Review: Lola and the Boy Next Door

Title: Lola and the Boy Next Door
Author: Stephanie Perkins
Series: Anna and the French Kiss #2
Genres: YA, Romance, Contemporary

Lola Nolan is a budding costume designer, and for her, the more outrageous, sparkly, and fun the outfit, the better. And everything is pretty perfect in her life (right down to her hot rocker boyfriend) until the Bell twins, Calliope and Cricket, return to the negihborhood. When Cricket, a gifted inventor, steps out from his twin sister's shadow and back into Lola's life, she must finally reconcile a lifetime of feelings for the boy next door.

There are a thousand ways I could describe how much I loved Lola and the Boy Next Door – and none of them would do this wonderful book justice.

Stephanie Perkins’ debut, Anna and the French Kiss, was stunning, warm and romantic. Lola and the Boy Next Door has a different feel: it’s energetic, tangy and infectious, larger-than-life yet filled with unexpectedly sweet moments and extraordinary storytelling. Stylish and charming as ever, Perkins weaves this tale of friendship and first love with both trademark brilliance and refreshing originality.

Lola Nolan doesn’t believe in fashion – she believes in costume. If something can be extravagant, she makes sure it will be. She’s a riot of passion and colour. If those around her are down-to-earth, then she’s sky-high; there’s no end to her enthusiasm and love for life, especially clothes. The return of Cricket and Calliope Bell – her childhood friends and now possibly her arch enemies – to the neighbourhood, however, is like a pin to her balloon. She thought she’d hidden the feelings that went unresolved when they left deep down inside of her, but suddenly she can’t escape them. Calliope, now a successful figure skater, loathes her. And Cricket? Well, cute little Cricket’s all grown up, and Lola's not even sure if he remembers her.

Anna and √Čtienne – think of them as the Ross and Rachel of young adult fiction; the ones everyone wants to see together, the ones we re-read and re-visit time and again, the ones who will forever and eternally have been there ‘first’ – will always be my favourite Perkins couple, but Lola and Cricket come pretty close. I loved every single moment Anna and √Čtienne were on the page in this book - readers will be longing for their cameos throughout this novel - but it’s really Lola and Cricket’s story, and there’s no doubt about that.

The best thing about the way Stephanie Perkins writes romance is that she reminds us how most love stories are born from friendship. Her characters have real conversations, share interests, enjoy each other’s company and make each other laugh as well as being insanely attracted to one another. She embraces the existence of instant desire but is very clear that this does not equate to love – yet. Lola and Cricket grew up together and then grew apart; they’re not about to run dramatically into each other’s arms without being wary and making a lot of mistakes first.

My favourite secondary characters have to be Lola’s parents, Nathan and Andy. In a world where most writers shove fictional adults out of the picture as quickly as possible, they’re such a great example of parents who are actually present and involved in the story. They’re funny and relatable but they have no qualms with grounding Lola – who is, let’s face it, a drama queen, even if she’s a very lovable one – and laying down the law when she’s overstepped the boundaries. They’ve got lives of their own and have to deal with everything from running a business to keeping an eye on Lola’s unreliable and unstable birth mother, but they always come through for each other and Lola, and that’s what matters.

Of course, there were things I didn’t like about the novel, too. I absolutely hated Max, the guy who should have been Lola’s ex for way longer than he was in the book – I have no idea how she put up with him for so long - and the writing didn’t always reach the phenomenal precedent set by Anna and the French Kiss. Thankfully, there are so many upsides to Lola and the Boy Next Door, any disappointments are tremendously easy to overlook. It’s such an addictive read; I just couldn’t put it down. I fell for shy, quirky inventor Cricket hook, line and sinker. It’s laugh-out-loud funny and dangerously memorable. The conclusion is so satisfying; it’s impossible to read this book and finish it without a smile on your face.

In short: Lola and the Boy Next Door is a dream of a book. It’s heart-warming and real, with a surprising and satisfying story as well as a fantastic romance. Stephanie Perkins is hands down one of the best young adult contemporary authors of all-time. I can’t wait for Isla and the Happily Ever After!


Waiting on Wednesday

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine that showcases eagerly awaited upcoming titles.

New Year's Eve ended with a bang and Mary, Kat and Lillia may not be prepared for what is to come.

