Review: Ivy Lane by Cathy Bramley

Ivy Lane (Part One: Spring) by Cathy Bramley
Series: Ivy Lane series, Book #1
Pages: 87 pp.
Genre: Chick Lit
Published: Apr. 2014, Transworld Digital

Friendship blossoms at Ivy Lane…

Tilly Parker needs a fresh start, fresh air and a fresh attitude if she is ever to leave the past behind and move on with her life. As she settles in to a new town seeking peace and solitude, taking on her own plot at Ivy Lane allotments seems like the perfect solution. But the vibrant, friendly Ivy Lane community has other ideas and endeavour to entice Tilly into seedling swaps and Easter egg hunts. Can Tilly let new friends into her life, or will she stay a wallflower for good?

Ivy Lane is a serialized novel told in four parts – taking you from spring to summer, autumn to winter – which tell a charming, light-hearted and moving story you won’t want to put down. [GOODREADS]

 

It’s been a while since I’ve read a chick-lit book but I’m happy to say that Ivy Lane was a charming short story. Tilly is an endearing heroine looking for a fresh start — something I fantasize about sometimes — and her openness to try new things and optimistic can-do attitude really makes her likable. She’s someone I can picture myself having tea and biscuits with while discussing the best plants for novice green thumbs.

The supporting cast of characters are what makes Ivy Lane feel like a quaint, friendly place worth visiting. Instead of just casually mentioning a neighbor here or there, everyone has their own distinct personality. And the fact that they are so willing to share the fruits of their labor (pun intended!) with Tilly gave me a serious case of the warm ‘n fuzzies! I also really enjoyed the imagery in this story — from the gardening terms to the English countryside descriptions, I found myself longing for a cup of tea and a biscuit while wishing Ivy Lane was a real place I could retreat to for holiday!

Lastly, can we talk about how adorable to book cover is? To be honest, it’s the main reason I chose this book in the first place. I think it perfectly depicts the genre and tone of the story. It was also the inspiration behind the photo collage below, which I think captures the essence of Ivy Lane.

Ivy Lane photo summary

Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

 

FANGIRL by Rainbow Rowell
Pages: 445 pp.
Genre: Contemporary YA
Published: Sept. 2013, St. Martin’s Press

Cath is a Simon Snow fan.

Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan . . .

But for Cath, being a fan is her life — and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving.

Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.

Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.

Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words . . . And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.

For Cath, the question is: Can she do this? Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories? And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind? [GOODREADS]

Oh gosh, where to start with this book. My first reaction is to dive right into fangirling (shameless pun) and gushing over how much I loved this book, but I feel like it deserves more than that… Then again, to hell with it —

*Kermit flail* I LOOOOOOOVED this book SO. FREAKING. MUCH.

kermit flail

You know the books where you just want to crawl between the pages and never leave? The kind where you’re so consumed by the story that you begin to take on the qualities of the main character? This was it for me. While Cath is certainly relateable as it is, I found myself becoming even MORE like here while I was reading the story — awkward, angsty, a hermit (more so than usual), and totally into fanfic (something I’ve never dabbled in). I relived my freshman year through her eyes, experiencing both familiar and new-found emotions that actually made me wish (if just for a moment) that I were in college all over again.

There was something about Cath that made me connect to her right away — some of which I could directly relate to (a combination of her love for writing & fictional characters as well as her social awkwardness), and some that I’ve never experienced but learned to appreciate while reading this book (her ingrained need to be the “caretaker” for her dad and sister).

Cath is worrisome, awkward, judgemental, creative, caring and REAL. I could both imagine myself AS her as well as someone I could be best friends with. As someone with an extremely small friend circle, this says a lot.

Also, can I just point out how adorable it was that she and Wren were named together? Cather & Wren… I love it! Speaking of Wren, I appreciated the fact that the story showed Wren wanting to branch out on her own. On the surface, it seemed like Wren was a reckless, stupid college student (which she was at times), but to me, Wren’s character was more of a vehicle to show Cath’s personal growth and the fact that she’s not defined by her twin — just like she’s not defined by Simon Snow.

The fanfic part of this story was one of my favorites, not only because I’m a huge Harry Potter fan (which I assume Simon Snow was based on), but also because it added another layer to the story as well as illustrated the author’s exceptional writing talent to write a genre aside from the one Fangirl is categorized as (though it was really “Cath” who was the author of the Simon Snow fanfic ^_^). I’m not familiar with online world of fanfic, but as an outsider, it seemed to me that Rowell did a good job of showing the art of fanfic, as well as the behind-the-scenes pressure and seriousness of it all. When you think about it, Cath was to Harry Potter as E.L. James was to Twilight… Ha! Wouldn’t it be something if she became an overnight sensation for publishing a book that was originally based on Simon Snow? How about a real life fanfic about her rise to fame? Talk about Inception: a fanfic about a character who writes fanfic about another character who’s based on another character? Eek!

mind blown

I digress…

So, Levi… Umph. I ADORED Levi!

adventure time love it

The fact that he WANTED Cath to read her fanfic to him like a lullaby and didn’t judge or make fun of her for it made my heart swell and my gut clench. What girl wouldn’t want that?? Even though it seemed as if he “had it together”, simply because he was older and he smoked and lived off campus, he was just as flawed and lost as Cath, which made him all the more endearing.

