All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Tampa by Alissa Nutting – GIVEAWAY **WINNERS**

20130724-081836.jpgFirstly I’d just like to say a huge thank you to everyone who entered the giveaway. There were lots of new visitors to the blog and I hope you found something that keeps you coming back! 🙂

Thank you also to our wonderful sponsor, Allen & Unwin, the Australian publisher of Tampa who kindly provided the 5 copies for me to give away to some of you guys!

And now….. the winners!

#119 – Shayne

#44 – Michelle

#90 – Nicola

#59 – Bernadette

#49 – Jeanie

All winners have been emailed and have 48 hours from 9am EST Wednesday 24th to respond to me with their postal addresses. If I don’t hear back from one or more, I will draw winners to replace them.

Hope the winners enjoy their prize and would love to hear their thoughts on it as well.

Tampa

 

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The Wanderer – Robyn Carr

WandererThe Wanderer (Thunder Point #1)
Robyn Carr
Harlequin MIRA
2013, 384p
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Former Army helicopter pilot Hank Cooper is heading to Thunder Point on the rocky Oregon coast. Hank has never been a man for putting down roots – when he wasn’t on a job as pilot, he lived out of a fifth wheeler, towing his toys around and being free. He kept loosely in touch with some old Army mates including his mechanic Ben, who lived in Thunder Point. When news of Ben’s death reached Hank, along with word that Ben had left something for him, Hank thought it his duty to see his friend right.

Ben ran a bait shop that doubled as a bar with cheap drinks and food – it’s definitely not a flash building and even though Ben owned the land around it it’s clear that he was cash poor. Hank is stunned to discover that not only has Ben left him the bar/bait shop but also the extensive land around it with a note that he knows Hank will know what to do. Hank doesn’t want to put down roots and there are no jobs for a helicopter pilot in Thunder Point but he knows that Ben would not have wanted him to just sell up and get the hell out. The land is in a prime location, right on the cliff with its own private beach and would net a tidy sum but Ben kept it for a reason.

Sarah Dupre has devoted so much of her life to raising her younger brother. Still mourning her recent marriage break up, she is definitely not looking for anything. And at first when she meets Hank Cooper, she’s suspicious of him and his motives towards her younger brother even though she realises quickly that he’s just looking out for Landon. She’s determined to avoid any kind of involvement with Cooper, even though he’s made his interest rather clear. But Sarah hasn’t forgotten what it’s like to have someone there at the end of your day, to spend time with, to wind down with. And even though she’s complicated and still feeling the scars of her marriage breakdown, what Cooper is offering is hard to resist.

Cooper only ever meant for Thunder Point to be a temporary stop on his itinerary. He can’t be out of work forever and he’s always been the type that kept moving. But the longer he stays in this beautiful little town, the more time he spends unravelling its secrets and what really happened to Ben, the more he realises that he has a choice – to move on and resume his old life or to stay and embrace a new one.

The Wanderer is the first in Robyn Carr’s new series of Thunder Point which has spun off very loosely from her Virgin River series. Hank makes an appearance in one of the novels (he’s a former Army buddy of Luke Riordan’s) but my memory on him was very fuzzy and you definitely don’t need to have read the VR books to read this one. For those who have though, there’s a very familiar feel to this book – it’s like an old friend, almost like a reread but with new people to get to know.

Hank is in Thunder Point to settle some business that his old Army friend Ben left him and he finds himself feeling obliged to stay and see things done to rights for Ben. It’s clear that he had a lot of respect for Ben and even though they weren’t close in the physically catching up sense, they kept in regular contact via email. Hank (or Cooper, as he is commonly called) begins to find his way around the town, making friends with the local Deputy Sheriff Mac and a young kid at the high school named Landon, a football star who is being bullied by others on the team. He finds himself putting down roots without even realising it, especially when he meets Landon’s older sister Sarah. Neither of them are looking for commitment and both of them almost trip over themselves trying to assert that this is just temporary and no one will get hurt because it’s just casual and they all know the score up front.