After Rennie's death, Kat and Lillia try to put the pieces together of what happened to her. They both blame themselves. If Lillia hadn't left with Reeve... If Kat had only stayed with Rennie... Things could have been different. Now they will never be the same.

Only Mary knows the truth about that night. About what she is. She also knows the truth about Lillia and Reeve falling in love, about Reeve being happy when all he deserves is misery, just like the misery he caused her. Now their childish attempts at revenge are a thing of the past and Mary is out for blood. Will she leave anything in her wake or will all that remain be ashes?

I really enjoyed Burn for Burn and absolutely adored Fire with Fire. This series took me completely by surprise and now I can''t wait to get my hands on Ashes to Ashes. The ending of Fire with Fire was quite a cliffhanger and has had me on the edge of my seat, waiting to read the conclusion to the series. The romance in Fire with Fire is what made it so spectacular for me, and I can't wait to see it play out further in Ashes to Ashes. The cover change is killing me a little bit though! I really like the new covers, but now none of the series will match. I like the new covers, but not any more than I liked the old ones. I see no reason for the cover change! However that won't stop me at all from buying this book!


Review: The Girl with All the Gifts by M. R. Carey

Title: The Girl with All the Gifts
Author: M. R. Carey
Series: Standalone
Genres: Science-Fiction, Zombies, Dystopia, Adult, Horror

Melanie is a very special girl. Dr Caldwell calls her "our little genius."

Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class. When they come for her, Sergeant keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don't like her. She jokes that she won't bite, but they don't laugh.

Melanie loves school. She loves learning about spelling and sums and the world outside the classroom and the children's cells. She tells her favorite teacher all the things she'll do when she grows up. Melanie doesn't know why this makes Miss Justineau look sad. THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS is a sensational thriller, perfect for fans of Stephen King, Justin Cronin and Neil Gaiman.

Melanie’s world consists of her cell, the hallway, the classroom and the showers. Every weekday before she is brought to the classroom she is strapped into a chair by a soldier while another soldier holds a gun to her head. When she tells the soldiers she won’t bite they only look grim. Melanie is a hungry, a human infected by a fungus which turns them into zombies, though they’re never called zombies. Melanie and the other children she attends class with are different though. They’re not mindless, hunger-driven beings. They can talk and learn just like any other children. They’re kept contained as an experiment. The government hopes to use them to find a cure.

But when hungries and human junkers break down the fence of their compound, Melanie escapes with Miss Justineau, Dr Caldwell, Sergeant Parks and Private Gallagher. Their only hope is to reach Beacon, the only city left standing after the Breakdown twenty years before.  

The main characters in The Girl with All the Gifts consist of Melanie, a ten year old girl, through whose eyes we are introduced to this world, Miss Justineau, her teacher and idol, Sergeant Parks, the man in charge of getting the children into their chairs and to the classroom all while pointing a gun at their heads, Dr Caldwell, a cold-hearted scientist willing to sacrifice anything or anybody in the quest to find a cure and Gallagher, a young private caught trying to survive the world he was born into.

Melanie and Miss Justineau are the standout characters from this book. At its heart the story focuses on a love story. Not romantic love but the love between Melanie and Miss Justineau. Melanie idolises her teacher, and wants nothing more than to be with her. Miss Justineau wants to protect Melanie more than anything, and treats her as another normal child despite the dangers. These two characters are complex, with Miss Justineau overcoming her past and her compliance with the atrocities committed by Dr Caldwell. Melanie is a child with a much older soul, understanding the world around her a bit more every day. I felt many different emotions toward these two characters throughout the book. Melanie is in turn to be pitied and feared, while Miss Justineau made me feel dislike and pride in her unwavering affection for Melanie.

In contrast to these real, lifelike characters, the rest of the main cast come across as 2-D, each fitting squarely into their archetypal box. We have the strong, yet secretly soft-hearted Sergeant Parks, the un-tested Gallagher, terrified of the world he was born into, and the ruthless Dr Caldwell, who thinks nothing of slicing up a child for research. These characters do not escape their boxes once throughout the course of the book. They remain what they are from the start, with no change. These characters serve as nothing but backdrop to the story of Melanie and Miss Justineau. These characters elicit the emotions they’re meant to. I vehemently hated Dr. Caldwell with her cold hearted pragmatism. Sergeant Parks I came to like the more I read of him, as his soft side began to show. Gallagher evoked nothing but pity throughout, as he clearly had nothing waiting for him in Beacon and yet had nowhere else to go.

