“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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#LoveOzYA #aww2019 Book Review: “The Zigzag Effect” by Lili Wilkinson

Title: the Zigzag Effect
Author:
Lili Wilkinson
Genre: Contemporary
Target audience: YA
Date Read: 04/02/19 – 05/02/19
Rating:
★★☆

Review:

I knew I had to  read this book as soon as I learned that it was about a girl getting a summer job with a magic show. I wanted to be a magician when I was a kid, and while I learned a few card tricks that I’ve now forgotten, I still have a soft spot for all  things magic.

I thought the main character, Sage, was really well-written. She’s homesick and sad, and trying to make the best of it. She’s also really capable, and pulls the magic show into the twenty-first century.

At first, I really loved Herb, the backstage assistant and total magic nerd. I enjoyed learning about magic as he excitedly taught things to Sage. A couple of times I went and googled things to learn more. But he did say a few things that deserved a smack on the upside of the head (like tarot and crystals being “women’s magic”) and while Sage calls him out on it, I never really got the sense that he would stop. He also complained about her stage makeup when she is replacing the usual assistant, but there was no mention of the fact that male performers also  wear makeup onstage. Look, Herb is not the worst YA love interest, by far, but he did still bother me a bit.

I think Bianca was my favourite character. She’s the superstitious magician’s assistant and it is through her character that the book examines the way the magic industry is stuck in a sexist past that a lot of other forms of entertainment are at least trying to move away from. Bianca has a lot of baggage and to be honest, there were times I wished she was the main character, because she seemed a bit more interesting than the other two.

It did weird me out a little that the theatre had no staff of its own, and that the entire thing seemed to be run by three people closely involved with the show, but not the theatre. Where was theatre management?  Where was the tech crew? To be fair, it’s only because I do theatre in my spare time that any of this stood out to me. I’m sure it wouldn’t bother a reader who doesn’t do a musical every year. 

I thought the ending was satisfying but I wondered whether others might think it ended with the kidnapper/saboteur not getting their comeuppance.  I guess YMMV on that one. I don’t want to say too much because I don’t want to spoil anything. It definitely picked up a lot in the secocnd half after a bit of a slow start. 


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

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Book Review: “In Another Life” by C. C. Hunter

Title: In Another Life
Author: C. C. Hunter
Genre: Contemporary
Target audience: YA
Date Read: 01/02/19 – 02/02/19
Rating:
★★☆

Review:

This book was engaging enough. I read it in a couple of sittings. I also want to add the disclaimer that I read the ARC and it’s possible some of my issues will be fixed in the final version. The formatting was a problem as there was no indication of a change in POV – and as there were several POV characters, this did frequently pull me out of the story.

I was intrigued by the premise of this book – I knew that illegal adoptions happened but didn’t really know anything about them. The idea of someone growing up in a happy adoptive family only to discover there is another family somewhere missing them and hoping they might one day return is a really great premise for a novel.

The way the book is structured meant that we knew more about the mystery than the characters did and in some ways, I felt that lessened the stakes too soon. We knew who the bad guys were and figured they would probably get their comeuppance, so there wasn’t as much mystery as there might have been.

I thought Chloe was a very well-written character. She’s got a lot goinig on – her parents’ divorce, her mother up and moving her to a different city, and now a strange guy claiming she’s trying to con his foster parents by pretending to be their long-lost daughter. I did think the romance betwee her and Cash happened a little fast, but I guess that could just be because I’m a sucker for a slow-burn. I did like the fact that when it was revealed that Chloe had been kidnapped, she still acknowledged her adoptive parents as mum and dad, even as that upset her birth parents.

Cash frustrated me a bit with his absolute refusal to accept any help from his foster parents. I got that he didn’t think he deserved it, but he just went on and on and there never seemed to be an arc there. There are several villains of the piece and to be honest, I got them all a bit confused.

All that being said, I did find this book an engaging read and I think it was a good break after I’d read a tonne of fantasy.


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

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#WWW Wednesday – 13 February 2019

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.

First of all, a bit of a plug!

So do you remember in my last WWW post, I mentioned I was contemplating starting a Booktube channel to talk about Australian authors? Well, I didn’t think about it for too long and I started one! I’ve already put up two videos, so check it out if you feel inclined.

I now return you to your regularly scheduled WWW post.

What have you recently finished reading?

This was a good reading week!

I finished The Slave City, the third Viper and the Urchin book by Celine Jeanjean. I enjoyed seeing the world of the first two books expanded as the characters travelled to a new country. I reviewed it here.

After that, I read my ARC of In Another Life by C. C. Hunter, which comes out at the end of March.  This is a YA contemporary about an adopted girl who finds out that her adoption may not have been strictly legal…

Then I read Finding Aurora by Rebecca Langham, which is queer retelling of Sleeping Beauty.  This was really good except I didn’t realise it was a novella, so it was really short! I reviewed it here.

