Thursday, 28 January 2016

Changers - Book One - Drew - T Cooper and Allison Glock-Cooper

The Blurb

Some teenagers worry about who they'll wake up next to. Others worry about who they'll wake up as...

Ethan Miller is about to start high school in a brand-new town. He's finally sporting a haircut he doesn't hate, has grown two inches since middle school, and can't wait to try out for the soccer team. At last, everything is looking up in life.

Until the next morning. When Ethan awakens as a girl.

Welcome to the world of Changers.

The Review

I don't read much in the way of sci-fi and fantasy but Changers sounded like such an ingenious concept that I couldn't resist giving it a try.  And I'm so glad I did.  I've not read anything like this before.

Ethan is a normal guy about to start a new school.  Then when he wakes up the next morning, he finds he's no longer Ethan, he's Drew.  And what's more, Drew's a girl. 

Drew's parents explain that Ethan was born as a 'Changer', and will become four different people before getting to choose which he wants to be for life.  However, although there are many changers out there, society mustn't know.  It's a bit like how in Harry Potter the wizarding world are right under the muggle's noses but they're none the wiser of the subcommunity within their midst. Drew's not helped by how her parents, particularly Dad who was also a changer, seem to have no sympathy for the enormity of the situation.  This was the bit I didn't really understand - why weren't they more empathetic to the fact she's changed school, city, gender, and to some degree personality if they have experience of it? 

In many ways, not much happens.  Drew finds out about Changers, going along to secret meetings with other teens going through the same process.  Drew develops a crush on one of her fellow Changers, something that's strictly forbidden.  Drew is confused about her relationship with her best friend Audrey.  She realises there are people out there who are suspicious about Changers and their intentions.

It's difficult to summarise as although there are some elements which fit with sexuality/gender, because of the way the story is it's difficult to really draw on those themes.  Drew isn't sure who she is or how she should feel - male/female, straight/gay - but it's almost irrelevant because she'll be changing again before long, and will most likely be and feel completely different in her next incarnation.

This is the first book in a series and the snappy dialogue and interesting concept has made me interested enough to continue reading on.  A lot of the themes such as friendship and lust are those found in more mainstream YA novels, and this probably added to the appeal of Changers for me, as someone who doesn't regularly read this type of book.  I'm looking forward to finding out who Drew changes into next when the second book is released this summer.

Changers - Drew is out now, published by Atom (Little, Brown).

With thanks to the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book in return for an honest review.

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Just One Day - Gayle Forman

The Blurb

Allyson Healey's life is exactly like her suitcase—packed, planned, ordered. Then on the last day of her three-week post-graduation European tour, she meets Willem. A free-spirited, roving actor, Willem is everything she’s not, and when he invites her to abandon her plans and come to Paris with him, Allyson says yes. This uncharacteristic decision leads to a day of risk and romance, liberation and intimacy: 24 hours that will transform Allyson’s life.

A book about love, heartbreak, travel, identity, and the “accidents” of fate, Just One Day shows us how sometimes in order to get found, you first have to get lost. . . and how often the people we are seeking are much closer than we know.

The first in a sweepingly romantic duet of novels. Willem’s story—Just One Year—is coming soon!

The Review

I bought this book from the incredible Books of Wonder in New York City on the recommendation of my friend Anne.  Anne's a librarian who loves YA, so being let lose in a children's bookshop with her was a dangerous but amazing experience.  It was like having my own personal shopper.

What sold the book to me was the contemporary romance element - in my opinion there's just not enough modern YA out there that focuses primarily on the connection between two people.  But the connection between American Allyson, who's on an organised tour of Europe before heading off to study medicine at university and Dutch Willem, who's part of an unconventional group of Shakespearean actors, literally sizzles from the start.  As the pair head off on an impromptu twenty-four hour visit to Paris, the ultimate city of love, Allyson discovers that maybe no one is ever just one person...including herself.

There's more to Just One Day than love or lust, although that element of the novel was written in a way that evokes so much emotion that it wouldn't have mattered to me if it was 300+ pages of purely love-riddled angst.  There's travel, the absolute beauty of exploring new places for the first time with both fear and wonder.  There's self-discovery, and the realisation that as humans it's in our very nature to change and develop and grow.  There's friendship, both old and new, and how those relationships can either blossom into something special or wither away. 

I suppose, in its more simple terms, Just One Day is a coming of age novel.  But with some of the most beautiful cities in the world as a backdrop, Forman's beautiful storytelling and a love story that had me in bits, for me that sells it short.

