Category Archives: Book Reviews

Review: the Summer I turned Pretty, by Jenny han

I absolutely adore the way Jenny Han writes, and she has this awesome gift for re-creating what those awkward teen years feel like. Problem is, she does it too well and too realistically, and I always feel the compulsion to lick wounds that I thought had healed ages ago when I’m reading her stuff. Then I just smile, content in the knowledge that none of THAt will ever happen to me again, and settle in with the popcorn.

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The Summer I turned Pretty is written in a very similar vein to her other series, To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, and I’m glad that I read them first because I went into this book with my hard-hat on, knowing damn well that Jenny Han likes to serve us a ‘Realistically Ever After’ instead of a HEA. Luckily for her, she knows how to frost these ugly truths (for e.g.: Boys lie, unattainable boys usually stay unattainable until they hit 21-ish, awesome best friends don’t exist for teenagers and good things only come to those who wait, wish and play the game like it’s chess etc etc) with lovely girlie things. Whether it’s a description of hair colour, a surge of sentiment or an idealistic summer home, Jenny H knows how to put the ‘Nawwww’ in ‘Girl’ (and yes there is one!) and true to form, she had me sucked in after the first few paragraphs. The way she describes return to her home away from home reminds me of how I felt when I was little, cracking open a Baby-Sitter’s Club Super Special, like the ones set in Sea City or Camp Mohawk, and made me pine for my own childhood days on Bucasia Beach. In Australia, summer homes are few and far between (and are usually tents in caravan parks NOT Victorian manors in cape Cod) but I was lucky enough to live in low-cost housing in a sleepy suburb where other people summered, so the things described are relatable to me. Only it wasn’t someone else’s mis-matched, second-hand bedroom built with old or thrift-store things that I was returning to, but the house I grew up in on a budget – and I love authors who find the romance in this stuff because it truly is there. In fact, Jenny Han’s books sort of are like the BSC, only with the annoying baby-sitting bits edited out.

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In TSITP, the author delivers yet another angst-ridden love-triangle, which I am proud to say that I will always gorge myself upon. It’s a story about a girl who has been summering with the same family her entire life, but focuses primarily on the heroine’s interest in the son’s of her mother’s best friend, Jeremiah and Conrad. She’s always had a crush on the cooler, distant brother Conrad, when it’s as clear as the nose on Barbara’s face that Jeremiah’s the one who would gladly reciprocate her feelings. Neither boy has ever shown much interest in her before, but this is the last summer that they’re likely to spend together thanks to college and other big changes that are on the horizon, and it just so happens to be the first summer in which Belly is not only hot, but her protective big brother will be going away, leaving her with only the sexy boy-buds for company.

It’s a fantastic premise (for me and anyone else who spells Girl with a ‘nawwww’ in it) but unfortunately for me, I felt like the author sort of hit my thumb a couple of times instead of the nail on the head. For starters, another guy is introduced and though he should have made for excellent jealousy-bait, he sort of ends up monopolising way more of the story than his character can command, and those bits got a bit boring, so my attention waned a lot there.

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Secondly, though I love the way Jenny Han writes LJ’s family into her other series, it doesn’t work the same way for me in this one. I feel pained for her real mother, and sad for her ‘pretend’ one, and completely lost as to what was going on with the adults mentioned, even though a huge chunk of the book is put aside for them. Then, when revelations come to light, they’re sort of reallllly depressing, so much so that you actually feel a chill coming on. Know when you have a great day planned at the beach- and then you feel the sunlight dim with an inevitable thunderstorm? Yeah, I had that feeling for a lot of this book and it sucked, ‘cos I wanted more suntan oil and nights on the boardwalk and smoochy’s and jealous outbursts. Nothing was playing out the way I’d hoped it would.

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Thirdly- I wasn’t a huge fan of Belly. Oh sure she was cute and sweet and sentimental and relatable, but she wasn’t adorable or distinctive like Lara Jean in TATBILB, and I’m wondering if this is because the character LJ was easier for the author to relate to, given the Korean background and all. In fact, she could be downright whiny, and said and did a lot of things that although absolutely conceivable for a teenage girl, were sort of like selling out to me. I always loved the way that LJ (yes I know I keep coming back to Cubby but she rocked)
always toyed with the idea of playing games, but never actually did. Belly’s sort of the opposite, and it really got under my skin. Frankly, if I was a guy, I wouldn’t be into her either.

