Wednesday, November 22, 2017

[Review] Everything Beautiful by Simmone Howell

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Publication28/10/2008
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Pages: 288
Source: Swapped?
Genre: YA {Contemporary}

Violence | Sexual Content | Profanity

Book Tunes
♪ x ♪

My Rating
4/5 stars
My thoughts

{AU}
I'm not sure if there was any particular reason why I finally decided to pick this book up, I think I just came to the conclusion that it was time. I didn't know too much about Everything Beautiful other than that it was an Aussie YA book set in a religious summer camp, and therefore would be a good summer read.

Sixteen-year-old Riley Rose is out of control, getting into all sorts of trouble with her best friend and best worst influence, Chloe. Her dad's girlfriend, Norma, suggests that she attends a spiritual Christian camp. Forced against her will and doomed to miss meeting her crush Ben at an upcoming party, Riley is desperate to escape. But much to her surprise, amongst all the suckage she may actually  find something worth believing in, and it isn't God.

I loved Riley, I love how in under 300 pages Howell manages to peel back layer after layer of her character and I liked seeing every different side to her. So she lost her mum to cancer, is overweight but "loud and proud", gets constantly bullied and reprimanded for who she is, and will basically tumble (as in, have sex with) any guy who shows an interest in her. I loved her vulnerabilities, she shows this tough exterior but inside you can see that she just wants to be accepted. I loved her bold and fearless she could be; the crazy stuff that she gets up to and without even seeming to think of the consequences is pretty admirable! I do wish that there had been more of a focus on grieving her mum's death, though.

There is a myriad of colourful characters that Riley meets at Spirit Camp. I found Dylan to be profoundly interesting, I thought the exploration of his accident and its aftermath to be sensitively and authentically approached; more so, I relished his interactions with Riley, they worked together so well! Bird - yes, that's a boy's name - was cute. I liked Sarita's (Riley's cabin-mate) transformation and minute rebellions, her friendship with Riley was so sweet and lovely I was left feeling warm at times. Even some of the Camp's staff members and authority figures had some level of quirkiness to them.

The narrative is sectioned off into Days. The 'intro' begins on Day Five, but then we are transported to the beginning so we see everything that happens during Riley's stay at Spirit Camp. I liked the writing style, Riley's frank tone, expression and thoughts. I found it easy to become absorbed into the narrative, I cared about what happened to Riley and whether she was going to be able to escape the camp.

There is a bit of sexual content - nothing explicitly written, but the act of it is implied. I think Howell explored sexuality in a way that is realistic for teenage readers to relate to. There is even a gay couple and while it is slightly made taboo and this big deal by Riley, the rest of the campers don't seem to care too much about it at all.

Everything Beautiful was an engaging and quick summer read, laden with surprising hidden depths. Riley is a superbly written protagonist, refreshing in her boldness and sharp wit. I enjoyed reading about the many misadventures and mischief that occurs during Riley's time at Spirit Camp, and seeing the character development as her world and mindset changes was satisfying. Certainly a worthwhile read!


Quotes

Favourites:
"Fleur suddenly asked, 'How much do you weigh?'
... Mum used to say that anyone who used your appearance as ammo was the worst kind of bully - weak and unimaginative. She would have had Fleur pegged. 'If that's the best she can do, then you've already won.''I need air,' I decided. 'Please - don't go through my things. Certain items may offend.' I stood up and flung my bag over my shoulder, and gave Fleur a hard stare. 'And FYI, I weigh eighty-two kilos and I don't give a fuck.' (27)
Buy

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I have received this review copy in return for an honest review.




Monday, November 13, 2017

[Review] When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

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Publication30/05/2017
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Pages: 380
Source: Bought
Genre: YA {Contemporary}

Violence | Sexual Content | Profanity


My Rating
5/5 stars
My thoughts

2017 has been a glorious melting pot of POC (People of Colour) and #ownvoices YA releases and I am so okay with that! One of the more iconic books of the year is When Dimple Met Rishi - it seemed as though everyone and their cats were reading it! And I knew I would adore it too, but I'll admit I felt reluctant to delve into it at first: after all, you can only ever experience a book for the first time once. It took me HALF A YEAR to finally pick this one up. Insanity! I don't think I could have loved When Dimple Met Rishi any more than I did! This one is definitely a keeper!

