Sunday, August 20, 2017

Book Review: Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick


Title: Scrappy Little Nobody
Author: Anna Kendrick
Release date: November 2016
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Genre: Autobiography
Source: Gift from friend

Description: A collection of humorous autobiographical essays by the Academy Award-nominated actress and star of Up in the Air and Pitch Perfect.

Even before she made a name for herself on the silver screen starring in films like Pitch Perfect, Up in the Air, Twilight, and Into the Woods, Anna Kendrick was unusually small, weird, and “10 percent defiant.”

At the ripe age of thirteen, she had already resolved to “keep the crazy inside my head where it belonged. Forever. But here’s the thing about crazy: It. Wants. Out.” In Scrappy Little Nobody, she invites readers inside her brain, sharing extraordinary and charmingly ordinary stories with candor and winningly wry observations.

With her razor-sharp wit, Anna recounts the absurdities she’s experienced on her way to and from the heart of pop culture as only she can—from her unusual path to the performing arts (Vanilla Ice and baggy neon pants may have played a role) to her double life as a middle-school student who also starred on Broadway to her initial “dating experiments” (including only liking boys who didn’t like her back) to reviewing a binder full of butt doubles to her struggle to live like an adult woman instead of a perpetual “man-child.”

Enter Anna’s world and follow her rise from “scrappy little nobody” to somebody who dazzles on the stage, the screen, and now the page—with an electric, singular voice, at once familiar and surprising, sharp and sweet, funny and serious (well, not that serious).

My thoughts: I'm aiming this year to read six non-fiction books; combined with the fact a friend offered me a copy of the book, this is mostly why I read it. It's the second non-fic book I've finished, so I need to speed up a little with that challenge.

The book starts at the beginning of Anna's life, with some funny stories about her personality during primary school, before moving to look at how she got involved in professional musical theatre in her early teens. Once it gets to her living in LA, things start to jump around a bit more and become more topical, with stories about learning to live alone, dating, sex, and learning about fashion. She throws in lots of little anecdotes involving famous people she's worked with, which were fun to read.

I found the first section of the book really interesting; I always like to hear about how someone ended up in their career. I did get a little bored in the middle though - I felt like, there are better places to get dating advice, and at this point, a lot of this advice is kind of too late for me, I've learned the lessons myself and am doing ok now, really. I didn't care about the awkward dating experiences she had in high school, those stories just weren't particularly interesting to me.

I did find the book more enjoyable towards the end. I liked the funny stories of things that had happened while filming various movies, and at events like the Oscars. I think if you like celebrity autobiographies, you will probably enjoy this one as well, or if you're interested in an acting career. For me, it slowed down a lot in the middle and I had to push myself to keep going. I don't think I'll be looking at more autobiographies from people this age any time soon. Overall, I'll give Scrappy Little Nobody 6 out of 10.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Book review: I Have No Secrets by Penny Joelson


Title: I Have No Secrets
Author: Penny Joelson
Release date: 4th May 2017
Publisher: Egmont
Genre: YA Crime
Source: Review copy from the publisher

Description: Jemma knows who did the murder. She knows because he told her. And she can't tell anyone. 

Fourteen-year-old Jemma has severe cerebral palsy. Unable to communicate or move, she relies on her family and carer for everything. She has a sharp brain and inquisitive nature, and knows all sorts of things about everyone. But when she is confronted with this terrible secret, she is utterly powerless to do anything. Though that might be about to change...

A page-turning thriller seen through the eyes of a unique narrator, this is a truly original, heart-rending and compulsive book for young adult readers. Perfect for fans of Wonder, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time and Looking for JJ.

My thoughts: I Have No Secrets is told in first person by Jemma, who is unable to communicate with anyone around her - she can't even move her eyes. I really liked that the book showed me a new perspective; I've never really thought about what life might be like in that situation, or read a book told from that point of view. You really see how powerless Jemma is.