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Now, if this is the point that the author was trying to make than I applaud her, and I really hope that Belly grows the hell up and gets her sassy on and soon, but until she does, I’m feeling a little disillusioned with her. I get why she has a major crush on Conrad, but so far, Jeremiah’s the one who’s sparkling for me and I really, really hope that some romantic time (SERIOUS romantic time not a whole bunch more of ‘almost’ moments) are given to each guy before the series conclusion- and I hope Belly earns them! I want to see all of the characters really evolve and get fascinating 🙂

Okay, I’m off to download the next one ‘cos I can’t help myself! And let’s pray that I get ‘this’ sort of moment by the end!

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Book #2 of The Eden Chronicles, The Forbidden Fruit, is officially on sale!

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http://www.amazon.com/dp/B01450CSQO

Tick tock

The time for my release is approaching

But my hopes of making it out of here as a free woman are diminishing with every passing second.

Men can do beautiful things in the name of God or love- I’ve seen it.

But they can do evil things for the same reasons too.

And those who suffer not from love, but obsession? They’re capable of the most heinous acts.

And all a girl, who is the source for both conditions- love and obsession alike- is pray that someone- anyone- is watching over her.

That someone is guiding them.

That one person in this world will put her needs before their own.

I’m not hopeful that someone is watching over me.

But I am praying.

Every day.

In Book #2 in the True Eden Chronicles, sixteen year-old Larkin Whittaker has a choice to make, a risk to take, a heart to give away- and the repercussions of all of the above to live with after. She knows that if she stays focused and untouchable, that she could end up living the life that she’s dreamt of, since Kohl Barachiel first introduced her to romance novels…
But she also knows that there’s something, some force inside Eden or within herself, that is blackening the Barachiel men’s pristine souls, and forcing them to each tighten their grip on hers.

One of them is destined to crush her, but which one? The one who holds her hand, her heart- or her contract? Only time, and strength of character, will tell.
In fact, the only thing that she does know for sure, is that only a miracle will be able to extricate her from paradise unharmed now.

50 Shades of haters: The warranted Review for E.L James’s work

I’m a little excited. When I read the Fifty Shades trilogy the first time round, it was pre-goodreads, so I never got a chance to review it, and doing reviews in the far-past tense are so hard to do, so I might make this one count for the whole series.

Okay, Confession Number One: Christian Grey got me pregnant.

I started reading this when I was halfway through writing Heads Or Tails, in early 2012- I think March. the first thing that struck me was that she’d used the surname ‘Grey’ which was the same as the protagonist I was writing then, the second was that she overused the words: ‘Oh My’ and ‘Inner Goddess’ so often that I was ready to beat my head against the mirror until my bathroom became the red room of pain… the third was that Oh My, did my Inner Goddess like Christian! Turns out, hubby liked the things that Christian did too and boom- pregnant!

Confession Number Two: I hated Fifty Shades Of Grey.

It took me soooo long to get onto the Grey train. I was hitting the emergency brake loudly- and on Facebook every few pages. ‘Oh, the writing is awful!’ ‘Oh, I don’t know if the sex scene are worth the inner dialogue!’ ‘Oh if this was my man, I’d beat him into submission!’ It was painful for me, and my first erotic read- ever-so it didn’t go down so well. The truth is, if I hadn’t bought it on audio ‘just to see’ I wouldn’t have turned the pages.
But thirty bucks is a lot of money to pay for a story so I listened on, updating my FB constantly with a stream of jackass ‘I am so much better than this’ posts that implied superiority, and then- she left him. She LEFT him! I couldn’t believe it. Not only that the heroine had actually managed to save herself, but that it hit me in the gut like a fist. I’d JUST started to glimpse the man inside the beast and she was walking out the door and she kept walking and I was crying- and I was hooked. Absolutely hooked. Never before or since have I read/ watched a break-up scene that hit me harder than this one did- every time they almost separated too. It was gut-wrenching. I didn’t like him, but it broke my heart. How weird is that? How cool to be forced to feel?

