P is for Pearl by Eliza Henry-Jones

Published: 19th February 2018Goodreads badge
Publisher:
HarperCollins
Pages: 304
Format: ebook
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

Note: I received a copy from NetGalley

Seventeen-year-old Gwendolyn P. Pearson has become very good at not thinking about the awful things that have happened to her family. She has also become used to people talking about her dead mum. Or not talking about her and just looking at Gwen sympathetically. And it’s easy not to think about awful things when there are wild beaches to run along, best friends Loretta and Gordon to hang out with – and a stepbrother to take revenge on. 

But following a strange disturbance at the cafe where she works, Gwen is forced to confront what happened to her family all those years ago. And she slowly comes to realise that people aren’t as they first appear and that like her, everyone has a story to tell.

I loved the comfortable feeling of this book. I connected with the feeling of the small town and the familiarity with all the residents there. It was a different kind of story that had a lot of focus on the characters and who they were rather than any big events. I liked that what looked like key plot points came to nothing and you realise Jones has a different direction in mind for the story.

What I also liked were the slow reveals and the shifting focus, it is also a great exploration of mental health and how that is dealt with at all ages and stages of life. Jones doesn’t delve too deeply into this, it is very much shown from the outside, but that in itself is an interesting point of view.

I enjoyed the surprises and their reveals that were impactful but didn’t feel like Plot Twists. They weren’t suddenly thrown in your face but they developed gradually which I liked. It felt natural and it felt like a realistic moment of discovery rather than a sudden change in the story.

The characters are pretty wonderful as well. I liked the relationship Gwen has with her friends and the people in town. It has a great small town feeling and the friendships and the support the community provide to one another is heart-warming but doesn’t come across as cheesy.

There isn’t a great exploration of other characters, but at the same time it’s not their story and you forget to notice it sometimes. You know who they are, and Jones gives you enough that you understand their lives and who they are, but Jones doesn’t go into huge depths. This is Gwen’s story after all and Jones keeps it revolving around her.

There is a natural feeling to the way Jones writes. Conversations are natural, more information isn’t provided between characters just so a reader understands, and the events and actions of the characters are intriguing and fascinating without being unnatural or fanciful.

It says in Jones’ acknowledgements that she first wrote this book when she was 16, whether that accounts for the tone this book sets or just that she can tell a young adult story well I’m not sure. I was drawn into Gwen’s story and came out the other side satisfied and content which is never a bad way to feel at the end of a book.

You can purchase P is for Pearl via the following

Booktopia | QBD

Amazon | Amazon Aust

Boomerang Books | BookWorld

Publisher

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Meet Alice (#1) by Davina Bell

Published: 25th January 2012 Goodreads badge
Publisher:
  Penguin Books Australia
Pages: 105
Format: Book 
Genre:
 Junior Fiction
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

It’s 1918…and Alice lives with her big family by the Swan River in Perth, while on the other side of the world, World War I rages. Alice’s deepest wish is to become a ballerina, and when she auditions for a famous dance teacher from London, it seems as if her dreams might come true. But then there’s a terrible accident, and Alice must ask herself whether there are more important things than dancing. Meet Alice and join her adventure in the first of four stories about a gifted girl in a time of war.

This was a quaint little story and the first in a series of four and part of a larger collection of stories called Our Australian Girl where various writers tell the story of young girls at various points in Australia’s history. It’s simple but sweet and it shows you what life was like during this time in Australia’s history. This story is set in a town just outside Perth in the middle of WW1 and depicts the day to day life and the impact of the war. Alice dreams of being a ballerina and has the skill to be great one day, but her responsibilities at home are important as well and the guilt she feels enjoying herself weigh on her mind.

I liked Alice; I liked her friendships and the relationship with her brother Teddy and how she cares for her family while her mother works and their father is at war. There are antagonists, naturally, and a small town mentality, and Bell has incorporated the historical references and circumstances really well making the story feel natural and age appropriate while not holding back facts.

Each story is self-contained but because it’s told through four books there is an ongoing storyline as well. Being the first book we have an introduction to Alice’s family, and an insight into 1918 life and the pressure young boys had to go and fight in the war, lest they be labelled cowards. Bell uses her characters really well in helping demonstrate the different sides of society during this time and despite the relatively simple story, it is a rather intriguing little read.

