New Moon (#2) by Stephanie Meyer

Published: 6th September 2006 (print)/1st June 2010 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Little, Brown and Company/Random House
Pages: 563/14 hrs and 51 mins
Narrator: Ilyana Kadushin
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Young Adult/Paranormal
★   ★  – 2 Stars

I knew we were both in mortal danger. Still, in that instant, I felt well. Whole. I could feel my heart racing in my chest, the blood pulsing hot and fast through my veins again. My lungs filled deep with the sweet scent that came off his skin. It was like there had never been any hole in my chest. I was perfect – not healed, but as if there had never been a wound in the first place.

For Bella Swan, there is one thing more important than life itself: Edward Cullen. But being in love with a vampire is even more dangerous than Bella could ever have imagined. Edward has already rescued Bella from the clutches of one evil vampire, but now, as their daring relationship threatens all that is near and dear to them, they realize their troubles may be just beginning… 

First things first, this book could have told the exact same story in 1/3 of the time. Second of all, nothing happens in this book. 14 hours of my life! 563 pages of book for barely no plot whatsoever. The only good parts were when Bella was with Jacob. For the entirety of this novel I was Team Jacob because he was the only normal, sensible person and it is the only normal part of the book that didn’t feel like it was going to implode because of all the angst and self-pity. Honesty I wanted to shake Bella/Meyer to gain some reason why Bella was so ready to jump into being an immortal. This is her first love and OF COURSE she wants to die for him and be with him forever. At least, and I can’t believe I am writing this, but Edward had some sense in this in his refusal and attempt to give Bella a normal life because she jumped right in and even for a guy as old as Edward that would have scared anybody off.

Bella moping around like a sad puppy was infuriating only for the length. I would have welcomed it because it made sense if she was going to fall hard she was going to be heartbroken, but it did not need to take up the first 9 hours of my listening experience on this alone, especially when a lot of it was repeating the same thing over and over again.

In other news, the Cullens in this book felt a bit more eternal than they had previously when they were trying to be the normal family. They behaved a bit more like the ancient eternal beings with the distant care and preoccupation with the human matters. I felt in a few conversations that petty human issues were of no concern to them which was good, it took away their phony pretense of being normal. I know they have adopted Bella as one of the family in their weird way but it felt like a tolerance. She pushed a lot of boundaries and I’m surprised they didn’t seem to mind how pushy and demanding she was.

Again, not a great narrator helping Meyer’s case. Kadushin’s approach this time was to take a pause after she spoke. After. Every. Single. Sentence. A full on pause whether it was the end of a paragraph or not. Every line. It did not matter if I had it running at 1.5x speed. I felt those pauses in my soul and wanted to scream.

Overall I felt nothing happened in this book. It was a few small issues dragged out way longer than it needed to be. I liked we got more of Jacob’s story and his relationship with Bella. I never knew he was meant to only be sixteen but I liked his side of the story and what happens between him and Bella. Meyer misses a few key point in regards to his own story that I had questions about but I was in a forgiving mood because after all the drama and emotion I was happy the story was feeling normal once again, at least for a while.

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The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy (#2) by Mackenzi Lee

Published: 2nd October 2018 (print)/2nd October 2018 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins Publishers
Pages: 450/11 hrs and 16 mins
Narrator: Moira Quirk
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★   ★  ★ – 4 Stars

A year after an accidentally whirlwind grand tour with her brother Monty, Felicity Montague has returned to England with two goals in mind—avoid the marriage proposal of a lovestruck suitor from Edinburgh and enroll in medical school. However, her intellect and passion will never be enough in the eyes of the administrators, who see men as the sole guardians of science.

But then a window of opportunity opens—a doctor she idolises is marrying an old friend of hers in Germany. Felicity believes if she could meet this man he could change her future, but she has no money of her own to make the trip. Luckily, a mysterious young woman is willing to pay Felicity’s way, so long as she’s allowed to travel with Felicity disguised as her maid.

In spite of her suspicions, Felicity agrees, but once the girl’s true motives are revealed, Felicity becomes part of a perilous quest that leads them from the German countryside to the promenades of Zurich to secrets lurking beneath the Atlantic.

