Genre: Contemporary

Reading roundup – January 13th 2017

Hello, and happy new year to you all.  Wishing you a wonderful, prosperous and book filled 2017.  

You know, sometimes you can go for months without coming across a real gem of a book.  Other times, every book you read is a five-star wonder.  That’s been the case for me so far in 2017.  Here are some great reads I’ve picked up lately.

Reading roundup – January 13th 2017The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
Also in this series: Passenger
Format: eBook
Narrator: Saskia Maarleveld
Pages: 384 pages
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
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Evelynne's rating: five-stars

I know I’m a bit late to the table with Nicola Yoon’s masterpiece.  The Sun is Also a Star tells the story of Natasha, an undocumented Jamaican-American immigrant on the point of deportation and Daniel, a young Korean-American struggling with the conflict between his dreams and his family’s expectations.  The novel takes place over 12 hours, during the day on which Natasha’s family is due to be deported.  The characters are well grounded, beautifully described and their romance is believable.  I was really rooting for those two, despite their different outlooks.

I loved how the lives of those with whom they come into contact are also briefly described, showing how everyone’s lives are interconnected and that no man is an island.  I’m pretty confident that, come December 2017, The Sun is Also a Star will be featured on my top reads of 2017.  That’s how much I loved it.

I gave The Sun is Also a Star five stars out of five.

Reading roundup – January 13th 2017Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
Pages: 402 pages
Genres: Young Adult, Historical Fiction
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Evelynne's rating: five-stars

Ruta Supetys’ Salt to the Sea is a young adult historical fiction novel which tells the story of four young people towards the end of the Second World War as they attempt to flee East Prussia from the advancing Russian army and to board the Wilhelm Gustloff.  As in real life, the Wilhelm Gustloff is torpedoed by Russian submarines and sinks with the loss of thousands of souls.

Our four main PoV characters are Joana, a young Lithuanian nurse fleeing from East Prussia, Florian, a young apprentice with a secret, Emilia, a fifteen year old Polish girl pregnant as the result of a rape, and Alfred a German sailor with an inflated opinion of himself and a deep seated belief in Nazi propaganda.  Their stories are deeply moving and I found myself very emotionally engaged with them.  

The writing style is beautiful and poetic, with wonderful images, themes and emotion.  

I gave Salt to the Sea five stars.  A must-read if you enjoy historical fiction.

Reading roundup – January 13th 2017Wayfarer by Alexandra Bracken
Series: Passenger #2
Also in this series: Passenger
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Saskia Maarleveld
Length: 16 hrs and 16 mins
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
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Evelynne's rating: four-stars

Wayfarer is the second and final book in Alexandra Bracken’s time travel Passenger duology.  it continues the story of Etta and Nicholas and their attempt to keep the powerful astrolabe out of the hands of the various groups who would seek to abuse it. 

I loved the characters and their relationships – that’s one thing that Bracken does especially well.  Learning more about Rose and the addition of Li Min were real highlights here.  The pacing was excellent and moved along at a real clip – Bracken has expertly defined what’s at stake for our characters, and it is a believable motivator for them.  The ending was satisfying and felt well-earned.

What I wasn’t so fond of was the development of the mystical aspect of the story.  The time travel was setup in such a clear and logical way with all its rules and limitations that it felt almost pseudo scientific.  The mystical and magical side that was developed felt somewhat out of place in the narrative.

All in all though I really enjoyed Wayfarer and gave it four stars out of five.

The next book I’d like to talk about in my home run of awesome reads is Laini Taylor’s Strange the Dreamer.  Hachette Canada was kind enough to give me a netgalley and I’m about a third of the way through it.  I don’t want to say too much as I’ll be doing a full review shortly, but our protagonist was one I felt extremely connected to right from the beginning.  I’m certain it will be an awesome book.

