Welcome to a new little facet of my blog. Every now and then I’m going to post a “Recommend me…” blog post. It will be a way for all of us to share our favourite novels with each other and also to find some new reading material.
To kick things off – recommend me a book that made you laugh.
Here’s my contribution:
Wallbanger by Alice Clayton
I read this book back in February and it’s pretty hilarious. Barely 20 pages in and I was already laughing out loud on several occasions. The tone and voice of the novel was really upbeat and humorous.
What is a book that has made you laugh? Recommend me! Share all your favourites and hopefully we will all find some new favourites in the mix!
Title: Because You’ll Never Meet Me Author: Leah Thomas Publisher: Bloomsbury Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Science Fiction Links:GoodReads
Ollie and Moritz are best friends, but they can never meet. Ollie is allergic to electricity. Contact with it causes debilitating seizures. Moritz’s weak heart is kept pumping by an electronic pacemaker. If they ever did meet, Ollie would seize. But Moritz would die without his pacemaker. Both hermits from society, the boys develop a fierce bond through letters that become a lifeline during dark times—as Ollie loses his only friend, Liz, to the normalcy of high school and Moritz deals with a bully set on destroying him.
Why I picked it up:
This book was sent to me from Bloomsbury in exchange for an honest review.
I didn’t read this book quickly… it actually took me a couple of weeks to get through… I’m unsure if that’s because I was too busy, or because this book never really grabbed me. It started with an 11 page monologue – it was actually a letter, but wow it was long.
One of my main dramas with this novel was the voice. It alternated point of view between two sixteen year old boys who sound like seventy year old university lecturers. I get that they both came from “unique circumstances” but I don’t see how any teen could identify with this book. I’m twenty-eight and for me it was overly stuffy and proper.
I guess at the end of the day, this just wasn’t my sort of book. There wasn’t enough emotion or excitement for me. It felt flat and dragged out a lot. There were moments where I felt interested, but for the most part I was reading for the sake of getting it over with, so I could read something else. Some parts were brilliant, interesting, and original… other parts were like wading through quick sand.
Title: Lick, Book 1 in the Stage Dive series Author: Kylie Scott Publisher: Pan Macmillan Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Romance Links:GoodReads
Waking up in Vegas was never meant to be like this.
Evelyn Thomas’s plans for celebrating her twenty-first birthday in Las Vegas were big. Huge. But she sure as hell never meant to wake up on the bathroom floor with a hangover to rival the black plague, a very attractive half-naked tattooed man, and a diamond on her finger large enough to scare King Kong. Now if she could just remember how it all happened.
One thing is for certain, being married to rock and roll’s favourite son is sure to be a wild ride.
Why I picked it up:
I bought this book when I attended Readers & Writers Down Under. I met Kylie and she signed the novel for me, so I figured I’d better give it a read when the rest of the series started appearing in my mailbox thanks to Pan Macmillan.
Lick started well. The first chapter definitely got my attention, despite the premise being a tad unoriginal. Waking up married to a stranger? It’s nothing that hasn’t been done before.
I loved the first half, but the middle dragged a bit. I didn’t love the sex scenes, I found them a tad flat. They definitely didn’t have me on the edge of my seat. I think Kylie Scott might be better at building a romance than actually executing it, because the second Evelyn and David got it together, my attention slipped.
All in all, this was enjoyable and I’ll continue on to the next in the series!
Back at the beginning of the month I asked the question: What inspires you to recommend a book? As you can see from my response, I’m all about the feels. I love books that make me feel like this:
What books give you “the feels”? What are your favourite novels that make you cry or bounce around in excitement or get you so worked up with the “feels” that you’re on the edge of your seat? Share them with me because I want to read them!
1. Tell us a little about Fish Out of Water, where did the ideas for the story originate?
FISH is about Mika, who wants nothing more than to shadow her marine biologist parents for the summer. But all that is ruined when she has to train a new, grouchy (albeit cute) employee at her pet shop job. And even worse, her racist, Alzheimer’s-ridden, estranged grandmother shows up needing help from the family she kicked out years before. Mika’s perfect summer is long gone, but she learns that sometimes the most beautiful life lessons come in very cranky packages.
