Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

Title: The Rest of Us Just Live Here
Author: Patrick Ness

Release Date: 27th August 2015

My Rating: 4/5

Blurb:
What if you aren’t the Chosen One?

The one who’s supposed to fight the zombies, or the soul-eating ghosts, or whatever the heck this new thing is, with the blue lights and the death?

What if you’re like Mikey? Who just wants to graduate and go to prom and maybe finally work up the courage to ask Henna out before someone goes and blows up the high school. Again.

Because sometimes there are problems bigger than this week’s end of the world, and sometimes you just have to find the extraordinary in your ordinary life.

Even if your best friend is worshiped by mountain lions.

Award-winning writer Patrick Ness’s bold and irreverent novel powerfully reminds us that there are many different types of remarkable.

In A Nutshell:
The Rest of Us Just Live Here is the story of the kids who aren’t the ones chosen to save the world whenever a supernatural phenomenon occurs. It’s the story of characters who show great loyalty and love towards their friends and demonstrate that there are many different definitions as to what makes someone a hero. You don’t have to be everyone’s ‘Chosen One’, but you can be someone’s.


My Review:
In the interest of full disclosure, The Rest of Us Just Live Here is my first foray into the writing of Patrick Ness. I know, I’m a little behind the times and my friend has been trying to get me to read the Chaos Walking trilogy for the last 6 years. But that’s another story. My point is, I had high expectations because of how well regarded Ness is amongst bookish people, but I had no idea as to what style of writing I would encounter. And I was a little confused after reading the first chapter. But after finishing the second chapter, I realised what was going on, remembered what the book was about, and continued on to read the whole book in one sitting. Below is the letter I received with my ARC explaining why Ness wrote the story.



At the beginning of each chapter is a very brief summary of what is happening in the lives of ‘The Chosen Ones’, which in this story, is highlighted as always being one of the ‘indie kids’. The paragraph is summed up in a very tongue-in-cheek manner, which had me asking what in the world was going on and thinking these characters were just weird.  However, the rest of the chapter then gets into the real story, which is what is happening in the lives of the rest of the kids in town.

These are the kids who know something odd is going on in their small town but have their own problems to deal with and all they really want to do is get through the rest of the school year, graduate and get out of town. The Rest of Us Just Live Here is the story of those kids, the ones who see the great big flashes of light or the odd behaviour exhibited by the possessed. They remember the brief zombie invasion a few years back and they recognise the world is just that bit weird, even though most of the town just prefers to ignore what is going on around them. It’s the untold story of what happens to everyone else while the world is ending.

The book is based around Mikey, his sister Mel, and friends Jared and Henna. Their story starts with them lying in the field behind Mikey and Mel’s house, debating the validity of the way your stomach flip flops when you see someone you like, and questioning what you feel and how you act on those feelings. Essentially, discussing the way we make choices in life. It’s a relatable situation experienced by everyone at some point in his or her life and it is a good way to start off the story by showing that these are just your average teenagers.

This is a book for those who are sick of all the ‘Chosen One’ stories out there. Who want to read about the ‘normal’ kids who just want to get through the year, having survived the soul-eating ghost phenomenon the previous year. In this case, our characters have their own troubles to deal with, problems that make life a struggle without some supernatural entity trying to end the world. Mikey and Mel have a passive, alcoholic father and a political, power-hungry mother. Mel is recovering from an eating disorder that nearly killed her which was triggered by their mother and the Press after a publicity photo-shoot. Mikey is trying to overcome his anxiety and OCD, which is once again making an appearance since their mother’s latest announcement.

And as for their friends, Jared is trying navigate the possibility of a male relationship in their small town as well as understand what it means to be the God of mountain lions, the result of having a God for a grandmother, just another side effect from the bizarre things that happen. Meanwhile, Henna is trying to convince her missionary parents that running off to a war zone is not the best idea for a family vacation before college.

There is a big focus on loyalty and helping each other through life because sometimes, friends are the only ones you can turn to/count on. This focus also applies to the brother/sister relationship between Mikey and Mel and how caring and encouraging they are of each other. They are one of my favourite depictions of siblings found in a YA novel.

