Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares

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“Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares” by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

After reading Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist (and liking it SO much more than the movie – usually always the case, huh?) I saw this baby on the shelf in the library and was immediately taken by the story.

This book is written the same way as Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist. David writes the part of Dash who loathes Christmas and lied to various family members in order to have a Christmas alone. Rachel writes the part of Lily; an eccentric 16 year old who absolutely adores Christmas but spends it alone with her brother whilst her parents are “celebrating their 25th Wedding anniversary” in Fiji.

Lily’s brother helps her to find a boyfriend through a series of dares left in a red moleskine amongst the shelves at The Strand bookstore. Dash, who spends a large amount of his time perusing the shelves of the bookstores, finds the red moleskine and works through the series of clues and dares that eventually lead him to Lily. It’s a great story and the first four chapters are so engaging that it’s extremely difficult to put the book down! As the story evolves, we see the solitary Dash open up to Lily, and when they finally meet up it’s under completely unexpected circumstances. Throw in some dogs, a trip to Jail and you’ve got yourself a very enjoyable novel!

For those of you who weren’t really fussed on Nick and Norah don’t stress – these characters have completely different voices and there’s hardly any swearing in this novel (unlike Nick and Norah’s which had about forty F**k’s on one page alone …) which is really refreshing. And for those of you who enjoyed Nick and Norah‘s, you won’t be disappointed. Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares raises the bar in terms of young adult fiction novels – the authors haven’t “dumbed down” their audience; quite the contrary actually. The authors have regurgitated a Thesaurus in this novel, but not in a pretentious way. How and when these words are used suits the novel perfectly and adds to the voice of the characters.

I assure you that you won’t be disappointed if you take a chance on this book. It doesn’t take too long to read (it took me 2 days) but the story really hooks you in and keeps you engaged the whole way through. Although I hired this book from the library (support your local library kids!) I’ve just ordered in a copy to add to my bookshelf permanently because it’s a damn good story. So go get it! Now! ūüėÄ

Overall rating: 4.5/5

Seriously … I’m kidding.

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“Seriously … I’m Kidding” by Ellen Degeneres

After I had my appendix out I spent a great deal of time watching horrible daytime TV since I was unable to physically do anything. I became a little bit hooked on Ellen’s show because it was humorous and interesting. Anyway, cut to a few weeks before Christmas. I was perusing the book section at Target with my mother, when I stumbled across Ellen’s latest book. I opened at a random chapter, read a few lines and found it just as humorous and interesting as her TV show. My mother ended up buying it for me as a Christmas present which I was extremely excited about. I started reading it on Christmas day and finished it in a day or so. Let me confess something. The product did not live up to the hype at all!

Basically, it’s 300-odd pages of pure fluff. The only positive the book really has going for it in my opinion is that it’s easy to read, but I think the humour aspect of it wears thin after the first few chapters. For example, you’ll be reading a chapter on gardening, and Ellen will go off on a tangent which (obviously) has nothing to do with gardening, and then tie the whole chapter together with an “Anyway …” and call it quits. The tangents (which happen most chapters) are supposed to be funny, but it comes across like Ellen is trying too hard to be funny. So, one can deduce that the humour Ellen uses on her show loses a great deal when put on paper.

I found it hard to maintain interest in this book, despite it being easy to read. Each chapter offers the reader a new topic, which in theory should keep the reader interested enough to turn the page, however I just wasn’t interested. Turns out that the chapter I randomly opened to when I was in Target turned out to be one of the few chapters that I actually enjoyed. What are the odds huh?

In all honestly, if you’re looking for a book that you can just pick and and put down and when the mood suits you and you don’t mind if there’s no real plot, then this book would be perfect for you. There are a few passages that made me laugh, or that I could relate to, however there weren’t enough of these passages in the book to keep me engaged. However, personally I didn’t find this book engaging enough. I enjoy a bit of a challenge when I read and this book just didn’t do anything for me. Definitely disappointed!

Overall rating: 2/5

The Swan Kingdom

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“The Swan Kingdom” by Zoe Marriott

After recently having my appendix out, I was told I was unable to work or play sport for 4-6 weeks. I used this time to catch up on my reading and found this book hiding at the bottom of my bookcase, completely unread! So obviously I changed that.

It’s a great, well paced fantasy story that actually isn’t a part of a series which was refreshing. Don’t get me wrong, I adore fantasy novels, but it was pleasant to read one without large scale battles, but that still contained the all important adventure.

The story is told from Alexandra’s point of view. She is the youngest of four children, and her mother is considered a very skilled woman in the art of healing and drawing power from the earth (or a Cunning Woman as they call them in the book). Alexandra has three older brothers who each have their own skills and positive character attributes. Alexandra, however, is considered plain with nothing going for her in life. In her father’s eyes, she simply does not exist.

