ARC REVIEW - EMMY & OLIVER by Robin Benway

Emmy & Oliver
by Robin Benway
Publisher - HarperTeen/Simon & Schuster UK
Release Date - June 23rd/July 16th 2015
Buy - Amazon | Book Depository

Emmy’s best friend, Oliver, reappears after being kidnapped by his father ten years ago. Emmy hopes to pick up their relationship right where it left off. Are they destined to be together? Or has fate irreparably driven them apart?

Emmy just wants to be in charge of her own life.

She wants to stay out late, surf her favorite beach—go anywhere without her parents’ relentless worrying. But Emmy’s parents can’t seem to let her grow up—not since the day Oliver disappeared.

Oliver needs a moment to figure out his heart.

He’d thought, all these years, that his dad was the good guy. He never knew that it was his father who kidnapped him and kept him on the run. Discovering it, and finding himself returned to his old hometown, all at once, has his heart racing and his thoughts swirling.

Emmy and Oliver were going to be best friends forever, or maybe even more, before their futures were ripped apart. In Emmy’s soul, despite the space and time between them, their connection has never been severed. But is their story still written in the stars? Or are their hearts like the pieces of two different puzzles—impossible to fit together?
Emmy & Oliver is another aspect of contemporary. Granted I've read a few contemporaries in one go at the moment but I loved that it stood out from the rest. It took a completely new angle on how a friendship can really last forever and be the most precious thing in your life when your feelings for each other certainly don't finish at 'just friends'...

One day Oliver and Emmy where only 10 when Oliver moved with his dad. He knew nothing out of the ordinary when her first left, but as time went on and they constantly moved around and hid under the radar that actually he was taken by his father. Emmy has hoped that he would come back one day and just continue where they left off, constant searches and news crews surrounded her life for years. Now 10 years later he was found...
"Do you like Emmy? Yes or No"
The day that Olly went missing was the day that Emmy thought that they would be best friends forever, but when one of her best friends, Caro asked Oliver, did he like Emmy more than a friend? He was only 10 at the time but still after all this time, she still wants to know if that is true even to this day. Emmy was a helpless character when we first met her. She didn't really move on when Olly suddenly disappeared but she really want given the chance either. Her parents didn't help matter. They kept her in a small cardboard box and she hasn't been let out to breathe. She has to lie to her parents about her surfing, the one thing she really lets her down with. It's the only time she can really lose herself in the waves and motion. To get a perspective of her life. This is how she and Oliver really start to rekindle the friendship they once had.

For a while, neither of them really know what to say or do. It's a little awkward, it's as if they didn't know how to act around each after so long. Though the first thing both of their parents to them was "Oliver needed space..." how much space does the poor lad need when he probably doesn't even know what he wants himself. But both parents really didn't know what they where saying. They were to stuck in the 10 years that had passed to see their children were suffocating. Their first meet as school starts, really was quite emotional, "Emily is it?!" I was quite taken back myself and I felt that would really put things between them in perspective. But Emmy wasn't going to give up on the boy next door. This was a start to seeing the girl who likes to surf, surface to her full potential.

Relationships based on strong friendships are the best kind in a novel or in real life. You find that when you know some one for so long, and start to feel a pull of something deeper inside you that you know they're the one. Olly and Em are the reason why I love immersing myself in that sort of romance once more. The book itself is split into four parts, each with a flashback or memory of their childhood friendship then back to present where they both remember it and both building that connection once again. What I felt it lacked was Oliver's POV. After all it was his disappearance that sparks their re-connection and I think a dual perspective would've really created a more solid picture of Olly's character and the novel as a whole. We would be able to understand him more and see more emotional connection towards him as a reader.

For the lovers and readers of Kasie West (On the Fence and The Fill-In Boyfriend), Stephanie Perkins (Lola and the Boy Next Door) then this book is for you. I would totally recommend it as an enjoyable, heartfelt and simple telling of a friendship worth saving and rekindling into something much more. Whilst this is my debut novel from this author, I'll look forward to reading much more of her work.