There are some nice secondary romances running through this novel, in Carr’s way – that of the Deputy and a local single mother and also the teenage Landon. Thunder Point is bigger than Virgin River, so there’s a lot more focus on the town – the local diner and bar/restaurant, the high school and their football team as well as Ben’s place, which is sure to become a real icon of the town. There’s an emphasis on the community and how they are protected from a lot of the tourist resorts and can keep that small town feel (but how the threat can loom in the background, ready to come front and center if necessary). I can see the potential for this to really grow as a series and expand with the town itself. There’s a different feel to the Virgin River books in a way – the issues feel less confronting, less dominant and more contemporary. The obvious one in this novel was bullying but it didn’t take over the story. Carr does well balancing Cooper’s story, Mac’s story and Landon’s story.

All in all, this was a promising start to a new series and one that I think I’m going to enjoy a lot. I think it will appeal to a lot of Robyn Carr’s fans and hook her some new ones as well. The good thing is with Robyn Carr, you know you never have to wait too long for the next book – the second Thunder Point novel is currently scheduled for release in June of 2013 and the 3rd in September.

8/10

Book #80 of 2013

RobynCarr_AuthorPhoto

 

Now I’m happy to welcome Robyn to my blog where she’s helpfully answered a few questions about her most recent novel, the first in the Thunder Point series.

Q: What would you tell someone who is coming to Thunder Point for the first time? What do you want them to know about the town as they jump into The Wanderer?

A:  My husband and I have moved around a lot, thanks to his years in the Air Force and commercial aviation.  Have you ever had the experience of living somewhere that just didn’t feel like your town?  Or, conversely, landing somewhere that made you think you were meant to be there?  When we drove from Texas to Sacramento and crossed over the Sierras into the Sacramento Valley, I remember thinking, Ahhhh, I’m a Californian!  I never realized!  I was instantly comfortable with the landscape, the people, the climate.

Hank Cooper has always been a wanderer.  He’d lived and worked in a lot of beautiful and interesting places, but there’s something about this small coastal town and the people there that just hook him and make him think for the first time in his adult life, Maybe I’m home.

Q: You’ve always been known for your strong female characters. The women in Thunder Point are no strangers to struggle, and we can already tell there are going to be some great stories coming from them! Why do you feel strong women are so important in your books?

 A:  Well, they’re role models.  They’re admirable, which doesn’t mean perfect, it only means they’re indomitable and courageous and hopeful.  They’re basically good, intelligent, optimistic people.  They’re the kind of people I personally want to read about—I’m not real big on weak, weary, insipid characters who are older than five.  None of us can escape struggle—it’s part of life.  But whether we face it with determination and optimism or cringing weakness and fear makes all the difference in the outcome.

Q: Readers fall in love with your male characters. Hank Cooper, aka Cooper, (from Robyn’s bestselling Virgin River series) is especially dreamy… Is there an actor who you would like to see play his role if the series was ever turned into a movie?

 A:  I don’t know the names of the younger actors very well, but James Denton seems to fit the profile.

Q: The Wanderer has an element of mystery with the death of Cooper’s friend. (Don’t worry—we won’t give any spoilers!) Do you like writing suspense? Do you think we’ll see more suspense with the other books in the series?

A:  I don’t actually think of that as suspense.  Suspense is when you imagine you’re being chased by a guy with a bloody knife.  Nor do I think of it as mystery even though there is a mysterious element.  I think of it more as unanswered questions and a very obvious element of surprise coming.  It’s also suspenseful, in a way, waiting for the results of a biopsy or worrying about how the new kid at school will be received—with rejection or welcome?  But I think of those issues, the dramatic problems of daily life, and they’re quite mainstream, which means the average person will relate on some level—it either happened in their family, their neighborhood or their town.  That’s the grist of a small-town drama.  Whether the problems are large or small, there are conflicts to resolve and in doing so, the characters become more defined.  I hope this mirrors life —as we live and learn, come to terms with our personal issues and life in general, we are a compilation of stories to be told.

Wanderer

 

Thanks to the publisher and Little Bird Publicity, I have one copy of The Wanderer to giveaway. This giveaway is restricted to US residents only, please fill in the form to enter!

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Sex, Lies & Bonsai – Lisa Walker + GIVEAWAY

Sex Lies & BonsaiSex, Lies & Bonsai
Lisa Walker
Harper Collins AU
2013, 374p
Copy courtesy of the publisher/author

Edie has had to deal with being a disappointment her whole life. The daughter of a famous Australian surfer, a world champion, Edie has never excelled out on the waves. Despite the fact that she hasn’t been in the ocean since she was 12, her father always tries to encourage her to grab a board and hit the surf. He’s sure that one day, she’ll get back out there. Edie isn’t.