Upcoming books in January

Divergent author Veronica Roth has a new series coming out next year starting with Carve the Mark.  This is young adult sci-fi/fantasy novel set in a world in which a Force-like current pervades the universe and grants special powers or currentgifts to inhabitants.  We follow two teens, Cyra and Akos, whose worlds collide and who must decide whether to aid or thwart the other.  Although it’s one of my most anticipated reads, I do have some qualms about it.  It has a dual PoV, which Roth didn’t handle so well in Allegiant.  The world could either be amazing or it could be a mess.  I’m still intrigued enough to add this to my most anticipated reads of 2017, so time will tell on which side it falls.

Carve the Mark is released on January 17th 2017.

I admit I cheated here somewhat; I’ve actually already read Caraval by Stephanie Garber and LOVED it (I was lucky enough to pick up a copy at BEA).  It was one of my top reads of 2017 – the characters, the world and the twisty turny plot was breathtaking.  Don’t miss this one.  I’ve added it to my most anticipated reads of 2017 as I’m looking forward to experiencing it again.  I will pick it up in audiobook format as it’s being narrated by Lunar Chronicles narrator Rebecca Soler.  

Caraval is released on January 31st 2017.

That’s all for today.  Let me know what you’re reading in the comments!


five-stars

Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld – Review

Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld – ReviewEligible by Curtis Sittenfeld
Series: The Austen Project #4
Also in this series: Sense and Sensibility, Northanger Abbey
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Cassandra Campbell
Length: 13 hrs and 21 mins
Genres: Contemporary, Classics
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Evelynne's rating: one-half-stars

Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld is the fourth in the Austen Project of modern retellings of Jane Austen’s novels and attempts to bring her classic Pride and Prejudice into the 21st century.  Having read the other three Austen adaptations, I was intrigued to see how Sittenfeld would update the story of Elizabeth, Darcy, Jane and Bingley.  From experience I know that Austen adaptations, when done well, can be wonderful. (check out The Lizzie Bennet Diaries on YouTube if you don’t believe me.)

I really, really wanted to like this book – I love Jane Austen, and the pre released teaser sample sounded excellent – but no matter how hard I tried, it didn’t sit well with me.  In the interests of fairness, given how well known and beloved Pride and Prejudice has become, it was always going to be one of the trickier ones to adapt.  Let me talk about what I liked first.

What I liked

The modernisation.  Many things in the update worked surprisingly well.  The transfer of the action from Hertfordshire to Cincinnati was seamless and gave a very similar flavour of the small town mentality that caused Darcy’s snobbish attitude.  The Bennet family’s future being at risk because of the lack of a male heir is not something that would fit well with a modern tale, so Sittenfeld uses a more up to date threat which works in well.  Surprisingly the whole reality TV show plotline adapts well and served to enhance both the story and the characters.

The narration.  I listened to Eligible in audiobook format.  Narration duties were undertaken by Cassandra Campbell who did a great job of narrating the tales of the Bennet sisters.  I chose the book in audiobook format because of the sneak peek narration.

What I didn’t like

The chapter break up.  The audiobook is 13 hours and 21 minutes long, so approximately 800 minutes.  This is relatively short in terms of audiobooks.  I believe the hard copy comes in at around 500 pages.  There are over 180 chapters in the book.  Let me say that again.  One hundred and eighty chapters.  This means that, on average, there is a new chapter roughly every four minutes.  Some chapters last less than 40 seconds.  Especially in the audiobook I found it extremely distracting and detrimental to my engagement in the story to have it broken up so frequently.

Character development.  My biggest issue with Eligible was that I didn’t feel Sittenfeld accurately portrayed – or even at times understood – Austen’s wonderful characters and/or their journeys.  It is fair to say that, perhaps her interpretation of Elizabeth, Jane and Lydia just isn’t the same as mine; however I would argue that they also differ from Austen’s.

