Thursday, 14 August 2014

ON THE FENCE

On the Fence by Kasie West

For sixteen-year-old Charlotte Reynolds, aka Charlie, being raised by a single dad and three older brothers has its perks. She can outrun, outscore, and outwit every boy she knows—including her longtime neighbor and honorary fourth brother, Braden. But when it comes to being a girl, Charlie doesn't know the first thing about anything. So when she starts working at chichi boutique to pay off a speeding ticket, she finds herself in a strange new world of makeup, lacy skirts, and BeDazzlers. Even stranger, she's spending time with a boy who has never seen her tear it up in a pickup game.

To cope with the stress of faking her way through this new reality, Charlie seeks late-night refuge in her backyard, talking out her problems with Braden by the fence that separates them. But their Fence Chats can't solve Charlie's biggest problem: she's falling for Braden. Hard. She knows what it means to go for the win, but if spilling her secret means losing him for good, the stakes just got too high.
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Oh, this was not a good reading experience. And I thought Kasie West could do no wrong. Literally, no wrong. I loved Pivot Point and The Distance Between Us, and I'm sure I'll love Split Second when it finally arrives in paperback form. So I figured I would love this. And that was probably part of the problem - my expectations were high. Like, basketball hoop high.

There's little plot here, which I expected, except for a strange "twist" that smacks you over the head even though you saw it coming a mile off. It was just so unnecessary and shoe-horned in, it made me cringe. And then there's the lazy characterisation. Charlie has three brothers, but only one of them has any sort of personality, and even then it's slight. The other two...well, my suspicion is that she was given three brothers to explain her being a tomboy. Um, why does she need any brothers to be a tomboy? Some girls just are. Even if we're going with this, she really only needed the one brother, and maybe then Gage could have been a little bit more developed (I can't even remember the names of the other two and I literally finished this book yesterday.)

Charlie herself fares a little better in the characterisation game, though her love interest Braden is about as interesting as the fence she talks to him through. Maybe I would have liked Charlie a bit more if she'd decided she wanted to be more girly, rather than feeling like she had to. I get that this book is all about the message be yourself and I can respect that, but honestly, it wasn't really that interesting to read. And the dialogue isn't up to much either. It's so stilted, in a lot of places, which strikes me as very strange because West's other books didn't suffer from this. I don't have my copy to hand or I'd quote a few, but I vividly remember cringing every few pages at the cardboard teenagers and their equally flat dialouge.

My favourite bit was Caymen's cameo appearance, which probably says an awful lot about this book. It just wasn't as good as its predecessors, and, honestly, it might even have soured my opinion of them a little bit. I don't know what happened, but this book most definitely did not work for me.




Wednesday, 13 August 2014

LOLA AND THE BOY NEXT DOOR

Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins

Lola Nolan is a budding costume designer, and for her, the more outrageous, sparkly, and fun the outfit, the better. And everything is pretty perfect in her life (right down to her hot rocker boyfriend) until the Bell twins, Calliope and Cricket, return to the negihborhood. When Cricket, a gifted inventor, steps out from his twin sister's shadow and back into Lola's life, she must finally reconcile a lifetime of feelings for the boy next door.
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I'm not a big reader of contemporary romance and I've basically read nothing but fantasy for the last couple of months (it's been distracting me from writing my manuscript, so I'm switching to contemporary until I can get my hands on SJ Maas's Heir of Fire), but I saw a lot of people getting excited about the third book in this series and thought it was about time I checked out the second instalment, since I surprised myself by enjoying the first (though looking back at my review of it suggests I'm remembering it differently to how I felt at the time!)

The weird thing is, I see other readers gushing over St. Clair and Cricket all the time, but I don't really have much interest in either of them. I prefer Cricket to St. Clair, but neither of them really does anything for me. I do, however, like the female characters in the books. Both of them are smart and no-nonsense, but at the same time flawed and vulnerable. They're human. Completely relatable, even if I never thought I'd have a single thing in common with someone who could be described as "outrageous, sparkly and fun," as I am none of those things. And I totally kept picturing Lola as a young Garcia (from Criminal Minds, who I love anyway).

I'm running out of things to say, mostly because I quite liked this book. I didn't love it, I didn't hate it. And as Anna says to Lola on page 62:

"It's easy to talk about things we hate, 
but sometimes it's hard to explain exactly why we like something."

From which I can only assume that Stephanie Perkins is inside my head. I've been saying this, or some variation of it, for years now. I rarely know what it is I like about a book - or a movie or a TV show or a real live person - but I can reel off its flaws without a second thought. Whatever the reason I don't have anything much to say about this book, I have to admit I'm kind of looking forward to the third one, Isla and the Happily Ever After.