For me, this book is the reason why I try not to DNF anything. You never know what you could miss out on, if you give up, or if you let hype talk you out of something, or try to make up your mind before the ‘The End.’ I couldn’t get my hands on books 2 and 3 fast enough and oh my GOD, did I love book two! When he drops to his knees… that is some powerful shit. I was riveted, absolutely riveted. I was pregnant by the time I finished it, loaned hubby the audiobooks and between us, we must have listened to that trilogy 5 times.

Confession Number Three: 50 Shades got me pregnant again

A few weeks ago, after having invested 6 solid months in theatre (my ultimate goal is to write a musical) I came out of an audition feeling pretty disillusioned and knowing that the time I was spending on it wasn’t worth the time I wasn’t getting to write. I turned down the part I got and came home with a copy of the 50 Shades DVD and a bottle of wine, choosing downtime for the first time in months and a couple of hours later- pregnant! Now I’ve got no choice but to write for the next 10 months or so 🙂
That strikes me as hilarious because reading Fifty the first time lead me to think it was okay to have real, graphic but sparse sex scenes in my own books, which had been what was coming between me and agents who wanted my mermaid series to be YA for it to sell. Well, I stuck with my gut and the book I released got my three Beta readers pregnant too. I’ve had heaps of messages from people saying that my sex scenes have revved up their sex drives and have improved their marriages or gotten them pregnant, so I think the chain reaction is neat and proves that a story does not have to be perfectly written to have a perfect effect on the reader and to have a positive impact on their lives. Nor does it have to be hard-core porn to be arousing.

This series did up my sex drive. Maybe it had something to do with me turning 30 around the same time, but in the past, pregnancy had made me less amorous, not more, and the effects of 50 Shades on my libido and my husband’s sudden desire to send cute e-mails and text messages and look good for me is astonishing, really. Sorry if that’s an over-share, but books are so much more to me, than just a story. They’re little pages of dreams- they make you think of the house you want, the places you want to go, the relationship you want to have- especially with yourself- and I think what 50 Shades lacks in originality, it makes up for in impact for those who connect with it.

And what do women want? A man like Christian Grey. Not like him in every way of course- but someone imperfect and flawed who can knock us on our asses all the same, and will fall to their knees beside us to change because they want US just as badly.

That’s the magic. That’s the hook, that’s the point- There isn’t a woman in this world, hater of the series or not, who wouldn’t kill to be the one to bring this egotistical bastard to his knees. And the fact that the girl who does it isn’t excessively beautiful, a genius, a walking nymph, a fashionista, outgoing, world-wise or with a type-A personality is reason number two as to why it’s so relatable. It gives us hope.

It take a lot for a book to have an impact on me right now, and I’m certain that many people can empathise. In this world where you can easily read 10 fluff novels for free a week on a Kindle, grabbing your attention and making you want to slow down and bask in a story is a pretty tall order. And it’s a really tall order for me because like Ana, I’m one for the classics. My favourite books are Twilight Eyes, (Koontz) Gone With The Wind and The Godfather, so it takes a lot to make me turn the page- but this book got me, and whether it had a profound effect on it’s readers in a positive or negative way, there’s no forgetting it, and that makes it worth itself.

And here’s a little known fact: Fifty Shades wasn’t obligated to be better than any other book! And the fact that it came out publicly announcing that it was a re-hashed fan fiction and intentionally knocking off Twilight was disclaimer enough for people who consider themselves to be above such things to avert their eyes. But did they? Nope, they inhaled it and spat out the font afterwards like it tasted bad and this is really starting to get on my nerves now that I see people who disliked the first three books going out of their way to read Grey, even if he was the reason why they hated the first three.