Naturally after finished Gentleman’s Guide I had to pick up book two to see what our favourite sister Felicity was getting up to. Admittedly with a slow start it took me a while to get into the story but once I did it was engaging and full of wonderful surprises. It had so much to live up to compared to Gentleman’s Guide and while it isn’t quite the same story, it is its own story and Felicity needed her own story too. There was a lot more humour in Gentleman’s but I think that comes from Monty, he steals the show in every scene in this book too which is completely on form.

The story takes place a year after the events of the previous book and seeing how they have all fared after those events is delightful. Felicity is the main character this time around with new characters and a new adventure ahead we understand a lot more of her character than what we got to see before.

One thing I missed was that I didn’t see the sarcastic Felicity that I loved from the first book in this. Having said that her interactions with Monty and Percy were as fantastic as before; the three of them together radiate family and sibling relationships. On her own though, Lee shows off a lot more of her insecurities and her determination, which isn’t to say it wasn’t there before, but now we have her own perspective to give us more insight than a few off the hand remarks about the annoyances of her brother and his melodramatics.

Felicity recaps much of the previous book but not in an unnatural way, more like reminders to herself of all she has achieved and what she is capable of. These moments of unfairness where she talks about injustices can come across as repetitive but I chose to look at it as ongoing pep talks Felicity gives herself when faced with challenges or defeat.

Quirk does a wonderful job as narrator for the audio and the inflections and voices for each character suited them so I was never once removed from the story. With each voice it brought out the characters and it was amazing to see how the assigned voice to the characters reflected their personalities.

There’s a lot of adventure and drama as well as great character exploration and growth. While it may not have been as hilarious, there is still humour and a fierceness I enjoyed a lot. Lee doesn’t try and replicate the events or style of the first book, but it still fits in perfectly as a sequel and gives an adventure just as daring and dangerous.

One of the best parts of this is the female camaraderie and the friendships. There’s unity and ferociousness and seeing these women plan to take on the world and the patriarchy and the inequalities of their time is fantastic. It was excellent to see these women band together and fight for the lives that they want and deserve and Lee never makes it preachy, though so much of it can easily be applied today.

There’re some harrowing moments and the realities of exploring Englishman and Europeans on the world ring true but there is a wonderful representation of other cultures and great diversity in characters as well. This is definitely a fabulous adventure to go on and a story that was full of surprises.

You can purchase The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy via the following

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The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue (#1) by Mackenzi Lee

Published: 27th June 2017 (print)/27th June 2017 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins Publishers
Pages: 513/10 hrs and 47 mins
Narrator: Christian Coulson
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★   ★  ★  ★ – 5 Stars

Henry “Monty” Montague was born and bred to be a gentleman, but he was never one to be tamed. The finest boarding schools in England and the constant disapproval of his father haven’t been able to curb any of his roguish passions—not for gambling halls, late nights spent with a bottle of spirits, or waking up in the arms of women or men.

But as Monty embarks on his Grand Tour of Europe, his quest for a life filled with pleasure and vice is in danger of coming to an end. Not only does his father expect him to take over the family’s estate upon his return, but Monty is also nursing an impossible crush on his best friend and travelling companion, Percy.

Still it isn’t in Monty’s nature to give up. Even with his younger sister, Felicity, in tow, he vows to make this yearlong escapade one last hedonistic hurrah and flirt with Percy from Paris to Rome. But when one of Monty’s reckless decisions turns their trip abroad into a harrowing manhunt that spans across Europe, it calls into question everything he knows, including his relationship with the boy he adores.

There is so much I love about this book. Lee develops her characters brilliantly and seeing how rich and complicated they are and then also see them grow but remain their same essential selves is all you could ever want from a novel. The story is captivating with adventure and intrigue, but there are also moments of compassion and intimacy which bring out each character’s uniqueness and these are the moments we get to know them best.

Monty and Percy’s relationship is fabulous and is heart-warming and heartbreaking all at the same time, and Felicity and Monty’s sibling dynamics are hilarious and believable. Monty is the main character but his interactions and travels with the other two help us understand their world and the wider society and expectations. Lee brings in the scandals and the dangers of the era and through these three characters you also see the day to day life so you are completely immersed in this time and how 18th century society operated. Lee doesn’t dwell on too much explanation though as it all blends together wonderfully as she uses the characters and their circumstances to add in detail and background.

