Sunday, 23 December 2012

"Dreamland" by Sarah Dessen

Rogerson Biscoe, with his green eyes and dark curly hair, is absolutely seductive. Before long, sixteen-year-old Caitlin finds herself under his spell. And when he starts to abuse her, she finds she's in too deep to get herself out...

Dreamland is one of the most intense novels I've ever read. It follows the story of high school junior Caitlin, and what happens after her sister Cass runs away from home. She gets into an abusive relationship with Rogerson Biscoe, a drug-dealer who makes Caitlin feel things she's never felt before. Along the way, she develops a talent for and love of photography, gets kicked off the cheerleading squad, and makes a new friend in Corinna, who I thought was a very interesting character. Dreamland is not an easy novel to read; it's painful and raw. At times I thought Caitlin's experience was too private, and that perhaps I shouldn't be reading it. It was like reading someone's diary, and it made me feel at times uncomfortable and enthralled, both at the same time. It clearly shows what can happen to teenage girls who can quickly find themselves in dangerous, all-consuming relationships, and is a stark contrast to the perfect romances of YA novels. This is an unforgettable read that I think a lot of teenagers need to experience.

Friday, 21 December 2012

The problem with 'New Adult' fiction

'New Adult' fiction is a relatively new phenomena in the publishing world which is intended to bridge the gap between YA and Adult. On the surface, this seems like a relatively good idea, right? If you're in college or an older teenager and you want to read something more mature with characters your own age, then this is perfect. But there are definite problems with this.
1) Swearing
I am not against swearing in books. Not at all. Teenagers use such language all the time and it makes fiction and characters very realistic. However, New Adult go completely over the top, and it's supposed to be seen as attractive. Expletives are just randomly put into titles for some reason unknown to me, and it really puts me off continuing reading.
2) Sex
I have no issue with this either, as long as it's written with maturity and is healthy. Yet, in NA titles it goes completely out of control. I'm not kidding, either. People write whole books filled with the stuff and it's just dire, if I'm honest. Either the main character (usually female) is a virgin and dates the boy who sleeps around/has loads of experience, or the main character is male and has done this and is falling for someone "they never thought they'd fall for". Excuse me while I vomit. In my opinion, most NA books are written as an excuse to write loads of sex into books for teenagers, and it's certainly not healthy.
3) Bad boys
This is probably one of the most irritating things about the NA genre. If a male lead is to be seen as desirable, he has to be a "bad boy", apparently. The nice guy gets kicked to the curb because the Mary Sue has fallen for the "dangerous" guy she "just can't stay away from". I'm not a gullible, pathetic teenage girl, ok? I don't lust after guys like this. They're not realistic at all, or attractive. They're often extremely violent with possessive tendencies, and they're supposed to be seen as the perfect example of a boyfriend you'd want. Classic examples include Travis from Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire, and Chase from Taking Chances by Molly McAdams, two books I'm sure I'll never read.
4) Main characters
The main character, if female, is always a Mary Sue, in some shape or form. Innocent, naive, incredibly beautiful but unaware of her charms. Fantastically intelligent, but not smart enough to realise the guy she's fallen for is a total psychopath. Guys fall at her feet, and she has a great body, and her closest female friend is always a "flirt" or "promiscuous". The alternative is a "damaged" girl with a "past she wants to forget", but still has 95% of the above qualities. Maybe not as innocent, but definitely irritating enough to make you scream.
5) Romance
99% of NA books contain a sappy, unrealistic romance which includes the male character spouting professions of love straight from the author's imagination. No guy would ever say these things. Also, the stuff the MCs do is usually utter drivel, too. Surely the author's own experiences of relationships are not like these turgid fantasies? Most NA books are one step away from turning into Fifty Shades of Grey, for God's sake (inner goddess anyone?).
6) Self-publishing
I have no problem with self-publishing, and I think it's a great idea, as long as your work is properly edited and is written by someone with actual literary talent. Most books, alas, are not. They include constant grammatical errors, obvious spelling mistakes and a load of general errors you wouldn't find in a published novel. People who write these things, get some self-respect! It makes you look so unbelievably stupid if your main character's name never has a capital letter throughout the whole book! 

