Review: Sara Bernard – Goodbye, Perfect

Goodbye, Perfect
Sara Bernard

Eden can depend on Bonnie for being there and holding her up. But now Bonnie has run away with her boyfriend, and Eden doesn’t know which secrets she should be keeping. As Bonnie gets further and further away from Eden, Eden is forced further into her lies. Can Eden bring Bonnie home without betraying her trust?

I’m not sure how convinced by this novel I was. I wanted to get more of a sense about Eden’s background, but I appreciated that the author didn’t want to make a big deal out of it, because the whole novel was really about how far you would go to keep a secret. There were touches of romance between Eden and Connor, and attempts to explore the sometimes complicated nature of families, but most of the novel was focussed on Eden’s stubbornness. I never felt a real breakthrough in her personality, despite the softening she displayed later.

There could have been more action to keep my attention in the first part of the novel. I never felt like Eden was going to tell, so I didn’t feel much of a problem as Bonnie got further and further away from her home. I got to page 36 and commented to my partner that nothing seemed to have happened yet.

Something that you are told about frequently in foster care training, or as a psychiatric patient, is that you have to warn people that you can’t actually keep things a secret – if keeping the secret will harm them, or others, you are required to tell someone who can act to keep the person in question safe. Teenagers find this hard to understand, probably due to peer pressure & influence.

I felt pretty betrayed at the end honestly. I don’t know how I felt about the whole Jack-Bonnie situation either. I agree that he was in a position of power, and that he shouldn’t have abused that power. How could Bonnie be so naive? She seemed to have plenty of book-smarts, but no common sense. Not to mention the lack of responsibility of the school. Oh! And I wasn’t convinced that Jack was ‘grooming’ Bonnie. I agree that he probably didn’t feel the same star-struck love for her, but he might not have been a paedophile. Consent is a tricky thing – make sure you are both consenting ADULTS before doing anything…dodgy.

I’m giving this 4 stars.

Pan Macmillan | 13th February 2018 | AU$16.99 | paperback

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Review: Short Stories, Because You Love to Hate Me (ed. Ameriie)

Because You Love to Hate Me
Editor: Ameriie

Leave it to the heroes to save the world—villains just want to rule the world. In this unique YA anthology, thirteen acclaimed, bestselling authors team up with thirteen influential BookTubers to reimagine fairy tales from the oft-misunderstood villains’ points of view.

I confess, I read the first two short stories and almost gave up on the whole anthology. Neither were in a style I enjoyed. A book of short stories was never going to be my favourite read. You will remember from the time that I was more enamored with Mercedes Lackey that I read a lot of short stories. I usually like to use them to pick out some new authors to test out, but honestly at the moment I still have novels left over from last year to review and it’s just not going to happen.

I recognised two of the authors here – Adam Silvera (They Both Die in the End) and Nichola Yoon. I wouldn’t say that any short stories really shone out as amazing, but my pick would be Julian Breaks Every Rule by Andrew Smith. Let’s just say it has a lot in common with Breaking Butterflies. I wouldn’t want to ruin the underlying theme of it.

Honestly, I’m actually really envious that these vloggers got to request specific topics for their short story. Maybe I should start vlogging about my books? But I’m more of a writer of reviews. If you asked me to do this, I think I’d choose a reimagining of a dragon fairytale, clearly. Maybe the dragon from The Hobbit?

Let’s give this 4 stars, which is pretty generous from me for a book of short stories. Worth reading if you love fairytales, don’t mind short stories and are looking for some new authors to read.

Bloomsbury | 1st September 2017 | AU$14.99 | paperback

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Review: Megan Frazer Blakemore – The Firefly Code

The Firefly Code
Megan Frazer Blakemore

Old Harmonie is a utopian community where almost all diseases have been cured, and children at the age of 13 are granted access to their special talent. But is everything as good as the children have been taught?

