#aww2018 “The boy steps into the day like he owns it.” // Review of “Sixty Seconds” by Jesse Blackadder

Title: Sixty Seconds
Author: Jesse Blackadder
Genre: Contemporary drama
Target audience: Adult
Date Read: 09/12/18 – 13/12/18
Rating:
★★☆

Review:

knew I wanted to read this book from the moment I read an interview with Jesse Blackadder around the time of its release. This book, dealing with the aftermath of a backyard drowning, is the author’s creative response to exactly that tragedy occurring in her own family when she was twelve. 

I think my main reason for not rating it higher is that I just couldn’t necessarily get into the characters, which I think is partly due to some stylistic decisions. There are three different POVs, Finn’s in third person, Jarrah’s in first person, and Bridget’s in second person… the second person in particular took quite a while to get used to. It’s a difficult POV to pull off, and I am sure I am not the only one who kept thinking “No, it’s not me doing these things.” But after  a while, I did get more used to it. Jarrah was the POV character I felt the closest to, I think because the first person narration really worked for his character and it made me feel closer to him than either of the other characters. There were actually some side characters I had stronger reactions to than the main ones.

The writing and pacing in this book is well done and quite tight. However, I did find that sometimes an event was glossed over, and we only got to see a character’s  quick reflection on it afterwards, rather than reading the event itself. I think some of the reason I wasn’t quite able to get into this one is because I don’t read a lot of straight contemporary stories. I read things set in the modern day, but they’re usually a romance or a thriller or some such. This focus on the everyday lives of people, even in the aftermath of something huge, is not quite my thing.


This review is part of my 2018 Australian Women Writers Challenge. Click here for more information.

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“Possibilities are where the best stories begin.” // Review of “The Cottingley Secret” by Hazel Gaynor

Title: The Cottingley Secret
Author:
Hazel Gaynor
Audio book narrator:
Karen Cass, Billie Fullford-Brown
Genre:
General fiction/magical realism
Target audience: Adult
Date Read: 09/10/18 – 24/10/18
Rating:
★★★

Review:

I’ve been intersted in the Cottingley Fairies ever since I researched the case and turned into a drama project in my final year of high-school. So as soon as I saw the word Cottingley in this book’s title, I knew I wanted to read it.

This book tells the story of Olivia, visiting Ireland after the death of her grandfather, and the parallel story of Frances Griffiths, one of two cousins who historically took photographs of fairies in Cottingley, Yorkshire, in 1917 and caused a worldwide stir. As Olivia reads Frances’ memoir, she discovers they share more of a connection than just a belief in fairies.

I have to admit, while I liked Olivia for the most part, there were times when I wanted to shake her. I could tell from the first time he was mentioned that her fiance was obviously an awful person, and I wished she realised that sooner and was  a bit more decisive. I did like that she was a book binder! I know book binders! I really appreciated the  sensitive handling of Alzheimer’s disease through the character of Olivia’s Nanna, Martha. I thought that was very well done.

As I said, I was pretty familiar with the case of the Cottingley Fairies, but the chapters from Frances’ perspective did give extra insight into how a young girl might have felt thrust into the spotlight unwillingly in the way she and Elsie were.

I did appreciate the little hints of magic throughout both the historical and contemporary stories. While it is acknowledged that the photos were fakes, Hazel Gaynor leaves it up to the reader to decide whether or not fairies are real or whether they were a figment of a young girl’s imagination. The two stories are woven together particularly well towards the end, and I actually found myself getting a little bit teary in the final chapter. In a good way, of course.


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#aww2018 #LoveOzYA “You thought your community was gone? Think again, babe.” // Review of “White Night” by Ellie Marney

Title: White Night
Author: Ellie Marney
Genre: Contemporary/romance
Target audience: YA
Date Read: 05/09/18 – 10/09/18
Rating:
★★★☆

Review:

This book  totally found its way under my skin. I was thinking about it all the time when I wasn’t reading, and I had ideas about where the story was going and was supremely worried for the characters.

Bo has a lot on his mind, between footy, the end of high school and crisis in his family that his parents aren’t talking about. When Rory, a girl from the local off-the-grid commune, begins attending his high school and he finds himself drawn into her way of life.

One thing I’ve noticed since I’ve started reading Ellie Marney’s books this year is that she has the ability to really capture the Australian experience of being a young adult. These aren’t just teenagers that could be lifted out of her book and transplanted somewhere else. These are very definitely Australian teenagers. This is an Australian small town. There’s just something about the descriptions and the way the characters speak that wouldn’t work anywhere else.

