A Thousand Perfect Notes by C.G. Drews

Published: 7th June 2018Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Orchard Books
Pages: 282
Format: Paperback
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

Beck hates his life. He hates his violent mother. He hates his home. Most of all, he hates the piano that his mother forces him to play hour after hour, day after day. He will never play as she did before illness ended her career and left her bitter and broken. But Beck is too scared to stand up to his mother, and tell her his true passion, which is composing his own music – because the least suggestion of rebellion on his part ends in violence.

When Beck meets August, a girl full of life, energy and laughter, love begins to awaken within him and he glimpses a way to escape his painful existence. But dare he reach for it?

Note: I received a copy from the publisher for review

Ugh, my heart!

My heart!

I don’t think you understand, my HEART IS ACHING!

What have you done to me Drews?!

So they were the notes I’d written down whilst I read this book. Not much changed by the end of it. I was astounded and moved and just in awe of Beck. I hugged this book when I finished. Actually hugged it. I’ve done that with maybe 2 or 3 other books ever.  Before that I spent the whole book wanting to hug Beck himself, I loved him from page one and by the end I was ready to fight for him come hell or high water.

With the anticipation and impatience I felt waiting for this book I’m so glad it was everything I thought it was going to be and so much more. I haven’t felt a love like this for a character for a while. A true character who is a victim of circumstance, a true sweetheart, and a lost soul unsure what to do. He is brave and strong and every time we get an insight into his thoughts my heart swelled and my love for him grew.

Despite being Beck’s story, there are really four people that are the focus of this novel: Beck, Maestro, Joey, and August. Drews balanced their stories really well, even through Beck’s eyes we get adequate focus on their lives and stories that give them depth as characters in their own right. Nothing feels rushed or glossed over. Information comes naturally and we discover little things about each character gradually, not through clunky exposition or info dumps. Their lives are also perfectly intertwined back into Beck’s that it all still feels about him and his experience.

I loved these other characters too in their own way. Joey was one who had my sympathies and broke my heart as well for different reasons. Drews balances the 5 year old mind very well; Joey has no tact, she’s excitable, impressionable, but she is also a loving sister. There are times as you read when you have forgotten her age and with skill and mastery Drews throws it in your face and reminds you just how young and fragile she can be.

Drews use of language is fantastic, there are wonderful sentences filled with beauty and pain that encapsulate Beck’s thoughts and feelings. August too has some brilliant insights that Drews perfects in a single sentence. I have many favourite moments from this book but the single sentence “marshmallow with burnt skin” is my all time favourite and it is Divine! I read that and just thought perfection.

There is so much I want to say about this book, the language, the story itself, the ending, the middle. All of it was perfection in my eyes from start to finish. I don’t want to give anything away because the pockets of surprises and the big surprises are what make reading this story so great. I will be rereading this book so many times because while it crushes my heart it also makes me so unequivocally happy and who wouldn’t want to relive that over and over again?

You can preorder A Thousand Perfect Notes via the following

Publisher | Amazon AUS

Book Depository | Greenhouse Agency

Amazon US | Amazon UK

Barnes and Noble | Waterstones

Hachette Australia

 

 

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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

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

Anna and the French Kiss

Published: 16th July 2013
Goodreads badgePublisher: Speak
Pages: 372
Format: Book
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

Can Anna find love in the City of Light?

Anna is happy in Atlanta. She has a loyal best friend and a crush on her coworker at the movie theater, who is just starting to return her affection. So she’s less than thrilled when her father decides to send her to a boarding school in Paris for her senior year.But despite not speaking a word of French, Anna meets some cool new people, including the handsome Étienne St. Clair, who quickly becomes her best friend. Unfortunately, he’s taken —and Anna might be, too. Will a year of romantic near misses end with the French kiss she’s waiting for?

There are definitely two emotions one experiences whilst reading this book. On one hand, it is sweet and adorable and there are lovely French sites and wonderful friendships and cute, sweet romances. On the other hand, there’s a boy who essentially cheats on his girlfriend because he hasn’t got the emotional stability to be alone, both have too many emotions that can’t seem to stay balanced for more than five minutes, and other kinds of moral problems that just don’t sit right.

Focusing on the good though, I loved that Perkins took the friendship route. I loved the entire first half where Anna and the nice French boy Étienne St Clair become friends as he shows her around France. There’s not anything to worry about and you fall in love with their friendship. I loved that Anna didn’t pine for the boy across the room without really meeting him, she got to know him and be a close friend first and foremost which made their relationship and the story much better.