One day, the Queen takes Alexandra out for an adventure, however she dies after being attacked by an unnatural, yet full powered beast. After the Queen’s passing, the King goes out each day to search for the beast that killed his wife. Each day, he returns empty handed. That is, until one day he returns with an unconscious woman – Zella. It doesn’t take long for Alexandra and her brother’s to work out that this mysterious woman has hoodwinked not only the King, and the entire population of her town. Alexandra and her brother’s try to sneak up on this woman whilst she is asleep to attack her, however their plan backfires drastically.

Alexandra’s brothers disappear (turning into Swans) and she is sent off to live with her Aunt – her mother’s sister, who is cold and unwelcoming. The land in which her Aunt lives is completely different, which Alexandra finds hard to adapt to. She sneaks out each night and goes to the beach where she meets Gabriel. Although their paths lead in different directions, Gabriel finds Alexandra after months apart. Together, they face Zella in a major show down as Alexandra discovers how to use her powers not only to beat Zella, but to also restore her brothers back to their human forms.

This novel is loosely based on the Hans Christian Andersen’s story, The Wild Swans, but it is told beautifully. I really enjoyed Alexandra’s adventure in this book – it’s exciting without the gore that most other fantasy books deem necessary. At times, it can be a little bit easy to get lost with the plot – I had to go back and reread certain passages again to understand what was going on, but generally the story was easy to follow, well paced and never boring.

It’s aimed at a fairly young readership, so parts of the novel may be challenging for them, but overall I think the story and adventure is more than enough to engage the reader. There’s just a touch of romance at the end too¬† because (let’s face it) every Heroine needs a guy by her side.¬† This novel manages to combine all the engaging elements of fantasy novels but tailor them perfectly to suit the intended readership. I honestly believe though that readers any age will enjoy this though, which is a credit to the Zoe’s writing talent! If you’re looking for a short fantasy story to read I definitely suggest giving this one a go.

Overall rating: 3.5/5

Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist

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“Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist” by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

A few years ago I took a trip to Melbourne to visit a friend, and I stumbled across the movie adaptation of this novel in the video store. It sounded like an awesome story so I made a mental note to hire it out once I was home.

A few months ago I finally got around to watching the DVD. The over-all verdict of the movie? Terrible. Then I discovered that the movie was based off a novel, and decided to find out if the book was any better than the movie.

I’m pleased to report that it was much better. Let’s recap what the story is about.

The narrative of this story is shared between Nick (written by David Levithan) and Norah (Rachel Cohn), in alternating chapters. The general plot of the story is simple – Nick is dumped by his ex-girlfriend, Tris, because he starts to get too serious. While Nick is on stage playing with his band he sees Tris in the crowd with her new boyfriend. Nick spontaneously asks Norah, whom he has previously never met, to be his five-minute girlfriend. Norah, who knows more about Nick due to the mix CD’s he made Tris (which Norah swiped), agrees thinking Nick can give her and her drunk friend Caroline a ride home. Nick’s car doesn’t start though, but his band mates/friends agree to take Caroline home, and give Norah $50 to take Nick out and get him to have some fun. As the story develops, so too does the fascination between Nick and Norah, and as it turns out, they are each exactly what the other person needs. Their passion of music brings them together, and Nick and Norah spend the night working through their emotions about their respective Ex’s, and their newly developed feelings for one another.

While the movie was dismal, the actual novel itself is quite good. I didn’t mind the alternation of the narrative between Nick and Norah – in fact, I found it refreshing and really easy to read. Both voices are quite distinctive so it’s easy to tell which character is currently narrating. I’m pleased that the crappy parts of the movie (excessive vomiting, and a rank piece of chewing gum that travels between characters) are actually not in the book at all. In fact, Norah’s drunk best friend, Caroline, doesn’t get to much attention in the books, except for when it’s necessary.

I really like the storyline of this book – when I was in my teens, I felt as though music was a way that I connected with other people, and I was just as much as a music snob as Nick and Norah are in the book. My only complaint is that even though it’s a young adult fiction book, there is WAY too much swearing in it. On one page alone there were about 40 fuck‘s which a) really didn’t need to be there and b) kinda took away from the voice of the character. I’m not saying that there shouldn’t be swearing in the book, but I just think that they could have toned it down a touch. That being said, I’d probably swear as much as Nick did if my car didn’t start in the middle of the night …

The good news is that the narrative flows really smoothly between chapters and I like that the authors give insight to one character from the other. It’s a great story, very easy to read and follow which is always a positive in opinion.