To take Lydia first; while both Austen’s and Sittenfeld’s youngest Bennet sister is young, immature and, yes, does occasionally push the boundaries of propriety I have never perceived her as being downright crude and vulgar as she comes across in Eligible.  Admittedly, I will never be able to read P&P with an Austen era mentality, so I could be wrong here. Secondly, Lydia’s story arc in Austen’s original has her family (and ultimately Darcy) having to step in to protect her from the consequences of an imprudent and ill considered decision.  While it is not an easy task to come up with a modern storyline that has the same shock value and social repercussions that nineteeth century Lydia’s running off alone with a man would have, and I can see what Sittenfeld was trying to do, I personally disagree with her choice.  At that point in the story I found myself thinking “What imprudent decision?  What consequences?”  Sittenfeld even has her Lydia try to sit down with her parents and discuss her decision before taking action and the impression I was left with was that it was a far more balanced and thought out decision than Austen’s Lydia would have made.  

Jane’s character arc, too, wasn’t always given the service it should have.  In my mind, in the original, Jane’s character flaw was that she wasn’t confident enough to express her feelings adequately to Bingley.  This allowed Darcy to interfere in the relationship believing that she was not very strongly attached to Bingley.  This is a flaw which she must overcome to achieve her happy ending.  In Sittenfeld’s reworking, it’s Jane’s circumstances which force her to be more reserved about expressing her feelings, therefore no flaw, no character development.

Finally, we come to Elizabeth, the second oldest Bennet sister.  My impression of Elizabeth from Austen’s original was that she is an intelligent, strong willed woman, who has a strong sense of self worth and who is not prepared to compromise that.  Sittenfeld’s description of her Liz’s relationship with Jasper does not show a woman with a strong sense of self worth.  Perhaps that’s Eligible Liz’s character arc, to regain that sense of self, but it’s not the arc of Austen’s character, and as such I didn’t feel it should have been part of the story, especially as Austen’s Elizabeth already has a strong character development arc in overcoming her prejudice of Darcy.

While there were some excellently written parts of Eligible, for me, it is the weakest of the Austen project books in terms of bringing Austen’s characters to life in a modern setting.  I gave Eligible only 1.5 stars out of five.

If you want to see a modern adaptation of Pride and Prejudice done well, I recommend you rather take a look at The Lizzie Bennet Diaries on YouTube.

one-half-stars

Reading Roundup – June 6th 2014

First of all, my apologies on the delay of the Throne of Glass review – it’s coming, I promise!  Also my apologies for the confusion on the Ruin and Rising release date. This will be released on June 17th.

This week Amazon announced a product launch for later this month.  The introductory video is deceptively vague, but most analysts seem to agree a 3D smartphone is likely.  For the first time Amazon is also inviting customers to attend this launch in Seattle.  You can sign up for an invite.  I have put my name down, so we’ll see if I’m lucky.

Reading Roundup – June 6th 2014Attachments by Rainbow Rowell
Format: eBook
Pages: 338 pages
Genres: Contemporary, New Adult
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Evelynne's rating: four-stars

One of the books i did read this week was Attachments by Rainbow Rowell.  I loved her Eleanor & Park and enjoyed Attachments very much, too.  This novel is split between two interwoven strands.  We have the traditional third person narrative of Lincoln’s story and the other strand follows Jennifer and Beth through email exchange.  The two are connected in that Lincoln’s job is to monitor his company’s email and so he gets to know the two women through their email exchange.

What I liked 

Fun, realistic characters.  As in Eleanor & Park, Rowell has a talent for writing engaging, realistic characters.  I loved Lincoln, Beth and Jennifer and loved their story.  Al three of them undergo beautiful character development and it was lovely to see them grow.  I enjoyed the romance between Beth and Lincoln, although I must say I wasn’t entirely sure I wanted them to get together at the end.  I felt their romance was more about each of them moving on from a difficult place in their lives to be able to move forward, not necessarily about the two of them as a couple.

Writing style.  Rowell has a very light, immediate writing style and it was easy to become involved in the story and the characters.