Dumped via a text message, Edie has fled Sydney back to her father’s house in Darling Head in northern NSW to heal, taking only a small and wilting bonsai that seems to view her with some disdain. Her best friend and life coach Sally is convinced that she can help Edie overcome her crippling shyness and awkwardness by putting her in a series of situations that help her take initiative and force her to maintain contact with people. Edie has never had the ability to converse easily with strangers – as a string of humiliating situations prove. A poet, Edie finds herself harbouring a newfound talent for erotic writing, her unrequited lust for her boss at her boring day job of drawing crab larvae fueling her passionate offerings. When they suddenly ‘go viral’ around her small town, Edie is horrified. But the erotic writings are bringing forth a lot of surprises, and not all of them are bad. Sometimes what you’re looking for turns out to be much closer to home than you ever realised.

Sex, Lies & Bonsai is a charming second novel from Australian author Lisa Walker. I read Walker’s first novel, Liar Bird last year and enjoyed it hugely so when she contacted me and asked if I’d like to review this one, I jumped at the chance. A few Australia Post glitches later and finally a copy landed on my doorstep (two actually, see the bottom of this post for more on that) and I bumped it straight to the top of my reading pile. Walker lives on the north coast of NSW herself, only a small distance from where I myself grew up so I always feel that the settings in her books feel like home for me.  I started this one in the evening and ended up reading until I’d finished it at 1am. It’s a rare occurrence that I stay up reading that late these days.

It’s hard not to like Edie. She’s just been dumped and by a text message no less. She’s still grieving the loss of her boyfriend and she’s holed up in her family bedroom trying to avoid talking about surfing with her father and his girlfriend, who naturally, also surfs. It’s a small town and everyone knows who she is. People who newly meet her always ask for her father’s autograph, or assume that like him, she’s a surfing pro and ask who her sponsors are. Edie lacks the natural self-confidence of her best friend Sally and she spends most days at work drawing pictures of crab larvae and daydreaming about her older boss, who is very much married.

When her father’s girlfriend announces that her younger brother is coming to stay for a while, Edie feels a little resentment. Even though she herself is doing the same thing that he is coming here to do, she doesn’t really want him here. And that feeling only intensifies when she realises that he was the stranger she tried to have a conversation with on the beach that morning. But there’s more to Jay than meets the eye – he’s recovering from something too and Edie finds him understanding her crippling awkwardness in his own way, especially when it turns out that he knows exactly what it’s like to have a very well known father.

This book is a perfect blend of humour and tenderness. While Edie’s foray into erotica and her attempts to be brave had me chuckling and also cringing for her, there are some truly beautiful moments in this book. Edie has a lot of baggage that she’s dealing with – being in her father’s shadow, people always assuming things about her, feeling as though she is a disappointment to him. She’s also dealing with what happened to her mother and her own actions revolving around that, searching for someone that she hopes can give her the answers that she seeks. Although I’m not quite as shy as Edie, I lack the ability to make conversation with strangers too without sounding incredibly contrived and awkward and ending up embarrassed. I’ve also been dumped in the 1990’s version of a text message so I found that I related to her a lot. Sometimes I just wanted to tell Sally to leave her be, because that sort of interaction with strangers is a very difficult thing to learn if it doesn’t come naturally and Edie didn’t have a lot of trouble relating to Sally, or interacting with her boss, even if she was harbouring a little crush on him. And once she got to know Jay, she also was able to talk to him as well, and share things with him. Reading them becoming closer and getting to know each other felt very genuine. It wasn’t a smooth ride, for either of them and at times it’s cover-your-eyes embarrassing to read as they try and negotiate their new feelings. But it reads so real, rather than all smoldering good looks and sexually charged encounters that pepper books these days. And the ending pleased me – Edie didn’t change her plans because she’d come to an understanding. She still undertook something new and scary and I enjoyed seeing her doing that and come into her own a little bit.

Sex, Lies & Bonsai is a very enjoyable novel, refreshingly real and distinctly Australian in voice and setting with quirky characters that you’ll end up coming to care about. Makes me want to re-read Liar Bird now.

8/10

Book #36 of 2013

AWW2013

Sex, Lies & Bonsai is the 17th novel read & reviewed for AWW2013

And now, thanks to the very generous author, I have one copy of this one to give away to one of my Australian readers. Because Australia Post oddly decided to hoard the first copy at their local depot for a whopping 2.5 months without telling me, the author graciously sent me a second copy. And when I went to collect that one, I also was given the first copy as well, that had been lost in limbo. Simply fill in the form to enter.