I loved Bo’s character development and Rory’s. Their romance is affected by things like Rory not having access to a phone, and it was interesting to see that explored. Bo’s wider friendship circle is also great; everyone felt real. Sprog in particular has a great arc that’s central to the plot.

The off-the-grid community was also well-written. I liked that it wasn’t presented as a crazy cult from the get-go, and that the majority of people living there genuinely wanted to do something good for the world. A sense of unease begins to develop and by the last fifty pages, I couldn’t have put the book down even if I had wanted to. The only reason I knocked off half a star was because I did feel that sometimes the speeches given by Ray, the sort-of-head of the commune, were often a bit info-dumpy. They served a purpose but I did find myself skimming them a bit.


This review is part of my 2018 Australian Women Writers Challenge. Click here for more information.

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#WWW Wednesday – February 28, 2018

It’s time for WWW Wednesday! This blog hop is hosted by Sam over at A World Of Words. Link up with us by commenting on Sam’s post for this week, and just answer the three questions.

wwwwednesday

I didn’t post here last Wednesday as I have decided to alternate Wednesday posts between this blog and my writing blog. That way I might actually find time to visit fellow participants in each blop hop! So this post covers my last two weeks of reading.

What have you recently finished reading?

First up, I finished The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. While I had a couple of issues with the pacing and being able to keep track of a fairly large cast of characters, I thought this was a great insight into the life of a Black teenager in present-day America. I reviewed it in more detail here.

I also read Adulthood is a Myth by Sarah Andersen. This is the book form of the webcomic Sarah’s Scribbles. It is cute, though I think I like it better as an isolated comic I sometimes see on the Internet, rather than all of them packed in together.

Because of the amount of walking and hiking (and driving to the mountains) I’m doing to train for my trek in Nepal in April, I’ve finished many audio books! Though I haven’t necessarily loved many of them, they have been a good distraction when I have been walking uphill for four hours (I am not even kidding).

First I finished Magonia by Maria Dahvana Headley, which was fine, I guess. I felt the balance between the sci-fi elements and the fantasy wasn’t quite achieved, and most of the characters annoyed me, but I did like most of the world-building and the mythology. You can read my full review here.

Then I finished the audio book of Across the Nightingale Floor by Lian Hearn. This was another 3-star book, as I felt it read more like a MG book, except it had more mature content in it. While it is the first in a series, it concluded enough that I’m not going to keep going.

After that was The Matchmakers by Jennifer Colgan. This was a cute fantasy romance about a cupid-type Fey who has to team up with a human to help three couples fall in love or they both lose their ability to love forever. I did enjoy this one.

And then there was Bootleg by Alex Shearer, which was a fairly short kids’ book about a Britain under control of the Good For You Party, which bans chocolate and all other sweets. This one was a bit silly but in the way you let slide when reading children’s books.

I’ve still got to get reviews written for most of these!

What are you currently reading?

I’ve had barely any time to read, what with hiking and actually finding inspiration for my own writing again, so I’m still reading the same ebook I started after The Hate U Give. It’s called Deadly Sweet and is by Lola Dodge, and even if I end up hating it (I am enjoying it so far), that cover is going to be one of my favourites of the year.

I am also reading Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh. I am sure many of you remember the blog of the same title, which gave us such gems as The Alot and This is Why I’ll Never Be an Adult (where “Clean all the things!” originated). The book is a mixture of some of the blog posts and some new content.

What do you think you’ll read next?

That’s a great question, I’m glad you asked it! I’m actually working on my March/April TBR right now! Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie and The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon are the two left over from my January-February TBR but knowing me I’ll probably get distracted by something else 😛

What are you reading this week?~ Emily

#WWW Wednesday – February 14, 2018

It’s time for WWW Wednesday! This blog hop is hosted by Sam over at A World Of Words. Link up with us by commenting on Sam’s post for this week, and just answer the three questions.

wwwwednesday

What have you recently finished reading?

Only one finish this week: Keep Her Safe by Richard Parker. I know many people really loved it but I wasn’t a fan. I just couldn’t make sense of a lot of it. You can read my review here. Sorry it’s a bit ranty.

I actually DNFed Hellhole by Gina Damico, as the humour wore off after a while and I wasn’t really into the story. And given that I had completely forgotten about it until I looked at last week’s post to start this one, I guess that shows how much I was into it.

I also posted my review of Hunted by Meagan Spooner this week. You can find that one here.

What are you currently reading?

I am finally reading The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. For those unaware, this book came out of the Black Lives Matter movement and is about a black teenager whose best friend is shot by a white police officer while unarmed. I have put it off for a long time because I was worried about how I would find it. And it isn’t an easy read and is making me frustrated and angry a lot of the time, but in a good, this-book-is-challenging-me way.