Lastly, I read The Zigzag Effect by Lili Wilkinson. This is a YA contemporary about a teen who gets a summer job working for a magician and I had hoped to really love it. It was enjoyable but not my favourite.

I’ve got to get a few reviews written but I also posted my review of Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor here.

What are you currently reading?

I’m reading an ARC of Second Star by J. M. Sullivan, which is a sci-fi retelling of Peter Pan. It has some really strong aspects and some… not so. Like Harry Potter references in the very far future? Except some of the character dynamics feel more like they are from the time period of the original story… so. Still, I am enjoying it. I’m about 40% of the way through and at the moment it’s feeling like a solid 4 star read.

I think I went at least a week without listening to Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor, but I’ve started up again with it this week. Minya was frustrating me for a while but we are now getting to know her a bit more, which is good. But at the same time, as with the first book, I can tell the different story threads will intersect at some point and I kind of wish they’d hurry up about it!

What do you think you will read next?

I should probably start focusing on my Australian Women Writers Challenge, since I upped my goal to twenty for this year (the previous few years I’ve only offficially aimed for twelve) and I’ve only read two. It’d be good to get ahead in case i start lagging around uni and travel times later in the year.

What are you reading this week? 🙂

#LoveOzYA #aww2018 “I’m just considering how I can be an evil genius at the same time as being so very stupid.” // Review of “All Aces” by Ellie Marney

Title: All Aces (Circus Hearts #3)
Author:
Ellie Marney
Genre: Contemporary/romance/crime
Target audience: YA
Date Read: 06/11/18 – 09/11/18
Rating:
★★

Review:

I can’t really explain why I wasn’t as into this final installment of Circus Hearts as I was the first two. I think it is partly because I am coming out on the other side of my really enthusiastic desire for circus and carnival books. I crammed a lot of them into the last couple of months and I have may have finally worn myself thin on them.

There is still plenty that I liked in this one. I really enjoyed the descriptions of Zep Deal’s performances. I’ve never seen a cardsharp perform before but I trotted off to YouTube after finishing this to find something akin to what is described in the book because it sounded amazing.

Ren, our narrator, is a bit different to the narrators of the previous two books. She’s more awkward, which I enjoyed, and single-minded, which leads to trouble (of the good variety, of course). I really felt for her in the scenes with her family where she felt torn between family obligation and her love of the circus.

I guess one of the things was I just didn’t get an immediate sense of the chemistry between Ren and Zep the way I did with the couples in the previous two books. But I did love the scene where Zep demonstrates his pickpocket abilities while distracting Ren with his proximity, and also, Ellie Marney continues to be the queen of the steamy make-out scene.

As you can see, there is plenty still to like, and I think it’s more to do with me than the book that I wasn’t more into it. If you are in the mood for YA contemporary, this is definitely a series I recommend. Click to read my reviews of books one and two, which were five and four star reads for me respectively. 


(Thanks to Ellie Marney for including me in her review crew and providing me with a free copy of All Aces in exchange for a review)

#LoveOzYA #AWW2018 // Book Review: “All Fall Down” by Ellie Marney

Title: All Fall Down (Circus Hearts #2)
Author:
Ellie Marney
Genre: Contemporary/romance/crime
Target audience: YA
Date Read: 29/09/18 – 01/10/18
Rating:
★★★

Review:

After reading the first book in this series last month, I was really excited to find out more about the characters in this universe. I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as the previous book, but it was still a really enjoyable read.

All Fall Down centres on Fleur Klatsch, the daughter of the proprietor  of the Klatsch Karnival. After a streak of accidents, one of which finds her father in hospital, she finds herself trying to run the show and keep it all together. She is reunited with childhood friend Marco, who comes in as a PA to help.

I really loved getting to know Fleur in this installment. I wasa a bit wary of her in the first book because I thought she was just going to be a typical “mean girl” type, but there is much more to her than that. As Sorcha says in this book, she did the wrong thing for the right reasons.

I really loved Marco! I don’t know, he was just caring and sweet and really put together with his paisley waistcoats. And he has a really good job and a good head on his shoulders. I totally undestood his reasons for leaving the circus, but I also appreciated Fleur’s hurt and sense of abandoment. The only thing that bothered me a bit about Marco was that he called Fleur “Petal”, which I got was a reference to her name meaning flower, and in the context it was a childhood nickname. But I associate it with “Settle, petal” and my niece calling my mum “Petal” when she’s being cheeky and other condescending things, so it did jar me a bit when he called her that in the middle of an otherwise serious conversation. But I can let it go.

While the sabotage that begins in the first book continues here and the characters are investigating it, I felt that not a huge amount happened in the first half. But both the romance and the investigation took off about the second half, and the climax had me flying through the pages.

I also really appreciate how much research Ellie Marney puts into her stories. I ended up going and googling another circus after a mention of a disaster that took place there in the 50s. And even just how much detail there is in the general circus atmosphere. It’s pretty great.


(I am  grateful to Ellie Marney for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.)

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

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