Christian Grey is apparently abusive, and I get why people are turned off him for that- but once again, he’s not the worst offender in erotic fiction. Hell, he’s not even close! Compared to other books… does he imprison her? Brainwash her? Share her? Humiliate her? Belittle her? Nope, he tries to get her to eat a lot and this does NOT a monster make, so it’s illogical that this is the book people choose to make the yardstick for bad writing. Captive in the dark on the other hand, OMFG! Now there’s an asshole! There’s NO rape in Fifty Shades. There’s no abuse that isn’t asked for. None of the bossing around actually takes and there isn’t a thing Christian does that he doesn’t make right by the end, so the claims that it’s encoring domestic abuse and submission are just ridiculous. If anything, it’s about a woman breaking a man of such dangerous habits, so these accusations are clearly made by people who haven’t read one single other erotic book ever, or are pretending that letting a werewolf share you with the rest of his pack is okay, ‘cos it’s fantasy…nope, sorry wrong.

Most of the reasons why others don’t like it are the reasons why I do. It’s porn for people who can’t stomach hardcore, storyline-less porn. It’s BDSM for lightweights who don’t particularly want to immerse themselves in a world of depravity. It’s a romance without too many hearts or flowers. It’s unrealistic, unoriginal, over-long and in many ways, factually inaccurate but does that make it wrong? Absolutely not. I am so sick of feeling judged every time I read a negative review. The implications that it is stupid, pointless and a waste of time is pretty offensive to those of us who disagree. Reader’s private relationships with their favourite books are special things to them. Yeah, we can handle seeing other people who don’t like it, but this brings me to confession Number Four:

Fifty Shades Of Grey has made me want to be a better writer, reader and reviewer.

I am so embarrassed by the way that I mocked this when I first read it. Oh, all of my criticisms were bang-on and I stand by them (her editor seriously needed to red-pen about thirty ‘Oh-My’s’ ) and every single book could have stood to be about 10,000 words shorter… but the mistakes don’t make this book a write-off. People who criticise the writing style probably shouldn’t be swimming around in the erotic section in the first place, because aside from Tiffany Reiz’s ‘The Siren’ and ‘Captive In The Dark’ I’m yet to see a well-written novel with more than 5 sex scenes in it. (And for the record, as well-written as the other two were they depressed the HELL out of me- different strokes for different folks! let’s STOP the hate.)

And while we’re on that note- 50 Shades has been circulated the most widely and has received a LOT of publicity, but it no way is it one of the worst written books in history. I could roll off the name of 15 attempts at erotic fiction on my Kindle which read as though they’d been drafted in crayon compared to this- and judging by the cover art and sample of others, there are easily 10,000 that are worse in this genre alone- and a lot of them are getting five stars while 50 shades gets one by the same reviewers and it makes no sense. Take note peops: E.L James does not even come close to being the poster child for bad writing, so why is she copping all the flak? Why do we feel the need to make an example of her? Why do people who hated the first three go out of their way to read the fourth and torture themselves, just so they can mock it? Is that why we’re reading… to make ourselves feel superior to others? People doing that obviously need to step back from the books for a while and get a bit of perspective, because it speaks more about the books and authors that they love, than it does about E.L James’s ability to tell a story. You’re bored- try movie reviewing for awhile, because you’ve lost that lovin’ feelin when it comes to the written word if you’re going out of your way to hate.

And authors who do this- especially Indies- don’t even get me started, People in glass houses with shoddy grammar (like myself) and all that… Ripping another person’s work apart implies that we do better. Well, read your own one-star reviews, because none of us have the right to judge anyone until we’ve out-sold that person’s work and have gotten glowing reviews.

God, writing is something I wake up and have to do and I know that I’m far from perfect. I’d sooner die than spend more time picking apart someone else’s baby, when I could be writing, and I’d certainly never try and get attention by mocking someone else’s work!

That being said, I do thank the authors who go out of their way to hate the written word. It helps me eliminate a lot of potentially soulless books from my TBR.

So I’m not saying that people have no right to put this novel down. I’m saying, it doesn’t warrant the hate it’s gotten, and nor do it’s readers deserve to be made to feel as though they’re without taste for liking I, which is how a lot of us feel.

For me, Fifty Shades made me want to fall in love again. It made me want to have great sex. It gave me the push to self-publish, and even if all it did was inspire thousands of other potential author’s (like me) who think that they could do better to go ahead and put themselves out there. or drafted hundreds of lonely wives and mothers back into the reading well- or maybe into it for the first time- then it’s made a contribution to the literary world, and demands the basic level of respect that all books should be granted.

