#LoveOzYA #AWW2020 “Inhale. Exhale. Survive.” // Review of “Peta Lyre’s Rating Normal” by Anna Whateley

Title: Peta Lyre’s Rating Normal
Author:
Anna Whateley
Genre: Contemporary/romance
Target audience: YA
Date Read: 06/04/20 – 09/04/20
Rating:
★★★★

Anna Whateley is a Twitter friend of mine and we’ve both been part of the #6amAusWriters group for about a year now, so I was excited and proud to get my hands on a copy of her debut.

This book. I kind of want to hug it. It feels like such an honest, authentic depiction of the neurodivergent experience. Even if I didn’t know it was an #ownvoices book, I would probably have been able to guess. 

Peta is such a wonderful lead character. The book is in first person, which I don’t always enjoy, but this book could not have been any other way. We needed to be in Peta’s head. Seeing her try to fit in and follow the “rules” she has learned through therapy and through observing others could be heartbreaking at times, but it was so liberating seeing her grow and find her own way in a world that is not designed to allow her to succeed. 

I think the only thing I might have liked to see a bit more of was the development of the romance between Peta and Sam. As it was, it felt like it leapt straight from “Oh, look, I am definitely attracted to her” to pushing their dorm beds together and kissing a lot. But it was fine that way, and the aftermath and fallout after that is treated really well. Even as I was wanting to yell “No! Sam! Don’t be ridiculous! It’s not like that!” I could absolutely see Sam’s point of view as well. 

Also must give a shout-out to Jeb, Peta’s best friend. I can tell just from reading he gives the best hugs. And I loved how he knew Peta’s quirks and what she needed and just responded. She never had to feel weird around him. 


Thank you to Allen and Unwin for choosing me as a winner in their recent Facebook giveaway and sending me a proof copy of this book!

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#WWW Wednesday – 29 January 2020

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.

What have you recently finished reading?

I finished Don’t Read The Comments by Eric Smith and I totally loved it! It was not the kind of book I expected to keep me up late, but I kept saying “Just another chapter….” Really well done. Here’s my review.

After that, I read Bitter Falls by Rachel Caine and to be honest, didn’t love it. There’s only going to be one more book in the series so I might read it to see the series through, but on the other hand, I feel like I’m good with leaving it where I am. Here’s my review.

Last but not least, I finished Blackbirch: the Beginning by K. M. Allan. This author is part of my 6am writing group on Twitter, so I’ve been watching this book evolve for a while and I’m so pleased it’s finally out! My review will be up on Friday and the book comes out on Feb 17. If you like witchcraft and spooky forests, add it to your TBR!

Since my last WWW, I also reviewed It Sounded Better In My Head by Nina Kenwood, and you can read that review here.

What are you currently reading?!

I haven’t been listening to audio books as much as usual, so I’m very slowly going through Before The Devil Breaks You, the third in the Diviners series by Libba Bray. Still really enjoying this series but there are times when it feels like it goes on way too long. And the next book is even longer! Ah well.

I have paused my Audible membership for three months so I don’t have to pay anything while I work through 50ish hours of unlistened-to content!

I’ve just today started The Shadow Palace, which is book 6 in Celine Jeanjean’s Viper and the Urchin steampunk series. I’ve given the last couple of books in this series 5 stars, so let’s hope the streak continues!

I am still going with The Beast’s Heart by Leife Shallcross but to be honest, it’s on hold while I get through my ARCs.

What do you think you will read next?

Next I’ll be reading Spectacle by Jodie Lynn Zdrok, another ARC. I just can’t resist historical fantasy set in France. There’s something about it.

What are you reading this week? 🙂

Book Review: “Don’t Read The Comments” by Eric Smith

Title: Don’t Read The  Comments
Author: Eric Smith
Genre:
Contemporary
Intended audience: YA
Date Read: 07/01/2020 – 13/01/2020
Rating:
★★★★★

Review:

I’ve got to admit that when I requested this book on NetGalley, I was not expecting it to be one that kept me up reading past bedtime. And yet….

This book has a lot of really topical, timely themes: doxing, online bullying and poverty, and of course, your more usual YA themes of figuring out what to do after high-school and first loves and coming of age.

really loved the two main characters! Divya is strong and resourceful, and there for others. She’s also dorky, which is why she gets on with Aaron so well. Aaron was a fantastic example of non-toxic masculinity in a sea of trolls. I liked that it confronted his privilege – that Divya has to assume he could be as bad as the rest until proven otherwise, and how this realisation takes him completely by surprise. And I had such a silly grin on my face when they started sending each other heart emojis over the chat.