Rating - 4


To All the Boys I Loved Before (To All the Boys I loved Before #1)
by Jenny Han
Publisher - Scholastic
Release Date - August 7th 2014
Buy - Amazon | Book Depository

Lara Jean keeps her love letters in a hatbox her mother gave her. One for every boy she's ever loved. When she writes, she can pour out her heart and soul and say all the things she would never say in real life, because her letters are for her eyes only. Until the day her secret letters are mailed, and suddenly Lara Jean's love life goes from imaginary to out of control...

I just finished this and all I can say is why didn't I read this before?! And this if my first, yes I said first, Jenny Han book. She just has a way with words doesn't she, and she brings that bright smile and gooey feeling to the very last page. My heart was going this way, that way between Josh and Peter and it was just...just a gorgeous read. I loved it!

Lara Jean Song, the middle sister to Margo and Kitty Song, also known as the Song girls, likes to write goodbye letters to all the boys she has ever loved. When Margo left to move and study in Scotland, it is now Lara Jean's responsibility to be the big sister to Kitty and fill Margo place in the family. Out of nowhere, Peter Kavinsky, vain, annoying, cheerful ladies man comes up to Lara Jean to say he's received a letter from her...Lara Jean is mortified, how did her letters get sent in the first place? Her next door neighbour, Josh is one of those boys she's loved even before her sister, but she never said anything, so to soften the blow of receiving his letter, Lara Jean starts a fake relationship with Peter K...but maybe it turns out not so fake in feelings...

This novel often reminded me of Since You've Been Gone by Morgan Matson, with it's letters and notes. It adds a certain texture to the book and the story that I just love. It's more authentic and more revealing of the character behind her words. I write letters to my friends overseas bit I've never written a love letter properly, although I really want too. But I find writing a letter your words are more raw and real. It much more heartfelt and emotional. It's just as true as saying them in person but they can be kept forever. As we spread each of the otters that Lara Jean wrote you could see how she grew from each of her loves and how they were only goodbye letters nothing more. She didn't consider the reality of what love could be like. Lara Jean was immune to love and the what ifs of whether one of those boys actually asked her out.
“My letters are for when I don't want to be in love anymore. They're for good-bye. Because after I write in my letter, I'm not longer consumed by my all-consuming love...My letters set me free. Or at least they're supposed to.”
Lara Jean was quite young for her age. She appeared to be immature at times and even her younger sister Kitty was more grown up than her. For me she did have some Mummy/Daddy issues that I didn't quite connect with, I'm not a fan of the use of phrasing for parents in novels. Lara Jean doesn't stray far from the box she is living in. I'm not saying that's a bad thing living in comfort and routine but when those letters are sent out, her first reaction is fear...but maybe it's a good thing, to let other people know she's around like Peter K. Peter K and Lara Jean pretty much hate each other, they used to be friends back in the day, then Peter went out with Genevieve, who certainly likes to stir up trouble. When they broke, Lara Jean and Peter started the fake romance to get Josh of her back. Whilst that's all being well, when he starts to do endearing things towards her, something more than fake feelings is happening here. With Peter, Lara Jeans she'll broke more, whilst it could be conflicting at times, she was brave enough to overcome it. What I find that I quite like with most contemporary stories is that the author creates some sort of flaw in her character and explores that thought the story, Lara Jean grows as a character, her personality and as a person.
“Love is scary: it changes; it can go away. That's the part of the risk. I don't want to be scared anymore.”
To All The Boys I Loved Before had a great selection secondary characters that make up for the book to give it center stage. I loved seeing and revealing of all the letters throughout the book, one boy was even gay but turned out to be a good friend. One boy in particular I wanted to know more about which was John, I thought there would've been something there. Jenny Han is a fabulous writer and I'm glad that I don't have to wait very long at all for P.S I Still Love You, I haven't read the synopsis but I am rooting for someone that's for sure.