However, there are some self-published books which I have really enjoyed. The writing was actually pretty good and the characters were believable as people that would exist in real-life. My top three that I'd recommend are:
Easy by Tammara Webber
Measuring Up by Nyrae Dawn
Flat-Out Love by Jessica Park

Have you read any self-published novels? What did you think? Happy reading!

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Top 10 Tuesday

It's Top 10 Tuesday time again! I'm writing this in a hurry so it's not going to be as perfectly set out as my usual posts. However, I've managed to narrow down my books chosen for this week's topic, which is: "Top 10 books read in 2012", even though 2012 isn't over yet. What are your favourite books you read in 2012? Happy reading!

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard
The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins
Breaking Beautiful by Jennifer Shaw Wolf
The Nature of Jade by Deb Caletti
Into the Wild Nerd Yonder by Julie Halpern
The Waiting Sky by Lara Zielin
Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr
Hold Still by Nina LaCour

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Five to the Shelf

'Five to the Shelf' is a new meme I've decided to start here on The Biggest Bookshelf. Hopefully this will enable me to get more followers, comments, and possibly even ARCs or something. Basically, every weekend you write about five books you've recently added to your bookshelf and plan to read. It's kind of like 'In My Mailbox' at The Story Siren or 'Stacking the Shelves' over at Tynga's Reviews, except you have the include five, and therefore you can write more about the books you've chosen. Just an update on my book life: I'm currently reading 'Dreamland' by Sarah Dessen (whose books I adore) and I've ordered a copy of 'Saving Francesca' by Melina Marchetta via the internet. I hope you have a lovely Christmas and as always, happy reading!

The Space Between Us by Jessica Martinez 

Amelia is used to being upstaged by her charismatic younger sister, Charly. She doesn’t mind, mostly, that it always falls to her to cover for Charly’s crazy, impulsive antics. But one night, Charly’s thoughtlessness goes way too far, and she lands both sisters in serious trouble.
Amelia’s not sure she can forgive Charly this time, and not sure she wants to . . . but forgiveness is beside the point. Because Charly is also hiding a terrible secret, and the truth just might tear them apart forever.

I really loved Jessica Martinez's first novel Virtuosity and so I can't wait to read this one. I find novels about sisters very interesting (I'm an only child) and I'm intrigued by the secret that 'might tear them apart forever'. Also, that cover is lovely!

 Meant to Be by Lauren Morrill 

Meant to be or not meant to be . . . that is the question.
It's one thing to fall head over heels into a puddle of hazelnut coffee, and quite another to fall for the—gasp—wrong guy. Straight-A junior Julia may be accident prone, but she's queen of following rules and being prepared. That's why she keeps a pencil sharpener in her purse and a pocket Shakespeare in her, well, pocket. And that's also why she's chosen Mark Bixford, her childhood crush, as her MTB ("meant to be").
But this spring break, Julia's rules are about to get defenestrated (SAT word: to be thrown from a window) when she's partnered with her personal nemesis, class-clown Jason, on a school trip to London. After one wild party, Julia starts receiving romantic texts . . . from an unknown number! Jason promises to help discover the identity of her mysterious new suitor if she agrees to break a few rules along the way. And thus begins a wild goose chase through London, leading Julia closer and closer to the biggest surprise of all: true love.
Because sometimes the things you least expect are the most meant to be.

I absolutely adore this cover! It's just so pretty, and despite the fact the couple look way older than high school age, it doesn't bother me because it's that lovely. Anyway, I'm a sucker for romances like this and Julia sounds a lot like me. I've heard nothing but good things about this one and I'm really excited about it!

A Little Wanting Song by Cath Crowley

The synopsis is way too long to post, but it's basically about two girls, Charlie Duskin and Rose Butler, from what I've read. It involves "friendship, romance and songs in major chords", which is always a good mix. AND IT'S AUSTRALIAN YA!!! I'm really falling for this culture and I can't wait to read more books set in it. 