Monty is such a fantastically complicated person. I went from loving his roguish attitude at the start, then properly hating him as a scoundrel but when you start to realise who he truly is I fell in love with him.  It was such a wild ride to go on with him. I respected Lee’s character choice to have this villainous person as a main charcater so I told myself it was author’s choice to do so, don’t hate the book because the character is truly horrible, but when you realise, and it isn’t long until you realise, oh the heartache and the realisation hits you in the face and it is painful and perfect and incredible. I felt sad for him at times and it breaks your heart because you want him to be happy and safe which isn’t always entirely possible. He is the kind of character you hate at the start and would completely die for by the end.

The audio is amazing because Coulson puts in the perfect tone and accent for Monty which is a pure joy to listen to. His snark and attitude, Felicity’s exasperations, and Percy’s sweetness come across so well they really feel like actual people and each character stands out on their own and with their own voice. The inflections and the humour bring all the joy of this story to life and I loved the narration immediately.

Characters aside, the plot is wonderful, it is creative, not overly complicated but has enough daring and adventure to make it captivating. Lee manages to capture how people have always very much been people and mixing it together with the chaos of a manhunt and drama of every kind creates a brilliant story that I loved from start to finish.

You can purchase The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue via the following

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Pimped by Samantha Owens

Published: 21 March 2019 (print)/21 March 2019 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
John Blake/Bonnier Books UK
Pages: 272/6 hrs and 55 mins
Narrator: Emma Swan
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Non-Fiction
★   ★   ★  ★ – 4 Stars

When your new best friend has pimped you out to older men and is making money from your abuse, who will come to your rescue?

By the age of thirteen, vulnerable Sheffield teenager Samantha Owens had fallen through the cracks in the care system. Bounced around numerous foster carers after her home life became too chaotic, Samantha thought she had found a friend in the streetwise Amanda Spencer. The older girl bought her clothes, styled her hair and found her places to stay. Samantha’s welfare was the last thing on Spencer’s mind, however, as in reality she was grooming the young girl for exploitation of the worst possible kind.

Over the course of the next few months, Samantha was plied with alcohol and drugs and pimped out to over fifty men for Spencer’s gain. Raped, abused, and with no chance of escape, Samantha was at the mercy of the calculating, ruthless and intimidating Spencer. It took a police investigation of two years to bring her and a small gang of cohorts to justice and, in 2014, Spencer was jailed for twelve years. With her abusers in jail, and Samantha bravely rebuilding her life, her shocking story is a stark warning to those who believe child sexual abuse follows any set pattern.

CW: sexual abuse, drugs

I can’t quite say what made me pick this up but it was an interesting story and one that is filled with sadness that these events could happen and no one ever notice or care. From a neglected childhood Sam is befriended by an older girl and from there her innocence and naivety is taken advantage of as the girl she looks up to leads her on the path of danger and destruction.

Samantha keeps referring to Amanda has her best friend but she clearly isn’t. But from Sam’s perspective she is the closest and only friend she has had, and once you know her childhood situation and her school life you can easily see how she held onto the belief that Amanda was her best friend.

Some parts describe the day to day before skipping parts of time and in this way we get to see a lot of the intimate moments of Sam’s life and get to see how long this went on and how it changed her life. It isn’t just her life on the streets with Amanda, her childhood has its own traumas and honestly, seeing her resilience through that as a child herself is something to be proud of. To see that be taken advantage of is hard and to see those around her fail her is even harder.

As Samantha got older and tells of her life on her own it was harder to track her timeline because she seems to change her mind a lot and her opinion flips often. This may have been over days or weeks but in the telling of the story it happens in a few sentences. This easily works as her being indecisive, but listening to it it happens fairly quickly. I didn’t mind this, but I was unclear of the time period and whether this was instant or over a few days or longer. Not that is has any real bearing on the story, but it was a moment of confusion.

Samantha doesn’t get away scot free and there are moments of unjustness but also of deserved consequences. Throughout her story though there are moments of despondency because you see Sam’s struggles and the circumstances she finds herself in and how she was behind from the start. It was sad to see how she often tried her hardest but the situation she was in and the lack of support she got often resulted in her falling back into bad habits. It is easy to see how it happened though as she explains that the pressure was too much and the need for money or comfort was what puts her over the edge no matter how much she hated it.

The is definitely a story about falling through the cracks of the system and seeing Samantha’s life from childhood to adulthood with neglect and abuse with only a few people to care about her was hard to hear about but one I think is important too. It is a powerful story to tell and having the courage to do so, and do so in a way where she doesn’t paint herself entirely as a victim, is incredibly brave.