I didn’t always understand Mori’s motivations. I actually wondered at the beginning if her own parents or Ilana had somehow coerced her into taking Ilana into her secret place. Or can it be excused by the power of ‘beautiful people’ to get what they want? I find it so funny how Mori can think that Ilana must be a ‘natural’ because she looks perfect. Dude! Everyone knows that natural genetics for humans doesn’t always turn out well. If someone is a ‘natural’, it’s likely that they don’t look perfect – they will resemble their parents more than Ilana does hers. Also, she should also totally blame her parents for her eyeball problems.

Looking for a YA version of this novel? Read Breaking and Burning by Danielle Rollings. Or perhaps Because you’ll never meet me. Playing around with genetics is so dangerous. We don’t even always get it right with mice – and it’s scary to think that scientists in poorly regulated countries such as China are already performing human cloning and no doubt some serious genetic engineering. It’s the ethics that always makes things complicated. How far is too far?

This novel has real potential for introducing younger readers to important genetic concepts. I’d set it at maybe age 10 up, just because the ideas behind changing people’s very genetic makeup is a hard one to grasp. They may also struggle with the idea that adults don’t always tell the truth, and that adults don’t always know everything. Being able to read the words and being able to understand the concepts are two different things.

Oh dear. This novel has made me want to read Sapient or The Ego Cluster again (PS: I did just reread Sapient – so good!). If only I had a printed copy of The Ego Cluster! I’ve just gotten a fancy copy of my PhD bound, so maybe I could do the same for it… Better ask the author (and see if he has written any more fantastic novels yet). I’m giving this 4 stars. It gets off to a really slow start, but certainly ‘heats up’ towards the end. And it has a sequel coming. Sigh. Why always with sequels? At least it mostly concluded properly.

Bloomsbury | 1st December 2017 | AU$14.99 | paperback

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Review: Angelo Surmelis – the dangerous art of blending in

the dangerous art of blending in
Angelo Surmelis

Evan has been trying to fit into society and his family his whole life. But with violence at home, and the knowledge that he kissed a boy in summer at Bible camp, Evan is probably never going to manage it. As his life goes from barely tolerable to horrific, Evan has to decide how he is going to shape his life from here.

I didn’t understand the obsession with money, except as a way of having more control over Evan. Evan’s father seemed like a sensible enough man, even if he was trapped by what the Greek community told him was normal.

Oh Gods. This novel ripped me apart. While reading it, I felt like my heart was going to break, and when I finished it, I felt like I needed a cuddle from my own partner to remind me that not all of the world is filled with idiots.

This novel powerfully tackles domestic abuse (from a female perpetrator, no less) and coming out as gay in a community that doesn’t understand it. It brought back memories of my own high school years, and the experiences I have heard from many other Queer people. I loved the authenticity of this novel, which came from it being written based on the experiences of the author. That a person had to go through that as a child, well, it brings me to tears.

How much actually happens in this novel? I spent a lot of the novel anticipating what Evan’s mother was going to do to him next, and not as much paying attention to the action. That anticipation and climax is what lets me give this novel 5 stars.

Penguin Random House | 12th February 2018 | AU$19.99 | paperback

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Review: Kathleen Barber – Are You Sleeping

Are You Sleeping
Kathleen Barber

Josie’s mother has just died, setting off a chain of events that she never could have predicted. Josie is expected to attend the funeral – the only problem is that she already told her boyfriend that her mother had died years ago. Finally, a social media reporter has just taken up the closed case of Josie’s father’s murder – and the whole world is baying for righteous blood.

This novel is an emotional roller-coaster ride, rather than a thriller. Josie has kept everything suppressed for so long (dude, you seriously needed counselling, not random sex in overseas bars), that it spurts out in unexpected bursts of trauma. Sometimes I felt that if she was just a little bit less irrational she would be fine!