This story came from a lot of personal places for me. It takes place in Monterey Bay, California, where I spent many a vacation as a child. It also comes from experiences with my own grandmother and her disapproval of my uncle’s Filipino wife. She was always this conundrum in my life, because I both loved and disliked her. I wanted to address that kind of muddiness in relationships. Not just romantic ones but in families and friendships.
2. What is your writing process like? Do you try to write a set amount of words each day?
I used to write everyday, but things have changed a lot since that time. Really I write when I have time. If I’m seriously drafting or on a deadline, I do write every week day. I always take weekends off. It’s just as important to get away from your work as it is to do it when you must.
I don’t have a word count goal unless, again, I’m under a deadline and need to finish in a certain amount of time. If I’m drafting for myself, I find I naturally writing between 1200-1600 words a day. I’m very consistent in that range, without going on big writing binges where I write 5000 words in a day. I’ve done that a few times…and then I just burn out and can’t write for a few days. So it ends up evening out.
My drafting process is very “discovery” oriented. I don’t plot out a lot in advance, just a few chapters at a time so I have a “flashlight” in the dark forest of my story, so to speak.
3. What are your three favourite books?
Oh that’s just mean. I can’t pick three! But I guess I will stick to a theme-these are the three that impacted me most as a kid:
The Chronicles of Narnia
(All of which are series…yes, I’m a cheater.)
4. Any advice for aspiring authors?
Write, even if it’s bad. Edit, even when you don’t think you need to. And keep your eyes on your own paper-every writer walks a different path, and wishing for another’s journey is disrespecting your own.
5. What has been the hardest part of the publishing process?
The fact that so much is out of my control. I can’t make people buy my book, I can’t make them read it…I certainly can’t make them LIKE it. I just have to send it out and hope it conveys what I intended. It’s odd, because publishing a novel is the beginning forreaders, but for many authors it’s “the end” with that novel. We send it into the world and it’s no longer fully ours. It becomes yours.
Sonny Ardmore is an excellent liar. She lies about her dad being in prison. She lies about her mom kicking her out. And she lies about sneaking into her best friend’s house every night because she has nowhere else to go.
Amy Rush might be the only person Sonny shares everything with— secrets, clothes, even a nemesis named Ryder Cross.
Ryder’s the new kid at Hamilton High and everything Sonny and Amy can’t stand—a prep-school snob. But Ryder has a weakness: Amy. So when Ryder emails Amy asking her out, the friends see it as a prank opportunity not to be missed.
But without meaning to, Sonny ends up talking to Ryder all night online. And to her horror, she realizes that she might actually like him. Only there’s one small catch: he thinks he’s been talking to Amy. So Sonny comes up with an elaborate scheme to help Ryder realize that she’s the girl he’s really wanted all along. Can Sonny lie her way to the truth, or will all her lies end up costing her both Ryder and Amy?
Why I picked it up:
This book was sent to me from Hachette in exchange for an honest review. But I was excited for this one, I really liked The Duff.
Young Adult books tend to come in two forms… Young Adult books with mature voices, and Young Adult books with young adult voices. This one is definitely the later. Lying Out Loud is teens being teens, which is actually pretty rare in the genre, I think.
I found it interesting in this one that a lot of the initial interaction between Ryder and Sonny was by instant message. Because that is the way it is in real life now days too. I did find it difficult to connect with though. It’s amazing how much you don’t get from a few words on a page.
I guess the downfall of this novel was how “predictable” it was. The second Sonny started talking to Ryder as Amy, it was incredibly obvious how it was all going to pan out. I also found it frustrating that Sonny basically brought all the drama down on herself. Some people really are their own worse enemies. She had incredibly bad karma and she wasn’t that nice of a person. I found her pushy, selfish and self-destructive. She really didn’t show too many nice qualities in the beginning.
At the end of the day though, this was a quick and simple read. It flowed well, the writing was nice, the characters were well developed, and the plot was entertaining. The ending was a tad abrupt, but still a cute little read overall.