Throughout their last few weeks of high school, a few home truths are revealed about friendships, relationships are salvaged, and lives are put in danger when the latest supernatural phenomenon occurs. The Rest of Us Just Live Here is a page-turner with characters you will love and just want to see succeed.    


Thank you to Walker Books Australia for this review copy.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

You're the Kind of Girl I Write Songs About by Daniel Herborn

Title: You're the Kind of Girl I Write Songs About
Author: Daniel Herborn

Release Date: 1st May 2015

Rating: 4/5

Blurb:
Tim’s a young singer-songwriter with a guitar case full of songs and dreams of finding an audience to embrace his tunes. 


Mandy’s obsessed with music and a compulsive dreamer. She’s longing for something more fulfilling than daytime TV and cups of tea with best friend Alice, something like the excitement and passion of rock ’n’ roll.

When their eyes meet at a gig, sparks fly across a crowded room and hope burns in their hearts.

But in a city of millions and a scene overrun with wannabes, can they ever get it together? Will Mandy’s nerves doom their romance before it even starts? And where does the darkness in Tim's songs come from?

This is a story of Sydney's Inner West, of first love, crush bands and mix tapes; of the thrill of the night and what happens when the music stops.

In A Nutshell:
A book about first love, friendship, finding your way, drinking tea, music, and all that music inspires.

My Review:
Mandy and Tim are eighteen year olds from the inner western suburbs of Sydney who meet expectantly at a gig one night. Both are hooked instantly but neither does much about it and leave without swapping so much as a phone number. An electrifying night fizzles with that all too familiar feeling of, “Why on earth didn’t I do something?!”

You’re the Kind of Girl I Write Songs About features two of my favourite things: Boys who play guitar and live music gigs. AND it’s Aussie YA. So it had three big ticks before I even opened the first page. Living up to my high expectations, You’re the Kind of Girl I Write Songs About didn’t disappoint.

When she isn’t working at a sandwich bar, Mandy spends her days watching daytime TV, having deferred university with the plan to travel before picking a major. In the evenings, more often than not, she and her best friend Alice can be found at local pubs on the lookout for musicians who can invigorate their love of music.

“Would it have made a difference? Or would I still be me, adrift in some other time, waiting for my life to begin, wondering when inspiration will strike?”

Tim is repeating year twelve and living with his uncle after events from the previous year contributed to his less than stellar results. The reader doesn’t know what happened (although there are very small hints throughout the book) until Tim reveals all to Mandy about 2/3 through. In his spare time, Tim writes and plays music, sometimes performing in competitions and solo shows in grungy pubs and bars, searching for the elusive crowd that actually cares about what he has to say within his music.

“I guess it seems weird to write a song about someone I don’t know, but that’s kind of what songs are: they’re secrets made public” 

Told in alternating chapters from Mandy and Tim’s perspectives, You’re the Kind of Girl I Write Songs About is a story about having friends and people who support and believe in you even if they have no idea what they want to do either. Because life is a crazy mish-mash of thoughts, ideas and surprises and you never know what will happen next. 



“We might be an unlikely couple, but I’m starting to think that’s the best kind.”


There were so many sweet, tender and emotional moments mixed in with the confusion and frustrations of life and I certainly had my fair share of smiley, happy, reading moments. As much as I loved the characters of Mandy and Tim, I also really appreciated Alice, who comes as a “package deal” with Mandy, or as Tim describes her, “an added bonus”. On the outside Alice seems like she has it all together: at uni studying something she loves, working in a bookstore, attending gigs with her bestie, and rocking her own quirky style. But she too has things in her life to deal with and it made me so happy to see her light up during the absolutely adorableness of her interactions with Justin, a boy from uni (that is not to imply that all her problems magically disappear because of a boy – they are just really sweet moments and I like seeing her character smile).


“I unwrap the parcel and it’s a mixtape Tim has made for me. Cute boys making me mixtapes has always been my sad secret fantasy, the thing I’m too cool to admit I wanted.”