Some of the character dynamics made no sense to me. However, I think that the author went to a great lengths to include a wide range of relationships. Take for example the ?20? years of difference between Josie’s cousin Linda and her husband. Or the weird dynamics of Lanie and Adam. Adam should pay…

I did not feel satisfied with the ending. What penalty will Poppy pay for basically causing the death of Josie’s mother? Shouldn’t she pay for withholding evidence that could have exonerated some suspects before so much damage was done? Or for interfering with a person’s final belongings?

I think I will actually give this 4 stars, although I would have liked more hints so that I could work out the solution for myself.

Pan Macmillan | 8th August 2017 | AU$29.99 | paperback

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Review: Shivaun Plozza – Tin Heart

Tin Heart
Shivaun Plozza

Marlowe has been lucky enough to get the new heart she needed, but blending in with a campaigning vegan mother and a costume wearing little brother is almost impossible. Not to mention having a little crush and ongoing feud with the boy next door… it’s a pity he’s a butcher! Who is she now that she has someone else’s heart?

Plozza’s debut novel, Frankie, was excellent, so I was looking forward to another novel from her. I was not disappointed by this one! Marlowe isn’t what you expect out of a YA/teenage protagonist, and that refreshed what could have otherwise been ‘just another teenage romance’. Marlowe is struggling with real issues, just like Frankie, and Plozza’s dialogue and scene setting lights the way for an engrossing story.

I always wonder if authors feel like writing a parallel/sequel hybrid novel of the supporting characters. I’m sure that there could have been a lot more explored following this novel with Zan/Kari as a protagonist. Then again, I think I’d just like to see more unlikely protagonists. I’d be interested to see this author’s take on a same-sex relationship.

Another novel I recently read,also concerns a heart transplant person (funnily enough). In Out of Heart, the heart recipient comes and sits in the lounge room of the donor family. The heart is known by science to carry memories and inclinations with it, and it of course holds a lot of sentimental value for organ donors.

Anything that promotes organ donation is a positive for me. Funnily enough, my partner’s boss at work needed a lung transplant, and his gift of life happened during an unexpected rain storm too. There were two false alarms (the lungs died in transport) before he finally got his lungs. A warning to all – be careful driving during unexpected weather, else you may give up your life by accident, although you might save other people by doing so.

Get your hands on this novel for yourself or your YA reader. 5 stars from me, it’s going straight to my re-read list. Now, if only I had time…

Penguin Random House | March 2018 | paperback

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Review: Gregg Hurwitz – Last Chance

Last Chance
Gregg Hurwitz

Chance Rain has made it through the last gasp of their plan to kill the Queen and free their home town. Too bad that the aliens can simply replace her with another. With the impregnated kids ready to hatch the next generation of invaders, Chance might be able to stop it – but it will cost him his life.

I received this, and then I literally gobbled it up for 3-4 hours. I knew that it would be good, having loved The Rains so much. I love the amount of thought that has gone into this novel. The stages of the invasion, the stages of the invaders themselves. The action happened so fast sometimes that I couldn’t breathe.

Alex, you two-timing teenager. I know there is an actual phenomenon of there being more marriage proposals after major catastrophes, due to emotions running high. But at the same time, Alex, didn’t anyone teach you about the rules of dating? You don’t shag two people at the same time, let alone two brothers.  

I hate to think of what happens next though. A population filled with kids no older than 18? All over the world? I mean, a lot have died off, but even the smart ones haven’t necessarily survived. Not to mention – how are all the countries to be saved, when originally the spread was via lots of meteors landing? So many skills would be lost.

I actually had this discussion with a Professor last night. Despite what the media says, many countries are now having negative population growth. This, combined with an aging population that needs more care, means that despite robots potentially taking over the world there will be plenty of jobs left. Humans have creativity, which might be our savior.

Go get your hands on this novel. I think I would even reread it, that’s how attached I got to the characters. 5 stars.