What I didn’t like

The writing in the email.  I felt it was too formal and too in-depth.  Certainly, I have been known to write long emails to my friends and granted, our heroines work in journalism so have a high standard of written English.  All the same, I felt the style didn’t quite mesh.  A better example of how emails as a novel can work would be Matt Beaumont’s e – a Novel.

Despite this, I loved Attachments and gave it four stars out of five.

Added to my library this week

Prince of Fools by Mark Lawrence.  This is a new series by the author of the Broken Empire trilogy and is set in the same world.  I picked this up in both Kindle and Audible formats.  I’ve started it and so far I’m enjoying it although I have listened to the same section about three times now.  I keep falling asleep at the same point and being woken up at the same point!  Jalan seems very different to Jorg, so I am interested to see how his character arc plays out.

The Eighth Guardian by Meredith McCardle.  This was a book in Amazon’s new release email.  Time travelling teens!  Protecting and/or changing history!  It sounded a fun concept and at an introductory price of $4 I picked it up in Kindle format.  It’s Whispersync for Voice enabled, so I picked up the Audible book for a couple of dollars more.

Through Netgalley I was offered Ruth’s Story to review.  This is the officially sanctioned novel by Donald McCaig telling the story of Scarlett O’Hara’s Mammy.  I look forward to reading it.  I may well watch Gone with the Wind this weekend to get myself in the mood.

Finally, I picked up The Colors of Cold, a free novella set in the world of The Age of Ice by J.M. Sidorova.  Amazon keeps recommending Age of Ice to me, so it seemed a good chance to learn about the world.

What are you reading this week?

four-stars

Midnight Crossroad by Charlaine Harris – Review

Midnight Crossroad by Charlaine Harris – ReviewMidnight Crossroad by Charlaine Harris
Series: ,
Format: eBook
Pages: 315 pages
Genres: Contemporary, Supernatural
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Evelynne's rating: four-stars

Midnight Crossroad is the first in a new supernatural mystery series from Sookie Stackhouse writer Charlaine Harris.  it has a very similar feel to Sookie and if you enjoyed that series you will likely get a lot of pleasure from Midnight Crossroad, too.  This new series is set in Texas rather than Louisiana, but keeps that small-town feel.  It centres on the inhabitants of a small town, Midnight, and the secrets they hide.  
 
I’m not certain if this is intended to be set in the same world as Sookie.  It’s perhaps a little early to tell – it could go either way.  There is nothing to say one way or the other.  In any case, it is very enjoyable.
 
What I liked

Ensemble cast.  Unlike The Southern Vampire Mystery series, which concentrates mainly on Sookie, and is told from her point of view, Midnight Crossroad has multiple points of view from interesting characters.  I enjoyed hearing from all of them, and it was interesting hearing the story from different sides.  Each of the characters had his or her own secret and reason for moving to this small town.  Sometimes I did struggle to remember which characters know what secrets.
 
Mr Snuggly the cat.  Adorable!  I loved his point of view.  Let’s just say, he’s not Tara the Hero cat. It gives a good measure of the kind of town Midnight is, that upon learning that Fiji’s cat can talk, after a few seconds of surprise, the inhabitants merely shrug their shoulders and put it down to just one more strange thing in the town.  More, please.
 
The mystery.  While I wouldn’t say the mystery was gripping, I did very much enjoy the way that the focus was put on the effect it had on the inhabitants of Midnight.  The story was quite slow to start, but Harris uses this time well to introduce her characters and the town.  
 
Community feel.  I liked the way the characters came together, supported each other and generally had each others’ backs.  We are introduced to the people of Midnight through new resident Manfred and he, too, quickly becomes part of the community.
 
What I didn’t like

There was nothing I didn’t enjoy about the book.  Perhaps the mystery could have been a little more complex, but in a way this allowed the focus to be on getting to know the residents of Midnight.  
 
I gave Midnight Crossroad a solid four stars out of five and will certainly be following the rest of the series.
 