Rating - 5

ARC REVIEW - 99 DAYS by Katie Cotugno

99 Days 
by Katie Cotugno
Publisher - Balzer & Bray
Release Date - April 21st 2015
Buy - Amazon | Book Depository

Day 1: Julia Donnelly eggs my house my first night back in Star Lake, and that’s how I know everyone still remembers everything—how I destroyed my relationship with Patrick the night everything happened with his brother, Gabe. How I wrecked their whole family. Now I’m serving out my summer like a jail sentence: Just ninety-nine days till I can leave for college, and be done.

Day 4: A nasty note on my windshield makes it clear Julia isn’t finished. I’m expecting a fight when someone taps me on the shoulder, but it’s just Gabe, home from college and actually happy to see me. “For what it’s worth, Molly Barlow,” he says, “I’m really glad you’re back.”

Day 12: Gabe got me to come to this party, and I’m actually having fun. I think he’s about to kiss me—and that’s when I see Patrick. My Patrick, who’s supposed to be clear across the country. My Patrick, who’s never going to forgive me.
99 Days that's how long the summer holidays last until Molly is returning to Boston in the fall. 99 Days to avoid her ex-boyfriend and his family. 99 Days that will turn out to be a whirlwind of emotions. Molly Barlow's life turned upside down when her mum wrote about her sex life as the main character, Emily Green, in her best selling novel, Driftwood. Ever since then, she has be called all sort of things and so she moved to Bristol boarding school to hoard off the names and constant egging of her house. Now returning, for exactly 99 Days she hides until she can face the Donnelly's and the two brothers that were a part of her life before Driftwood.

Molly Barlow, if I'm totally honest, she completely baffled me and I couldn't see her reasoning with getting involved with the person or persons that has made her life, hell. It wasn't her fault, and I didn't really take kindly to her mum either, I mean why would she do that, I know she says you have to make a story out of everything, but really her daughter's own sex life after confiding to her for a shoulder to cry on. That is pretty low. I felt quite pitiful towards Molly and I felt sorry for her. She has no friends, no one to really hang out with this summer, just her Netflix account and some Red Vines. Then enter stage left comes, Gabe and Patrick all at once. Gabe and Molly start seeing each, really getting to know each other as they are outcasts, after all it was sleeping with him that sparked the damn book. With Patrick, she wants to try and make amend, for him to listen.

During the summer, things take some drastic and steep turns in the novel, for once Molly was something good with her life with also being a PA at The Lodge, helping Penn, her boss, running again and starting to regain some of her old friends as well as some new, Imogen and Tess. She started to have a normal life. Things were going well with Gabe and she was starting to fall for him. Oh I loved Gabe, I can picture him with her, and he was always there for each other even after Patrick broke up with her before the book affair. They were outcasts and not by choice. They were indeed lovey-dovey and that's how I like my relationships. Then Patrick starts to stick around more, and it gets a little weird for my liking. An intense affair starts to take both Patrick and Molly as if they want to continue where they left off.

Quite clearly it's a love triangle, but for me it totally wasn't. I was indeed Team Gabe as I genuinely loved him. But for Patrick, he became very strong and manipulative, hitting Molly at her weakest and fondest memories of their ex-relationship. He almost becomes dark with jealousy with her relationship with his brother. I hated Patrick and quite frankly I wanted to punch him one too for how he treated his friends and girlfriend ex or otherwise. I'm not typically a physical person, promise. Lol. It was during the middle that I hated him so much and Go really annoyed with Molly that I was like "c'mon, why are you doing this?!" She could stop this for goodness sake and poor Gabe too. The real reason took me by surprise which turned this novel right out of he park.

I was very slow during this book, but this book deserved so much more of my attention if I had done. The way it was styled and constructed was quite brilliant. It would have been a very fast paced novel. The ending was real, honest and perfect. It wasn't a typical HEA, I thought that might happen the way I was feeling in the middle of the book. But I'm glad Katie didn't do that. For me the ending really redeemed the book as a whole as the characters perspective of life especially with Molly. She is starting to learn from her mistakes and put the past behind her. It wasn't a typical HEA, I thought that might happen the way I was feeling in the middle of the book.99 Days proved to be a total surprise to me. I know many other have enjoyed her previous novel, How to Love which I have yet to read.