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The Australia Day Book Giveaway Hop

australiadaybloghopAs most of you know, tomorrow is Australia Day! To celebrate it (and cheer myself up about the fact that the long weekend doesn’t exist for me) I’m taking part in the Australia Day Book Giveaway Hop, hosted by Book’d Out and Confessions from Romaholics!

In celebration of the fabulous authors we have here, today I’m offering one winner a novel of their choice by an Australian author to the value of $30 – it must be by an Australian author and you must live in Australia to receive the prize. I will buy the book & ship it to you, all you need to do is tell me which book you’d like to receive.

Fill out the form to enter

Entries close midnight on January 28th. Winner will be drawn via random.org and notified by email. Winner has 48hrs to respond or another winner will be drawn.

After you’ve entered my giveaway, please make sure to check out this post over at Book’d Out and visit some of the other blogs for more chances to win!

Good luck and happy Australia Day 🙂

~Bree

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The Lost Prince – Julie Kagawa & **GIVEAWAY**

The Lost Prince
Julie Kagawa
Harlequin Teen AU
2012, 377p
Uncorrected proof copy courtesy of the publisher

For as long as he can remember, Ethan Chase has always been able to see Them: the fey. Piskies, gremlins, etc. Most mortals don’t know they exist, the glamour of the fey prevent humans from seeing their true selves. But Ethan has always been able to see past the glamour and that means he has to watch his back. The fey don’t look too kindly on those that can see their true colours. And Ethan is also the younger brother of The Iron Queen, his sister Meghan who left him and her life in the mortal realm some 12 years ago, rarely to be seen since.

Ethan is now 17 and he’s struggling to fit in because of his ability to see the fey. It makes him a target and it also endangers anyone that gets close to him, something he learned the hard way some years ago. When a half-breed at his new school implores him desperately for help, Ethan is reluctant but in the end, he gives the boy what he needs. Ethan has seen something new, a type of fey he doesn’t know the name of and they’re not friendly. When they attempt to attack him, he is forced to do something he thought he would never do: use a token to enter the land of Faery and travel to the Iron Realm to inform his sister of the strange new creatures and ask for her help.

Kenzie gets dragged along for the ride by being in the wrong place at the wrong time. A non-seer, she gets a quick education when she and Ethan tumble into the realm of the fey and are met by Grimalkin, who leads them on the journey to the Iron Realm to speak to Meghan. Kenzie isn’t one to back down from a challenge and she adapts quickly, refusing to go back to the moral world when Meghan gives her the choice, instead wishing to stay with Ethan. She wants to get to the bottom of what’s happening and why fey are disappearing and she’s willing to do the one thing you’re not supposed to do – make a bargain – in order to be of use. She and Ethan are getting closer than ever even though Ethan has long maintained a distance from people. He doesn’t want to do anything that could get someone he cares about killed but Kenzie isn’t the type of girl who is going to do what Ethan tells her to.

The Lost Prince is the first in Julie Kagawa’s new series, The Iron Fey: the Call of the Forgotten which spins off from the original Iron Fey series, featuring Ethan’s sister Meghan and her journey from normal teenager to a Queen in the Faery realm. I quite enjoyed the first series, although I do still have one book to read in it, (the last one, The Iron Knight but it wasn’t exactly difficult to figure out how it was going to end and this novel doesn’t spoil anything for anyone, really). This book got off to quite a slow start for me – I can remember getting to about page 80 and being quite frustrated because I really did not like any of the characters so far. Ethan was overly moody and rude, Kenzie was far too in-your-face-tryhard and Todd was the sort of annoying little worm who managed to be smarmy even when he was begging Ethan to help him. This was disappointing because of how much I had enjoyed the previous books of Kagawa’s that I had read.