First, can I just talk about the book cover? The front is nice enough, I like the general composition of it: the title placement really does it for me. But the back? The back is absolute perfection! One look. That's all it took for me to know for sure that I knew I wanted the hardcover of this book, and not the paperback. Because it is just about the best thing ever! I still to this day fantasise about throwing my drink at a guy, which might be a weird and slightly twisted fantasy to have, but yeah. And this image just fills me with pure glee! Haha! Let's move on, shall we?

When Dimple Met Rishi is what the title implies: an Indian-teenage twist on the classic hit romantic-comedy film When Harry Met Sally (I'm not sure if there are many similarities, never watched that movie). Written in third person dual-perspective. Dimple is pretty plain, preferring instead to use her brain. Coding is her passion, and despite her mother's protests, she would much rather follow her dream career in Jenny Lindt's footsteps than be matched up with her I.I.H. (Ideal Indian Husband). So imagine her surprise when her parents allow her to enrol for Insomnia Con, a summer program for programmers in San Francisco! And there she meets Rishi . . . 

I adored Dimple and Rishi in all their nerdiness, it was so enjoyable to read their interactions with one another and see how they grow and change throughout the story. The characters are in this just-after-high-school period, which is perhaps my sweet spot for YA, and I don't think there is nearly enough of it out there. Menon perfectly captures those feelings of restlessness and uncertainty that arises after high school. All the characters in this book, particularly our Dimple and Rishi, struggle with choosing their own paths. I'm sure many readers will be able to relate to their experiences here, as I certainly did. I'm glad that not only did Dimple and Rishi have passions, but Menon made me believe in their passionsShe has written her characters with so much realism I would not be surprised if she had actually heavily based them on people she had known.

What made When Dimple Met Rishi a shining success for me was the balance of cuteness, memorable/funny moments, attraction, chemistry and clever dialogue during the progression of their relationship. But not only that: I found myself enjoying and caring for the secondary characters as well! I adored Rishi's little brother, Ashish, and I just wanted to be friends with Celia, Dimple's more adventurous and outspoken room mate! I also appreciated the strong undercurrent parental presence for the narrative.

Yay for POC/#ownvoices stories! It all just worked for me. I normally favour stories written in first person perspective, but in this case I think the third person writing style helped to add more perspective and a different feel to it. And this book was beautiful! So many gorgeous passages and expressive, descriptive writing. Menon has quickly become a must-read author for me in the future and I will be anxiously awaiting the release of When Ashish Met Sweetie (a companion novel following Ashish)!

Quotes

First lines:
"Dimple couldn't stop smiling. It was like two invisible puppeteers, standing stage left and stage right, were yanking on strings to lift up the corners of her mouth.
Favourites:
"Dimple groaned and clutched her head, feeling like that ancient pressure cooker Mamma still used when she made idli cakes. She was sure there was an actual chance she would explode. There was no way she and Mamma were related: they may as well have been two entirely different species. 'Seriously? That's what you think I should be relegating my brain space to? Looking nice? Like, if I don't make the effort to look beautiful, my entire existence is nullified? Nothing else matters - not my intellect, not my personality or my accomplishments; my hopes and dreams mean nothing if I'm not wearing eyeliner?' (6)
"He was different from what she'd expected. Rich but not showy about it. Goofy and easygoing, but with a backbone. Utterly sure of himself in a really comfortable way. There was something about people who were that secure; they made you feel better about yourself, like they accepted you for everything you were, imperfections and all. (121)
"'I don't know how I can explain it . . . it's just this need inside me. I guess I just feel it stronger than most people our age. I feel like I need to speak out, because if no one speaks out, if no one says, This is me, this is what I believe in, and this is why I'm different, and this is why that's okay, then what's the point? What's the point of living in this beautiful, great melting pot where everyone can dare to be anything they want to be?' (143)
"He became someone else, stripped down, unself-conscious, unaware. She'd seen what his soul was made of. And she'd liked it. (167)
"She looked . . . peaceful there, the sunset making her black hair grow with red, like she was holding lava inside her instead of blood. Rishi smiled to himself. The fire she had, that passion? Yeah, he could definitely see her being born with lava in her veins. (216) 
"He leaned in and kissed her temple. 'Tujme rab dikhta hai,' he whispered, an over-the-top line from the movie their song came from. It meant I see God in you. He watched her smile and roll her eyes. And then he said, 'I love you.' (308) 
Buy

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I have received this review copy in return for an honest review.