The book kept me on my toes throughout. I read the book in two days as I was so eager to reach the end and see how everything turns out. And boy was it worth it! This book was a solid four stars throughout but the final few chapters brought it up to the five stars, and have kept my thoughts on it! I thoroughly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good zombie novel. If you have yet to read one, I’d recommend starting with this thought-provoking addition to the genre.

Have you read The Girl with All the Gifts yet? What did you think of it? If not, are you going to read it? Let me know in the comments below!


Review: The Gospel of Winter by Brendan Kiely

Title: The Gospel of Winter
Author: Brendan Kiely
Series: Standalone
Genres: YA, Contemporary, Abuse
A fearless debut novel about the restorative power of truth and love after the trauma of abuse.

As sixteen-year-old Aidan Donovan’s fractured family disintegrates around him, he searches for solace in a few bumps of Adderall, his father’s wet bar, and the attentions of his local priest, Father Greg—the only adult who actually listens to him.

When Christmas hits, Aidan’s world collapses in a crisis of trust when he recognizes the darkness of Father Greg’s affections. He turns to a crew of new friends to help make sense of his life: Josie, the girl he just might love; Sophie, who’s a little wild; and Mark, the charismatic swim team captain whose own secret agonies converge with Aidan’s.

The Gospel of Winter maps the ways love can be used as a weapon against the innocent—but can also, in the right hands, restore hope and even faith. Brendan Kiely’s unflinching and courageous debut novel exposes the damage from the secrets we keep and proves that in truth, there is power. And real love.

I want you all to give a huge welcome to Taylor, a new guest reviewer on the blog! 

Victims are often nameless statistics on the news, shown as numbers and percentages instead of names, faces and stories of loss and hardship.

Young adult author Brendan Kiely challenges this notion in his debut novel The Gospel of Winter, which tells the story of Aidan Donovan, who is struggling to find the courage to speak up about the abuse he suffered from a local priest.

It is the story of a teenage boy who finds the courage to speak up, and the story of that boy’s realization that the only source of affection in his life was in reality twisted and sick. It is a brave attempt to shed light on the struggles of victims showing that telling the truth is usually the hardest thing to do.

The novel is set in an affluent neighborhood in Connecticut. Aidan’s father has abandoned the family for his European mistress and his mother is determined to maintain the family’s name and reputation in the small town, where even the tiniest bit of gossip seems to spread like wildfire. Overall, the setting comes across as detailed without being overly and descriptive and feels real to the reader. While some may be completely disgusted by the pretentious residents in Aidan’s town, it is a well-developed and naturalistic neighborhood that seems to come to life of the page.

Her mother throws extravagant parties, and it is at one of these affairs on Christmas Eve that the story begins. Aidan is discontented with the artificiality of all of it. While his narration borders on whiny and at times seems way too wise for a confused sixteen-year-old boy, these small faults are overshadowed by the honest, vulnerable and undeniably emotional quality of his prose. Readers will be brought to tears of laughter and sadness throughout Aidan’s narration.
It is clear he is intelligent and while he won’t admit it to anyone else, feeling a broad spectrum of feelings that he doesn’t know how to begin to feel or understand. As he navigates a series of complicated relationships in his life, from the fraught relationship with a mother he’s not used to being mothered by to Mark, a friend who might just be able to understand what he’s experiencing to Josie, a girl he might actually have true feelings of adoration for, Aidan doesn’t fail to describe what he’s feeling at every turn. With the help of Kiely’s poetic prose that flows beautifully, this is a story about unpleasant events that is definitely pleasant to read.

However, Kiely’s novel is not without its minor weaknesses. The abundant drug and alcohol use by the teenagers is realistic, but only to a point. It is true that affluent teenagers have wider access to drugs like Adderall, Vicodin and marijuana in addition to alcohol, which they often take from their parents. That being said, the mixing of these drugs and the sheer quantity that they consume seem completely unrealistic and remove the reader a bit from the story. Snorting Adderall, drinking and popping the occasional Vicodin simultaneously, Aidan should be in the hospital getting his stomach pumped instead of passing out at his friend’s house.