One of the big problems for her is that she's really uncomfortable with her carer's boyfriend. Since the carer, Sarah, lives in, Dan comes round to their house often and makes fun of Jemma when he's alone in a room with her. Early on in the story, he implies to Jemma that he's responsible for the murder of a young man who lives on her street. Then, Sarah goes missing. Of course, Jemma suspects Dan, but she has absolutely no way to tell anyone else about what he'd said to her.

While I did want to know what had happened to Sarah, I have to admit that I got a bit bored reading this book. By her very nature, Jemma is a passive narrator. The plot moves forwards as people talk about things within Jemma's hearing. Someone goes off to do something, comes back, and talks about it. For the majority of the book, things happen around Jemma, not because of her, and I found that very slow and not particularly exciting. So much of the action in the main plot thread (the murder investigation) happens off-page. It really emphasises the struggle Jemma has each day, which is great for broadening the horizons of the reader, but it's not so good at making the story engaging. Overall I have to give this 5 out of 10. It's an interesting idea, but I don't think it worked to make an exciting book - and when it's focussed on a murder investigation, I think the story ought to be exciting.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Book review: Tempted by the Bridesmaid by Annie O'Neil


Title: Tempted by the Bridesmaid
Author: Annie O'Neil
Release date: 1st August 2017
Publisher: Mills & Boon
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Source: Review copy from the publisher

Description: The last time brooding Italian surgeon Luca Montovano saw bubbly heiress Francesca Martinelli was at his best friend's failed wedding. Sparks flew then, and now she's made a surprise appearance at his mountaintop clinic, bringing a much-needed whirlwind of laughter!

Aristocratic Luca just wants to be left alone to care for his orphaned niece. The scars on his face reach right to his heart, and he's learned to push people away. Until Fran forces him to see the world through her eyes!

My thoughts: I've always liked romance stories, and what I particularly like about a Mills & Boon book is that I can pick one up and read it in just a few hours. It's a nice cosy evening thing to do and leaves me feeling all happy. Tempted by the Bridesmaid begins with Fran standing at the altar with her best friend, forcing herself to tell the bride and the priest that the groom is having an affair. As another good friend of the bride, Luca can't understand why Fran would 'wreck' everything, so they get off to a bad start on their first meeting.

However, their mutual friend has arranged for Fran to work with Luca over the summer: Fran trains therapy dogs, and is going to work with Luca's niece, who is in a wheelchair. Career path changed by the accident that disabled her, Luca is renovating some land to create a medical treatment facility for disabled patients, which has its grand opening part way through Fran's stay.

I liked that their romance is balanced by the questions of whether the clinic will be ready in time, and then whether it will be a success. Fran is a lovely woman who always sees the best in everything and is always trying to help with anything she can at the clinic. However, I have a problem with Luca. Their relationship is very 'sparky', they argue despite being very attracted to each other, but I noticed halfway through the book that Luca will be thinking about some nice, thoughtful thing Fran is doing, and how she's so wonderful, then he'll snap out something grumpy and hurtful at her, then immediately be thinking that he regrets it. He does it again and again and again. I think if he really did regret it, he would have stopped doing it. To me, it did not read as a healthy, happy relationship and I couldn't buy in to Luca being an appealing hero, or the two of them having a happily-ever-after with the way he was shown in this book. By the end, I could believe that the ending was the start of his redemption, but I would have liked to see the change on the page, rather than being left to imagine it.

This is getting a solid 5 out of 10 from me. There are elements of a sweet romance, and a nice secondary plot with the clinic, but it's a pretty straightforward story, and the hero being a dick so much of the time was very off-putting.