Overall rating: 3.5/5

Little White Lies

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“Little White Lies” by Bernadette Strachan

Little White Lies follows the story of Billie Baskerville – seen as a failure in her family, she decides to make a Fresh Start (capitals required!) by taking over her Great Aunt Babs’ wedding dress shop in Sole Bay. She takes up (illegal) residency in Herberts Dream II – A tiny beach house with no modern facilities but with all the sea side charm. Billie is a cynic when it comes to Weddings, having been left at the alter by her fiancee James, however running the wedding dress shop seems to soften her opinion once she is introduced to her unique team and her quirky customers.

Throughout the book, we see Billie settle into life in Sole Bay – making friends with people from many different walks of life. There is also a love interest for her – Ed, who works as a firefighter. There are some interesting side stories with the lovable supporting characters too which really enhances the overall story. About halfway through the book we see Billie’s friend Jackie make an appearance in Sole Bay. A good friend to Billie before she and James broke up, Jackie causes some trouble between Ed and Billie, leaving Billie back at square one – Broken hearted, lonely and isolated. But this time, she had the wedding shop to fall back on, and Billie discovers that love doesn’t have to be traditional.

Having spent most of my time reading young adult fiction novels, it was a bit of a change when I started reading this. The sentences are long and chock-a-block full off analogies which can get a little bit tiresome once you’re about halfway through the book. Some of them are really clever, but that being said, some of them just aren’t really necessary.

The general plot of the story though is really good. Obviously, this is a romance book (as in the “chick-flick” movie genre) but it’s not as predictable as some of the other ones I’ve read recently. Strachan keeps you guessing right until the very end who Billie is going to get together with. What I like about this book is that there isn’t an emphasis on the sexual side of relationships. Most romance writers (think Susan Elizabeth Phillips) seem to get into the nitty gritty of sex and describe it to the point where the reader feels uncomfortable – Strachan thankfully implies the act and skims around the awkwardness! I know that sex comes with the romance genre, but it’s still refreshing to read a book where that isn’t the main feature in the story.

The only disappointment is the ending of the book – While I didn’t expect a great lavish wedding (that would go completely against the traits of Billie as a character), I did expect a little bit more from the ending than a quick wrap up in the form of a letter from Billie to her Great Aunt Babs.

Aside from the ending and the fluffy analogies, I really enjoyed reading this book! I like the style of humour throughout the book and the characters are really lovable, especially the quirky shop assistants Dot and Debs. Overall, very engaging!

Overall rating: 4/5

Devoted

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“Devoted” by Hilary Duff

Devoted is the second installment in Hilary Duff’s young adult fiction series. Those of you who have read my other posts will know that I wasn’t too sure how I felt about the first book, Elixir, but I decided to continue reading the series anyway.

We pick up where we left off. Clea is recovering from the events that happened in the last chapters of Elixir. Her friendship with Ben has all but vanished, and she has become a woman obsessed with Sage. There are some strange new characters introduced in this book, Amelia and her family, who are kind of spirits separated from their bodies. I think. To be honest, I’m still trying to figure out what they are … Amelia leaves Clea a message on her computer screen which prompts her to begin her adventure. Clea enlists the help of a reluctant Ben to locate Sage and try and save him. Ben is reluctant, because in all of Clea’s lives he manages to ruin everything. Eventually, he caves in. Working out the clues, he with holds the information from Clea but takes her to where they need to be. They run into more people who are looking for Sage, but not for the same reason. It ends in a massive showdown with one hell of a twist on the last page.

As with Elixir, you need to be patient with this book. It takes a little while to process Clea’s dream sequences again, but this time some of the chapters alternate between Clea and the spirit-girl Amelia. This can be a little bit confusing – There are only a few chapters where Amelia reveals new information, so I personally don’t think there needed to be as many chapters with Amelia narrating, but perhaps there’s a reason for that in the next book.

Again, I didn’t feel overly impressed with the book. I’m not sure that the younger readers who are following this story are going to be able to keep up with it all the time. Most of the action happens in the latter half of the book, and at a bit of a whirlwind pace. We see Clea teaming up with people we’ve only just met, then we see a few people get shot, and we see the end of Sage. Or do we? It’s sad to see the friendship between Ben and Clea dissipate. I quite liked Ben as a character in the first book, but in this book he’s completely different and I’m not sure how that will sit with other readers either.

I feel as though I’m going to need to sit down and read both books again to pick out vital bits of information I might have missed when first reading the books. I think this series is directed more at an older audience. It’s still enjoyable to read, but I didn’t get that feeling that I was missing something when I put the book down – which is a sign of a great story. The only real “Wow!” moment I got was when the twist was revealed on the last page. I kind of classify these books in the same way I classify the Twilight series. They’re good books, and I enjoyed reading them, but they’re probably not something I’d elect to re-read straight away. Here’s hoping the next book in the series satisfies the readership!