Friday, November 10, 2017

[Review] Want to Go Private? by Sarah Darer Littman

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Publication01/08/2011
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Pages: 330
Source: Borrowed
Genre: YA {Contemporary}

Violence | Sexual Content | Profanity

Book Tunes

My Rating
4.5/5 stars
My thoughts

The world is not a safe place. Books like this are vitally important to help prevent minors from falling victim to sexual predators from the Internet. I know what it's like, I used to prowl online chatrooms, Habbo Hotel and the like as a high school student, and trust me, there was an abundance of creeps out there. Luckily I never did come across any creeps who had the opportunity to exploit me in person in my naivete, but I suppose I know more than anyone else just how easy it might be, how real and scary this issue is. We NEED books like Want to Go Private? in the world. We need these books to be shared and discussed.

Want to Go Private? follows 14-year-old Abby, a slightly shy and studious girl who is nervous about starting her first day at high school. Over the summer holidays, she and her best friend Faith, while on their favourite online social media/chat room platform, one where you create your own avatar and explore a world (sort of like Habbo Hotel), they meet some guy who shares the same musical taste as Abby, her "musical soulie". What starts off with a WTGP? (Want to Go Private) catapults Abby into a dizzying spiral of LukeWorld, in which she gets wrapped up in the sweet guy who listens to her, calls her beautiful and sexy and understands her like no one else. Her grades start slipping, her best friend is too busy with her new boyfriend and drama club, and she starts to blow off her cute science lab partner after one date. And then after her parents ground her for getting a D on a maths test - her best subject - she gets a chance to run away from home with (and finally meet) her boyfriend Luke who loves her, which is a dream come true! Right?

This book was just so scary and upsetting. It chills me to think it's been 10 years since I was 14, but I still remember how I was like back then. I actually met my first boyfriend on the Internet, a fan message board, at 13/14, and he was 25, and luckily I played it safe because we first met up with a group of fellow fans of the musician. But reading this made me think of how things could have turned out, and that thought chills me to the bone.

I appreciated the way Littman tells this story, through multiple perspectives so we get to see how this event affects her family and friends, too. It definitely makes the underlying message much stronger. The way her family breaks down and is slowly built up again moved me to tears!

I empathised with Abby, and I think what helped was that I was able to see a little of myself in her, particularly my awkward high school self. I was anxious to know what was going to happen to her, and I inwardly pleaded with her not to meet up with Luke. In general I quite liked all of the characters and somehow didn't mind if we didn't get to know everything about them - in this kind of book I don't think it's necessary to know everyone's backstories and the like. I adored Faith, she is an awesome best friend. And Billy, who is just the sweetest ever, though I'm not sure how many high school boys there are like him out there in the world.

The writing is crisp and easy to breeze through, despite the troubling and unsettling subject matter. 
I did not enjoy this book, nor is this the kind of book that can be enjoyed. The immensely important underlying message marks Want to Go Private? as a highly recommended read for young adults, especially those who think "This could never be me". I'm sure that many victims out there thought the exact same thing, it's not like they woke up one day and decided to meet up with a sex offender. A real eye-opener. Will definitely pick up more from this author in the future.

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I have received this review copy in return for an honest review.




Monday, November 6, 2017

[Review] My Favourite Manson Girl by Alison Umminger

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Publication07/06/2016
Publisher: Atom
Pages: 304
Source: Giveaway
Genre: YA {Contemporary}

Violence | Sexual Content | Profanity


My Rating
3.5/5 stars
My thoughts


Original (Flatiron)

I actually didn't know what I was getting into when I won this book in a giveaway (thank you @DateaBook!). A bit of time had passed and I figured that it was finally time that I should read it. All that I knew was that it should be a pretty good summer read, the cover is so aesthetically pleasing. :) My favourite is definitely the hipster-y photograph one shown above.

My Favourite Manson Girl follows 15-year-old Anna who 'borrows' some money from her new step-mother Lynette's wallet to buy the next plane ticket to LA. As she learns to navigate the enormous consequences of her decision to run away, she meets some of the people who revolve around her sister Delia's life as she tries to grasp fame. Like Delia's ex-boyfriend, Roger, who hires her to research the disturbing lives of the Manson girls to help imbue his latest flick with realism . . . 