Buy it here: Amazon

Monday, August 7, 2017

Book review: Protecting Their Mate (Part 3) by Moira Rogers


Title: Protecting Their Mate (Part 3)
Author: Moira Rogers
Release date: August 7th 2017
Genre: Paranormal Romance/Erotica
Source: ARC from the authors

Description: As the full moon raises tensions–and appetites–Ashley indulges her wildest fantasies…and discovers what it truly means to belong to the pack. But Blake’s control is tested as outsiders descend on the pack’s territory, and Ashley discovers that following her heart may be the only way to find her mate.

Ashley’s heart longs for one man, but her wolf demands that she test herself against the alpha. Can she settle for a life of never knowing, or will she risk everything for Blake?

Protecting Their Mate was originally published as an eight part serial under the penname Mia Thorne. It has been repackaged, but the story remains the same.

My thoughts: This is the final part of a serialised story - here are my reviews of Part 1 and Part 2.

The sex in Part 3 is as steamy as in the rest of the story, and Ashley continues to explore her sexuality with all five other members of the pack. A deeper plot comes back a little here, which I thought was good - it got a bit lost in Part 2, I think. The threat of another pack who have made contact throws up some issues in this part of the story, as does the fact that the other pack have a female wolf of their own. Ashley's pack suspect that the other female might not be there willingly, so they come up with a plan to get to the bottom of things, and fix it if need be.

I love all the sexiness in this book, but I need plot, not just porn, so I was glad to have the additional conflicts become an equally large aspect of Part 3 as the quest for Ashley to find her mate is. I will read on in the series - the sequel is coming out later this year - but it'll be as a cheer-me-up, guilty pleasure sort of read, not because I'm desperate to find out what happens next with any aspects of the story.

I'm giving part three, and Protecting Their Mate as a whole, 6 out of 10.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Review: Protecting Their Mate (Part 2) by Moira Rogers


Title: Protecting Their Mate (Part 2)
Author: Moira Rogers
Release date: 31st July 2017
Genre: Paranormal Romance/Erotica
Source: ARC from the authors

Description: As Ashley settles in to her life at the lodge, she meets more of her new pack mates–including wicked, intense Jud. His touch arouses her hunger–and Blake’s possessiveness.  Lucas, the unyielding alpha, grows concerned with the attachment between Blake and Ashley and sends Blake out on a mission.

While Blake is away, Ashley meets the most elusive member of her new pack—the enigmatic Connor, a hacker who, like her, was raised among humans. For Connor, sex is volatile—dangerous—and being near Ashley draws out the feral edge of the wolf inside him. As Ashley’s connection with Blake–and with Lucas—grows deeper, an outside force threatens the peace of the Last River pack.

Protecting Their Mate was originally published as an eight part serial under the penname Mia Thorne. It has been repackaged, but the story remains the same.

My thoughts: Firstly, my part 1 review is here.

The sexiness of part one continues as Ashley meets the rest of the pack and gets to know them... intimately. My favourite part was getting to see more about Connor, who has clearly had some kind of tough time in the past. He connects with Ashley in a way the others don't, but similarly, he doesn't feel the draw towards her as strongly as the others do, and it's clear to him that while he cares for her, they're not going to mate. I got the strong impression that Connor will have a different book focussed around him.

There are also hints about another pack in the area, who want to get in touch with Lucas's. I expect that's going to be a large focus in the third & final segment of this book.

There is a lot of sex in this part of the story, and not so much plot, but it's very well written sex, so it was a fun read! Since I think that's a big part of what the book was setting out to do, I can't fault it much for having a lighter plot than some Moira Rogers stories. I'm giving part 2 of Protecting Their Mate 6/10.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Mini review: The Iron King by Julie Kagawa


Title: The Iron King
Author: Julie Kagawa
Release date: 2011
Publisher: HQ Young Adult
Series: The Iron Fey #1
Genre: YA Fantasy
Source: Free copy via previous job

Description: Meghan Chase has a secret destiny—one she could never have imagined. . .