I enjoyed the narrative a lot; I liked the normalcy of it before the relationship drama really began. I liked seeing Anna find her feet and making friends, seeing her navigate through this French school as best she could. Character \wise though, Anna was complicated. To be honest, all the characters were interesting and had some issues, but my word they were dramatic. Very dramatic, and so many emotions! Anna was such an emotional yo-yo it was hard to keep up. She also cried a lot. A lot. For no reason, at the drop of a hat, for the smallest thing. It’s a character choice I guess, the sensitive girl, but I swear there are times when crying is not the right reaction and there’s some stuff that maybe could be solved without tears.

St Clair was another emotionally and angst-ridden teen. St Clair is the typical YA boy: the hair, the smile, the eyes, the way he chews on his nails is even meant to be adorable, and I’ll be honest, at times I hated myself thinking that was adorable but credit where credit is due, Perkins makes you fall in love with these two and makes all the problematic moments easy to forget. Like Anna, St Clair is an emotional confusion which makes him a pain at times with his own indecision, but I guess it is meant to be romantic or something.

I certainly shifted between them being adorable and rolling my eyes at them which was weird. They shifted between the two so quickly so one minute I was rolling my eyes then I was ‘awwing’ at their sweetness. It was an odd experience but in a weird way, I think the sweetness worked out, even if it was hilarious at times watching them discusses their situation and I hate St Clair at times for his actions.

I know there are problems in this about characters and their actions, but I think I was won over because it was sweet and it was a romance that was built up through friendship and accidental feelings. But I will openly admit that I feel a bit wrong in doing so.

You can purchase Anna and the French Kiss via the following

Publisher | Book Depository

Amazon | Booktopia | Kobo

Wordery | Fishpond | A&R Bookworld

 

The Name of the Star (#1) by Maureen Johnson

Published: 29th September 2011
Goodreads badgePublisher: Harper Collins
Pages: 372
Format: Book
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

Jack the Ripper is back, and he’s coming for Rory next….

Louisiana teenager Rory Deveaux arrives in London to start a new life at boarding school just as a series of brutal murders mimicking the horrific Jack the Ripper killing spree of more than a century ago has broken out across the city. The police are left with few leads and no witnesses. Except one. Rory spotted the man believed to be the prime suspect. But she is the only one who saw him – the only one who can see him. And now Rory has become his next target…unless she can tap her previously unknown abilities to turn the tables.

Upon finishing this book I was experiencing a myriad of emotions and feelings that the first draft of this review was, for the majority, unhelpful gushing and exuberant praise. I was on a high of delight and amazement at what I had just read. Nothing wrong with that, but rather unhelpful for a review.

I cannot ignore though that a full 330 words were devoted entirely to going on about just how wonderful this book was. I experienced so many feelings and emotions throughout this book, especially during the final chapters, that I was on the edge of my seat and unsure where it could possibly lead, excited and impatient and nervous of what was going to happen.

I have been a long time fan of Johnson through her guest vlogging, her books, and following her hilarity on Twitter, but only recently have I been able to snag a copy of her Shades of London series which I have been dying to read for years. And can I just say I am so glad I finally got to read this because it is the greatest book ever! It is such a Maureen Johnson book as well. Her personality and own quirkiness shine off the pages and through her characters.

I strongly recommend you read this book, it really is all kinds of amazing. It’s a Jack the Ripper story like no other and it sucks you in and holds you while it simultaneously messes with your mind and makes you amazed and wide-eyed at the cleverness of it all.

The story follows Rory, a girl from southern USA who is sent to boarding school in London. She soon becomes embroiled in a series of murders eerily similar to that of Jack the Ripper. From there it becomes a story about murder and mystery, with a unique and clever paranormal element as well. Johnson’s writing is light and funny but also manages to be delightfully creepy in all the best ways.

The characters are unique and have their own stories to tell. I liked Rory’s charm in that she was a bit odd but she was who she was and wasn’t ashamed. I loved the differences between the UK and the US and the cultural clashes that are evident. I also loved that the story was slowly revealed. I revelled in the shocks, the surprises, and the delights. I made so many gasps and various other noises while I read this I’m sure people nearby were looking at me weird.

Other characters like Jerome and Stephen are wonderful. Jerome, in particular, is all kinds of adorable and while it took some time to warm to Rory, I loved Jerome immediately. I liked each character’s quirky nature and that they brought their own strengths to any situation. There is a wonderful sense of UK boarding school culture as well as a nice look at the streets of London through the eyes of a newcomer as well as its citizens. You get a taste of the culture and the mystery the old city has to offer and it is easy to fall under the spell through Rory and her own fascination.

When you read this book I suggest you keep the second in the series nearby because the moment you finish that last page you will want to dive into the next book right away. It is a wonderful story and it is a ghost story like no other.

You can purchase The Name of the Star via the following

Wordery | Book Depository | Fishpond

Dymocks | Amazon USA | Author Website

Barnes and Noble | Readings | Amazon Aust

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