Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Wanderlust Wednesday Review: Upside Down by Lia Riley

Wanderlust Wednesday combines my love of books with my love of/desire to travel. I've had a wicked case of wanderlust lately, and I've been reading a lot of travel books, so I thought a new blog feature that combines travel and books would be fun! This is going to be a weekly feature; if anyone would like to join in, let me know and I'll set up a Linky so we can visit each other's posts.

Week 1 we visited Paris, week 2 we visited Rome, and this week we're visiting Australia. I'm doing something a little different this week because instead of just talking about a book and its setting, I'm posting an actual review. But, in keeping with the 'wanderlust' theme, I want to tell you about how I 'met' Lia Riley, and how something she said stirred up my wanderlust (as if it weren't bad enough!).  

A few weeks ago, Chanel Cleeton had a Facebook party for the release of her novel London Falling. Lia was one of the hosts, and she asked about the craziest/most exciting trip you took in your early twenties. My answer was that I'd gone on a cross-country trip with a girl I met online and had only known for nine months (and hadn't actually met in person until she showed up on my doorstep after a 13-hour drive). People thought I was insane, but I didn't really think anything of it at the time, and it was one of the most epic trips I've ever taken. Lia replied and said that was the time to take trips like that, before you got tied down with big responsibilities, a family, etc. And I thought...I'm 30 and still don't have those big responsibilities yet. No husband, no kids, no house, plus I'm self-employed and can take time off whenever. I've been wanting to travel for years, but one thing or another has always stopped me. Lia's comment felt like a sign, though.

I talked more about this in another blog post, but long story short, that comment of Lia's inspired me to ask my childhood best friend if she'd like to travel with me next year. Neither of us can afford it this year, and we're not exactly sure we can afford it next year, but we're going to try our hardest to find a way, and I feel like this might FINALLY happen. I've been waiting so long. So, thank you Lia!


Upside Down by Lia Riley 
Series: Off the Map #1
Published: August 5th, 2014
Publisher: Grand Central/Forever
384 pages (eARC)
Genre: Contemporary New Adult/Romance
Acquired this book: From the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review
Warning: May contain spoilers
{GoodReads || Buy this book: Amazon || Kobo}

If You Never Get Lost, You’ll Never Be Found

Twenty-one-year-old Natalia Stolfi is saying good-bye to the past-and turning her life upside down with a trip to the land down under. For the next six months, she'll act like a carefree exchange student, not a girl sinking under the weight of painful memories. Everything is going according to plan until she meets a brooding surfer with hypnotic green eyes and the troubling ability to see straight through her act.

Bran Lockhart is having the worst year on record. After the girl of his dreams turned into a nightmare, he moved back home to Melbourne to piece his life together. Yet no amount of disappointment could blind him to the pretty California girl who gets past all his defenses. He's never wanted anyone the way he wants Talia. But when Bran gets a stark reminder of why he stopped believing in love, he and Talia must decide if what they have is once in a lifetime . . . or if they were meant to live a world apart.

I’d just like to preface this review by saying it’s no secret I love New Adult. I love to read it and I love to write it, and it makes me sad to see so many people putting it down (although thankfully this is happening less and less). I read two amazing NAs in a row (first Noelle August’s Boomerang, and then Upside Down), and I feel like I’m going to be holding every other NA book up to the standard of these two books from now on. Not comparing, but I feel like these books have set a new standard for what this category needs, and what could possibly help more people take it seriously as a category. The world needs books like this, with realistically flawed people finding their footing, finding their path, finding love, finding themselves.

Okay, now my actual review… ;-)

From the moment I saw the gorgeous cover for Upside Down, I was intrigued. When I read the synopsis, I knew I had to read the book. I love ‘destination’ books and I haven’t read many books set in Australia.

There are so many things to love about Upside Down, but I’ll start with Talia. She’d dealt with so much, and yet she managed to stay strong (even though she’d probably argue with that), and hold onto her humour. She was struggling with OCD, grief, guilt, and so much more. I loved how neurotic she was. I don’t have OCD, but I’m definitely obsessive and deal with anxiety, so I related to a lot of the things she thought, said, and did. A lot of the time her inner dialogue felt like it was coming from my own head, and I loved that feeling of connection and understanding. Her family alternately broke my heart and made me ragey. Her mom was a real piece of work and needed a serious reality check. Both her parents had their own not-so-healthy ways of dealing with grief, and Talia was left on her own. They were so wrapped up in themselves, they didn’t notice how much she was suffering, and my heart broke for her because of that.

Bran wasn’t your typical leading man. I loved that he didn’t make apologies for who he was. He was a bastard and he knew it. He didn’t sugarcoat things, he didn’t say pretty words for the sake of it. He was a conundrum - could be the world’s biggest jerk, but he liked to cuddle. Sexy as hell, but also vulnerable. I wasn’t sure I was going to like him, and while there were a few times I wanted to throat-punch him, I ended up loving him.

I appreciated that Talia and Bran’s relationship happened slowly. From their first snark-tastic encounter to their tentative friendship to the OMG SO HOT sexytimes to them trying so hard to let their walls down and let each other in. It was push-and-pull from beginning to end, a mostly slow burn with bright flashes of what their relationship could be if they’d just let it happen. I loved it. I also appreciated that Talia didn’t turn into a vapid airhead when Bran was around. I’m so tired of seemingly strong heroines turning into spineless jellyfish the minute a hot guy looks shows interest.

Holy mother of GAAAAAAH, Lia Riley can write sexytimes like nobody’s business. Seriously. I almost needed a cold shower or six. And not only were they incredibly sexy, they were realistic and honest, which was so refreshing. I’ve read so many sex scenes that either made me cringe or shake my head, but these were perfect. There were several sexytime scenes, but they weren’t gratuitous; they had a purpose and they fit with the story, which made me enjoy them even more.

Lia Riley has a really unique writing style. I can’t quite pinpoint what’s so different about it or why exactly it stood out so much, but I noticed it from the beginning. It was simple but beautiful, and it definitely helped with connecting to the book and the characters. 

Upside Down is everything New Adult should be. It has romance, humour, genuine emotion, and characters that are well developed and realistic, all wrapped up in a beautiful, vivid setting. Australia came alive for me as much as Talia and Bran did. I’m eager to find out what happens with these two next in Sideswiped


Have you read Upside Down? Have you ever been to Australia? Have you read any other books set in Australia that are must reads?

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