Because they’re books. For people who love reading enough, there need not be another reason to justify its existence or to pardon its shortcomings.

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Review: to All The Boys I’ve Loved Before. 5 Stars!

I started out reading this book with a knowing snicker that the author has wiped clear off my face. I admit it- I jumped to a conclusion and mentally mocked a book that’s probably going to be a novel that actually sticks with me forever.

What a beautiful, BEAUTIFUL story. Ahhh Jenny Han you have stolen my heart!

When I began this, two words came to mind: ‘Little Women’ and I will say that even now that I’ve finished, I do still suspect that the author may be a Louisa May Alcott fan because so much of the premise of ‘To all The Boys I’ve Loved Before’ is reminiscent of Little Women.

There are only three sisters in this one and they are Korean and modern, but they have a very similar bond those in the afore mentioned story and a few of the plot elements are the same: the boy next door they all fall in love with in their own way who ends up with the eldest sister, the brave, quirky middle child who is more Anne Shirley than Jan Brady, and the hot-headed, mischievous little sister manipulating the eldest ones and every situation behind the scenes. This kid is an absolute handful and if she were my sister well, I would have gone on a cupcake-baking strike for what she does in the beginning of this story. It’s not as bad as burning something precious in a fire, but it is akin to it by modern standards.

The sisters have a lovely bond but off the bat, I’m not the biggest fan of Margo. She’s just a bit bleh in the way that little Kitty is a bit overbearing. Margo is the oldest who has been the mother figure in the home since their biological mother died, and she’s leaving now to go to college in Scotland and leaving the middle sister in charge. Not only that, but she’s leaving the boyfriend behind too.

Look I don’t know if it’s possible to actually dole out spoilers with a book like this that everyone won’t see coming already, but Lara has always been in love with her big sister’s boyfriend and once the sister leaves well, you can imagine what notions occur to her.

It’s pretty predictable but I will say that that’s where the predictability ends.

Basically, Lara has written five love-letters in her life to silently farewell a boy once she’s over her crush on them, but instead of sending them to the boy, she’d held onto them. It’s cute and it’s something I have done so right off the bat, I feel like this character is a bit of a soul-mate of mine. But, shock and horror, those letters end up finding their way into the boys hands and though this probably could have been played out with a bit more mortification involved (come on! they wouldn’t all take it so well!) it sets up an exciting beginning to a story that DOES NOT FAIL TO DELIVER.

I love how this novel develops. The things that you think are unexpected are the things that you end up hoping for without realising that you’re hoping for them, and the things that happen that you see coming hit you square in the gut even though you see them coming. I once had a very nice reviewer use the word ‘Tummy Butterflies’ to describe one of my own novels and I have to say that I felt like I’d feasted on butterflies once I got into this. I just love love LOVE this heroine, and I love the male characters and Peter ohmigosh he’s my new underage sexy book boyfriend. he reminds me like a modern day take on Gilbert Blythe when he was young and clumsy with his ego.

This story is just beautiful and moving but never too shocking or too predictable. Some of the ‘touching’ moments between the sisters made me want to dry-retch a little but I have an incredibly sweet sister of my own so I can only imagine how wonderful it would be to be so tightly bonded. Unfortunately for me, there are seven years between my older sister and I, and sixteen between my eldest and me so we barely got to live together, let alone go through puberty together and I applaud the author for opting for sweet, rather than bitchy for the dynamic between all three of them.

This story isn’t over and I love that. I love how it ended, not a cliffhanger but with the promise of more, and I love reading a novel from a Korean girl’s point of view because it’s an absolute first for me. I loved the writing, the pacing, the surprises, the way it made me feel for her, the way it made me feel for everyone involved really, and I’ll be getting book 2 the second I can.

To All The Boys I’ve Loved before isn’t modern or risky, but it doesn’t infantalize teenagers either and I admire how a story can be so sweet and yet so current. Sex is mentioned a lot but never taken too far, there are a few cuss words involved that were used in the perfect way, and it forces you to care for people without shoving it down your throat.

Read if you love the old Judy Blume and Caroline B Cooney novels of the 70’s to 90’s, read if you’re a teen, read if you’re an adult- just read and have your heart stolen 🙂