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The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth

Published: 28th May 2013 (print)/6th April 2013 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Balzer + Bray/Audible
Pages: 470/14 hrs and 17 mins
Narrator: Beth Laufer
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★   ★  ★ – 4 Stars

When Cameron Post’s parents die suddenly in a car crash, her shocking first thought is relief. Relief they’ll never know that, hours earlier, she had been kissing a girl.

But that relief doesn’t last, and Cam is soon forced to move in with her conservative aunt Ruth and her well-intentioned but hopelessly old-fashioned grandmother. She knows that from this point on, her life will forever be different. Survival in Miles City, Montana, means blending in and leaving well enough alone (as her grandmother might say), and Cam becomes an expert at both.

Then Coley Taylor moves to town. Beautiful, pickup-driving Coley is a perfect cowgirl with the perfect boyfriend to match. She and Cam forge an unexpected and intense friendship–one that seems to leave room for something more to emerge. But just as that starts to seem like a real possibility, ultrareligious Aunt Ruth takes drastic action to “fix” her niece, bringing Cam face-to-face with the cost of denying her true self–even if she’s not exactly sure who that is.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post is a stunning and unforgettable literary debut about discovering who you are and finding the courage to live life according to your own rules.

CW: self-harm, drug use, sex

I’m not sure what made me start reading this book but I am so glad I did. I loved the story, I loved Cameron and her life and truly I think I could have read about Cameron’s early romances and relationships forever. I was so involved with everything this book was about; I loved the complications and the secrets and the pure freedom of expression of desires. It was wonderful to see that even though everything is hidden, it is possible. Laufer is a fantastic narrator, she uses inflections and tones perfectly and you’re never taken out of the story. I was drawn into Cameron’s world and was with her the entire time.

There are fabulous friendships, the inevitable betrayal and I wanted nothing more than to jump into the book and seek justice for Cameron on her behalf. There is such an energy from those early parts that I fell right into. I didn’t quite feel the same energy in the final parts/chapters until right at the very end. Not quite sure where it kicks over but I think somewhere when she is sent to be “fixed”. The place is a strange set up and while it isn’t nearly as weird as others that no doubt existed, it has a dangerous approach to it all the same.

It’s strange because it could have been a lot worse, and I think Cameron eventually highlights what the main problem with it is, and of course other people do in small ways before, but it was such a weird environment and that comes across in the writing. The majority of the book comes before this though and by then you can clearly see the wrongness going on even if it is disguised as something else.

I loved Cameron’s defiance and her self-assurance. I loved that she knows the risks and yet wants to experience things anyway. Danforth doesn’t preach at us, but through the characters we see the injustice, through their words and their situations we see how messed up this thinking is, how kids are being essentially punished for loving who they love through no fault of their own.

This is a story about teenager’s being teenagers and doing all the things teenagers are going to do. The turn of the decade and coming of age all mix together into an honest story that is filled with passion and kids who are just being kids. There’s marijuana use, some language and a pretty honest exploration of sexuality and sex. It is uncertain, it’s new, it’s exciting and all of that comes across on the page with these characters who you love and hate and see for all their foolishness and faults.

I loved it all, but I really loved the earlier parts the most. I could feel it, right there with Cameron and her childhood, figuring stuff out, never naming it but working on instinct and having those around her to guide her. We go through years of her life and see the people who influence her and who love her. It is a brilliant exploration of best friends and women helping women.

It also has such a great 90s feel, the early years of a decade, the end of another when you can remember the previous decade and new trends are happening, there’s new music and old clothes, a mix of times. Even though this was published in 2012 there isn’t a clear shoehorning of 90s references, it happens naturally if at all. You understood it was from an earlier time and it was also timeless in a way which allowed the story to focus on the characters, on Cameron and her life, and the lives of those around her.

I would have loved the book to go on further, but despite the fact it was already quite long, I wanted to see more after those final moments. I wanted to be vengeful on Cameron’s behalf, I wanted her to be free and to see the previous life she had left behind, I wanted to save so many people from the adults around them. I do love the ending, it was beautifully done and Danforth brings it back to earlier moments so wonderfully well it was a great conclusion. My own wishes though would love to see what happens next and yet I don’t need a sequel because I really do think that would ruin the magic.

You can purchase The Miseducation of Cameron Post via the following

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