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    four-stars

    Northanger Abbey by Val McDermid

    Northanger Abbey by Val McDermidNorthanger Abbey by Val McDermid
    Series: The Austen Project #2
    Also in this series: Sense and Sensibility, Eligible
    Format: Audiobook
    Narrator: Jane Collingwood
    Length: 8 hrs and 54 mins
    Genres: Classics, Contemporary
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    Evelynne's rating: four-half-stars

    Northanger Abbey by Val McDermid is the second in The Austen Project series of novels which are modern retellings by contemporary authors of Jane Austen’s classics.  Perhaps it’s because I didn’t have the baggage of my knowledge and love of the original as I had with the first, I much preferred this second outing to Joanna Trollope’s updating of Sense and Sensibility.  Austen’s original story of Northanger Abbey tells the story of a sheltered young girl whose love of gothic novels leads her to make some very strange assumptions about the family of the young man she meets while visiting Bath.  During the novel she learns to separate fiction from reality and to develop a better understanding of human motivations.

    What I liked

    The updating.  I felt McDermid did a much better job than Trollope of bringing Austen’s characters into the 21st century.  They felt modern and fresh and their motivations seemed in line with a modern teenager or young person.  I could easily imagine sitting down to coffee with Cat and Ellie to discuss the latest novel.  And as evidenced by John Thorpe and Frederick Tilney, men who are too full of self-importance to consider the wishes of the women they are with are obnoxious in any century.  

    As well as the characters, McDermid has done sterling work in updating the setting.  Transforming Bath into Edinburgh mid Festival worked incredibly well.  In their respective eras, both cities represent a cultural hotspot and a chance for our sheltered heroine to move into a wider world and social circle.  The Festival also allows McDermid to bring in events like dance lessons and a ball without their seeming too much out of place.

    Cultural and social media integration.  This was something that was also better done in Northanger Abbey than in Sense and Sensibility.  Social media such as Facebook, email, texts and Twitter are an integral part of our characters’ lives and are used to drive the plot on in many cases.  The updating of the gothic novels much beloved by Austen’s heroine to Twilight and other contemporary vampire novels also works very well.

    The narration.  Narration for Northanger Abbey is done by Jane Collingwood and was excellent.  Being a Scot I did appreciate her attempt at a Scots accent for the Scottish characters in the novel.  In particular she brings across Cat’s good nature and John Thorpe’s horribleness perfectly.  Here’s a sample:

    What I didn’t like

    Bella’s “voice”.  The way this character spoke really irritated me.  I’m referring to her word choice “totes,” “BFF”, not the narration.  On the other hand, the character is supposed to be superficial so maybe McDermid’s done her job too well.

    Motivations.  In Austen’s original I assume money was a strong motivating factor in the relationship choices made by the characters.  In McDermid’s updating, at some points it seems finances are a contributing factor, and at other times not.  it just didn’t seem clear.

    All in all I really enjoyed Northanger Abbey and gave it four stars out of five.

     buy from Amazon, iTunes, Audible, eBooks.com

    four-half-stars

    Reading Roundup – 10th January 2014

    Reading Roundup – 10th January 2014The Re-Awakening by Carter Vance
    Series: Second Coming #2
    Also in this series: The Return
    Format: ARC
    Pages: 325 pages
    Genres: Contemporary
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    Good morning, and welcome to another reading roundup.  Here are a few of the books I’ve read over the holiday season.

    I was recently given a copy of The Re-Awakening by the author free of charge to review.  This is the second book in Vance’s Second Coming series and continues the story of Lazarus Christos, the reborn Christ who has come to battle evil in the end of days.  Like its predecessor, The Return (see my review) it is a mystery thriller in the vein of say Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code.

    Being the second in a series, The Re-Awakening is more setup and less action packed than the first book.  One of the characters described the conflict as a chess match – this book is where the players are putting their pieces into place and are preparing for the final battle.  That is an excellent analysis of the book.  I continued to find the characters and concept interesting and will probably read the next book to see what happens next.

