Thursday, 7 July 2016

Second Chance Summer | Book Review

Second Chance Summer, by Morgan Matson
Published: May 2012, by Simon and Schuster
Length: 480 pages
Genre: YA, Contemporary

My Rating: 5 Stars!

Now that it's officially summer, and the weather in Britain is, well, a little less damp than winter, I thought a summery romance was in order! And it was very much appreciated to warm up the miserable summer we've currently been having!!
Taylor Edwards' family isn't the most close-knit family to say the least. With everyone busy with their own schedules, there is little time left to spend as a family, but when Taylor's dad gets some devastating news from which he may not recover, the family decide to spend their last summer together in their old lake-house, where they used to share happy memories. However, it's not just family-time they end up with from their getaway, as the old-lake house uncovers and disrupts memories of love and friendship that had long been avoided, and Taylor is forced to recognise what she once left behind at the Lake House.
But with the progression of the summer, the Edwards family become both more of a family, and even more aware of the ticking clock amongst them.

I read Morgan Matson's Since You've Been Gone last summer, and I actually wasn't as impressed as I had hoped to be; I didn't think it quite lived up to the hype surrounding it. This made me a little reluctant to go into Second Chance Summer as I didn't really want it to do the same.
Ahh but I was wrong!
I absolutely loved every single page of this book. I couldn't have been more impressed and surprised, as despite my initially low expectations, I grew to love each and every one of the characters.

The 'back-stories' revealed in Second Chance Summer were touching and heart-breaking in the best ways possible. Finding out about Taylor's life before the 'present-day' was really interesting and I loved finding out how much she had changed since then. I completely adore books that show a great deal of character development, but these are generally spread over a longer series, so it was enlightening to discover a standalone novel with as much character development as some series. It was really heart-warming!
I also loved the character development in the other characters, such as Henry and Lucy, since everyone really came a long way from how they acted at the start of the novel, which was touching to see.
I especially loved reading about Taylor's brother, Warren, and his difficulties and awkwardness with his girlfriend - he was hilarious!

There has actually been quite a bit of criticism around Matson's books saying that her characters are "boringly ordinary" and "unimaginative", but if I'm completely honest, that's why I love them. I'll admit, I adore reading about fierce, strong-willed, adventurous characters in novels as it inspires me to have their traits, however, I enjoy reading about "ordinary" characters in books as it shows the reader that they don't have to be supernatural to be the hero or heroine of their own story. All of Matson's characters do have their quirks and flaws, but so does everybody and this is why they're all so relatable. You can't help but relate yourself to those characters and put yourself in their positions, which is why they are just so lovable.

Despite me giving Second Chance Summer a full 5 stars, that does not mean that I thought it was completely perfect. For me, this book wasn't flawed in many ways at all, but one thing that I did notice, which I had also noticed while reading Since You've Been Gone, was the character descriptions, or lack of thereof. Of course, there were character descriptions in there, but I didn't really notice many of them, which made it quite difficult for me to visualise each character. I feel that the character descriptions were only at the start of the novel, but these were not reinforced throughout the novel. So, while the mental states of the characters were described really well, I thought there was a slight lack of the physical descriptions.

However, I do feel that this was the only issue I had with Second Chance Summer. I absolutely loved Matson's style of writing throughout the course of the novel. It made for quite an easy and really enjoyable read, which I loved! There were a few surprises and twists and turns in the plot of the novel, some of which I found to be a little predictable, but I loved the direction this book took; it was a really rewarding read and gave off so many cute and summery vibes! 

Second Chance Summer surprised me in many, many ways, but the most surprising aspect to me was how sad it was. When I went into this book, I was expecting a cute, summer romancey book that would make me happy for the time I was reading it but that wouldn't particularly leave a lasting impression on me. I was not expecting to be sobbing my heart out as quietly as possible in the middle of the night.
Hundreds have books have made me cry - it doesn't really take much to get the tears flowing - but there aren't all that many books that have had me properly sobbing, and by sobbing, I mean the disgusting type where there are millions of tears and your nose starts running and you're hiccoughing and you can't breathe or even tell the difference between your tears and your, erm, 'nose fluids'. But that was the reaction I had to Second Chance Summer! It was not my most glamorous moment, I must say!
I would honestly be amazed if anyone was able to read this book and not cry. If you have read this book and did not cry, I can only assume that you are a robot!!
So if you haven't yet read this book and are thinking about giving it a go, I do warn you, be prepared for many emotions!!

Second Chance Summer was a novel that left me satisfied in so many ways.
I loved the progression of the story and how it evolved from cute and summery to deep, meaningful and moving. I loved each and every one of the characters and how they helped the story itself to progress, and I loved how realistic and relatable everything was.

It was just a lovely, refreshing novel and I would highly recommend it! In terms of suitability, Second Chance Summer would probably be an appropriate read for anyone over the age of 13, since it is a young adult novel, but still does deal with some more mature themes that require a slightly older audience. Nevertheless, I think pretty much everybody would be able to read this book and relate or be able to take something away from it, so I don't think the Young Adult genre should prevent it from being enjoyed by an older audience too.

As for me, Second Chance Summer restored my faith in both original and heart-warming romances, and Morgan Matson's story-telling! After this book, I went on to read and adore Matson's new book, The Unexpected Everything, and I can say that I will definitely be reading any future books that are published. I also think I need to read Matson's debut novel, Amy and Roger's Epic Detour, as if it's anything similar to Second Chance Summer I'm sure that I will love it!

I hope you have enjoyed this review and I will be back with another one soon!

Have you read Second Chance Summer? I'd love to know your thoughts on it!

