6 Oct 2015

Review: How To Be Brave by E. Katherine Kottaras

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How To Be Brave by E. Katherine Kottaras
November 3rd, 2015 · St. Martin's Press
Source: Publisher
Format: eARC from Netgalley
Page Count: 288
An emotional contemporary YA novel about love, loss, and having the courage to chase the life you truly want.

Reeling from her mother's death, Georgia has a choice: become lost in her own pain, or enjoy life right now, while she still can. She decides to start really living for the first time and makes a list of fifteen ways to be brave - all the things she's wanted to do but never had the courage to try. As she begins doing the things she's always been afraid to do - including pursuing her secret crush, she discovers that life doesn't always go according to plan. Sometimes friendships fall apart and love breaks your heart. But once in a while, the right person shows up just when you need them most - and you learn that you're stronger and braver than you ever imagined.
Firstly, I loved the positive, empowering vibe of this book. You have the close friendship between Georgia and Liss, who have each other's backs. As always, it’s great to see strong female friendships in YA. Secondly, Georgia’s voice is authentic and a definite highlight of the book. Though she’s overweight, I loved that the book didn't revolve around that; it wasn't the be all end all. Because at it’s core, How To Be Brave is about trying to live a life Georgia's mum would be proud of and taking chances. I think this quote sums it up perfectly:

"But being brave isn't about living every minute exhilarated. It's about waking up and knowing that despite the worry and the sadness and the deep, dark fear, you're going to go forth anyway. That you're going to try anyway. That you have a choice, and you're going to choose to live, today, bravely."

Isn't that quote just beautiful?

For the most part, this was an enjoyable story. The main negative I had with the book was that I wanted more from the beginning. It felt like the plot was lacking and I was left waiting for it pick up. I was much happier with the ending and by the second half, I became hooked as conflict started to arise and saw Georgia start to grow as a character, which was great. It was just what I'd wanted and made me a happy little camper.

I have to say, I wish the cover had went with a model that looked more like Georgia, instead of the traditional-looking, thin model. I know it doesn’t affect the story and authors don't have much say in the matter, if any, but it’s rather disappointing when you think about it. Hopefully we’ll start to see better cover representation in the future!

A particular scene that stood out to me was when Georgia and her friends went to to tribal dance class, which was on Georgia’s list. It was such an empowering moment for these young girls and my favourite scene in the book.

How To Be Brave is a thoughtful story and one I think teenagers will enjoy.

1 Oct 2015

Rebecca's Ramblings: Star Ratings & Why I Quit Them

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You’ve probably noticed that over the last few months, I’ve stopped rating books when I review. [Note: I still rate on Goodreads, but I just wasn’t happy enough with it to continue it here.]

Why? Well, for a long time, I hadn't been happy with how I was rating them on the blog (out of 5). Sometimes deciding on a number just didn’t feel right; maybe it’s because books are made up of words and numbers can be cold and calculating... (Can you tell I don’t like Maths? We have a bit of a love-hate relationship - in that it loves hate me.)

Like I said, I’m no longer rating on the blog, but I continue to do so on Goodreads. Why? Because it's not my blog, so I don't feel so protective of it. Secondly, not putting up a rating was not an option. For some reason, I need those yellow stars in my life! I decided to be lax on there for the sake of my sanity.

If you want to know how my brain works, it's like this: when I’m reading a book I’m rating it as I go along - without even meaning to. I can't help it. To give you a sneak peek into my exhausting brain: "Yep, a 3-star book so far."...or..."It’s going great! I'm loving it. 4 stars for sure, maybe 5?" I just can’t seem to escape the numbers!

I’ve tried coming up with a different system, but I got nowhere and just decided to focus on the review itself, which is what I’ve been doing. But it’s still been playing on my mind, as you can obviously see from my post. If it was all good and dandy, I would have let it be. But I have thoughts and feelings, so you poor loves have to listen to me squabble on. I'll be the first to admit: I think a rating is super great in the way that you can walk away from a review knowing full well just how much the reviewer enjoyed (or didn’t) the book. When that rating system - or any kind of system - isn’t there, things can be less clear. The reviewer might have enjoyed it, along with the characters and whirlwind romance, but is it a four or five star? Is it a buy or borrow? There’s a difference and that is where the waters can become murky.