I'm sure that come December this will be in my reads of the year and can barely wait to get my hands on Willem's story in the second book in the series, Just One Year.

Just One Day is out now, published in the UK by Definitions.

Saturday, 23 January 2016

The 2015 Catch Up -Part Four!

During December I took part in the Happy Harper Christmas event, an online celebration of Harper Impulse' festive reads.  As part of the event, I took part in the '3dathon', a very manageable readathon because, as the name suggests, the aim was to read three books!

Firstly, I read Brigid Coady's short story collection A Stocking Full of Romance.   Containing seven stories to satisfy romance readers of every type, each story had it's own unique flavour.  The first two stories which were more traditional in style were my favourites, but there were quirkier reads that will appeal to anyone looking for something fresh.  If you enjoy short stories, give this one a try!

Next I went for something totally different, Loving Winter Nights, Love Romance.  This perma-free story was written in a round robin style by a number of Harper Impulse authors and as a writer I loved the idea of reading a collaborative project written without a plan.  Without giving away the plot, this was full of tense scenes that made me wonder where it was heading, with a thread of romance interwoven for good measure.  I really loved the interview with the authors at the end, where they all spoke of their experience taking part in the project.  An interesting idea and well written, but at times, unsurprisingly when you consider the way it was written, the plot veered off on unnecessary tangents.

Finally, I read Cold Feet at Christmas, which had been a huge success for Debbie Johnson back in 2014.  It was even Christmas number 1 in the iTunes book chart! It took me a while to get into this one - I'd made the mistake of judging a book by its cover and had been expecting 'chicklit' (this was a pretty hot romance).  I'd also taken the cold feet to mean a nervous bride, rather than one who'd been jilted - the cold feet of the title were literal, rather than metaphorical.  The first section was built mainly around the sexual attraction between the two lead characters, with hints at the secrets of their pasts dropped in.  I definitely found the second half of the book 'meatier' and as I found out more about the characters and their lives it explained some of their choices and behaviours.  I also loved the Chicago scenes and reliving my own night up the Hancock Tower.  Why more books aren't set there I don't know, because it really is a city with everything going for it.  I'm looking forward to reading more Debbie Johnson now, and hear great things about her most recent release, Never Kiss a Man in a Christmas Jumper.

Did you take part in the event?  If so, I'd love to hear what you read!

Friday, 22 January 2016

Wendy Holden in the Spotlight

Born Survivors by Wendy Holden 

Finalist in the 2015 Goodreads Book of the Year


Book description:

Among millions of Holocaust victims sent to Auschwitz II-Birkenau in 1944, Priska, Rachel, and Anka each passed through its infamous gates with a secret. Strangers to each other, they were newly pregnant, and facing an uncertain fate without their husbands. Alone, scared, and with so many loved ones already lost to the Nazis, these young women were privately determined to hold on to all they had left: their lives, and those of their unborn babies.

That the gas chambers ran out of Zyklon-B just after the babies were born, before they and their mothers could be exterminated, is just one of several miracles that allowed them all to survive and rebuild their lives after World War II. Born Survivors follows the mothers' incredible journey - first to Auschwitz, where they each came under the murderous scrutiny of Dr. Josef Mengele; then to a German slave labour camp where, half-starved and almost worked to death, they struggled to conceal their condition; and finally, as the Allies closed in, their hellish 17-day train journey with thousands of other prisoners to the Mauthausen death camp in Austria.

Hundreds died along the way but the courage and kindness of strangers, including guards and civilians, helped save these women and their children. Sixty-five years later, the three 'miracle babies' met for the first time at Mauthausen for the anniversary of the liberation that ultimately saved them. United by their remarkable experiences of survival against all odds, they now consider each other "siblings of the heart."

In Born Survivors, now published in 21 countries and translated into 16 languages, Wendy Holden brings all three stories together for the first time to mark their seventieth birthdays and the seventieth anniversary of the ending of the war. A heart-stopping account of how three mothers and their newborns fought to survive the Holocaust, Born Survivors is also a life-affirming celebration of our capacity to care and to love amid inconceivable cruelty.

“An exceptionally fresh history, a work of prodigious original research, written with zealous empathy.” New York Times
"Holden weaves.. written, oral and recorded accounts, plus an array of historical records, into a spellbinding story of perseverance amid systematic abuse." American Jewish World

“One of the most important books of the year.” Last Word Reviews

About the Author:


Wendy Holden was a journalist for eighteen years, including a decade at the Daily Telegraph where she worked as a foreign and war correspondent. She is author and the co-author of more than thirty books, including several bestselling wartime biographies, including Tomorrow to be Brave, Till the Sun Grows Cold, and Behind Enemy Lines. She lives in Suffolk, England with her husband and two dogs and divides her time between the U.K. and the U.S.