As you would expect, there are plenty of musical mentions throughout the book which no doubt are inspired by the author, Daniel Herborn’s, own love of music. I only knew of some of the artists/bands but it didn’t matter and it gave me a plethora of new music to investigate. 

You’re the Kind of Girl I Write Songs About has a distinctive Australian feel to it. It’s a feeling, I think, to do with the writing style but I’ve never been able to put my finger on or articulate it. It’s not the fact that it is set in Australia, although that does have something to do with it, but it’s something more, an ‘essence’ or something that resonates with me. Like I said, I’ve never been able to figure it out but I’ve had the same strong feeling while reading a few select Aussie YA books, including Guitar Highway Rose, Swerve, Friday Brown and A Straight Line to My Heart. I love that You’re the Kind of Girl I Write Songs About has joined this elusive, personal list.

“Not for the first time, I feel some stupid urge to write songs about her, to make people see her as I do.”

A book about first love, friendship, finding your way, drinking tea, music, and all that music inspires.


Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Title: Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda
Author: Becky Albertalli

Release Date: 7th April 2015

My Rating: 5/5

Blurb:
Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.

With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.

In a Nutshell:
The Tales Compendium wishes to apologise for the excessive use of the words ‘awesome’ ‘adorable’ and ‘loved’ in this review.

My Review:
Over the past few months I have seen countless people rave about how awesome Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda is. I’m so pleased to now be able to join in on the love fest because Simon lived up to my highly set expectations and left me in desperate need of more.

My first thought upon finishing was, “Well that was freakin’ adorable!”. I pretty much had a smile on my face the entire length of the novel. I love Simon’s quirky but cool music taste, his absolute love of Harry Potter, and his devotion to Oreos (they really should be in a food group all of their own!).

“As a side note, don’t you think everyone should have to come out? Why is straight the default? Everyone should have to declare one way or another, and it should be this big awkward thing whether you’re straight, gay, bi, or whatever. I’m just saying.”

There is such a wonderful cast of characters throughout the novel: Nick, Leah and Abby, Simon’s family, the Theatre Club kids and Nick’s soccer mates. Each character has something that draws you to them and I think there is someone for everyone to identify with. Each character could potentially fit into a high school cliché group/label yet they are all friends and I love that each person is recognised for who they are rather than their perceived differences. Or perhaps I’m reading too much into it. Either way, they are all awesome :D Yay for supporting characters!

“It’s Saturday, we’re in an empty, dark school, and we’re a bunch of theatre kids wearing pyjamas and jacked up on donuts. We end up singing Disney songs in the stairwell. Abby weirdly knows every word to every song in Pocahontas, and everyone knows The Lion King and Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast. Taylor can improvise harmonies, and I guess we’re all warmed up from singing the Oliver! songs, because it just sounds really amazing. And the acoustics in the stairwell are freaking awesome.”

And then of course there’s Blue, who I was so smitten with when his identity was finally revealed. And I love that I didn’t pick who it was beforehand but when we learn who he is, he’s just perfect.

“He talked about the ocean between people. And how the whole point of everything is to find a shore worth swimming to. I mean, I just had to know him.” 

While reading, two-thirds of which was on a flight to Melbourne, I had to stop myself from laughing out loud and I was constantly putting the book down to take note of quotes and scenes I loved.

Speaking of scenes, I loved when Simon’s family were all together, doing their random family traditions like watching and commentating on The Bachelorette each week, or playing Facebook Scavenger Hunt over Christmas break. It sounded pretty fun actually, where someone picks a category, like a breakup, and then each person logs onto their account and the first person to find someone on their feed who has broken up, then gets to pick the next category.

The long running family joke that the three siblings are the chipmunks since their parents named them Alice, Simon and Eleanor (for those of you too young to know them, the cartoon chipmunks are Alvin, Simon and Theodore) was pretty adorable too.

“It’s actually warm enough for hoodies and pyjama pants and leftover ice cream cake and Scattergories.” 