This is the first book I’ve ready by Rainbow Rowell and she’s already one of my new favorite authors. Her ability to write characters that are so inherently relateable, regardless of if you really share common traits, is a gift — one that I’m grateful to have experienced. When it comes to deciding if a book is a favorite, of course there’s more to it than simply the book — it’s the book, the mind frame of the reader, the setting and circumstances of how they came to read said book… in essence, it’s the entire reading experience that determines why a book becomes a favorite.

all the feels

Fangirl is one of those rare books where everything came together and made this a favorite that I was pulled into, obsessed with, and actually somewhat melancholy when it was over.

 

Review: Divergent by Veronica Roth

Divergent by Veronica Roth

Divergent by Veronica Roth
Series: Divergent series, Book #1
Pages: 487 pp.
Genre: Dystopian YA
Published: Apr. 2011, Harper Collins

In Beatrice Prior’s dystopian Chicago, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue–Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is–she can’t have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles to determine who her friends really are–and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes infuriating boy fits into the life she’s chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she’s kept hidden from everyone because she’s been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers a growing conflict that threatens to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves . . . or it might destroy her. [GOODREADS]

 

I admit, I jumped on the Hype Train with this one, since I didn’t really have an inclination to read it on my own. After downloading Divergent on a whim when it was on sale, it sat for months on my Kindle before I finally decided it was time to see what all the hoopla was about.

I finished it in less than a day.

When I first started reading, the similarities between it and The Hunger Games were glaringly obvious (dystopian setting, teens forced to make a life-altering decision), but it only took a few chapters before Divergent started branching off into its own adrenaline-pumping storyline. When it did, my fingers were swiping as fast as I could read!

Like Katniss, Tris is a strong female lead, but I found her a bit more compassionate and a lot less self righteous. Unlike Katniss, she wasn’t a natural fighter and not the best at combat — I actually appreciated this because it made her character more believable. Not to say she was weak — girlfriend was scrappy! — but it’s refreshing to read about a heroine who isn’t perfect at everything right off the bat. Plus it gives her character room to grow as the series progresses.

I could go into the whole “Divergent” aspect, but I don’t feel like it was the real crux of the story (at least not yet) — this book was more about character development. Which leads me to… Four. Oh, Four. So brooding & deep. There’s just something about him… I already know he is a reader favorite and rightfully so! I haven’t gotten around to them yet, but I will be reading the Four novellas because he’s got a complicated history that I’d love to learn more about. His feelings for Tris were swoon-worthy but I have to say, I didn’t quite get WHY he was so drawn to her so quickly. Luckily, Tris doesn’t either, which makes this subplot easier to follow along with, since both readers and Tris get an explanation as to why Four is so smitten.

One thing that really stood out to me was how violent this book is. Between the hand-to-hand combat and the multiple shoot-outs, I found myself cringing while reading at times. As someone who watches gory crime dramas (Dexter, Criminal Minds, etc.), I’m pretty immune to stuff like that, but Ms. Roth is one hell of a writer if she can make me squeamish with just words. I’m counting that as a plus.

Obviously Divergent is part of a trilogy — one that I feel obligated to see through. I mean, I owe it to Four, right? ;)

Review: Craving Perfect by Liz Fichera

Everyone has something they wish they could change about themselves. I’d be lying if I said I never peeked over the fence and longed for the grass on the other side because it looked greener. However, like the great Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Why try to be like someone else when you can instead strive to be the best you instead? This is a lesson that the main character in Liz Fichera’s Craving Perfect learns the hard way. If you’ve ever found yourself wishing you could be someone else — or a cooler/fitter/more exciting version of yourself — this book will speak to you.

Be yourself; everyone else is already taken — Oscar Wilde.

 

Review: Wishing for Grace by Inez Kelley

Wishing for GraceWishing for Grace by Inez Kelley

Turn It Up sequel // 28 pp. // Contemp. Romance // self-pub e-book // 2011

SUMMARY: Caz Talbot is a reformed rock ‘n roll bad boy who’s still fighting demons from his past. Although he’s straight-laced and sober now, he’s still suffering the consequences from things he’s done in his past. Though it gives him great material to write soul-searching ballads, it also gives him nightmares as well. He’s made a lot of mistakes but his biggest regret involves his daughter, who he’s never met. He’d move heaven and earth to see her just once and his heart nearly explodes when he gets the chance. Is he lucky enough to also get a second chance at love? Continue reading