What Happens Next by Colleen Clayton

How can you talk about something you can’t remember?
Before the ski trip, sixteen-year-old Cassidy “Sid” Murphy was a cheerleader (at the bottom of the pyramid, but still...), a straight-A student, and a member of a solid trio of best friends. When she ends up on a ski lift next to handsome local college boy, Dax Windsor, she’s thrilled; but Dax takes everything from Sid—including a lock of her perfect red curls—and she can’t remember any of it.
Back home and unable to relate to her old friends, Sid drops her college prep classes and takes up residence in the A/V room with only Corey “The Living Stoner” Livingston for company. But as she gets to know Corey (slacker, baker, total dreamboat), Sid finds someone who truly makes her happy. Now, if she can just shake the nightmares and those few extra pounds, everything will be perfect... or so she thinks.

I had my eye on this one for a while before it was released, and I got a copy pretty quickly after it came out. I'm really excited about What Happens Next because it looks like a solid contemporary with believable romance and actual characters that aren't some made-up flawless Mary-Sue/Paul-Stu beings with no personality. I've seen rave reviews of this one, which is always good! 

Bittersweet by Sarah Ockler

Once upon a time, Hudson knew exactly what her future looked like. Then a betrayal changed her life, and knocked her dreams to the ground. Now she’s a girl who doesn’t believe in second chances... a girl who stays under the radar by baking cupcakes at her mom’s diner and obsessing over what might have been.
So when things start looking up and she has another shot at her dreams, Hudson is equal parts hopeful and terrified. Of course, this is also the moment a cute, sweet guy walks into her life... and starts serving up some seriously mixed signals. She’s got a lot on her plate, and for a girl who’s been burned before, risking it all is easier said than done.
It’s time for Hudson to ask herself what she really wants, and how much she’s willing to sacrifice to get it. Because in a place where opportunities are,
she knows this chance may very well be her last...

I've got a confession to make. I haven't read Sarah Ockler's other novels, Twenty Boy Summer and Fixing Delilah, despite the latter having sat on my shelf for quite some time. I have, however, got my eye on her 2013 release The Book of Broken Hearts. However, I decided to try this one because it involves a) cupcakes (win!) and b) hot hockey players, despite it apparently involving an annoying love triangle (I hate these) and a ridiculous name for a main character. But, I'm sure Hudson is a lovely person and I'll like this story quite a bit.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

"Graffiti Moon" by Cath Crowley

"Let me make it in time. Let me meet Shadow. The guy who paints in the dark. Paints birds trapped on brick walls and people lost in ghost forests. Paints guys with grass growing from their hearts and girls with buzzing lawn mowers."

It’s the end of Year 12. Lucy’s looking for Shadow, the graffiti artist everyone talks about.
His work is all over the city, but he is nowhere
Ed, the last guy she wants to see at the moment, says he knows where to find him. He takes Lucy on an all-night search to places where Shadow’s thoughts about heartbreak and escape echo around the city walls.
But the one thing Lucy can’t see is the one thing that’s right before her .

Graffiti Moon is an absorbing, atmospheric look at art, poetry, and the power these two things create. It follows the story of Lucy and Ed, two teenagers from Melbourne, Australia, over one night. It was captivating.
Lucy is into art in a big way. She's an apprentice glassblower (awesome), is a frequent visitor to exhibitions, and talks about artists all the time. Lucy was a fantastic character who I loved, even if the art stuff went totally over my head most of the time.
Ed is also into art, but he dropped out of school in year 10, and now he's a graffiti artist known as Shadow (this is not a spoiler, it's revealed pretty quickly). Ed, I love you, please marry me? He's just so funny and arty and real.
So, Ed and Lucy went on a very awkward date just before Ed dropped out of school, which culminated in Lucy breaking Ed's nose. But now, Lucy's friend Jazz wants to date Ed's friend Leo, and this is where things get complicated. Lucy wants to know Shadow, unaware he's Ed. Ed, Leo and Dylan (their other friend, who is hilarious by the way) lead Lucy, Jazz (who is also psychic) and Daisy (Dylan's girlfriend who he keeps annoying) on a wild goose chase around Melbourne involving a pink Free Love van, a very creepy criminal called Malcolm Dove, and a lot of art (amongst other things).
Overall, Graffiti Moon excellently combined beautiful writing, humour, and the right sprinkling of romance to create a novel I highly recommend.

Rating: A