Another of the few weaknesses about the book is the way started conflicts between characters or storylines in the novel remain untouched for chapters and chapters, or in some cases, completely unresolved. Aidan’s unusually close relationship with his nanny Elena is largely left untouched and more scenes with his friends Mark, Josie and Sophie would have appreciated to show the development of the bonds between the friends.

Overall, Kiely’s novel was exceptionally well written and the interesting story was engaging from start to finish. The overall pace was good, though the story lagged in some scenes and seemed to fly by in others. However, The Gospel of Winter is a novel that shows that young adult novels can possess a very literary quality while also telling a story that is heart wrenching, relatable and shockingly honest.

This is a novel that will appeal to adults and teens, men and women alike. It is a story that everyone should read, and a story everyone should think about when they see those numbers and percentages on the news. People are stories behind the statistics.

Have you read The Gospel of Winter? What did you think of it? Do you intend to read it? Let us know in the comments below!


Summer Reads You Still Have to Get to!

I've been looking forward to putting this list together for a while. The list consists of books I've read, enjoyed, and thought would be perfect for reading on a hot summers day. Or while it's raining and you're wishing for a hot summers day!

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is the story of Lara Jean, who has never openly admitted her crushes, but instead wrote each boy a letter about how she felt, sealed it, and hid it in a box under her bed. But one day Lara Jean discovers that somehow her secret box of letters has been mailed, causing all her crushes from her past to confront her about the letters: her first kiss, the boy from summer camp, even her sister's ex-boyfriend, Josh. As she learns to deal with her past loves face to face, Lara Jean discovers that something good may come out of these letters after all.

I only read To All The Boy's I've Loved Before recently, but as soon as I started reading I knew it was a perfect summer read. Lara Jean is quite innocent compared to narrators I usually enjoy, but the romance is what made this a five star read for me. You'll be rooting for a certain someone, I don't want to say who in case it spoils it, but you'll love him so much!

Tia and Will’s lives get flipped upside down when they’re voted Yearbook’s Biggest Flirts in this sassy novel from the author of Endless Summer and The One That I Want.

Tia just wants to have fun. She’s worked hard to earn her reputation as the life of the party, and she’s ready for a carefree senior year of hanging out with friends and hooking up with cute boys. And her first order of business? New guy Will. She can’t get enough of his Midwestern accent and laidback swagger.

As the sparks start to fly, Will wants to get serious. Tia’s seen how caring too much has left her sisters heartbroken, and she isn’t interested in commitment. But pushing Will away drives him into the arms of another girl. Tia tells herself it’s no big deal…until the yearbook elections are announced. Getting voted Biggest Flirts with Will is, well, awkward. They may just be friends, but their chemistry is beginning to jeopardize Will’s new relationship—and causing Tia to reconsider her true feelings. What started as a lighthearted fling is about to get very complicated…

Biggest Flirts was such a surprise to me! The cover is what made me want to read it (how gorgeous is that cover?!?) and I'm so glad I read it. Tia and Will's story is hilarious and charming, the perfect summer read!

A breathtaking journey toward self-discovery and true love, from the author of If I Stay

When sheltered American good girl Allyson "LuLu" Healey first meets laid-back Dutch actor Willem De Ruiter at an underground performance of Twelfth Night in England, there’s an undeniable spark. After just one day together, that spark bursts into a flame, or so it seems to Allyson, until the following morning, when she wakes up after a whirlwind day in Paris to discover that Willem has left. Over the next year, Allyson embarks on a journey to come to terms with the narrow confines of her life, and through Shakespeare, travel, and a quest for her almost-true-love, to break free of those confines.

Just One Day is the perfect road trip book in my opinion. As we are taken through the streets of Paris with Allyson and Willem, you'll fall in love with the city and Willem. Allyson's story as she goes to college and discovers herself is nothing short of marvellous. You'll be itching to travel Europe after reading Just One Day!

Postcard-perfect Jar Island is the kind of place where nobody locks their doors at night, where parents can sleep easy, knowing their daughters are tucked away safe and sound in their beds.

But bad things can happen, even to good girls . . . and sometimes, the only way to make things right is to do something wrong.