An evening in the Spier’s household sounds like a pretty perfect evening I think!

As I said before, I didn’t want Simon to end, I was just so happy being in Simon’s world. What would make me really happy though is a companion novel featuring either Alice or Nora, Simon’s sisters. They both appear to have interesting stories to tell and I really wanted to spend more time with them.

Anyway, go read this book if you haven’t already because if you haven’t figured it out yet, here’s a hint: It’s awesome. Becky Albertalli, I’ll read anything you write.


The Tales Compendium wishes to apologise for the excessive use of the words ‘awesome’ ‘adorable’ and ‘loved’ in this review.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Happy Days

So today I am super excited for two reasons...

Firstly, I've just submitted my final assignment, signalling the end of my degree!

*happy dance*

It's been 3.5 years and I am so glad it's finally over. Not only do I get to walk away with major in Professional Writing and Publishing, I can now devote my free time to catching up on all the amazing books I have missed. And I have missed a lot. Can you believe I've only done one post in 3 months?! Oh the horror! But I am dedicated to getting my little corner of the web back to normal which brings me to my second piece of exciting news...



I am currently at the airport about to fly to Melbourne for the biennial Reading Matters Conference hosted by the Centre for Youth Literature. 

Huzzah! Excitement to the MAX. 

For those of you who have been with me and the blog for a while, you may remember I attended 2 years ago and had an absolute blast! Here's the link if you want to remind yourself of all the awesome...

I'm going to *try* and keep you updated via Twitter and Facebook but I wasn't very good at it last time. So if I fail, or even just to get extra massive doses of awesome, follow along with the hashtag #YAMatters because lots of wonderful people will be contributing.


Reading Matters guest speakers include:

Sara Farizan
Sally Gardner
Kyle Hughes-Odgers
Amie Kaufman
Priya Kuriyan
Jaclyn Moriarty
Abe Nouk
Tom Taylor
Jared Thomas
Sean Williams
Clare Wright

It's good to be back, guys.
Talk soon xx

Nona and Me by Clare Atkins

Title: Nona and Me
Author: Clare Atkins

Release Date: 24th September 2014

My Rating: 5/5

Blurb:
Rosie and Nona are sisters. Yapas.

They are also best friends. It doesn’t matter that Rosie is white and Nona is Aboriginal: their family connections tie them together for life.

Born just five days apart in a remote corner of the Northern Territory, the girls are inseperable, until Nona moves away at the age of nine. By the time she returns, they’re in Year 10 and things have changed. Rosie has lost interest in the community, preferring to hang out in the nearby mining town, where she goes to school with the glamorous Selena, and Selena’s gorgeous older brother Nick.

When a political announcement highlights divisions between the Aboriginal community and the mining town, Rosie is put in a difficult position: will she be forced to choose between her first love and her oldest friend?

In A Nutshell:
A story about family in all its forms, friendship, growing up and finding yourself.

My Review:
Set in the Northern Territory of Australia during the 2007 Intervention by the Howard Government, through to the election of Kevin Rudd and his ‘Sorry’ speech, Nona and Me is an incredibly important and special book.

The story follows Rosie who, for the most part, has distanced herself from her Indigenous family after her ‘sister’ Nona, left the community six years earlier. Trying to fit in with Selena and her older brother Nick, who have moved to town from Sydney, has led Rosie to ignore her upbringing. When Nona re-emerges in the middle of year 10, Rosie is forced to re-examine what exactly the word ‘family’ means to her and what she is prepared to risk losing for the cost of ‘fitting in’.

With tensions building in the community due to a government intervention, the death of someone in her adoptive family causes Rosie to reintegrate herself and partake in traditional ceremonies. In the process, she re-evaluates what, and who, is important to her.

A story about family in all its forms, friendship, growing up and finding yourself.