Something has always felt slightly off in Meghan's life, ever since her father disappeared before her eyes when she was six. She has never quite fit in at school. . . or at home. When a dark stranger begins watching her from afar, and her prankster best friend becomes strangely protective of her, Meghan senses that everything she's known is about to change. But she could never have guessed the truth— that she is the daughter of a mythical faery king and is a pawn in a deadly war.

Now Meghan will learn just how far she'll go to save someone she cares about, to stop a mysterious evil no faery creature dare face. . . and to find love with a young prince who might rather see her dead than let her touch his icy heart.

My thoughts: I have friends who rave about the Iron Fey series by Julie Kagawa and I like stories that use celtic faery stories so I thought I'd give it a go. Megan lives in the USA, until her brother is kidnapped and she discovers that she can enter a faery 'underworld'. She decides she has to rescue him, but along the way becomes entangled in other plots.

I liked the story to some extent, but it felt very similar to many other young adult fantasy stories, and linked to that, very predictable. I don't really know what else to say about it apart form that, it was a very 'meh' book and a pretty quick read. I do have others in this series on my bookshelf already, and I might read them at some point, but I don't feel any urgency to do so, I'm not feeling excited to find out what happens next. There were fun bits in the book, the writing was alright, but nothing about it stood out to me. This is a 5/10 read for me.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Review: Protecting Their Mate (Part One) by Moira Rogers


Title: Protecting Their Mate (part one)
Author: Moira Rogers
Release date: 24th July 2017
Genre: Paranormal Romance/Erotica
Source: ARC from author

Description: Blake is on a mission from his alpha--to track down a werewolf whose parents dragged her into the human world years ago, one who may be in danger. He expects the lead to go nowhere, given how few wolves live among humans, but he discovers something rare indeed, caged in a basement: a beautiful, curvy woman gripped by the fever, ready to mate.

Ashley Todd has never fit in. She's always been too much--too big, too demanding, too aware of the wolf hiding beneath her skin. She's been locked away for months--been alone for a lifetime--and in walks Blake to save her from her prison. Her rescuer is hard, intense--a dominant wolf whose bossy attitude makes her growl...and yearn to submit.

Soothing Ashley's mating fever is Blake's responsibility--and his pleasure. Their passion is explosive, undeniable. But what started out as a job for Blake quickly becomes something more, and the toughest part of his mission looms: taking Ashley back to his pack so she can choose her permanent mate from amongst his brethren.

Ashley is drawn to dominant Blake, but meeting the rest of the pack reignites her desire. She is overwhelmed by her new life and all it entails, but embracing her inner wolf means embracing the truth: if she doesn't explore her attraction to the other members of the pack, she'll never find her forever mate .

Protecting Their Mate was originally published as an eight part serial under the penname Mia Thorne. It has been repackaged, but the story remains the same.

My thoughts: This is part one of a three part serialisation, with parts 2 & 3 to follow in the next couple of months. The story opens with a young woman called Ashley locked in a basement. She's fighting down her werewolf instincts, which are telling her 1) that she should shift into wolf form and 2) that she needs to find a mate. Luckily, she's soon rescued by Blake, another werewolf, who begins to correct some of the many lies she's been told about werewolf life. The most important thing is that as she's now in heat, only having sex will ease the pain she's experiencing and that she can sleep with lots of different members of the pack before it'll become clear who her mate is.

Blake and his pack have been searching for Ashley for a while, for various reasons. He's angry about the conditions he found her in but more than happy to look after her, doing anything she wants with his body...

Ashley has had a pretty horrible upbringing, but despite the host of revelations she gets as the pack bring her back to their home, she takes it in her stride. She's confident, and embraces the fun of getting to sleep with the other men in the pack, not just Blake.

It's a very sexy story, and there are also some hints dropped about problems in the wider werewolf community. I'm looking forward to seeing more about that in parts 2 & 3. It was a fast read, as you'd expect from part of a serial. I'm giving part one 6/10 - it was very sexy, but most of the plot revolves around that.

Buy it on Amazon here.
 

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