Lillia used to trust boys, but not anymore. Not after what happened this summer. And she’ll do whatever it takes to protect her little sister from the same fate.

Kat is over the rumors, the insults, the cruel jokes made at her expense. It all goes back to one person--her ex-best friend. Someone needs to teach her a lesson, and, with Lillia and Mary behind her, Kat feels up to the task.

Four years ago, Mary left Jar Island because of a boy. But she’s not the same girl anymore. Now that she’s got friends who have her back, he's going to be in big trouble.

Three very different girls who come together to make things right. Will they go too far?

Burn for Burn is such a fun revenge book, that begins an even better series. As Lillia, Kat and Mary take their revenge you'll be egging them on, though as the story progresses you'll be wondering if they're going too far. However, throughout the book, you'll be in complete agreement that the targets deserve what's coming to them.

"One thing my mother never knew, and would disapprove of most of all, was that I watched the Garretts. All the time."

The Garretts are everything the Reeds are not. Loud, messy, affectionate. And every day from her rooftop perch, Samantha Reed wishes she was one of them . . . until one summer evening, Jase Garrett climbs up next to her and changes everything.

As the two fall fiercely for each other, stumbling through the awkwardness and awesomeness of first love, Jase's family embraces Samantha - even as she keeps him a secret from her own. Then something unthinkable happens, and the bottom drops out of Samantha's world. She's suddenly faced with an impossible decision. Which perfect family will save her? Or is it time she saved herself?

A transporting debut about family, friendship, first romance, and how to be true to one person you love without betraying another.

My Life Next Door is one of the most beautiful, well-written books I've ever read. Samantha and Jase's love story is utterly compelling and will have you reading the book in one sitting. You'll fall completely in love with the Garretts, and completely understand Samantha's slight obsession with them. This is the perfect summer read!

Can Anna find love in the City of Light?

Anna is happy in Atlanta. She has a loyal best friend and a crush on her coworker at the movie theater, who is just starting to return her affection. So she's less than thrilled when her father decides to send her to a boarding school in Paris for her senior year. But despite not speaking a word of French, Anna meets some cool new people, including the handsome √Čtienne St. Clair, who quickly becomes her best friend. Unfortunately, he's taken —and Anna might be, too. Will a year of romantic near misses end with the French kiss she's waiting for?

Anna and Etienne. What can I say about one of my favourite couples ever? Well to start, you can check out my review. Now you have an idea of how much I love this book, can you wonder why I think it would be a perfect summer read. Boys and Paris, what more can you ask for from a book?

When you don’t talk, there’s a lot of stuff that ends up not getting said.

Harsh words indeed, from Brian Nelson of all people. But, D. J. can’t help admitting, maybe he’s right.

When you don’t talk, there’s a lot of stuff that ends up not getting said.

Stuff like why her best friend, Amber, isn’t so friendly anymore. Or why her little brother, Curtis, never opens his mouth. Why her mom has two jobs and a big secret. Why her college-football-star brothers won’t even call home. Why her dad would go ballistic if she tried out for the high school football team herself. And why Brian is so, so out of her league.

When you don’t talk, there’s a lot of stuff that ends up not getting said.

Welcome to the summer that fifteen-year-old D. J. Schwenk of Red Bend, Wisconsin, learns to talk, and ends up having an awful lot of stuff to say.

As D.J. discovers her voice and her feelings for a certain rival quarterback you'll find yourself rooting for this introvert and her unusual family. This is one of my all time favourite series, and one I've re-read more times than I can count!

In a fabulous blend of the bestselling traditions of Prep and The Devil Wears Prada Secret Society Girl takes us into the heart of the Ivy League’s ultraexclusive secret societies when a young woman is invited to join as one of their first female members.

Elite Eli University junior Amy Haskel never expected to be tapped into Rose & Grave, the country’s most powerful—and notorious—secret society. She isn’t rich, politically connected, or…well, male.

So when Amy receives the distinctive black-lined invitation with the Rose & Grave seal, she’s blown away. Could they really mean her?