Nona and Me is a positive book that helps to combat the generally bad press that is showered over the Indigenous communities in Australia. While our protagonist, Rosie, is not of Aboriginal descent, she has grown up living in an Indigenous community in which she and her parents have been ‘adopted’ by one of the families. The novel shows Rosie’s perspective from being both inside and outside the community as she’s torn between two worlds, trying to figure out where she belongs. Included throughout the text are flashbacks of Rosie and Nona’s childhood, which helps provide a backstory, as well as contrast, to the novel’s present-day events. 

Nona and Me helps dispel stereotypes and emphasizes the importance of family and community. Just because a way of life might be different from the one you lead, doesn’t make it wrong. We are a world of many cultures and each individual is influenced by their surroundings. It is our differences that make us unique, and also bring us together. 

I was caught ‘off guard’ as to how much of a page-turner Nona and Me would be. In the blink of an eye, I was almost finished. It was surprisingly captivating and I'd love to see this become required reading or go on a recommended reading list in all high schools.

Thank you to Black Inc. for providing this review copy.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Mycroft, the Merrick Brothers, Nona and Me

So I started writing this as a status update over on the Facebook page but it got a bit too long so now it becomes a blog post!

Sorry I've been a bit absent the last couple of weeks. What have I been up to? I'm not really sure. I have no idea where the days have gone. I'm back at uni part-time for my final semester and I'm also doing some freelance website design work on top of my part-time job. But none of that usually keeps me this quiet on the reading/blogging front. Other than that stuff, time has just disappeared :/

Maybe it's just that I haven't really felt like writing reviews. Sometimes I just have to be in the right head space. You know? But I have read a few things...

I read Ellie Marney's final book in her 'Every' series, Every Move, which of course I loved. It was bittersweet really, getting to the final book but also the sadness that I won't get any more Rachel and Mycroft. Gosh I love them. Thanks Ellie! I do have things I want to say so I'll try write a review soon. 


I also read the first two books in Brigid Kemmerer's 'Elementals' series. Again, I Ioved these, not wanting to finish. After Storm, I was so disappointed I wouldn't get to read any more stories about Chris. But then I started reading Gabriel's story and I was good with getting to know another Merrick brother. I am however a bit slow at getting hold of book three as it focuses on Hunter who I am really not a fan of. Give me a Merrick brother and I'll be happy! I want to read book four but I just can't bring myself to skip a book. So I'm in limbo at the moment. Can anyone promise me that I will grow to like Hunter?



Last night I started reading Nona & Me by Clare Atkins. I went to bed with only 20 pages until the end. I got the book a few months ago but then just wasn't in the reading mood to pick it up. I've been feeling guilty but I knew that if I tried and wasn't in the mood, then it would end up back on the shelf, forgotten. Does this happen to anyone else? Anyway, last night it just jumped off my shelf and screamed "READ ME!". I couldn't put it down. It's a captivating and important story and I hope I can find the right words when it comes to reviewing it. I'm saving the last 20 pages as a reward for when I finish my assignment (hopefully tomorrow night!). It's a good motivator.


I hope every one is doing well and reading lots of lovely things. I'm a bit behind on reading everyone's posts but I hope to catch up soon.
Love xx

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

A Writers Festival and a Book Launch

~ Perth Writers Festival 2015 ~

It's that time of the year again! This past weekend, the Perth Writers Festival returned to the grounds of The University of Western Australia, featuring both local and international authors, for three days of literary goodness. While other commitments stopped me from attending the majority of events, I did manage to stop by for the appropriately named panel, YA Is Where It's At. 

Chaired by the wonderful Amanda 'AJ' Betts, the session was full of laughs and chatter as Rachael Craw, Dave Hackett and Sean Williams discussed their latest books and what it is about YA that makes us love it so.


L-R: Rachael Craw, Dave Hackett, Sean Williams and Amanda Betts


Dave Hackett reading a hilarious excerpt
from his new book, The Summer of Kicks


Catching up with Rachael Craw after the event

    



~ A Small Madness Book Launch ~

On Monday night, I attended the book launch of Dianne Touchell's second book, A Small Madness.