Website and blog: Wendy also invites you to follow her on Facebook at the.real.wendyholden, on Twitter @wendholden, at wendholden on Instagram and on Tumblr, Goodreads, and Pinterest.

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

The 2015 Catch Up - Part Three!

Phew, I'm finally getting there with catching up with reviews!  Today I'm sharing my thoughts on two YA novels, Kissing in America by Margo Rabb and Louise O'Neill's Asking For It.

Kissing in America - Margo Rabb

I wanted to love this as the protagonist Eva is a) grieving b) a fan of romance books c) always trying to please other people - basically, she's quite like me or at least, me as a teen. 

However, whilst I thought Kissing in America dealt well with grief and the guises it takes, the road trip element of the story (where Eva and her friend Annie head to LA to take part in a national TV contest) felt too condensed - I'd have liked more about the physical journey as well as the emotional one.

A good read.            

Asking For It - Louise O' Neill
This is an incredibly hard book to review. I don't know where to begin!

Asking For It is the story of Emma. 

Emma is flirty. 

She drinks. 

She experiments with drugs. 

She enjoys sex. 

But when Emma wakes up in pain on her front porch with no idea how she got there or why everything hurts, the partygirl front she portrays no longer seems so appealing.  As events unfold over social media and photographs emerge of a completely out of it Emma with a group of boys, Asking For It becomes more and more difficult to read.

O' Neill faces 'consent' head on, and as more and more cases of rape and sexual assault are hitting the headlines it is a sadly necessary topic in YA fiction.  Hopefully Asking For It will also challenge readers to think about how they judge others on appearance and behaviour - something we all do. Emma is not an easy character to like, it's true.  But there was a painful twisting in my stomach as I read about the awful events both on the night of the party and after.  She wasn't asking to be raped.  By very definition, no one asks to be raped.

It is a difficult, difficult read and I won't be coming back to it.  That said, it's a brutally believable and incredibly powerful story.

Louise O' Neill is quickly making a name for herself as the author who'll tackle the taboos head on.  And YA, and indeed fiction as a whole, needs writers brave enough to do that.

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

The 2015 Catch Up - Part Two!

Last week I blogged about some of the books I'd read in 2015 and not yet reviewed.  Today I'm back for more of the same!  It's certainly taught me a lesson about keeping on top of reviews, that's for sure...

Backlash - Sarah Darer Littman
I read this book in one sitting on a plane journey and was immediately thrown into the worlds of the two pairs of siblings who told the story.  Lara and Syd and their neighbours Liam and Bree have  friends for most of their lives.  Even their parents are friends.  But when Lara starts messaging Christian, a gorgeous boy from a school a few towns away, everything spirals out of control.  At first she's flattered by the attention, but when Christian suddenly turns on her, telling her the world would be a better place without Lara in it, everything changes. This story explores how the behaviour of one family member can impact on others, the power of peer pressure and reminds the reader of the importance of being vigilant online.

This book had an immersive writing style which had me hooked from the off, and although I bought this on a whim, I'm so glad I did.  The four voices gave an insight into the story as a whole which took Backlash to another level, making me as a reader feel almost voyeuristic. 

A gripping YA read.

Favourite character - Liam

Goodbye Stranger - Rebecca Stead
Goodbye Stranger wasn't a book I'd heard of until YA author Keris Stainton posted a photo of its cover in her favourite books of 2015 photo on instagram.
I bought this book blindly, on that recommendation alone, and in doing so stumbled on a book which is difficult to categorise.  It's contemporary, set in New York and has multiple narrators - Bridge, who's life has been impacted by an accident, Sherm who's experiencing feelings of love for the first time and a mysterious high school student struggling with Valentine's Day.  Beyond that it's a lot about feeling and emotion, finding yourself and being who you were born to be.
Whilst I did enjoy Goodbye Stranger and thought it tackled relevant subjects such as sexting, divorce and identity, I'm unsure who the target readership is.  In fact, I noticed it was shelved in both MG and YA when I was in America (personally, I think some of the themes are too mature for many MG readers). 
It's a well written book, but it lacked something for me - I think I'd have preferred the story to have been told through the voices of Bridge and her immediate friendship group rather than the chosen narrators. 
Favourite character - Bridge


I'm going to have to do at least one more of these posts before I get back to normal reviews and start on my 2016 books - this is definitely the down side of going on holiday!!!