UK Cover
This book surprised me, and I truly did like it, but it just missed the mark for me. I found this book profoundly interesting, and as the novel progressed I did start to feel a bit more of a connection to the main character, but there was still this emotional disconnect for me. I enjoyed the setting of LA, and I enjoyed following the development of her tremulous relationship with her sister. I would actually have loved to have delved more into Delia's life, her perspective, what she thought and felt, because I thought she was just so interesting and I just knew there was way more there, just waiting to be explored further. But maybe the fact that we don't really get insight into her true self is the point of it all - we are seeing everything through Anna's eyes - and I totally related to this sisterly relationship.



There is a bit of romance too! I liked the love interest from the start, but we didn't really get to know much about him? I liked the inherent goodness in him that we see, and he just seemed good for her. It was a slow burn, and it was sweet and cute and innocent and I liked that it never felt too intense. I would like to think that after the last page, in the future Anna would come back to LA in the future to pick up where she left off. :)

I did really enjoy My Favourite Manson Girl. I loved the focus of the narrative, I just kind of wish it was explored further and went a bit deeper than it did. There were gritty snippets, and I really liked reading about the Manson cases, however unnerving they were. This book really flew by, the pages just seemed to go by so quickly - and before I knew it, the story was over. I actually wouldn't mind a sequel, if only just so I could feel more of a sense of... resolution? I don't know, I just wanted more, but this book had all the makings of something really good. This is one of those cases where I liked it, and it had all the foundations there, but I couldn't quite love it.



Quotes

First lines:
"My first Manson girl was Leslie Van Houten, the homecoming princess with the movie-star smile. She was on death row at nineteen for putting a knife into the already-dead body of some poor, random woman for the lamest reason that anyone gives for doing anything: all the other kids were doing it.
Favourites:
"The feeling was terrible, the kind I used to get at the end of summer camp, like I was losing the thing I was experiencing even while I was still in it, like life was beautiful and there and passing me by. I knew then that I was going to cry, and I didn't want to do it in front of Jeremy. I didn't want him to think that it was about his sister, and I didn't know how to explain what I was really feeling (257)
"Part of me was sad, the kind of sad you get at the end of a really beautiful and tragic book. Gatsby sad. My evening with Jeremy was one night and it was messy and perfect, and it was probably best just to leave it alone, to accept that anything that freakishly awesome should probably just be sealed in the amber of memory and left undisturbed. That was poor Jay Gatsby's mistake--he had one great night with Daisy and tried to turn it into a whole lifetime. Then again, how could he not? (282)
Buy

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I have received this review copy in return for an honest review.





Wednesday, November 1, 2017

[Review] Past Perfect by Leila Sales

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Publication04/10/2011
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Pages: 336
Source: Bought
Genre: YA {Contemporary}

Violence | Sexual Content | Profanity

Book Tunes

My Rating
4/5 stars
My thoughts

After having read two tiresome/dreary/heavy literary/classic novels, I was so in the mood for a cute, swoony summer read! As I scanned my bookshelves, my eyes fell on Past Perfect, which I think first hit my radar when Nomes (inkcrush) raved about it in full, and I thought, Yes, it's finally time to lay this bad boy out! And it was everything, absolutely everything! 

This book was so cute! I thoroughly enjoyed reading about Chelsea and her summer at Essex. I've never been to a reenactment historical village before so it was fascinating to read a book set in one.

I liked Chelsea and could relate to her difficulty in moving on with the past. I liked her friendship with Fiona. Reading about her family and life growing up was engaging and fun. And the whole whole war thing that went on with Essex and Reenactment Land, and especially with Dan... all of it was just the best escape away from reality, it was sort of like I had gone on vacation myself! 

Past Perfect was adorable, swoony, fun and the absolute best to kick me into gear for summer. Highly recommended for a quick and enjoyable read. :)

**(Sorry for the short review, I don't have too much to say about this one. I really did enjoy it though! Read Nomes' review for a more thorough scoop!)


Quotes

Favourites:
"Dan looked furious. 'No, when I ask you what you're thinking, it's because I want to know what you're thinking.'
And with that sentence, I loved him. I sat on the ground, bruised and muddy and spat-upon and I just loved him. In a weird way, that was one of the nicest things that anyone had ever said to me. (295)
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I have received this review copy in return for an honest review.