I also thought the horror of knowing trolls have your home address was really well depicted as was the realisation of “Wow… they’re actually kind of pathetic, aren’t they?” when the trolls are faced in person. It doesn’t take away the horror, but for a little while you feel that they actually can be beaten, even as they keep trying to sound their battle cry as they’re dragged away.

Also there’s the jerks like Aaron’s ”friend” Jason who, while not exactly part of the group, don’t denounce them and in fact, want to impress them. I knew from the moment I met him Jason would be The Worst and he did not disappoint.

I loved the descriptions of the Reclaim the Sun game and Divya’s livestreams. I really felt that Eric Smith is a nerd/geek himself and has spent time playing this type of game. It all rang true to me, and that’s something I have found lacking in other books about nerd culture.

All in all,  this one comes highly recommended!


(Thank you to Harlequin Australia for sending a free copy my way in exchange for an honest review)

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#LoveOzYA #AWW2020 Book Review: “It Sounded Better In My Head” by Nina Kenwood

Title: It Sounded Better In My Head
Author:
Nina Kenwood
Genre: Contemporary
Target audience: YA
Date Read: 04/01/20 – 07/04/20
Rating:
★★☆

Review:

This book was certainly sweet and I loved how painfully realistic it was at times. But some pacing issues and the lack of characterisation from anyone other than the main character left me feeling like there could have been more.

Natalie’s life is diverging from the Plan. Her parents announce their separation on Christmas Day, her two best friends have started dating so she feels like a third wheel, and she’s just finished high-school and doesn’t know what she wants to do with the rest of her life. She’s also still dealing with image issues that have haunted her throughout her teen years thanks to PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome).  

Since this book is in the first person, we are very much in Natalie’s head. And she has a lot going on in there. But it did mean I felt like I didn’t really get to know the other characters. There were flashes of personality from them, such as Lucy covering awkwardness amongst her friends with OTT bubbliness, Mariella with her love of gossip about her children… but Alex is the love interest and Natalie spends so much of her time thinking about him and yet as I write this, there’s very little I could tell you about Alex as a person.

There’s also the fact that sometimes the pacing was strange. The plot would grind to a half for several pages while we got some of Natalie’s backstory. Sure, it was good to know about her and some of it moved the plot (such as learning how she met Zach and Lucy) but a lot of the time it made me forget what had just been happening.

Apart from that, though, the writing is really engaging. I flew through the pages. The messiness of teenage friendships is so realistic, I could feel my guts churning on behalf of the characters. There were times when Natalie’s body image issues and insecurities felt a little repetitive, but at the same time, I recognise the cyclical nature of such thoughts in real life.

On the other hand, I really liked how sex positive the book was, particularly in regards to its female characters. It’s mentioned that Natalie knows how to give herself an orgasm, and Lucy is the first one of their friendship group to have sex. While it’s a shock to the others, it’s still shown in a positive light.

This is Nina Kenwood’s debut and I will definitely be watching out for more of her work.


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#WWW Wednesday – 08 January 2020

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.

Um… hi?

Apparently my last WWW post was October 31. I went on a bit of a hiatus, and then I started wondering “Well, If I do a WWW post, how far back do I go with what I’ve been reading?” And I couldn’t decide. So then I eventually decided I would just start with today and only talk about books read in 2020.

… Yes, I overthink these things.

What have you recently finished reading?

It Sounded Better In My Head by Nina Kenwood was a sweet YA contemporary. It had some pacing issues and I didn’t really feel like I knew anything about the love interest, but it was painfully realistic when it came to messy friendship dynamics, which I liked a lot.

I’ll have a review up on Friday.

What are you currently reading?!

Don’t Read The Comments by Eric Smith. Apparently I’m in a YA contemporary mood at the moment. Though to be fair, this is an ARC and I need to read it before January 20. Not very far in at the moment but I think it will be quite topical.

I also started The Beast’s Heart by Leife Shallcross. This is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast from the Beast’s POV. I’m only a few chapters in but the writing is really lyrical and beautiful! Also a digital version of the cover really doesn’t do it justice. The paperback is so shiny!

What do you think you will read next?

Bitter Falls by Rachel Caine comes out on January 20, so I need to read this ARC next. To be honest, I’m a bit worried about  whether I’ll enjoy it. Stillhouse Lake and Killman Creek were such amazing books but I didn’t love Wolfhunter River as much… So we’ll have to see how it goes.

What are you reading this week? 🙂

“If you were lucky in love, you sure as hell were lucky in life.” // Review of “Beau and Bett” by Kathryn Berla

Title: Beau and Bett
Author: Kathryn Berla
Genre: Contemporary
Target audience: YA
Date Read: 27/06/19 – 29/06/19
Rating:
★★☆

Review:

This was a really hard book to rate and review. I found it readable enough. I liked some of the characters. But I just couldn’t work out what the book was trying to do. I had no particular investment in any of the characters and I wasn’t particularly concerned about the outcome.