Charlotte xxx

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Wednesday, 6 July 2016

The Hidden Oracle | Book Review

The Hidden Oracle (The Trials of Apollo #1), by Rick Riordan
Published: May 2016, by Puffin
Length: 374 pages
Genre: Middle-Grade, Fantasy, Mythology

My Rating: 4 Stars

It's been a while since Riordan published a book in the Percy Jackson universe. Well - by a 'while', I mean a year and a half, but that was long enough!

I would like to start out by saying that I am a HUGE fan of Percy Jackson. I was a little late on jumping on the Percy-Band waggon, only picking up the series in 2012, but once I began, I was completely hooked.
Then, along came The Heroes of Olympus, which I didn't love quite as much as Percy Jackson, but still filled the Percy-shaped hole in my heart that had been there since The Last Olympian. You can actually read my review for The Heroes of Olympus by clicking the link here!!

When I heard that Rick Riordan was bringing out a new series with the same characters from Percy Jackson and The Heroes of Olympus, I was excited to say the least! I was sooooo looking forward to hearing from Percy and Annabeth and everybody else. I loved Apollo from the other series, so I was immensely excited to be able to read more about him; he was such a fun character!
But when The Trials of Apollo was actually released back in May, I'd kind-of-accidentally forgotten about it... Oops. Needless to say, I was so surprised to see it in a shop in June, having not realised it had been released! So, obviously, I had to buy it!!

The Hidden Oracle picks up a short time after The Blood of Olympus left off:

After angering his father, Zeus, Apollo is punished by being sent to Earth to live life as a mortal. After falling from the skies and landing in a pile of garbage in the middle of New York City, in the form of a weak, acne-covered teenage boy. Apollo must learn how to survive without his godly powers and find refuge in the only place he knows - Camp Half-Blood.
If Apollo intends on surviving as a mortal, he must embrace the help of his children and other demi-gods in order to fight the monsters and other gods who have sworn to wipe out Apollo at the earliest opportunity...

I went into this book quite optimistic and excited...
I came out of it in two minds...

On one hand, The Hidden Oracle was hilarious book with scenes that had me chuckling to myself thanks to the vibrant characters and gripping storyline.
On the other hand, I just feel like Riordan is selling himself out a little.

But let's not get onto that quite yet...

The Hidden Oracle was in no way a bad book. I really enjoyed it.
I love all of Rick Riordan's characters and Apollo was no exception. Okay, he was a bit of an idiot, but that's also why he was so likable. He was so self-righteous and unaware of everybody else that his narration was just funny, mainly down to his stupidity. But at the end of the day, he still had some good traits, which made him quite well-rounded overall. I found his narration fun and quirky to read.

I loved the newer characters we were introduced to, like Meg, who also happened to be a well-rounded and, might I say, surprising character.
Possibly my favourite thing about this book, though, was the fact that Percy was in it. I loved hearing from the older characters, like Chiron, Nico, Rachel, and everyone else from Camp Half-Blood. It was so lovely to have familiar characters in, so I didn't have to struggle to get to know everybody and have to learn names and back-stories.

The writing in The Hidden Oracle is standard Riordan. And by that I mean practically flawless. It was easy to read (which I do actually appreciate sometimes in a book!), it was gripping and entertaining, and it was utterly hilarious, as always.

So in that respect, The Hidden Oracle was a fabulous book and everyone should read it. And if that was all I was judging the book on, that it what I would say and I would leave it at that. However that is not quite the case...

My main issue with the novel was its story. I honestly just didn't find it all that entertaining.
I wouldn't particularly say that the storyline was anything special or original, and honestly, it's not dissimilar to Riordan's other books in the respect of a recurring storyline.
Yes, there were some twists and turns in this book that were not in any of the others, but I don't think it particularly had a different feeling to it in comparison to all of Riordan's others.

In a similar way to this, I was quite frustrated over the 'fit' of this novel in terms of other Rick Riordan books. To me, it seemed that it was written so that if you hadn't already read all of the books with the Greek and Roman gods in, they would be spoiled from this book, and you couldn't enjoy The Hidden Oracle without already reading the rest of the books due to lack of knowledge.
I am fully aware of the fact that other authors do this too and it is not only Riordan, but I do feel that this way takes advantage of the reader a little bit.

Also, I felt that I couldn't fully enjoy and appreciate this book simply because of the fact that it just seemed to be setting up the story line for the rest of the series - and of course this was going to be a series.
The Trials of Apollo is set out to be a series of 5 books, the same as Percy Jackson and the Olympians, and The Heroes of Olympus. But I'm honestly not sure whether or not this is necessary... I've just felt that, to say how much of an amazing writer Rick Riordan is, he's starting to sell himself out a little.

That doesn't mean to say I'm not going to read the rest of his books. As long as he keeps up his great writing, he will keep me as an avid reader. But will I read his books as soon as physically possible and fangirl for hours over them? Probably not, no. Which is sad, because I would love to be as excited towards this series as I was for the previous ones.
I suppose we'll just have to wait and see what the next book brings!

Despite what may seem like quite a negative review, I honestly still did enjoy The Hidden Oracle immensely and I still have high hopes for the rest of the series. I gave The Hidden Oracle 4 out of 5 stars because I loved the characters and storytelling, but I did think that it lacked a little in terms of originality.
I probably have to recommend this book only to people who have read both the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series and The Heroes of Olympus series, as if you have not yet read those books, The Trials of Apollo will spoil them.
Rick Riordan books are classed as 'Middle-Grade', so are 'intended' for children around the ages of 9 to 12, but I honestly feel that anyone could read them and still enjoy them, no matter how old they are. I feel like Rick Riordan books are a lot like Harry Potter in terms of audience appeal; no matter what the age of the reader, everyone can enjoy them!

That's all for this review but I hope to be back for more very soon!

Have you read The Hidden Oracle? I'd love to know what you thought about it!

Charlotte xxx

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