You can purchase Meet Alice via the following

Publisher | Book Depository

Booktopia | A&R Bookworld

QBD | Fishpond

Mr Stink by David Walliams

Published: October 2009
Goodreads badgePublisher: Harper Collins Children’s
Pages: 267
Format: Book
Genre: Junior Fiction
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

“Mr Stink stank. He also stunk. And if it was correct English to say he stinked, then he stinked as well…”

It all starts when Chloe makes friends with Mr Stink, the local tramp. Yes, he smells a bit. But when it looks like he might be driven out of town, Chloe decides to hide him in the garden shed.

Now Chloe’s got to make sure no one finds out her secret. And speaking of secrets, there just might be more to Mr Stink than meets the eye… or the nose.

I think I liked this. I did and then I didn’t then I did again. It had moments of being sweet but then it would go silly again and then weird, then it would circle back to being sweet. At best I think it was a peculiar story, one that certainly left me with a lot of questions. At the core of it Mr Stink is a homeless Mary Poppins. He comes into the lives of the Crumb family and makes it a bit better.

At the start we are introduced to poor Chloe Crumb, living in her sister’s shadow, bullied by her as well as the kids at school, and she is never good enough for her mother. We are also told about Mr Stink, the man who smells so incredibly terrible who sits on a bench all day long with his dog.

I liked the characters Walliams has created. Mrs Crumb has a touch of Hyacinth Bucket in her, while poor suffering Mr Crumb has to put up with her. Chloe’s sister Annabelle is the snobby, bratty little sister who is spoiled and adored by her mother, and seeing her be cruel to Chloe was a bit heartbreaking. There were some jokes around Annabelle I liked; especially the ones about how full Annabelle’s schedule is trying to fit in all her extracurricular activities. I also liked the camaraderie between Chloe and her dad, their small actions of defiance against her mother’s demands.

One character I never fully understood was Mr Stink. Once you get to the core of his story it is quite serious for a children’s book, Walliams goes from silly jokes, to serious moments then back to silly jokes. The seriousness came out of nowhere and I was very surprised. It didn’t feel like it had a place in this light-hearted story, but Walliams throws these moments in there a lot as it goes on, making you think there is going to be a more heartfelt direction, and there is, to his credit, but it never lasts as long and is still surrounded by these obscure and silly jokes.

Another thing that confused me was the changes in Mr Stink’s personality. Sometimes he seems like a normal homeless person, bit eccentric ok, but normal enough. But then other times he seems delusional about what year it is or how money works. It distracted from the story and interrupts your sense of trying to work out who Mr Stink is as a character. He seems to be two people without actually meaning to be, especially after you understand his personal story.

I listened to this as an audio book and Walliams narrated it with the help of Matt Lucus. They both did a great job, the story translated well to audio well and with the pair of them doing a variety of voices it was a fun listen. It had the humour that kids books have with jokes about being dirty and doing gross stuff, but it also had a little bit of heart in it as well. It is sweet but it is weird, and felt like it could have been a bit more than what it was, but that might be asking a bit much of a children’s book that was just meant to be a bit funny with a fun story.

 

You can purchase Mr Stink via the following

Book Depository | QBD

Booktopia | Wordery

Fishpond | A&R Bookworld

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

Published: 26th February 2013
Goodreads badgePublisher: St. Martin’s Press
Pages: 323
Format: Book
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

Eleanor is the new girl in town, and with her chaotic family life, her mismatched clothes and unruly red hair, she couldn’t stick out more if she tried.

Park is the boy at the back of the bus. Black T-shirts, headphones, head in a book – he thinks he’s made himself invisible. But not to Eleanor… never to Eleanor.

Slowly, steadily, through late-night conversations and an ever-growing stack of mixtapes, Eleanor and Park fall for each other. They fall in love the way you do the first time, when you’re young, and you feel as if you have nothing and everything to lose. 

I had been hearing about this book this ages and I finally got to read it last year. I liked it don’t get me wrong, but it certainly wasn’t the Big Grand Amazing YA Book I’d heard it praised as. The amount of love and praise didn’t match up with the book I read. It was, for lack of a better word, sweet.