Now that I’ve lambasted the book with that opening paragraph, I should say that there were certain things I liked. I liked Beau’s part-Cajun family and their dynamics. I liked that Beau was kind of the oddball in the family. I really liked the descriptions of the Diaz ranch. That is something I haven’t really come across in a YA book before, and i liked that Bettina wasn’t afraid to get her hands dirty. She wasn’t going to leave the ranch either – she saw herself staying there and running it eventually. But all the characters ever did was build a fence. Like, every time Beau went over there. Sometimes Bettina would make them a beautiful lunch in the middle of the day, then they’d go back to the fence.

I guess part of my issue was that the links to Beauty and the Beast were pretty tenuous.. I didn’t really buy the romance at all. I think part of the reason for that is that Beau is interested in another girl for at least the first half. And the lie that Beau catches Bett in, according to the blurb… I mean, I got why it bothered him. But I was expecting something a bit bigger.

Additionally, the reasons for Bett being called Bett the Beast at school were kind of flat, and everything around that suddenly seemed resolved at the end. It felt like perhaps the author was trying to do something with the whole #metoo movement and make a comment on rape culture, but it just wasn’t explored enough.

It’s possible that without the claim that it was a retelling, I could have enjoyed this a bit more. As it was, I really looking for parallels with the fairytale, and not really finding them, so ultimately I was disappointed.


(Thank you to the publishers and NetGalley for a free copy of this book  in exchange for an honest review)

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#LoveOzYA #cbca2019 Book Review: “The Things That Will Not Stand” by Michael Gerard Bauer

Title: The Things That Will Not Stand
Author:
Michael Gerard Bauer
Genre: Contemporary
Target audience: YA
Date Read: 02/05/2019
Rating:
★★

Review:

This book was kind of unexpected. I wasn’t expecting the humour and banter and pathos. I knew it was short but I wasn’t expecting to fly through it in one day. But here we are. 

From the opening chapter, Seb has a really distinct narrative voice. The book is written in first person present tense, which I think really emphasises the immediacy of the action taking place over a single day.

I really enjoyed the banter between Seb and Frida, and how it became more obvious as the book went on that something about Frida didn’t add up. I do have to admit, though, that apart from the three main characters of Seb, Frida and Seb’s best friend, Tolly, the remainder of the characters seemed a little 2D… particularly the burly university security guard who kept seeming to pop up. He seemed a bit of a stereotype.

While I was really struck by the puns and the humour at the start of the book, the continued use of them did start to wear a bit thin as we moved towards the end. I did appreciate the book’s overall message of letting someone know when you think they’re worth it, and that anyone is deserving of that, no matter what they might think of themselves. figured out Frida’s riddle at the end a lot faster than Seb did, though, so I did want him to get a wriggle on with figuring that out. That was probably a little drawn out for my tastes but maybe it was because I did already know what she meant.


I am trying to read as many of the books as possible on the 2019 Children’s Book Council of Australia Notables List. Click here to see the titles.

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#LoveOzYA #aww2019 “The tide was moving in as I ran along the shoreline. Always crashing, always unsettled…” // Review of “P Is For Pearl” by Eliza Henry Jones

Title: P is for Pearl
Author:
Eliza Henry Jones
Genre: Contemporary
Target audience: YA
Date Read: 23/04/19 – 27/04/19
Rating:
★★★

Review:

It’s been a while since I read something small town-y and character-driven. At first, I thought the story was taking a while to get going. But then I realised the characters are the story in this one. And I really loved them. This is a coming of age story about grief and loss and growing up and it explores its themes really well. 

Eliza Henry Jones really captured the small town vibe in this. Little details like everyone calling each other in a storm to check if they’ve still got power or if they need anything really made me feel like everyone knew each other and like I could walk from one end of town to another in an hour. 

Gwen and her two besties made such a great friendship group. I enjoyed their banter a lot. And Ben, who was just the most adorkable love interest. He kept doing such awkward things and he got all stammery and I loved it. I also liked how Gwen helped him help his sister, and how Amber hadn’t been terribly nice to Gwen, she was still willing to help when someone needed it. 

I did think Gwen’s dad was… not terrible, and probably also dealing with grief in his own way. But he was really inattentive to her and I wanted to shake him a lot. Biddy, Gwen’s stepmother, is in a difficult position that I thought she juggled really well, trying to help Gwen through her grief but also sometimes just not knowing how to help. 

This was one of those books where you’re not quite ready to say goodbye to the characters when you reach the end. Even though they were moving on with the next stages of their lives, I wanted to hang out with them in their small town with the beach and the mermaids for longer. 