Rating - 4

REVIEW - HERO by Samantha Young

by Samantha Young
Publisher - Piatkus
Release Date - March 5th 2015
Buy - Amazon | Book Depository

The emotional and unforgettable new romance from the New York Times bestselling author of the On Dublin Street series.

Alexa Holland’s father was her hero—until her shocking discovery that she and her mother weren't his only family. Ever since, Alexa has worked to turn her life in a different direction and forge her own identity outside of his terrible secrets. But when she meets a man who’s as damaged by her father’s mistakes as she is, Alexa must help him.

Caine Carraway wants nothing to do with Alexa’s efforts at redemption, but it’s not so easy to push her away. Determined to make her hate him, he brings her to the edge of her patience and waits for her to walk away. But his actions only draw them together and, despite the odds, they begin an intense and explosive affair.

Only Caine knows he can never be the white knight that Alexa has always longed for. And when they're on the precipice of danger, he finds he’ll do anything to protect either one of them from being hurt again…

Please note - This book isn't for younger readers. 

Oh it's been a looong time since I devoured a hot, steamy romance like this one. So many feels in so many places, oh yeah. I don't think I've read such a romance book like this probably since re-reading Fifty Shades but to be honest I don't really count that as I've already read it. It was well...Wow! Samantha Young knows how to move, melt you and make you go all mushy in all the right places.

Hero takes two complete strangers of the eye and mix them up in a sexy, hot drink then throw in a bitter, twisted past and you got yourself a top seller of a cocktail. Alexa Holland has a very complicated family, her mum passed away only few months previous and her dad, well, he's non-existent. Alexa does have a secret grandfather that she recently fell in contact with after he reached out. After she returns to works as a photographer's assistant she is faced with the victim of her family's demise, Caine Carraway, manager and owner of Carraway holding. Caine's mum overdosed and Alexa dad was the cause of her death. Up until now, her father's actions is left on Alexa's shoulders, but it isn't her fault. She is not her father. That's what Caine doesn't understand. He's letting his past and emotions cloud his judgement. He gets Alexa fired, so she does something she wouldn't usually do, confront him. Whilst there certainly is a very strong connection of hatred between them, who would have thought that he would offer her a job instead. That's where it all falls apart for both of them...

What was indeed prominent throughout Samantha's books is how she creates very strong characters. Alexa doesn't come across as the damsel in the distress, only when she is looked upon by the familiar Mr Carraway. But generally she is the modern day heroine. She won't let anyone walk over while she is down or up for that matter. She has control over her own mind and occasionally her body as well as her life and she won't let anyone influence her otherwise.!she is often referred to as stubborn and quiet a smartass but I think that completely suits her to a tea. Alexa was a very likeable character and relatable character too. She had a very comfortable lifestyle, she has ambitions, aspirations, she wanted to finally move on. Mr Carraway wasn't helping her current situation at all...

Unlike Alexa, Caine Carraway was something else entirely. He is your epitomy of Christain Grey or Gideon Cross. But his character was so written and created a 100% better. Caine had more depth to him, he didn't seem traumatised by his past in the beginning and it certainly wasn't laid on thick for us readers either, he unravelled himself throughout the book. Some shocking some, not so much. But it wasn't his past that surprised it was his character progression. How he changed so much. If I'm brutally honest, Caine wasn't remotely a nice man at the start, his physique was another matter obviously, *blushes*. He started to grow as a human being, more emotional, controlled, not in a control-freak sort of way, he relaxed. That was the man that I wanted him to become and to see that made me smile uncontrollably till the very last page.

As mentioned previously, you will undeniably relate it to Fifty Shades and the Crossfire series, but this is so much more. I loved either series but for me it was much more than the sexual intimacy between the characters, it what was beneath that. The rawness of them as a whole. Alexa and Caine really completed each other, they could fill in each other's missing pieces and be what they needed for each other.
"Sighing, Caine laced his fingers through mine. "Did you ever really grow up, Lexie?" I shot him a saucy look. "I did in all the places that matter."
It was refreshing to read something from this genre again and I think this will be the beginning of of this author for me. I know from word around the blogosphere that Samantha Young is best known for her On Dublin Street series, which I can't wait to devour. Count on it! But Hero is certainly a very very good start to a strong relationship with her book and steamy hot characters.