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

The 2015 Catch Up - Part One!

Towards the end of 2015 I read quite a few books and didn't have chance to write reviews for them.  I've accepted I'll never catch up with my blog posts if I try and write a full review for each, so I'm doing a catch up post instead!

The Wrong Side of Right -Jenn Marie Thorne

A cute heartfelt romance between Kate, the lovechild of senator Mark Cooper and the president's son. The Wrong Side of Right also had strong moral messages on family, loyalty, immigration and standing up for what you believe in. Kate was a brilliant main character and I was desperate to know how the story would end.  I loved this YA book and am looking forward to more books by this author!                  

Carry On - Rainbow Rowell

Having adored Fangirl and being totally and utterly in love with Baz, I couldn't wait to read this companion book.  For me, it didn't have the same level of magic (no pun intended) as the previous book, and I preferred Cath's fanfic version of Simon and Baz's story to the story in Carry On.  An enjoyable read, and an interesting idea - writing fanfiction about your own fictional characters?  Rainbow Rowell - you're kind of a genius.

The Piano Man Project - Kat French

Kat French hits the perfect balance of humour and romance in The Piano Man Project.  It's also interesting to read a book where the hero bucks convention.  In fact, Hal is moody, cynical, often unlikable, but his flaws (and the story behind them) are what makes this book stand out from the crowd.  Great to see something so refreshingly different in the romance genre.

The Crossroads of Should and Must - Elle Luna

I've been reading a few self-help/inspirational books lately and The Crossroads of Should and Must is definitely the most aesthetically pleasing.  Elle Luna's stunningly simplistic artwork accompanies a message we've all heard before of prioritising what you love and making time to do what makes you happy, but the combination of the two is calming and inspiring.  A gorgeous book to remind you to focus on what is important to YOU.  I bought it on a whim, and I'm so glad I did.

I'll be back later in the week talking about some of the other books I've recently read.

Saturday, 9 January 2016

2016 Reading Goals

We're already nine days into 2016 and Books with Bunny has been a bit neglected lately, truth be told.  Having welcomed the new year on holiday in America, my body's only just getting back to UK time and with a new role in the day job, reading hasn't taken a front seat over the past few weeks.  Add to that the release of four Meet Cute books (published by Harper Impulse) in the run up to Christmas and One Night in Los Angeles (published by Tirgearr) due out January 27th and I've been one busy Bunny!

However, I usually make 'reading resolutions' for the calendar year and 2016 was no different. 

1) Read less
That might sound strange, but I'm finding everything blurs into one when I hurtle from one book to another.  Plots, locations, characters - I just can't retain them half the time.  Authors work bloody hard, as I'm finding out.  Their books deserve to be savoured.  I want to savour what I read.

2) Read more paperback books.
I have a ridiculous amount of paperback books on my shelves waiting to be read.  If I don't start reading them, my house will be too full to be able to buy more!  And that'd be a disaster...

3) Reread more books I've enjoyed.
This won't help with making space on my shelves, but there are some books I kept with the sole aim of rereading, whether that's once, twice or regularly.  I used to be a serial rereader, and there's something truly comforting about going back to a book you've loved.  I want that feeling more in 2016.

4) Build my collection of Sweet Valley books.
Late last year I reread a few Sweet Valley books (I'll be reviewing them soon), and they gave me the aforementioned comforting buzz.  I'm trying to collect the whole lot through charity shop and online purchases - unlikely I'll get that completed in 2016, but I'd like to get a shelf full!  They brought me so much pleasure as a teen, and although they are dated compared to current YA, they hold a special place in my heart.  And that leads me on to my last resolution...

5) To read what I enjoy.
Over new year I reflected on how my reading habits have changed since starting this blog.  I get sent a lot of books to review (which is wonderful, and I'm very grateful and honoured that publishers and authors like my reviews enough to want me to write one for their book). 

Generally, I try and only accept books that I know I'll read and enjoy.  But there have been many times where I've been sent books unsolicited that fall outside the genres I'd normally read, and to be polite and openminded I read them.  Sometimes I'll review them, sometimes not.  But my book pile is getting bigger and bigger year on year, and it's currently unmanageable. 

In 2016 I'll be accepting less books for review.  This is to allow me to read the books I already have and am desperate to read (both review copies and bought).

Here's to a happy year of reading for us all in 2016!