Penguin Random House | 2nd January 2018 | AU$19.99 | paperback

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Review: Jean E. Pendziwol – The Lightkeeper’s Daughters

The Lightkeeper’s Daughters
Jean E. Pendziwol

Morgan is going to spend some time repainting the wall she put graffiti on at a Retirement home. Instead, she also finds herself reading old journals to Elizabeth, a Lightkeeper’s daughter. Those journals may hold the secrets to Elizabeth’s past – and maybe help Morgan work towards her future.

I’ll admit, it took me a bit of reading to really get into this novel. I’d picked it up before, but just hadn’t been in the mood for reading alternative character perspectives interspersed with journal entries. I got into it though, and it was seamless transitions after that. They all had a distinct voice and it kept me reading constantly until the end.

Morgan tries to be a hardened foster kid, but really struggles. It just takes a few little pokes for her attitude to change. Honestly, I expected more drama from Morgan’s boyfriend. He didn’t seem like the type to let go easily. But I was so proud of her!

Well, I’m not sure about whether the ending should be considered a twist or not. I didn’t find myself surprised by the way things worked out – this is a novel after all, and things just usually happen to fall that way! Maybe if you pay really close attention, the details will click early for you as well.

I’m giving this 4 stars. Fantastic writing that made for fantastic reading. This novel reminds me of the novel that took an alternative perspective on the Titanic’s sinking – The Midnight Watch. If you enjoy boats, water and an intriguing story line, this novel is for you.

Hachette Australia | 1st July 2017 | AU$29.99 | paperback

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Review: Samira Ahmed – love, hate & other filters

love, hate & other filters
Samira Ahmed

Maya hides behind a lens, capturing life going by her. With her strict Indian Muslim parents guiding (and watching) her every step, is there any way she will be able to follow her own passion?

Hmm, where to start with this novel. Maya had a unique viewpoint, but one that anyone could relate with. We all have friends that our parents hate, or hobbies that they don’t approve of, and of course bullying to contend with. I started empathizing with Maya so much that at one point of the novel I was really worried for her safety!

This reminded me strongly of the vegan warrior with the butcher living next door (again, I can’t remember the name of this…). Maya should never fall for a non-religious football jock… But she does, of course! I wanted her to get the things she wanted out of life, even if it seemed impossible

If you loved 10 Things I Hate About Me or When Michael Met Mina, you will likely also love this novel. This novel is a worthy addition to the fears that Muslim people face around the world when they are constantly, unfairly, being tagged with the title of ‘Terrorist’. If you would rather read slightly less non-fiction, but still with a Muslim protagonist, may I also suggest The Truth About Peacock Blue or A Different Kind of Daughter?

I’m giving this 4 stars. Not enough intrigue for 5 stars, but an enthralling one nevertheless.

Allen & Unwin | 24th January 2018 | AU$19.99 | paperback

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Review: Deborah Ellis – Parvana

Parvana
Deborah Ellis

After her father is jailed for no reason, Parvana must take over the man’s role in her family. In a world ruled by men, can one small boy even still do anything? Or is the only power the ability for a woman to marry into a powerful family?

Generally I don’t read graphic novels. But because this one was based on a novel, it seemed like there would be a decent storyline to follow. Everyone knows I’m all about the words, not the art. Not to say the art in this was bad – it was actually nice and clear. I felt like I wanted to know more after reading/viewing this. It left me with more questions than answers. For example, why was Parvana’s friend so willing to give away his father? Why did Parvana’s mother not do anything more? How can she be so calm?

I’m not really sure what audience this is aimed at. My 8 year old female reader wouldn’t want to read about the violence, even thought the moral of the story is an amazing one. She’s scared of everything though. So perhaps a boy would enjoy it? What a sexist thing to say… Is the storyline compelling enough to keep a beginning reader reading? I’m going to say yes, because the protagonist is risking her life every day, and you don’t want her to get hurt.

I think it is unfair for me to star this. I’m giving it 4 stars, because I did actually pick it up and read it, and kept reading it, which is unusual for me.

Allen & Unwin | 24th January 2018 | AU$19.99 | paperback graphic novel

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