180 Seconds by Jessica Park

180 Seconds

180 Seconds by Jessica Park

We are engaged in a form of intimacy that scares the hell out of me. 

Is it possible to fall in love in 180 seconds if you stare into each other’s eyes? I don’t believe in insta-love, but this story caught my eye and I started cautiously only to be swept into a beautiful character-driven, contemporary story that blew any misconceptions away. It’s been a long time since I was this emotional over a book.

Sometimes, the unexpected happens…

This is a couple it would be hard not to route for. They both have issues and it’s messy. But it’s also electrifying and I couldn’t put the book down.

It’s as if there is a weight on my chest that I want to shove off, and have never been this terrified before. 

P.S. He may have only become her adoptive father when she was sixteen, pulling her out of the foster care system, but Simon is my new favourite bookish father.

He, like me, is fighting something. 

Although the characters are in university, the book reads more like YA (young adult)

I want to run. I want to stay. I want to do both.
Together we battle.4 Star

 

 

Title: 180 Seconds180 Seconds

Author: Jessica Park 

Publication Date: 25 April 2017

Publisher: Skyscape

Source: Review copy

 

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After a life spent bouncing from one foster home to the next, Allison is determined to keep others at arm’s length. Adopted at sixteen, she knows better than to believe in the permanence of anything. But as she begins her third year in college, she finds it increasingly difficult to disappear into the white noise pouring from her earbuds.

One unsuspecting afternoon, Allison is roped into a social experiment just off campus. Suddenly, she finds herself in front of a crowd, forced to interact with a complete stranger for 180 seconds. Neither she, nor Esben Baylor, the dreamy social media star seated opposite her, is prepared for the outcome.

When time is called, the intensity of the experience overwhelms Allison and Esben in a way that unnerves and electrifies them both. With a push from her oldest friend, Allison embarks on a journey to find out if what she and Esben shared is the real thing—and if she can finally trust in herself, in others, and in love. — Abstract from Goodreads.com

The fact that I received a free advanced copy of this book does not influence my policy to write an honest review.

Disclaimer: The quotes appear in my advanced review copy and may not appear in the final version.

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee

The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee

Narratored by Christian Coulson

 

I fell in love with the irresistible Monty within the first paragraph and Percy shortly after. Witty, sensitive and adorable these two precious and extremely shippable characters will burrow into your heart before the end of chapter one.

So although I’ve got nothing on but my waistcoat—by some sorcery now buttoned back to front—and one shoe, it seems safe to assume we both kept our bits to ourselves.

It takes a little longer to reach the ‘real’ Felicity but she’s the kind of brave, smart, independent girl I’d love to be. Mackenzi Lee has promised a spin-off book The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy in 2018 where Felicity gets a turn to shine.

I’d like you to both remember just how much you adore me and how dull and gloomy your lives would be without me in them.

I listened to the Audible audio version and Christian Coulson was a brilliant narrator portraying the hilarious, oblivious, flawed and outrageous Monty through their unexpected detour off the preplanned road-trip.

We are not broken things, neither of us.

Fast-paced, adventurous, romantic and quirky The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue is also the funniest book I have read in a long time.

There’s really nothing to do but pretend I’m fully clothed and in control of the situation.

The diversity of the characters feels natural and a far cry from the run-of-the-mill ‘read me’ stories who force diversity into the story like an add-on.

And we are looking at each other, just looking, and I swear there are whole lifetimes lived in those small, shared moments.5 Star

 

 

Title: The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue

Author: Mackenzie Lee 

Narrator: Christian CoulsonThe Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue

Publication Date: 27 June 2017

Publisher: Harper Audio

Source: Purchased

 

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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 traveling 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.  — Abstract from Goodreads.com

 

Girl on the Verge by Pintip Dunn

Girl on the Verge

Girl on the Verge by Pintip Dunn

 

The good news is Girl on the Verge is good, the bad news… it’s good – but just doesn’t tip the scales to great simply because it’s just a little too shallow. The shallowness of both plot and characters let the story down. The storyline, although unoriginal, has all the makings of a brilliant psychological thriller where the reader alternates between wanting to slap the gullible character and hiding under the duvet. More depth is needed and although there were occasional flashes of sinister, dark intent I wanted more. Much more.

… it makes the chill crawl up my back, one long spider leg at a time.

Of all the characters Kan stood out and I empathised with her perception of always being the odd one out. All the secondary characters were flimsy paper dolls.

I could explain how I’m from two worlds but don’t fit in either.

I visited Thailand once, but it was a fleeting stay so it was a huge bonus to glimpse a little of the Thai culture through Kan’s grandmother whose authentic Thai food made my mouth water.

“We’ve kept this secret for seventeen years…”3 Star

 

 

Title: Girl on the VergeGirl on the Verge

Author: Pintip Dunn

Publication Date: 27 June 2017

Publisher: Kensington

Source: Review copy

 

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In her small Kansas town, at her predominantly white school, Kanchana doesn’t look like anyone else. But at home, her Thai grandmother chides her for being too westernized. Only through the clothing Kan designs in secret can she find a way to fuse both cultures into something distinctly her own.