Whisked off into an initiation rite that’s a blend of Harry Potter and Alfred Hitchcock, Amy awakens the next day to a new reality and a whole new set of “friends”—from the gorgeous son of a conservative governor to an Afrocentric lesbian activist whose society name is Thorndike. And that’s when Amy starts to discover the truth about getting what you wish for. Because Rose & Grave is quickly taking her away from her familiar world of classes and keggers, fueling a feud, and undermining a very promising friendship with benefits. And that’s before Amy finds out that her first duty as a member of Rose & Grave is to take on a conspiracy of money and power that could, quite possibly, ruin her whole life.

A smart, sexy introduction to the life and times of a young woman in way over her head, Secret Society Girl is a charming and witty debut from a writer who knows her turf—and isn’t afraid to tell all....

This is for any NA fans. This was released before NA was a thing, but it definitely qualifies. It's such a hugely fun read. You get to see behind the secretive world of college secret societies and how an "outsider" like Amy sees the ins and outs of it. I say outsider because she is neither rich nor a total genius, unlike the other members of the society. The romance doesn't hurt either, but the rest of the series definitely improves on the romance end of things!

"I've discovered the secret to successful singledom. I'm acting like a man. And it's working."

After breaking up with her boyfriend of, well, forever, Abigail Wood must learn how to be single from scratch. Her dating skills are abysmal, and she ricochets from disaster to disaster – until Robert, one of London's most notorious lotharios, agrees to coach her. With his advice, she learns to navigate the bastard-infested waters of the bar scene and practices the art of being bulletproof. The new Abigail is cocky, calm, composed… but what happens when she meets her match?

This is for the adult fans! I read this book last summer and it was your ultimate contemporary romance with a twist. Though I don't review them on the blog, I love reading adult romances and this one is definitely a stand-out. You can definitely guess the ending but it's incredibly fun getting there!

A very different kind of fantasy from New York Times bestselling author Shannon Hale.

What if you were to meet the number-one person on your laminated list—you know, that list you joke about with your significant other about which five celebrities you’d be allowed to run off with if ever given the chance? And of course since it’ll never happen it doesn’t matter…

Mormon housewife Becky Jack is seven months pregnant with her fourth child when she meets celebrity hearththrob Felix Callahan. Twelve hours, one elevator ride, and one alcohol-free dinner later, something has happened…though nothing has happened. It isn’t sexual. It isn’t even quite love. But a month later Felix shows up in Salt Lake City to visit and before they know what’s hit them, Felix and Becky are best friends. Really. Becky’s husband is pretty cool about it. H er children roll their eyes. Her neighbors gossip endlessly. But Felix and Becky have something special…something unusual, something completely impossible to sustain. Or is it? A magical story, The Actor and the Housewife explores what could happen when your not-so-secret celebrity crush walks right into real life and changes everything.

This is one of the most surprising books you'll ever have the pleasure of reading. Becky and Felix's relationship is complicated and goes through it's up and downs, but can weather anything. This is one of the most original books I've ever read. With it's fun dialogue and it's dealing with such an unusual relationship, this book is perfect for summer.

The bestselling authors of "The Nanny Diaries" introduce a new heroine to root for: Jesse O'Rourke, coffee barista, high school senior, and unwitting reality TV star.

Imagine there was never a "Laguna Beach," a "Newport Harbor," the shimmering "Hills." Imagine that your hometown--your school--is the first place XTV descends to set up cameras.

Now imagine they've trained them on you.

When Jesse O'Rourke gets picked for a "documentary" being filmed at her school in the Hamptons she's tempted to turn down the offer. But there's a tuition check attached to being on the show, and Jesse needs the cash so she can be the first in her family to attend college. All she has to do is trade her best friend for the glam clique she's studiously avoided, her privacy for a 24/7 mike, and her sense of right and wrong for "what sells on camera." . . . At least there's one bright spot in the train wreck that is her suddenly public senior year: Jesse's crush has also made the cast.

As the producers manipulate the lives of their "characters" to heighten the drama, and "Us Weekly" covers become a regular occurrence for Jesse, she must struggle to remember one thing: the difference between real and the real real.

This one is or any reality TV fans out there! The Real, Real brings you behind the scenes of the beginning of a reality TV show featuring a group of high-schoolers. We see how everything is manipulated and staged, with the TV show getting in the way of real life relationships. I love this book, and am still praying for a sequel!

I had such fun picking out these books, let me know what you think in the comments below!