But enough of my ranting... Let’s take a moment to look at a few types of rating:

- First off, you have your good ‘ol, trusty 1-5 stars (3/5 stars)
- Letter grade (A+. B-. C. This gives you room to rate, which is always a plus I think.)
- Word rating (Fabulous. Loved. Good. OK. Not my cuppa tea, ect. Straight to the point.)
- Recommend? (Yes, this was fabulous…. No, unless you like... ect. Effective and gives plenty of room to sum up.)
- Multiple star ratings for different aspects (plot, writing, characters, ect. I quite like this - clear and let’s give you room to rate.)

Rating Systems I love:
A Reader of Fictions GIF rating. Love this, it's so original! Especially since Christina is known to use Buffy GIF’s. (See: the way to my heart.)
Rather Be Reading's Buy It/Worth It/Borrow It. Such a fan of their rating system. I think it’s great!

So, we've established I can talk write your ear off. But…I’m still not sure what to do about my rating system. All that I know is I want to come up with a new rating system that I’m happy with and I’ve yet to find it. Maybe this post will kick start some new ideas. Let's hope!

I haven't rated a book on the blog for some months now, but before I decided to part with the rating, I'd been unhappy with it for a while. That extra aspect that can add to a review? Well, it was just doing my head it. So after much thought, I axed it. I'm sorry if it's something you've missed, but I do plan to bring the rating system back soon. I'm just going to make sure it's something that'll work for both me and you.

Now to open the floor to you guys: What’s your rating system like? Are you ever conflicted with star ratings? How do you feel about no ratings and relying solely on a review? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

29 Sep 2015

Review: The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

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The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness
August 27th, 2015 · Walker Books
Source: Purchased
Format: Hardcover
Page Count: 352
What if you aren’t the Chosen One?

The one who’s supposed to fight the zombies, or the soul-eating ghosts, or whatever the heck this new thing is, with the blue lights and the death?

What if you’re like Mikey? Who just wants to graduate and go to prom and maybe finally work up the courage to ask Henna out before someone goes and blows up the high school. Again.

Because sometimes there are problems bigger than this week’s end of the world, and sometimes you just have to find the extraordinary in your ordinary life.

Even if your best friend is worshipped by mountain lions.

Award-winning writer Patrick Ness’s bold and irreverent novel powerfully reminds us that there are many different types of remarkable. 
Patrick Ness. What is there to say, apart from the fact that he is one very beloved, popular YA author among readers? Practically everyone loves him and I've only ever heard incredible things about his books, yet this was my first time reading him. It took me a while, huh? First things first: I can see why he causes such a hype. I LOVED The Rest of Us Just Live Here.

I first became intrigued about TROUJLH after my friend Jess read it and was telling me about it at a blogger meet-up. It sounded great, but I officially knew I needed this in my life after I jumped onto Goodreads a few days later and got a major Buffy vibe from the reviews. (As you most probably know by now, BtVS is my favourite.) Because then that got me thinking - what would have high school been like for those teens not off saving the world? Patrick Ness shows us in his latest. But it also delivers SO much more and blew my expectations out of the water.

In case you didn’t know, this book is incredibly diverse and it is WONDERFUL. It was so great to read and see so many diverse characters on the page. Plus, they were written with care and sensitivity, which is just as important as writing them in the first place. Big thumbs up.

And the charterers? Fabulous! I loved Mikey and from page one, his voice jumped off the page. The secondary characters - Mel, Jared and Henna - were just as great and I loved how fleshed out they were. Ness makes his characters easy to love and that is no small feat. The last time I cared about characters this much was when I read Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, which I read earlier in the year. It's not every day you come to care so much about a bunch of characters, but when you do, it's such a special thing. I closed the book with a heavy heart, knowing I'd miss them. If that’s not well written characters, I don’t know what is.

Another thing I I loved about this book was how supportive Mikey’s friends and sisters were. They all cared about each other so much and it was a delight to read about such strong, positive relationships and people who will be there for others no matter what. This is what we need to see more of in YA. It was seriously so endearing and lovely and heartfelt and wonderful and special that it made me tear up multiple times. (That is a lot of ands and adjectives, but it was an original sentence I wrote when I was taking notes and I still stand by it so! *takes deep breathe*)

The Rest of Us Just Live Here is an incredible, original story and one that is beautifully diverse. If you want true-to-life characters, writing that stands out and a book that’ll steal your heart, this is for you! I hope you love it as much as I did.

Have you read this or do you plan to? What's your favourite Patrick Ness book? Now that I've read him, I can't wait to read more! Last but certainly not least: Have you ever watched Buffy and if you have, are you a super fan like I am?

22 Sep 2015

Dive Into Diversity: How Diverse Are Your Shelves? (Bookshop Ed.)