When her mother agrees to provide a home for a teenage girl named Shelly, Kan sees a chance to prove herself useful. Making Shelly feel comfortable is easy at first—her new friend is eager to please, embraces the family’s Thai traditions, and clearly looks up to Kan. Perhaps too much. Shelly seems to want everything Kanchana has, even the blond, blue-eyed boy she has a crush on. As Kan’s growing discomfort compels her to investigate Shelly’s past, she’s shocked to find how much it intersects with her own—and just how far Shelly will go to belong… — Abstract from Goodreads.com

The fact that I received a free advanced copy of this book does not influence my policy to write an honest review.

Disclaimer: The quotes appear in my advanced review copy and may not appear in the final version.

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

The Nightingale

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah, narrated by Polly Stone

The Nightingale is a story that I will remember. Not just remember, embrace. More than a story, this book clings to me. Its heart and soul speak out as though it was made for preserving. A keepsake.

… grief, like regret, settles into our DNA and remains forever part of us.

I am drawn to WWII books, in particular, those set in occupied France. I don’t know why – they are almost always sad and I tend to question what I would have done in the same situation… I know courage would have failed me and that doesn’t lead to happy thoughts. But it is why I found myself drawn to Vianne whose courage didn’t come easy.

If I have learned anything in this long life of mine, it is this: In love we find out who we want to be; in war we find out who we are.

Although the Goodreads abstract below suggests the sisters were always close this isn’t how I interpreted their relationship which had been negatively influenced by the loss of their mother, subsequent absent father, and very different personalities. Their tenuous bond fluctuated over the course of the war and brought additional tension and emotion to the story.

“Men tell stories. Women get on with it. For us it was a shadow war. There were no parades for us when it was over, no medals or mentions in history books. We did what we had to during the war, and when it was over, we picked up the pieces and started our lives over.”

While the novel is written in the third person, the intermittent glimpse to the future (1995) is narrated by one of the sisters (it is not clear for the majority of the book which sister this is) in the first person. This glimpse forward with its unmistakable hindsight adds an element of mystery to the story which I loved.

He held her gaze and suddenly she couldn’t breathe. “I am a soldier now it seems”.

The book ended with me in tears – as almost all great books do. My last notes are monosyllables: brilliant, sad, love, forgiveness, courage, courage, courage…5 Star

 

 

Title: The NightingaleThe Nightingale

Author: Kristin Hannah 

Narrator: Polly Stone

Publication Date: 3 February 2015

Publisher: Macmillan Audio

Source: Review copy

 

 

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Despite their differences, sisters Vianne and Isabelle have always been close. Younger, bolder Isabelle lives in Paris while Vianne is content with life in the French countryside with her husband Antoine and their daughter. But when the Second World War strikes, Antoine is sent off to fight and Vianne finds herself isolated so Isabelle is sent by their father to help her.

As the war progresses, the sisters’ relationship and strength are tested. With life changing in unbelievably horrific ways, Vianne and Isabelle will find themselves facing frightening situations and responding in ways they never thought possible as bravery and resistance take different forms in each of their actions.  — Abstract from Goodreads.com

 

Life in a Fishbowl by Len Vlahos

Life in a FishbowlLife in a Fishbowl by Len Vlahos

Their house was being transformed into a cruel kind of fishbowl, and all they could do was pucker and swim.

Life in a Fishbowl… Where to start? I didn’t like this book. The plot concept had potential but ultimately lacked execution and the matter-of-fact, detached writing style was off-putting.

That’s when it would be game over. But the tumor didn’t know that. It only knew it had to keep eating, that Jared’s memories tasted wonderful, that they were things to be savored.

 

Why didn’t I like it you ask?…

Too many third-party PVO’s (point-of-views) to keep track of and – wait for it – one of those voices is the brain tumour, a glioblastoma to be precise, killing Jackie’s father.

Deirdre was crying. More than anything, the glioblastoma wanted to stop her from crying.

But even this aspect could have worked better if the tumour voice was a more realistic, perhaps more scientific. Instead, it’s personified – with feelings. And decision-making skills. Maybe a bit of sarcastic wit could have made a difference…? But all the tumour character did was give the story a dry, warped, fantasy twist. Which was awful and meaningless, taking up space in the book which would have been better suited to developing the flimsy human characters.

In that moment, the tumor knew, the bond formed between father and daughter was unbreakable. It paused to savor that feeling, letting the unbridled happiness envelop it.

Theses human characters were the typical paper-doll kind, you know the ones, so superficial they can hardly stand up. Many of them play such a small, arbitrary role in the story it’s hard to know why they are there.

 

Title: Life in a Fishbowl

Author: Len Vlahos 

Publication Date: 3 January 2017Life in a Fishbowl

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Source: Review copy

 

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Fifteen-year-old Jackie Stone is a prisoner in her own house. Everything she says and does 24/7 is being taped and broadcast to every television in America. Why? Because her dad is dying of a brain tumor and he has auctioned his life on eBay to the highest bidder: a ruthless TV reality show executive at ATN.

Gone is her mom’s attention and cooking and parent-teacher conferences. Gone is her sister’s trust ever since she’s been dazzled by the cameras and new-found infamy. Gone is her privacy. Gone is the whole family’s dignity as ATN twists their words and makes a public mockery of their lives on Life and Death. But most of all, Jackie fears that one day very soon her father will just be . . . gone. Armed only with her ingenuity and the power of the internet, Jackie is determined to end the show and reclaim all of their lives, even in death.  — Abstract from Goodreads.com

 

The fact that I received this copy of this book from the publisher does not influence my policy to write an honest review.

Disclaimer: The quotes appear in my advanced review copy and may not appear in the final version.

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