1. How did you come up with the ideas for Thief’s Magic?
It’s the most complicated evolution of a story plot I’ve had. Back when I was looking for a publisher for my first series, the Black Magician Trilogy, I wrote a book called Angel of Storms about a woman named Rielle in a multiple-world setting. Since most of the writing advice I’d encountered said it was unlikely my first book would be published I reused a few ideas from the trilogy. But the trilogy was published so I had to put Angel of Storms aside. As the years have passed I’ve considered how I might extract what was original from what was reused.
Then, at Worldcon in Melbourne in 2010, I saw a panel discussing other kinds of ‘punk’ than steampunk and cyberpunk. I got to wondering what ‘magicpunk’ might be like. I also had been sitting on a story idea for a character imprisoned in something, perhaps in a book. Those ideas came together to form Tyen’s story, and then I realised his story and world would work very well alongside Rielle’s.
Once blended, I had enough plot for three books. Thief’s Magic is the first part of that story.
2. Describe your writing process? Are you a planner or do you write by the seam of your pants?
I’m a planner, through and through. I plan almost everything, writing an outline of the story before I start writing, creating a spreadsheet if I have several point of view characters so I can be sure their stories align to best effect, and I even write a quick description of a scene before writing it. I have RSI, so I don’t want to be using my hands any more than I have to. It also acts as a ‘carrot on a stick’ for me, as the anticipation of getting to exciting scenes keeps me motivated and inspired.
3. What makes you happy?
People being nice to each other. Ordinary moments of beauty and kindness.
4. Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
Like any skill, it takes practise, study and feedback. So write heaps, read heaps and get lots of feedback. Enjoy yourself! What’s the point working so hard if you don’t love it? Learn everything you can about the industry and don’t be quick to judge anyone or believe in conspiracies. Most of the people working in it love books. Don’t get hung up on awards, reviews and bestseller lists. I write for the people who love my books. Trying to please everyone only leads to disappointment, while reaching one reader who adored my stories is worth a hundred who thought it was ‘okay’.
5. What are your writing goals?
To keep coming up with fresh, fun stories to write that other people will enjoy reading. Does that sound simple and easy? It’s not, I assure you!
6. When are aren’t writing, what do you get up to?
Painting is my other passion. I’ve started doing portraits in the last few years, which is challenging and very satisfying. To relax I garden, cook and explore different crafts – weaving being my main craft at the moment.
7. What are your favourite books?
Fantasy is my favourite fiction genre, and I have far too many favourite authors to list. For some names you can go to my Recommended Reading pages on my website.
I also love to read what I call ‘History of Stuff’ non-fiction, which are books about the history of things rather than people or countries. For example, the book “Salt” by Mark Kurlansky, which I read as research for my Doctor Who novella, “Salt of the Earth”. I find these kind of books are a great resource, as they give you a glimpse into how people of all classes and different cultures lived.
8. What is the most important thing you’ve learnt in your writing journey?
Do daily backups.
Seriously. Every other answer I thought of I had to admit I had learned as much from non-writing as well as writing activities. But losing good words from not backing up… there is no worse authorial pain!
It’s interesting because I could recommend a lot of books to people, but I generally hold back because a lot of them just aren’t appropriate… for example, I adore the Sinners on Tour series, but I wouldn’t recommend that series to many people because they’re erotic fiction.
One of my favourite books to recommend is The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls. When people discover I’m an avid reader and ask me what I recommend, this is always my fall back novel. Why? Because I loved it, and it’s a memoir, so it’s appropriate to recommend to everyone.
Title: The Heir, Book 4 in The Selection series Author: Kiera Cass Publisher: Harper Teen Genre: Young Adult, Dystopia, Romance, Fantasy Links:GoodReads | Kiera’s Website
Princess Eadlyn has grown up hearing endless stories about how her mother and father met. Twenty years ago, America Singer entered the Selection and won the heart of Prince Maxon—and they lived happily ever after. Eadlyn has always found their fairy-tale story romantic, but she has no interest in trying to repeat it. If it were up to her, she’d put off marriage for as long as possible.
But a princess’s life is never entirely her own, and Eadlyn can’t escape her very own Selection—no matter how fervently she protests.
Eadlyn doesn’t expect her story to end in romance. But as the competition begins, one entry may just capture Eadlyn’s heart, showing her all the possibilities that lie in front of her . . . and proving that finding her own happily ever after isn’t as impossible as she’s always thought.