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A few months back I did an experiment called, How Diverse Are Your Shelves? It was eye-opening, a lot of fun and not only did you enjoy it, but it got you guys thinking, which was great to see. So for September's post, I decided to do it again, except this time, in a different environment - the bookshop! So here's take two, How Diverse Are Your Shelves? Bookshop edition!
The (estimated) facts:
- Four aisles of shelves equates to a LOT of books. My guess is 900 - 1000 titles in the YA section.
- After browsing the shelves, I found 27 books that counted as diverse (QUILTBAG, POC, authors of colour, nerodiversity, ect). I could only go off of books I knew, so this is an extremely rough estimate and I’m sure I missed at least another half of books that would have counted. Especially since fantasy, dystopian and paranormal aren’t my go-to genres. Add another ~30 books for any I missed and I think that would be about right.
- From a rough estimate, I calculate 6.25 % diverse titles.

Diverse titles I found browsing...

Now, you might be wondering... well, that's seem like a great selection of diverse titles there! And it is. But keep in perspective I searched for them through all these shelves:

Bookshelves in question...

Was I surprised by the results?
Yes, I didn’t actually think they’d have the selection and amount that they did of diverse books. Percentage-wise, it’s still really low, but I was glad to walk in there and be able to find diverse titles. The non-diverse titles obviously outweighed the diverse titles, but that’s to be expected. After all, you have to look at what’s being published and what’s already out there.

What did I learn?
If we want to be able to go into a bookshop and see diversity on the shelves, we need be showing interest and buying diverse titles in-store. This makes sense and is something I already knew, but it's a great reminder!

Overall thoughts:
Very different to the first time I did this experiment with my own shelves, in that I couldn’t be as precise and a lot was calculated guess work. Great to see bookshops stocking diverse titles!

I hope you enjoyed this experiment like you did the last one! So tell me: how diverse are your bookshops? Do you make a point to buy diverse titles in-store? Lastly, have you had any interesting conversations to the staff about books and diversity? I'll leave it there and let you take over in the comments... Don't forget to link up your reviews for this month!

2 Sep 2015

Review: The Devil You Know by Trish Doller

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The Devil You Know by Trish Doller
July 1st, 2015 · Bloomsbury Australia
Source: Publisher - thank you!
Format: Hardcover
Page Count: 256
Eighteen-year-old Arcadia wants adventure. Living in a tiny Florida town with her dad and four-year-old brother, Cadie spends most of her time working, going to school, and taking care of her family. So when she meets two handsome cousins at a campfire party, she finally has a chance for fun. They invite her and friend to join them on a road trip, and it's just the risk she's been craving-the opportunity to escape. But what starts out as a fun, sexy journey quickly becomes dangerous when she discovers that one of them is not at all who he claims to be. One of them has deadly intentions.

A road trip fling turns terrifying in this contemporary story that will keep readers on the edge of their seats.
The Devil You Know was one of my most anticipated releases of 2015, with Trish Doller being one of my favourite authors. Unfortunately, I didn’t love it like I hoped I would, but I did still quite enjoy it.

Things that I liked:

- The Devil You Know was addictive! I read it within a few hours and two sittings for a few reasons. 1) I obviously wanted to know how it would end and 2) I didn’t want to be reading it at night, knowing it would be tense and thrilling, which it definitely was. I don’t know about you, but I get a bit crazy reading thrillers. The suspense, I just can’t deal!
- The writing was great, as per usual with Trish Doller.
- There’s a pie run, which is so American and I LOVED it! I've never tried banana cream, but have always wanted to since I watched Bewitched. I wish pie was bigger here in Australia...
- I loved the feminist undertones.

Things I didn’t:
- I didn't connect with Cadie. She's a reckless character and will probably test your patience...
- The first half was slow moving for me, considering it was a thriller. It eventually did pick up though and provided a solid ending.
- I normally swoon over the romantic interest when it comes to this author, but the romance wasn't a winner for me. I was constantly thinking about which guy was the villain (yep, I did not crack the case. Hmm, surely all those crime/detective shows I’ve watched should have turned me into Miss. Holmes by now, right? Obviously not) and because of that, I was never sold.

A quick thriller that kept me on my toes. Not my favourite by the author, but still an enjoyable read overall. Nonetheless, and as always, I can’t wait for Trish Doller’s next release. Hopefully it'll be more my thing.

Have you read this and if you have, what did you think of it? Are you a fan of Trish Doller? Do you like pie? What's your favourite flavour? And if you've ever tried banana cream, TELL ME ALL ABOUT IT. Let me live vicariously through you!