Rose didn't tell anyone about it. She wondered if it showed. She looked at herself in the mirror and turned this way and then that way. She stood as close to the mirror as she could, leaning over the bathroom basin, looking into her own eyes until they disappeared behind the fog of her breath. Looking for something. Some evidence that she was different now. Something had shifted inside her, a gear being ratcheted over a clunky cog, gaining torque, starting her up. But it didn't show. How could all of these feelings not show? She was a woman now but it didn't show and she couldn't tell anyone.

If you've read Dianne's debut, Creepy and Maud, you'll know that A Small Madness is bound to be an incredible read. I'm looking forward to cracking open the spine of my newly signed copy and if the blurb hasn't intrigued you then I suggest you check out the wonderful review by Danielle over at Alpha Reader.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

The Flywheel by Erin Gough

Title: The Flywheel
Author: Erin Gough

Release Date: 1st February 2015

My Rating: 5/5

Blurb:

Seventeen-year-old Delilah's crazy life is about to get crazier. Ever since her father took off overseas, she's been struggling to run the family's café without him and survive high school. But after a misjudged crush on one of the cool girls, she's become the school punchline as well. With all that's on her plate she barely has time for her favourite distraction – spying on the beautiful Rosa, who dances flamenco at the tapas bar across the road.

Only her best friend Charlie knows how she feels about Rosa, but he has romantic problems of his own. When his plan to win an older woman's heart goes horribly wrong, Del is the only one who can help Charlie stay out of jail. 

All this leaves Del grappling with some seriously curly questions. Is it okay to break the law to help a friend? How can a girl tell another girl she likes her without it ending in humiliation and heartbreak? And – the big one – is it ever truly possible to dance in public without falling over?

In A Nutshell:

The Flywheel is a very special book and has snuck into a little corner of my heart. I hope you love it too.

My Review:

Every now and then a book comes along and leaves you with an indescribable bubble of excitement that you don’t know how to express but you just want everyone else to experience. The Flywheel was one of these books for me.

Through a small amount of bad luck, seventeen-year-old Delilah has ended up running her father’s café, The Flywheel, after their manager is deported. Not wanting to spoil her father’s much-needed holiday, Del believes she can fix the problem without needing to inform him. But what started with Del taking a day off school to interview a new manager, turns into a week and then a month and so forth.

Unfortunately, that’s not all Del has to deal with as the problems in her life begin to pile up. From the beginning, Del is the subject of ongoing anti-gay harassment at school. Her love-sick best friend Charlie drags her along on a crazy plan that almost sees him thrown in jail. She catches an employee stealing from the café, and she’s arguing with her other bestie, Lauren. But it doesn’t stop there. Del’s screwed up things with the flamenco-dancing, grass-roots campaigner Rosa from across the street who she has had a crush on for ages, and a corporate franchise threatens to close The Flywheel.

The Flywheel is the kind of book that emphasis the reason YA lit is so important; it speaks to readers assuring them they are not alone.

Del and the people in her life are realistic characters, each with their own flaws and virtues. Their paths are all going in different directions, some expected and some not but they learn its ok to not know who they are and what they want right this minute. There is no ‘right’ way in life as to how to handle the ups and downs that are thrown at you. Everyone handles themselves differently, and Gough’s characters, particularly in the form of Del, Charlie, Rosa and Lauren emphasis this. They also learn that you can’t just force people to do things; they have to come upon the realisation themselves. Del in particular has to learn that just because she is confidant with who she is and has accepting friends and family, that doesn’t mean others are quite at the same stage as her.

The Flywheel was the 2013 winner of Hardie Grant Egmont’s Ampersand Project. Following in the footsteps of the 2012 winner, Life in Outer Space by Melissa Keil, The Flywheel has snuck in and snuggled into a little corner of my heart.

I read The Flywheel in one go, sitting down to read the first chapter before bed and the next minute discovering it was 1:30am and the book was finished. There was nothing I didn’t like about Erin Gough’s debut and I look forward to her future additions to the Aussie YA scene.

Thank you to Hardie Grant Egmont for this review copy.

If you liked this, try: The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl, Wavelength, The First Third and/or Wildlife.
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