I’m a huge fan of The Selection series, so the second The Heir appeared on the shelves I eagerly snatched it up. I did go in with low expectations though, because I’d heard along the grapevine that Eadlyn was whiny and unlikable – so I went in expecting the worst.
It was immediately obvious what everyone was ranting about. Eadlyn is snobby, demanding and entitled – but hey, she grew up in a palace with everything she could ever possibly want, so I was hoping for some character growth over the course of the plot.
But at the end of the day, she just wasn’t likeable. She didn’t have any redeeming qualities or interests. She was cold and icy, and as such, the story around her seemed bland. The author never really gave me a love interest to root for, so at the end of the day… I didn’t even know what I was reading about! Eadlyn didn’t like any of the guys, it wasn’t romantic, it was just meh. I could have liked this if there was a love story to root for, but there was nothing.
Overall I read it, I liked it, I devoured it quickly, but it was just… okay. Nothing special. It didn’t carry any of the magic that The Selection had. It was just average. Will I read the next in the series? Probably, but this wasn’t anything special for me.
Oh, and as a side note… You definitely need to read the rest of the series before this one, Kiera Cass re-introduces characters without any background. She just throws them in.
Today I am featuring Jane Caro on my blog. A big thanks to UQP for giving me the opportunity and to Jane for answering my questions.
Title: Just a Queen Author: Jane Caro Publisher: UQP Genre: Young Adult, Historical Links:GoodReads | Author Website
Just a girl to those around her, Elizabeth is now the Queen of England. She has outsmarted her enemies and risen above a lifetime of hurt and betrayal – a mother executed by her father, a beloved brother who died too young and an enemy sister whose death made her queen.
Not knowing whom she can trust, Elizabeth is surrounded by men who give her compliments and advice but may be hiding daggers and poison behind their backs. Elizabeth must favour head over heart to be the queen her people need. But what if that means doing the one thing she swore she would never do: betray a fellow queen, her cousin, Mary, Queen of Scots?
1. How did you come up with the ideas for Just a Queen? I had the central idea when I began writing the first book of the (hopefully) trilogy – ‘Just a Girl”. I knew I had to write a genre novel to get published and I thought I could do an historical novel. I loved Elizabeth 1, and knew I’d enjoy researching her. I wanted to write in her voice so I could really get inside her character and what it felt like to be her.
Then – I just started writing with a couple of good biographies by my side to give me the chain of events and it (to my surprise) just flowed.
2. Describe your writing process? Are you a planner or do you write by the seam of your pants? Seam of my pants and snatched hours whenever I have the time.I have always had to fit my writing around work and parenting, so I have grown used to it. I mostly write on weekends at our farm in the country away from interruptions.
3. What makes you happy? Writing, finishing writing, getting published, inter-acting with readers. Debating ideas. Spending time with my family and friends. Good wine, good food, good company. Trashy TV, reading, theatre, movies. Driving to my farm singing along to my ipod at the top of my lungs.
4. Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
Just do it, don’t agonise, don’t try to be great, just get it on the page.
5. What are your writing goals?
Finish editing my next book, a memoir for Pan Mac ‘Plain Speaking Jane’ by the deadline – its due out in October. Begin writing the third installment in my Elizabeth 1 trilogy ‘Just Flesh and Blood’ and then do the same approach with Mary Wollstonecraft (maybe called ‘The Right Woman’)
6. When aren’t writing, what do you get up to?
Speaking, travelling, tweeting, reading, watching trashy TV, writing articles and still, occasionally, ads.
7. What are your favourite books?
Jane Eyre, The Secret Garden, The Poisonwood Bible, The Signature of All Things, True History of the Kelly Gang, Burial Rites, The Life of Charlotte Bronte, Cranford, Bleak House, Great Expectations, Persuasion, Emma
8. What is the most important this you’ve learnt in your writing journey?
You can do it! You can conceive a big, hairy, audacious goal and you can pull it off. It takes perseverance and determination and work, but it can be done.
Suspend judgment of yourself, just do the task as best you can and don’t worry about how good or otherwise it may be.
If it interests you, it probably interests others. If it amuses you, it probably amuses others. If you are passionate about something, chances are there will be others who are passionate about it too.