    I gave The Re-Awakening three and a half stars out of five

    Hobbit LessonsHobbit Lessons: A Map for Life’s Unexpected Journeys by Devin Brown
    Genres: General Literature
    Format: ARC 
    Pages: 356 pages
    Buy from AmazonKoboeBooks.com
    three-stars

    In many ways, Tolkien’s Hobbit is a modern day fairytale.  The thing about fairytales, of course, is that they are moral codes/life lessons presented in a way to allow younger readers to understand them.  I’m talking of course about the non-Disney versions.  Little Red Riding Hood is a tale about being wary of strangers, Cinderella shows that a good and honest heart is more valuable than external beauty.  The Hobbit, too, contains such life lessons and is based on Professor Tolkien’s own predominantly Christian moral code.

    Brown’s book is an exploration of these, which range from the value of friendship, the need to lessen dependence on material possessions and the positive aspects of getting out of a rut.  Most of these are apparent to a reader, but it is always interesting to see them highlighted and explained here.

    I gave Hobbit Lessons three stars out of five.

     Mary Poppins, She Wrote by Valerie Lawson 
    Genres: Autobiographies/Biographies
    Format: Audiobook
    Narrator: Terry Donnelly
    Length:  14 hrs and 12 mins 
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    two-stars

    I’ll say straight off that my motivation for reading Mary Poppins, She Wrote was that it formed the basis for the wonderful movie Saving Mr Banks with Emma Thompson and Tom Hanks who play P.L. Travers and Walt Disney respectively.  The movies features a strong script, a cast at the top of its game (Thompson is already receiving considerable awards buzz for her performance) as well as the excellent music of the Sherman brothers from the Julie Andrews movie.  Yes, I’m a closet musicals fan.  Deal with it.  

    The movie only takes a small fraction of the book and focusses on the struggle between Travers and Disney to agree on how to adapt Mary Poppins for the screen and the rest of the time it focusses on Travers’ search for a father figure, her constant need to reinvent herself as well as her involvement in the Celtic Twilight.   My issue with the book isn’t the writing or the narration but the fact that, unlike the other biographies I’ve read (those of Judi Dench, Stephen Fry, Steve Jobs) I would really not enjoy sitting down to a meal with Pamela Travers.  I simply found I had little interest or anything in common with the woman described in the book.

    I gave Mary Poppins, She Wrote two stars out of five.

     Added to my library this week

    Independent Study by Joelle Charbonneau.  This is the sequel to The Testing which I read last year and very much enjoyed.  It continues the story of Cia Vale and how her life changes since surviving The Testing.  I picked this up in both Kindle and Audible formats.  Sadly, Whispersync for Voice is not enabled for this title, which is a pity.  Expect a full review soon.

    The Fault in Our Stars by John Green – Review

    The Fault in Our Stars by John Green – ReviewThe Fault in Our Stars by John Green
    Format: Audiobook
    Narrator: Kate Rudd
    Length: 7 hrs and 14 mins
    Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
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    Evelynne's rating: five-stars

    I had been initially reluctant to read The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, despite the many positive reviews, mainly because of its subject matter.  It deals with the romance between two teenage cancer survivors.  I eventually relented when I saw that my local library had an e-copy, which was duly downloaded to my Kobo.

    From the first few pages I fell in love with these characters – it was clear that Green had put a lot of effort into creating them as unique, individuals with their own hopes, fears and desires, who just happen to be ill with cancer.  I ended up purchasing my own copy of the book, as I suspect I will reread it more than once.

    What I liked

    The characters.  As I mentioned, I fell in love with these characters.  The beauty of Green’s writing is that Hazel and Augustus are not defined by their illnesses.  They are two young people who happen to be living with cancer.  Hazel is defined more by her love of the book “An Imperial Affliction”, which is a plot point in the novel, and her obsession with America’s Next Top Model.  Augustus’ sharp wit and fun-loving nature is what defines him rather than his illness.  This shift of definition brings a whole different view to the book and stops it being maudlin.