Rating - 4.5


The DUFF: Designated Ugly Fat Friend 
by Kody Keplinger
Publisher - Hodder Children's Books (Film Tie-In Book)
Release Date - February 25th 2015
Buy - Amazon | Book Depository

Seventeen-year-old Bianca Piper is cynical and loyal, and she doesn’t think she’s the prettiest of her friends by a long shot. She’s also way too smart to fall for the charms of man-slut and slimy school hottie Wesley Rush. In fact, Bianca hates him. And when he nicknames her “Duffy,” she throws her Coke in his face.

But things aren’t so great at home right now. Desperate for a distraction, Bianca ends up kissing Wesley. And likes it. Eager for escape, she throws herself into a closeted enemies-with-benefits relationship with Wesley.

Until it all goes horribly awry. It turns out that Wesley isn’t such a bad listener, and his life is pretty screwed up, too. Suddenly Bianca realizes with absolute horror that she’s falling for the guy she thought she hated more than anyone.
With the movie fast approaching in the UK, next week I believe, The DUFF was this month's book club and ti was an opportunity to read it before the movie comes out. The DUFF is very much like Gossip Girl and it also reminded me of Stella by Helen Eve, which sadly was a book I really couldn't get on with. But The DUFF surprised me and it had a lot of positive messages under the surface of the novel.

Bianca, high school student and apparently a Designated, Ugly, Fat, Friend. She is essentially the piggy in the middle so to peak when it comes to Wesley Rush who thinks, hitting on her will make him score a hit with her other friends. B felt insulted and damn right annoyed, I would be too, so their relationship starts off with a Cherry Coke chucked in his face. You go girl!!!! At home, her life is a completely a different story when her family is completely breaking apart. When her dad receives divorce papers her whole world turns upside down and she doesn't what to do... so she escapes into Wesley Rush literally. She feel at peace when sex has become the only object that can truly distract her from life...But how long can it be before it's spiraling out of control, and she forgets her friends and her life. Sex can have consequences especially those close to you.

Unlike her friends, B hates going to the club, Nest, so instead she talks a thirty-year old barman called Joe for the whole evening while being her friend's chaperon. She hates people like Wesley Rush, a womaniser to get who he wants and what he wants. Especially when he called her a DUFF. Way to go Wesley your really going to get her on your side. Yes The DUFF is a bullying and offensive word but through the novel, Wesley also mentions that it can be good thing, because your surrounded by these people. We are an aspect of being The DUFF in someway shape or form. That's what I loved about this novel, that there was a moral and positive message to the story. Your able to see and to the likeness of the characters through your own experiences and life observations.

Before I read this I read Trouble, it was similar in some ways but not in others. What it did remind me of was the ADULT film of Love & Other Drugs starring Anna Hathaway. (I highlight adult because in comparison to this book, it really isn't suitable for younger ages.) At first Bianca and Wesley were as bad as each other, all they really wanted was the sexual experience and euphoria of it and they forget about the outside world completely. I admit that I didn't dislike this side of B as I think this was a stepping stone for what is to come for her emotionally and life-altering. Her heart, was bruised, cut and broken from family and friends and Wesley was there in a way she never knew till the very end. Neither of them knew there feelings for each other before it was too late. All it was, was an affair, but you can say as the plot line progressed it was an affair of the heart.

The saying Books are better than Films will be tested like most major motion pictures based on the YA novels. Whilst I'm looking forward to the film immensely. I'm curious as it how it really differs. I've seen the trailer and I have my doubts so I can't wait to see it next week and draw my own conclusions. This was an incredible novel, thought provoking, intelligent, realistic and raw. It has its own originality. Bravo, Miss Keplinger.

Rating - 4.5

As part of this review Hachette books wanted me to add this strong message:

Labelling is a huge issue in our society today, The Duff are partnering up with Ditch the Label which is a charity who are trying to overcome this, if anyone of you are suffering with any bullying make sure you check out for advice and someone to talk to.

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