Wednesday, October 18, 2017

[Review + Giveaway] Untidy Towns by Kate O'Donnell

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Publication: 02/10/2017
Publisher: UQP
Pages: 312
Source: Publisher for review
Genre: YA {Contemporary}

Violence | Sexual Content | Profanity

Book Tunes
My Rating
3/5 stars
My thoughts

Well that took way longer than expected. To be fair, I've been doing lots of tidying and assessments for my post-graduate certificate so I haven't been prioritising reading as much lately. But. This book was S.L.O.W. I was expecting some grand adventure or scheme, something, ANYTHING to happen, but it never really came and I can't help but feel a wee bit disappointed by it all.

Thank you, thank you, thank you to UQP and Sally for kindly sending me a copy of this book for review! Included with the book was a postcard - with a lovely message from Sally and a great quote from the book - and the book was WRAPPED UP IN NEWSPAPER! Not just any newspaper, it's made to look like an old newspaper from Emyvale, a small town in Victoria, Australia in which this book is set. My excitement levels were through-the-roof crazy high. I adored that cover SO much, it is gorgeous. The problem is that there aren't really that many bike adventures as I was expecting. Darn it, book cover deception! (Like that's ever happened before... *eye roll*)


Wednesday, October 4, 2017

[Review] Take Three Girls by Cath Crowley, Simmone Howell and Fiona Wood ♥

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Publication29/08/2017
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Pages: 439
Source: Bought
Genre: YA {Contemporary}

Violence | Sexual Content | Profanity

My Rating
5/5 stars
My thoughts

Note: Sorry for the short review! I really don't have much to say, even though I loved it to bits. :) Read it for yourself!

I don't think I've had a 5 star read in a while, but this one deserved it without a doubt. Take Three Girls is brutally honest, bold and navigates a plethora of extremely important and relevant issues that teenagers face today: online (and offline) bullying, peer pressure, struggling families, toxic friends, love and heartbreak, sexuality ... just to name a few. This book was absolutely everything I could have asked for! I was just so hooked! My fragile little Feminist inner self was jumping up and down with glee by the end of it. :)

Take Three Girls is written in the perspectives of three girls at a prestigious all-girls private school in Melbourne: Clem, the sporty twin, the swimming prodigy; Kate, the quiet and studious cellist with hidden dreams; and Ady, the 'It' girl, who might not have it all together as she would have others believe. I adored them so much! And I love the randomness of their coming together and eventual friendship!

Wellness class came about as a way to combat the level of bullying that occurs in private schools, particularly the toxic PSST website which is a disturbing hot spot of misogyny and hate posts. I'll admit that when I read the PSST posts that were sprinkled throughout the book, I felt angry and frustrated. Why do some people have to be so mean? I'm glad that these posts were included though - cruel as they were, they helped to really drive home the troubling nature of online bullying, the anonymity of it all. I was waving my arms in anticipation when the girls pledged to take PSST down - they may only be words, but words (and rumours) can be the most harmful.

I loved that the authors did not hold back. At all. Like, even a little bit. There was a bit of everything in it. Now, I'm starting to get to that age where I stay away from books that have a heavy focus on high school life, but this book was just brilliant, I don't even know what to say!

Quotes

Favourites:
"'I would like, very much, to kiss you,' I say, imitating Oliver's formal tone.
Oliver is, as always, really good at what he sets his mind to. Later, I will remember this as my first real kiss, with someone I respect, like, need. I will remember Bowie playing in the background as Oliver's hands find their way. I will remember falling asleep, records spinning. (283)
"When I told Ady ... she didn't say, 'I told you so.' She just hugged me and told me about this thing the Japanese do: if they break a pot or a cup they don't try to make it perfect, instead they fill the cracks with gold-dusted lacquer. She said, 'They believe when something's suffered damage and has a history it becomes more beautiful. Like, it is more beautiful for being broken. Maybe all our heartbreaks will be like that and when we're old we'll look crazed with experience. In both senses of the word.' (327)
"How do you know if a boy likes you?
Maybe because they act interested in you. Or they ask you questions and when you answer they actually listen. Because they smile at you shyly and duck their head and there's no edge in their voice. Ben's looking at me like he's just given something of himself away. He pulls the oars back and we move with a sudden surge. I close my eyes for a few seconds and feel the trees, the sky, the clouds - all of it gently waving us back to the bank. (337)

Buy

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I have received this review copy in return for an honest review.




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