Thankfully though when Ethan and Kenzie escape the strange creatures attempting to attack them to the Nevernever, the book picks up considerably. For a start, they were off to see Meghan and Ash and I was definitely looking forward to seeing how they were doing. Kenzie also calmed down a bit and became a bit more bearable and because Ethan wasn’t trying to drive her away so much anymore by being an arrogant jerk, he also became more likable. I was much more into the story as Grimalkin (who is always quite fun to read about) led them to the Iron Realm and although Meghan and Ash’s presence was quite brief, it wasn’t entirely unexpected as this is Ethan’s story. I had to admit, I found Ethan’s reaction upon learning to Kierran, who helps Ethan and Kenzie leave somewhere they don’t wish to be, hilarious and believable. I didn’t see it coming, although in retrospect I really should have as the signs were there if I’d bothered to pick up on them! I liked that though, it was a nice surprise and it gave me a few minutes to ponder precisely how that had worked.

After a slow start, I think The Lost Prince picked up in strength the further into the story I got. Ethan and Kenzie both matured as characters in a relatively short period of time (matured quite rapidly really) and I found the story of forgotten fey quite fascinating although my sympathy didn’t extend quite as much as Kierran’s did! This didn’t seem to leave a lot hanging regarding Ethan and Kenzie and given the name of the second installment is The Traitor Son I’m guessing we’re going to be seeing a lot of Kierran, which I think is fabulous. He has the potential to be a very interesting character given his very unusual heritage and he’s sure to be the sort of creature that could be sought after for both good and bad, given his particular gifts and strengths. I think that like this book, the series might get better as it goes on. Kagawa is a very strong storyteller and generally leaves you wanting more of her perfectly constructed worlds and gripping characters.

7/10

Book #256 of 2012

Please note this review was based on an uncorrected proof and the final version may be different.

Thanks to Harlequin Teen Australia and Morey Media, I have a couple of copies of The Lost Prince to give away to some lucky Australian residents. Simply fill in the form below for your chance to enter! Good luck.

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No Sex In The City – Randa Abdel-Fattah

No Sex In The City
Randa Abdel-Fattah
Pan MacMillan AU
2012, 383p
Copy won from Get Reading! AU giveaway

Esma is 28, has a master’s in human resource management and works as a pharmacy recruitment consultant in Sydney. She’s of Turkish origin, has traveled widely, still lives with her parents, has a great group of friends and is looking for Mr Right. She has some criteria though, which does narrow down the search just a little:

  • He has to be Muslim who speaks good English (Turkish background a bonus)
  • A Muslim who isn’t fanatical, but not totally clueless either
  • He has to be educated, employed and care about social justice
  • Doesn’t have to be super-good looking, but attractive to Esma
  • Has to exist outside her fantasies

Tired of her failures in family introductions, matchmaking and online dating, Esma forms a ‘No Sex in the City’ club with her three best friends where they meet up regularly to discuss the humour and frustrations in their failure to find their Mr Rights. No Sex in the City, because none of them are having any – two of them in the group are committed virgins and Esma hasn’t even been kissed, preferring to keep all of that until she is married. The other two have had relationships, but only been with one person each. They come from different backgrounds (Turkish, Greek, Indian and Jewish) but have much in common and their friendship, formed at university, has tightened over the years.

Esma isn’t just having trouble finding The One – although there has been not one, but two very interesting developments in that area recently. She is having trouble with her boss, who continues to cross lines and make Esma feel uncomfortable, despite her repeatedly voiced pleas that he not. She’s also worried about a family situation that she feels as though she cannot escape. There isn’t much she wouldn’t endure to guarantee the safety and security of her family but she can see that something is going to have to give, and soon.

I recently won a copy of this novel on a Get Reading! Australia giveaway on twitter. They gave away one copy of each of the 50 Books You Can’t Put Down, asking a question about each. The first to answer the question on a particular book, got that book. I was quite pleased to have won this, I’d seen it a few times beforehand and had seriously considered purchasing it but hadn’t gotten around to it. It arrived in late October and I put it onto my November reading pile

It’s kind of a conservative, ethnic version of Sex And The City. The characters are all very socially aware, have good jobs (could almost be considered overachievers) and bar hop around inner-city Sydney, meeting up for lunches, dinners and drinks to discuss their dating woes – except dating doesn’t really seem to happen in this world. All four women are extremely conservative for this day and age with two committed virgins and the other two girls in the foursome also having a very conservative attitude towards dating and relationships. Esma, our main character and narrator has tried meeting men through the complicated Turkish community network and nothing has worked. She’s ready to branch out, try a few more methods as she’s 28 and she’s ready to really settle down. Her younger sister is married already and she knows that her mother is really keen to see her just as settled and happy. The thing is that even if she finds someone who could be The One, Esma has a secret hanging over her head that she is sworn to never tell, lest it bring shame upon her family. Her morals make it very hard for her to grasp going into relationship without being up front and honest.