When you break it down it is also heartbreaking and admirable, and the characters are the best they be at the time, but matter how I tried, I didn’t gush over it. It remained very sweet. There is absolutely nothing wrong with it being sweet though, it is the kind of sweet that touches you a little inside and makes you happy and then breaks your heart while making you smile.

I will say a strong point was most definitely the characters. This book is all about the characters and I loved them; I loved their uniqueness, how different Eleanor is from, dare I say it, most girls. I also loved that Park is who he is regardless and he gets through high school as best he can. I loved that I was surprised and proud of these two, I adored them just a little and Rowell has written them well. I feel their characters were able to shine in the setting they were given, the 80s was a great environment to tell this kind of story, one I think needed the retro feeling.

The narrative was well told, Rowell gives you both Eleanor and Park’s point of view and seeing them interact with one another from both sides is a great example of misconceptions and hiding personal truths. I felt sorry for Eleanor’s life but proud of her at the same time. I felt she was a wonderfully strong character even when she didn’t feel it herself.

Park’s initial reservations and desire not to stand out by helping her is a kick in the gut but you also understand where he is coming from (even if you think him a coward). Social expectations, bullying, and peer pressure are all explored in this novel, and Park is a clear example of trying to remain unnoticed, seeing something is wrong, but not being strong enough to stand up against it. Seeing his development over the book was good, a bit disappointed it took as long as it did, but I ended up being proud of him which is a good result.

I don’t think this needs to be a Big Grand YA, I think this is a beautifully sweet and wonderful story that gets you right in the heart and makes you pity and love these foolish teenagers and their lives. Maybe the very fact that it is sweet and heartbreaking is what makes it wonderful?

You can purchase Eleanor and Park via the following

Dymocks | Booktopia

Book Depository | Wordery

Fishpond | A&R Bookworld

Amazon | Amazon Aust

The 13-Storey Treehouse by Andy Griffiths

Published: 1st September 2011 Goodreads badge
Publisher:
  Pan Macmillan Australia
Pages: 256
Format: ebook 
Genre:
 Junior Fiction
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

Who wouldn’t want to live in a treehouse? Especially a 13-storey treehouse that has a bowling alley, a see-through swimming pool, a tank full of sharks, a library full of comics, a secret underground laboratory, a games room, self-making beds, vines you can swing on, a vegetable vaporiser and a marshmallow machine that follows you around and automatically shoots your favourite flavoured marshmallows into your mouth whenever it discerns you’re hungry.

Two new characters – Andy and Terry – live here, make books together, and have a series of completely nutty adventures. Because: ANYTHING can happen in a 13-storey treehouse.

I have been meaning to read this series since it came out and I finally have gotten around to it. I have to say, tiny bit disappointed. It wasn’t the story I was expecting it to be. Not that I really know what I expected it to be.

We are introduced to Andy and Terry, book creators, friends, and treehouse roommates. We are also introduced to their magnificent 13-storey treehouse. It has all sorts of fun things like a bowling alley, shark tank, laboratories and fun inventions. It has very little text and lots of grand and intricate pictures, especially of the treehouse.

Andy and Terry are the odd couple, Andy wanting to write the book for their publisher and Terry keeps having wacky adventures and causing havoc. Fun and silly, not altogether unenjoyable, but it didn’t feel like a story.

It’s a book that breaks the fourth wall, mocks itself and the creators. It’s silly and clever, and certainly a book I can see kids loving. It’s imaginative and nonsensical, absurd and unexplainable which is always fun, but it was just a bit dull, well not dull but lacking a decent narrative.

I dislike when I’m not a fan of books like this, acknowledging they are not for my age, but still disappointed I couldn’t enjoy them regardless. I suppose if I look at this as the start of any other series it is one where we introduce characters, have a little beginners story before kicking it off in the remaining books. With so many yet to read I feel that may happen but I’m not sure. I will be sorely disappointed if they were all like this, I had hoped to read this series and love it.

You can purchase The 13-Storey Treehouse via the following

QBD | Dymocks | Book Depository

Booktopia | Bookworld | Fishpond

Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

Wordery | Publisher

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