This review is part of my 2019 Australian Women Writers Challenge. Click here for more information.

I am trying to read as many of the books as possible on the 2019 Children’s Book Council of Australia Notables List. Click here to see the titles.

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#LoveOzYA #aww2019 “But it’s not like we pick and choose what to be afraid of. It’s like our fears pick us.” // Review of “Small Spaces” by Sarah Epstein

Title: Small Spaces
Author:
Sarah Epstein
Genre: Psychological thriller
Target audience: YA
Date Read: 17/03/19 – 19/03/19
Rating:
★★

Review:

I have to admit that I had hoped I would love this book more than I did. It definitely had its moments, but I ultimately felt a little bit unsatisfied. 

Tash Carmody is haunted by the memory of her imaginary friend Sparrow leading away family friend when they were both small. Mallory Fisher has never spoken about the abduction and Tash thinks that Sparrow is gone from her mind… until the Fishers move back to town and she starts seeing Sparrow out of the corner of her eye again… 

First of all, I have to admit that I was nerding out every time the setting of the book was mentioned, because I grew up in the same area. My parents were hoping I would stay at home after school and commute to Newcastle Uni (I moved five hours away instead). There was a mention of Gloucester Shire Council, members of whom my mum just recently had a meeting with. And my family used to go camping in Barrington National Park, which is where Mallory was found wandering a week after her abduction. So that was fun. 

The treatment of mental illness in this book was realistic but infuriating. Everyone just thought Tash was doing things for the attention. There was a particularly poignant moment where Tash asks “Why would I want this kind of attention?!” and I wish more people would think about that before hurling such accusations. It was really great to see her validated at the end. 

There were genuine creepy moments throughout. At one point, I was berating myself for reading just before bed, because I was too wired when I turned the lights off. I walked to the bathroom in dim light and kept my back to the wall just in case. 

I did feel that the book felt a bit long. While there were certain things that of course needed to be set up and established, I thought it could have been done a bit faster?! And to be honest, I’m not exactly sure why I felt underwhelmed by the ending. It was well plotted and lead up to a logical conclusion. But for all that, I just found myself thinking, “oh, is that what it was?” I feel like I’m being unfair on the book and the author here because I don’t know what I wanted or expected, but whatever it was, I just feel I didn’t quite get it. 


This review is part of my 2019 Australian Women Writers Challenge. Click here for more information.

I am trying to read as many of the books as possible on the 2019 Children’s Book Council of Australia Notables List. Click here to see the titles.

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#LoveOzYA #aww2019 “And there’s a good chance the only *one day* I’ll get is here and now.” // Review of “Between Us” by Clare Atkins

Title: Between Us
Author:
Clare Atkins
Genre: Contemporary
Target audience: YA
Date Read: 14/03/19 – 15/03/19
Rating:
★★★★

Review:

Oof. What a book to start off my challenge of reading the YA and MG books on the Children’s Book Council of Australia’s 2019 Notables List.

This is the story of Iranian asylum seeker, Ana, who is only let out of detention to attend school. There she meets and becomes close to Jono, the son of one of the officers at her detention centre. Meanwhile Jono’s father, Kenny, becomes increasinly paranoid about the relationship between his son and the detainee.

This book has real power, though I wonder if some people will dismiss it as being over the top. I certainly had to keep reminding myself that our country wouldn’t be in the situatioin it currently is in regards to refugees if there weren’t people who thought the same way as the characters in this book. It says something about the present situation when the author can’t even name some of the people she spoke to when researching the novel.

These characters disgusted me, but I know they are not far from the truth. I think it might be easy for those less willing to engage to write them off as unrealistic, but I hope that isn’t the case.

The scenes from Ana’s perspective are heartbreaking. Watching her have to take responsibility for her family as her mother sinks further into depression while also trying to cling to some semblance of a regular teenage life through friendships and music and the occasional excursion. 

I didn’t warm to Jono quite as much. This is not really the fault of the character, as he is well written. It is more that he is not the type of character I can easily identify with – he smokes and drinks and lies to his dad about his whereabouts. Look, I admit it, I was a goody two-shoes growing up, but I don’t see anything wrong with that. I did enjoy the scenes where Jono opened up a bit more to his dad, and their bond started to return.

Kenny was the character I struggled with the most, for the reasons I stated above about not quite believing there are people like this. I wanted to shake some sense into him.

Despite these niggles, I still gave it five stars for the way it made me feel,  for the fact that I had a dream about these characters, and the fact that I was still thinking about it days later.


This review is part of my 2019 Australian Women Writers Challenge. Click here for more information.

I am trying to read as many of the books as possible on the 2019 Children’s Book Council of Australia Notables List. Click here to see the titles.

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