Which is kind of interesting, given in this book she actually begins seeing two men. That’s not as seedy as it sounds – they don’t even touch really. Esma doesn’t even like being asked questions about kissing, let alone actually doing any kissing. She’s waiting until she’s married, which is fair enough. That’s her belief system and she sticks to it, no matter what but I did find it a little off putting that she didn’t actually tell the two men that she was seeing the other one. I’m sure she would not have liked to find out that one of them was seeing another girl with intention to move forward so I didn’t really like that. I felt she should’ve been up front and honest about that from the very beginning.

The trouble with her boss I found to be the weakest part of the story. I’m not sure what her boss was trying to achieve, I don’t think it was made clear enough. He was acting like a complete tosser but I can’t quite figure out if he was just seeking to humiliate her or try and ingratiate himself with her in regards to perhaps relieving her of her conservative ways? I don’t know, a lot of the stuff wouldn’t bother me personally as an employee (clearly some were crossing the line) but I couldn’t tell from the way it was written what his real intentions were. At times he was overly familiar with her, at times he was the joking larrikin Aussie pub bloke who said inappropriate and hurtful things (such as embarrassing her about being a virgin) and other times he attempted to be alone with her. It might’ve just all been intimidation tactics but it left me confused.

This one was a quick, fun summer type read that sticks pretty close to a tried and true chick lit style formula although a much more conservative version of. Is there Muslim popular fiction? This might be a breakout novel.

6/10

Book #226 of 2012

No Sex In The City is the 73rd novel read and reviewed for the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2012

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****GIVEAWAY**** Winners – The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton

Thanks to Allen & Unwin I had 10 copies of Kate Morton’s exciting new book, The Secret Keeper to give away. I was overwhelmed by the amount of entries but there can only be 10 winners and here they are (thanks to random.org)!

1. Louise K

2. Nicola B

3. Lisa W

4. Trish M

5. Orlagh D

6. Shirley

7. Rachael J

8. Brenda T

9. Bella S

10. Michelle M

Thank you so much to everyone that entered. Congratulations to all the winners, you’ll be receiving an email from me very shortly – if there’s anyone who doesn’t respond within 48 hours, I will draw another winner. And a big thank you to the fabulous people at Allen & Unwin for providing the copies for the giveaway.

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**GIVEAWAY** – The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton

Thanks to the fabulous Allen & Unwin, I have a super exciting giveaway! Kate Morton, acclaimed author of books such as The Forgotten Garden, The House At Riverton and The Distant Hours is releasing her latest novel, The Secret Keeper in Australia in November. I know a few people that have been lucky enough to read it already and the word is that it is incredible!

I have 10 proof copies of this exciting new book to give away to my blog readers (Australian residents only please due to the fact that it’s from the Aussie publisher). All you need to do is fill out this simple form and I’ll draw the 10 winners when the books are ready for me to ship.

Super exciting! Go forth and enter peeps! I know I can’t wait to read this book.

Thanks again to the wonderful publisher for providing me with these copies to give away

 

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The Perks Of Being A Wallflower Giveaway WINNER!

Recently thanks to the wonderful team at Simon & Schuster AU I had a copy of The Perks Of Being A Wallflower film tie-in edition to give away! Thanks to everyone for all the entries and I’m happy to announce the winner is:

Jayne!

Jayne, I’ve emailed you! Please respond in 48hrs or I’ll draw another winner. Thanks again everyone.

 

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The Perks Of Being A Wallflower – Stephen Chbosky With GIVEAWAY!

The Perks Of Being A Wallflower
Stephen Chbosky
Simon & Schuster UK
2012 (originally 1999), 231p
Copy courtesy of Simon & Schuster AU

Charlie is fifteen and about to start high school. He’s not a popular kid and he’s been left reeling by the death of his friend Michael, to suicide before the school year begins. It seems like everyone has moved on from Michael’s death, except Charlie. He’s not like his football playing brother, who is off to college on a scholarship and could possibly go pro and his not like his popular sister. Charlie is introverted, a bit of a wallflower.

