.

Warning: there may be some spoilers from the previous book

One big, big problem I have with Scent of Magic, is that it is missing a goal. It is missing a straight plot. It has plenty of catalyst, things that made me want to keep reading, but nothing concrete I could follow. Whereas Touch of Power did have – a quest to save a prince.

Due to this, the book felt clumsy. There were slow and fast moments. There were times when I had no idea what the intensions were of the main characters. There were barely any confliction of emotions or dynamics, because there was nothing to conflict against, as there was no goal. It didn’t feel like a whole, composed story. It sorta just floated along and going with the flow. The best way to describe it would be a space filler – something to connect it with the third book. I don’t know this for sure, however, because I haven’t yet read the third book.

Another problem? There was no meaning or themes or conflicting emotions or growth! What I LOVED about Touch of Power is the growth Avery goes through as she sifts through what is worth sacrificing herself for. What is worth dying for was a huge theme in the previous book.

Did this book have a theme, or underlying message? No, it didn’t. The characters were just going through the motions. It is basically a lead up to the ending and just creating issues and conflicts for the following story.

What did this mean? I didn’t see an ounce of character growth or development. The characters mostly stayed the same (bar a few side characters) and didn’t change, learn, grow, develop. Nothing. Nada. I wasn’t taken on an emotional roller coaster, either. I felt flat for most of the book – besides a few, choice moments.

I would mention the few side character’s that DO show some development, but that would be giving away too much. Let’s just say I was OVERJOYED and SO SO HAPPY I CRIED at one certain character’s reappearance. Snyder did something right!

I feel really bad for mostly bagging this book out. I did still enjoy it. I especially liked how the book started right where it left off. I liked the distance between Kerrick and Avery, and how the story didn’t focus on them but the ruined state of the realms. I still love Poppa Bear and the Monkeys. I love how the mysterious power of the lilies is fleshed out even more. I loved the inclusion of the “Tribes” and the new material it brings.

I also have the same problems with this one as with the last one – the lack of description and background is killing me!

That said, I do feel like I have a better understanding of this world and society. I just need MORE than what’s given.

Despite my earlier negative comments, I breezed through this book quickly and still enjoyed it. After I got passed that shocking ending, I felt a little flat by the rest of book – leaving something to be desired. Otherwise, I still really want to finish the series and read the last book, Taste of Darkness.

 

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asoftbreeze

Sexy zombie futuristic romance? Lia Habel’s Dearly, Departed

dearlydepartedDearly, Departed (Gone with the Respiration #1) by Lia Hable 

Genre: YA, steampunk, dystopia

Published: September 2011, by Doubleday Children’s Books

Format: Paperback 

Source: From Chiara @ Books for a Delicate Eternity 

Love can never die.


Love conquers all, so they say. But can Cupid’s arrow pierce the hearts of the living and the dead—or rather, the undead? Can a proper young Victorian lady find true love in the arms of a dashing zombie?

In Dearly, Departed, romance meets walking-dead thriller, spawning a madly imaginative novel of rip-roaring adventure, spine-tingling suspense, and macabre comedy that forever redefines the concept of undying love. Goodreads 

 

 This was certainly an interesting book and like nothing I have ever read before. It has such a crazy genre mash up! With a combo of dystopia, historic/futuristic + zombies and warfare, I had no idea what to expect. I had difficulty getting through the intro, and then some more difficulty getting into the story line with my mind selectively choosing what it wants to read. Though I absolutely loved the characters and was crazy over the romance!

Dearly, Departed is a dystopia book after the worlds’ left over population decides to re-live the days of English Victorians. The book follows Nora – a young lady who’s status and strong personality allows her to defy social norms, after she is taken hostage by a group of walking dead. Yup. Zombies. Woo hoo!

Because this is such a strange and complex world, the beginning takes it’s time to explain everything to us. For some reason, my mind didn’t agree with this. To be blunt, I found this long intro to be boring, even though it was fairly interesting – if that makes sense. So I had heaps of difficulty getting into this book – taking me nearly 4 days to read 100 pages.

After this, another problem occurred – the book didn’t have my entire attention. After dragging myself through the intro, I was searching for something to love. I started too really like the scenes with Nora and Bram, and seeing their reactions to each other. So when other perspective came into it, I barely paid attention to them. Because of this, I missed a lot of the plot line.

Luckily this problem was short lived – by about halfway I began to be interested in the plot again and started to actually pay attention to the other perspectives. Though I became super confused towards the end when all this stuff is revealed, and I had no idea what was going on. I got it eventually, it just wasn’t effortless and required lots of careful reading.

Despite this slow start, I have nothing but good to say about the characters. I loved them all! Even the bad guys. They were all very well developed, the badies having understandable motives and the goodies were mostly well balanced and realistic.

Nora and Bram were great leads.. Bram has such honesty, moral and will power; it’s almost humbling. While Nora is this stubborn, strong, real character who I loved. I loved that even though her world had gone back to the days of women meaning little to society other than looking pretty, Nora still took pride and fought to be herself.

I also adored the friendship she had with Pam. It was so believable. In real life, there usually is a position of power between friends. You can see this in the relationship between Nora and Pam. It was obvious that Pam looked up to Nora immensely. What I loved even more, is how this character grew more into herself and became more independent as the story went on. I loved watching her transformation.

I also like how clever Habel is with her characters! There were a few slimey’s in there that I never would have guessed. I really admire how she makes me believe one thing when the opposite is actually true!

And I can’t not mention the romance. Even though it was somewhat quick, I believed it entirely. I also liked how the zombies weren’t just bad, mindless things as they are in most books. And I liked how even the good ones were fairly balanced with both good and bad.

So I had a few issues with the plot, pace and reading experience of Dearly, Departed. But I thought Habel did a terrific job with characters and setting, creating this awesome vibe from the strange era and Victorian/futuristic themes. Everything down to the clothes, the society, behaviors and attitudes were awesome and so much easier to understand than it is in a historic book, without all the fancy words and writing I can’t quite understand. So, despite my issues with this book, I’m giving it a three because I most definitely want to read the next book!

myrating

asoftbreeze