On audio, I am still listening to Magonia by Maria Dahvana Headley, though I’ll probably finish it today or tomorrow. I like many of the ideas, but I’m not so sold on the plot itself. The MC is surrounded by characters who refuse to explain what is going on, mostly for the sake of padding out the plot, which is annoying. And I don’t care about her best friend who is trying to find her back on earth. I’ll finish this but unless the ending is really impressive, I don’t think I’ll read the sequel.

What do you think you’ll read next?

I’m going to try to knock a couple more books off my February TBR. Possibly Dollhouse by Anya Allyn will be next. Or The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon if I feel like a physical book instead of an ebook.

What are you reading this week?~ Emily

Book Review: “Looking for JJ” by Anne Cassidy

Title: Looking for JJ (Jennifer Jones #1)
Author: Anne Cassidy
Audio book narrator: Shirley Barthelmie
Genre:
YA/drama/thriller
Date Read: 25/11/2017 – 28/11/2017
Rating: ★★★

Review:

I think this book was supposed to be a thriller but I didn’t really find especially thrilling. Still, I did enjoy it as a straight drama, apart from a few quibbles.

Jennifer Jones has been in juvenile detention for six years after killing a girl when she was just eleven years old. Now seventeen, she’s been released under the name Alice Tully, and is trying to resume a normal life. But with press interest looming, it’s only a matter of time before this carefully constructed new life begins to crumble. And Alice begins to wonder if a person really can change.

I really liked the character of Jennifer/Alice. I felt for her as she tried to navigate her new life, and even more so in the second section of the book, where we learn of the circumstances leading up to the death of her friend. I also really liked her case worker, Rosie, who is staunchly in Alice’s court when the media starts to catch up with her.

My main issue in terms of characters was Alice’s boyfriend, Freddie. He was controlling and often seemed to be pressuring her into things she wasn’t ready for. And yet, Alice always went on about how romantic he was and how much she loved him. He then flipped to the opposite extreme once he found out that Alice was a virgin, going on about how the first time should be special and how he didn’t know if he was up to the task (or something). Both attitudes were kind of gross in their own way.

The writing itself was very good, though I felt the structure could have been a bit better. There are flashbacks during Part 1, then Part 2 centres solely on young Jennifer and the events leading up to the death of her friend. Part 3 then returns to Alice’s POV. I think the story would have been stronger if the whole back story had been woven in with the present story.

There is a sequel to the book, but I didn’t find myself compelled to seek it out. I felt that the story wrapped up in a satisfactory way and I was happy to leave these characters where they were. The sequel sounds like quite a different kind of plot, so it might be something I seek out when I’m in the mood for a more introspective kind of read.


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Book Review: “Beneath the Apple Blossom” by Kate Frost

Title: Beneath the Apple Blossom (The Hopeful Years #1)
Author: Kate Frost
Genre: Adult contemporary fiction
Date Read: 23/06/2017 – 24/06/2017
Rating: ★★★★

Review:

The experiences depicted in this book are worlds away from  any experience I have had, and worlds away from what I usually read, and yet I found myself unable to put it down (I’m starting this review at 12:54am after staying up to finish it, because I’m still thinking about it, and wide awake).

Beneath the Apple Blossom depicts the lives of four women with four very different experiences of motherhood and the journey towards it. Pippa and Connie meet online through a forum for women undergoing IVF and bond through the ups and downs of treatment. Georgie feels she had her first child too young, and isn’t ready for the second one her husband clearly wants. And Sienna has her heart set on never having kids, when her life is thrown into turmoil…

Frost presents these four women and their stories without any judgement, leaving the reader to form their own opinions. I think this is an advantage of the novel, as seeing the way things panned out and the way the characters reacted to events and to each other was what made me want to keep reading. I didn’t always agree with the choices the characters made, but I couldn’t really fault any of them for making them (well, maybe sometimes, but only a bit).

The only real qualm I had with the novel was that sometimes the characters’ thoughts got a bit repetitive. While I can appreciate that women going through the sorts of things that these characters are would have quite cyclical thoughts, as a reader, I sometimes found that returning to the same “Why did it have to happen this way? What am I going to do now?” trains of thought chapter after chapter became a bit stale.

I definitely recommend this book, even if motherhood and constant talk of babies isn’t really your thing (it’s not mine). This gives insight into the struggles all sorts of women go through, as well as identifying those “what not to do” moments for the rest of us (I already knew this, but for anyone else, don’t say “You can always adopt”, no matter how good your intentions are by it). After giving five stars to Kate’s debut novel, The Butterfly Storm, a few years ago, I was fairly confident I would enjoy this one, and she does not disappoint.


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