Overall rating: 3/5

The Lonely Hearts Club

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“The Lonely Hearts Club” – Elizabeth Eulberg

In all honesty, I wasn’t expecting a lot from this book – I really just wanted something that was easy to read; something that I could pick up and put down in between classes and not have trouble keeping up with the story. In that respect, the book was perfect.

It’s a fairly good read but in essence it’s a very basic story. The story follows Penny Lane who gets hurt by a long time friend/crush Nate. After an unfortunate incident, she swears off men completely (or until she finishes school) and starts a club – The Lonely Hearts club (taken from a Beatles poster bearing the name of their album “Sgt Pepper’s lonely hearts club band”). Naturally, once she’s formed this club she becomes the prime love interest for a couple of boys.

As the story progresses, Penny’s club turns into a bit of a cult which ends up causing some problems along the way. While all the action is fairly predictable, there’s a constant “hot and cold” feeling between Penny and her unknown love interest Ryan which then confuses the reader a bit. It suddenly seems like every single guy is interested in her, which makes the reader have trouble identifying exactly who it is she likes. (I mean, you get a good idea, but you’re never 100% sure until the last 50 pages or so). Throw in a poorly sung karaoke ballad and voila – the leader of the club suddenly isn’t so lonely anymore.

I don’t mind books that are predictable, but this one was a little bit TOO predictable for my likings. Still, it had a happy ending, which is what readers will expect from this book. There were some very funny chapters in there, with some very good comebacks I’d love to say to some of my ex-boyfriends. For the intended audience, the book reads very well. The language is straight forward, though the constant Beatles references may be lost on younger readers. ¬†But if you like chick flicks and young adult fiction books, give this one a go!

Overall Rating: 3/5

Elixir

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“Elixir” – Hilary Duff

I’ve been a pretty big fan of Hilary Duff ever since she starred in Lizzie McGuire¬†on the Disney Cannel many moons ago. I don’t mind a couple of her songs either and when I stumbled across this book in Borders I thought “Why not?” (Unintentional pun by the way!).

The story follows a young girl called Clea, who is a photographer haunted by the disappearance of her father. After returning home after a three week European vacation with her friend Rayna, she discovers a mysterious man hidden in the background of all the photos she had taken. Her bodyguard and other best friend, Ben, informs her that the same man appeared in photographs her Dad took 18 years earlier. The man doesn’t age and Clea discovers that it all has to do with the Elixir of Life (hence the book title).

Getting started was difficult. I wasn’t really gripped with the language or the story but my main advice with this book is this: Be patient!
The first few chapters of the book are backstory, so it takes a while to really get into things. It’s an easy book to read though – it took me a little over a day to get through all 327 pages.

There are dream sequences all throughout the book which are a little hard to keep up with since they take place in four different time periods (Five, if you include the present day dreams). That being said, it’s all part of the story, so hang in there.

I admit that it wasn’t the most exciting book I’ve ever read. I really enjoy Young Adult Fiction books, but I’m curious to know how it was received by younger readers. I really just felt as though things took a long time to get going, and then all the action was packing into the last 100 pages. My initial reaction to the book was “Ok, this is a little weird” but I’ll probably give the next book in the series a go anyway to see how the rest of the story develops.

Overall Rating: 3/5

Why Men Love Bitches

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“Why Men Love Bitches” – Sherry Argov

I have to be honest: I’m not big on reading self-help books. They kind of confirm what I already know about myself and thus make me feel a billion times worse. However, that being said I gave Why Men Love Bitches¬†a read¬†because it was suggested by a good friend of mine; someone who happened to find this book useful and thought that it might help me too.

I am pleased to say that I enjoyed reading this book – it was humorous and light hearted which definitely helps get the message across! It’s also very easy to understand; no hard-to-grasp lingo, no reading between the lines – the language is straight up, if occasionally brutal!

This book actually gave me lots of insight to who I am as a person, and who I become when I’m in a relationship. I am a nice girl, but according to the book, I should be a bitch. Let me make one thing clear: The bitch in this book is not to be confused with your average, everyday kind of “bitch”. The distinction that Sherry makes in the book is that this bitch is defined as a Babe In Total Control of Her life. Pretty clever huh!

Now, it goes without saying that any self help book should be read with a grain of salt on the side (or, in my case, a large bag of salty potato chips) Рthis one is easy to digest though, and quite clear. Full of Attraction Principals, it spells everything out for the Nice (and slightly delusional) Girl to help her reset her priorities.

The overall message in the book though is simple: Girls, start putting yourself first and standing up for yourselves! Men don’t want someone that they can walk all over, and having deep and meaningful conversations about feelings with your boyfriend/fiancee/husband is about as useful as a car with three wheels.

Long story short: Don’t alter your routine or life for a man. If they love you enough, they’ll find a way to be a part of your life.

Overall, an entertaining and insightful read!

Rating: 4/5