    The “An Imperial Affliction” subplot.  Within the novel, the character Hazel is obsessed with the book, which ended abruptly.  She has contacted the author multiple times to find out what happened to the characters but he didn’t reply.  I imagine it would be for me as if George R.R. Martin said he’d had enough and was no longer completing A Song of Ice and Fire.  It brings up the whole question of what is the author’s responsibility to his readers?  That reminds me of Neil Gaiman’s response, aptly set to music by John Anealio.  Of course, Paul and Storm have a different take on the matter.

    Ahem, I digress.  In any case, I found that I was so invested in the main character of Hazel that I was also invested in the book in which she was invested.  I wanted to find out, too, what happened to Anna’s mum, the Dutchman and Sisyphus the hamster, dammit.

    The romance.  I loved the romance between Hazel and Augustus.  It was beautifully written and so sweet.

    What I didn’t like

    The prospect of the movie.  The book is being turned into a movie later this year starring Shailene Woodley and Ansel Egort.  I really don’t know how the charm of the movie will translate to the big screen, so I fear it will end up being purely a tearjerker rather than uplifting in the way the book is.

    I gave The Fault in Our Stars five stars our of five.

     buy from Amazon, Kobo, iTunes, Audible eBooks.com

    five-stars

    Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell – Review

    Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell – ReviewEleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
    Format: Audiobook
    Narrator: Rebecca Lowman, Sunil Malhotra
    Length: 8 hrs and 56 mins
    Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
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    Evelynne's rating: four-half-stars

    Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell is the sweet story of the romance between two misfit teens, Eleanor and Park.  Neither of them fit in easily with their classmates; Eleanor because of her quirky appearance and Park because of his half Asian heritage in a predominantly white Omaha community.  While Eleanor’s homelife is desperate and downright dangerous, Park comes from a loving and supportive family.  When Eleanor sits beside Park on the school bus a sweet, beautifully written romance ensues.

    I read this after coming out of my post-Allegiant emotional hangover and it was the perfect antidote.  Despite the terrible family situation in which Eleanor finds herself, the bright spot in her life provided by her friendship with Park is truly heartwarming.

    What I liked

    The characterisation.  The novel is written from the dual viewpoints of Park and Eleanor, and both are beautifully and evocatively drawn, each with his or her own concerns and issues.  The characters feel very alive, and it is very easy to root for both of them.  Rowell has a real knack for making her characters seem real people.  

    The romance.  The love story between our two protagonists is beautifully and sweetly drawn.  It starts off very slowly but gradually the relationship develops between the pair.  It seems very real, with a solid base on friendship and a shared love of music and comics and the progression to love is wonderfully done.  I loved that when Eleanor’s world comes crashing down towards the end, Park is there for her as much as a friend as a boyfriend, even though it had a personal cost for him.

    The narration.  I listened to this in audio format and both Rebecca Lowman and Sunil Malhotra did an excellent job.

    Here’s a sample

    What I didn’t like

    There was nothing I didn’t enjoy about Eleanor & Park and will certainly pick up more of Rowell’s books.  I gave Eleanor & Park four and a half stars out of five

     buy from Amazon, Kobo, iTunes or Audible

     

     
    four-half-stars

    The Return by Carter Vance – Review

    The Return by Carter Vance – ReviewThe Return by Carter Vance
    Series: Second Coming #1
    Format: ARC
    Pages: 253 pages
    Genres: Contemporary
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    This is a mystery thriller in the style of Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, so if you enjoyed it you might find this book interesting.  It borrows some themes from Dan Brown’s work, notably SangReal referring to Royal Blood and Jesus’ progeny rather than the cup of the Last Supper.

    The novel is fast paced, and the action keeps on coming.  The characters are sympathetic if somewhat black and white.  I did find myself engaged by the protagonists and wanting to read more of their story. This is the first in a series of novels, and I will likely read the others to find out what happens next.

    I gave The Return three and a half stars out of five.

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    Here is a trailer

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