He seems to feel that he has no one he can confide in so he begins writing letters to someone he doesn’t really know, just someone that he overheard another person talking about that they were ‘cool’ and that they’d listen. And that seems to be all Charlie wants at the moment, someone to listen. He confesses everything, his difficulty in navigating his new school, the hardships of making friends, his first real crush that turns to love, his first girlfriend and the experiences that come along with it as well as his family holidays, forays into drinking and drugs, his English teacher at school who sets him extra essays and gives him books to read and urges him to be involved and ‘participate’. Charlie confesses everything and through his letters he helps make sense of his own life, his friendships and growing up. He has to deal with many different issues and his recognition and acceptance of one of them will change his life.

The Perks of Being A Wallflower is getting a lot of attention lately for a novel that was published 13 years ago. First published in 1999 and set in the early 1990s, before email, it’s a short book written entirely in epistolary form, letters from Charlie to an unknown recipient. In them he talks of his life, his nervousness about school, his lack of friends, then the few friends he does make as well as his family and his hidden secrets. The reason this little book is having a resurgence in popularity? There’s a movie that has been made which has a release date of the 20th September 2012 – this week! It stars Logan Lerman as Charlie, Ezra Miller as Patrick, a friend Charlie makes from his shop class and Emma Watson as Sam, the girl Charlie loves. The supporting cast is also looking fabulous – Kate Walsh and Dylan McDermott as Charlie’s parents and Paul Rudd as his English teacher Mr Anderson. I’d see it for the cast alone – and although I’m not a huge movie buff, I am planning on catching this one because I really enjoyed the book and also, I want to see how they take such a novel as this and turn it into a movie.

I really like epistolary novels, they’re one of my favourite things to read. I love letters and I love the idea of them – I used to love writing letters when I was younger, after I’d moved away from the town I went to primary school in. I had one friend and we wrote each week for years – until we graduated high school, went to University, got jobs, got busy and hey, everyone had email by then so it was much quicker to communicate that way. But I still love letters and I miss writing them. I think perhaps that’s why books of letters appeal to me so much! And this one is very, very skilfully done. Charlie’s voice is fabulous – he feels the right age, the letters are perfect in terms of not info-dumping but still giving a smooth narrative that never feels like there’s gaps missing or that the author is overcompensating for his choice of format by giving you way too much. Charlie’s letters aren’t long, but they’re informative in a very innocent and beguiling way. The reader is able to figure out things faster than Charlie himself is.

I’ve read that this book has been “challenged” on the ALA’s top 10 most frequently challenged books of 2009 and that makes me sad. This is a book that I can see both male and female teens reading and enjoying. It manages to cram so much into it, even though it’s quite tiny but in a way where it’s never really overwhelming. There’s so many issues, such as rape, drinking, drugs, first time relationships, violence, friendship, homosexuality and coming out and youth suicide. Things that teenagers are confronted with in real life. Banning books that deal frankly with these issues won’t help teenagers. If anything it will hinder them, because presenting them with unrealistic, fluffy literature that contains no issues will only serve to make their experiences more dramatic and less familiar. They want to know that others experience what they do.

It’s been a long time since I was in high school but I remember it well. My experience wasn’t identical to Charlie’s, but no two experiences are the same. I recognise a lot of the issues I saw in this book and I dealt with some of them too in my own years there. Alienation and bullying are escalating at an alarming rate and I think there’s a great message in this book that while it’s good to participate and be involved, essentially you are the way you are. Patrick and Charlie both have issues with the way they are and have to accept that, even when others won’t accept them for who they are.

I think one of, if not my most favourite character in this book, was that of Charlie’s English teacher Mr Anderson. I like the way in which he steered Charlie towards certain novels, had him writing essays on them in ways that challenged Charlie to think and apply the themes in the novels to his own life. He chose well some books to give him and I enjoyed the literary references littered throughout this novel – especially towards one of my favourite books, To Kill A MockingbirdCharlie gifts someone a copy of the book in the novel and she ‘doesn’t get it’ or think that it’s an original gift. But it is to Charlie, because he’s just experienced it for the first time and he’s keen to share it with the world.

I really enjoyed this book and I am now very excited to see the movie!

8/10

Book #179 of 2012

Thanks to the fabulous people at Simon & Schuster Australia,  I have one copy of the film tie-in edition of The Perks Of Being A Wallflower to give away! Just in time for the movie! If you’re like me, then you have to read the book first before you can see any adaptation! If not, well the book will be waiting for you after you’ve seen the movie 😉 To enter, simply fill out the form… Australians only please.

 

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