Before You Forget by Julia Lawrinson

Goodreads badgePublished: 30th January 2017
Publisher:
 Penguin Random House Australia
Pages: 235
Format: Paperback
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

Year Twelve is not off to a good start for Amelia. Art is her world, but her art teacher hates everything she does; her best friend has stopped talking to her; her mother and father may as well be living in separate houses; and her father is slowly forgetting everything. Even Amelia.

The best word I could describe this book with is sweet. It is a very sweet book, it has heart and there are some beautiful moments that hit all the right emotions and makes for a, well, sweet story.

This is a book that covers a range of mental health issues, highlighting how they affect those around them as much as it shows how it affects those that suffer from them. At its core it is also a story about love and about having a family member experience something that you will never understand completely but something that will affect you in so many ways.

Lawrinson expresses Amelia’s confusion regarding her father’s behaviour remarkably well. You understand her uncertainty and her fear about what is wrong with him, the uncertainty about what it means for the future of herself and her family.

Amelia is a character that intrigued me. Her obsession with September 11 videos is a fascinating aspect of her character and Lawrinson does a wonderful job helping the reader understand why she watches these over and over again.

One of the things I loved was how Amelia expressed herself through art. I’ve read a string of books lately with main characters who love art and it is a wonderful addition to their personality, letting their creativity show and working through any personal issues with their art is always great to read about.

One thing I did want more of is better character development of Poppy. Lawrinson makes a point of telling us that Amelia and Poppy become close friends, but we learn little to nothing about Poppy herself. She is merely a side character, one that barely gets any depth. I feel like we learn more about her mother than we do Poppy which is a shame. It felt like she was meant to be a more in-depth character, she is mentioned a lot but any real relationship didn’t come across the page.

Overall I did like this book. It has heart and it has a compelling story about change and an uncertain future. One thing I wish had been included was a picture of Amelia’s art. I did the best I could to picture it in in my mind, Lawrinson provides a lot of detail, but as I turned the final page I was silently hoping there would be the artwork for us to see. Sadly, this was not the case.

 You can purchase Before You Forget via the following

Booktopia | Dymocks

QBD | Book Depository

Amazon | A&R Bookworld

 

The Shadow Thief (#1) by Alexandra Adornetto

Published: July 1st 2007 (print)/28 January 2011  (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 HarperCollins Australia/Bolinda Audio
Pages: 288 pages/5 discs
Narrator: Alexandra Adornetto
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Fantasy/Young Adult
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

Millipop Klompet and Ernest Perriclof live in the uneventful town of Drabville, where the cautious Ernest spends his time enlarging his rock collection and Milli dreams of adventure. When the pair are kidnapped from their homes and brought to live in the gothic mansion known as Hog House, they are adopted by the madcap Mr and Mrs Mayor and a series of bizarre encounters follows. Things do not add up and the children find that sinister plans are beginning to emerge. Why has the notorious Lord Aldor stolen the shadows of all of the town’s residents and where are they being held? Assisted by a band of prisoners, the children must venture into the Taboo Territories, and battle the perils dished out by the Lurid Lagoon, in order to outwit Lord Aldor and prevent him from executing his secret master plan.

From very early on I compared this book to Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. It’s actually a lot better than that in my opinion. Though, not being a huge fan of Snicket’s famed series I’m not sure what that means.

But if you are a fan of Snicket’s work then I suggest you read this series. Adornetto uses the same whimsical tone and storytelling style that addresses the reader, gives us facts about the characters, bemoans when things unfortunate happen to them, and states matter of factly when things aren’t going their way. I listened to this as an audio book and Adornetto was the narrator which worked really well. Adornetto’s storytelling ability is entertaining and while she doesn’t vary voices that noticably, you really don’t need it and her narration is wonderful.

One thing I absolutely ADORED in this book was Adornetto’s language. She uses big, wonderful, words that are so eloquent, and ones that give the story such a wonderful tone. It suits the strange surreal, British nature of this book (despite Adornetto being Australian) that is absurd and outlandish, that of course there will be beautiful and clever words in it as well.

The story is delightful and innocent, but with the cheekiness that kids love. As I said, very much like Lemony Snicket but with a bit less intense unfortunatenesses and more daring adventures with Milly at the helm and Ernest trailing reluctantly behind her.

Milly is a wonderfully brave and rebellious girl who doesn’t let the rules of Drabville hold back her adventures. When she gets caught breaking these town rules she and her best friend Ernest are imprisoned and discover a whole other world they knew nothing about. She is clever, resourceful, filled with gusto and enthusiasm for adventure and doing the right thing. Ernest is less enthusiastic but he does follow Milly into adventure and while he is wary he does embrace what he finds and loves to work with Milly in thinking up solutions to their problems.

The supernatural element of the story is quite creative, the evil Lord Aldor has stolen shadows off the residents of Drabville and is using them for nefarious purposes. The premise is clever and quite interesting, Adornetto keeps it filled with action and suspense, along with daring characters and wily plans of escape and rescue.

This book (as subsequent series) is classed as young adult at times, but I’d put it in the primary school range, maybe the lower teens. With Milly and Ernest being twelve years old it may not appeal that well to older readers. Having said that, I did love it, so there’s that.

You can purchase The Shadow Thief via the following

Booktopia | Angus and Robinson

Kobo | Amazon

QBD | Audible | HarperCollins

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12 Days of Dash and Lily by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

Published: 6th October 2016Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Electric Monkey
Pages: 240
Format: Paperback
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

Dash and Lily have had a tough year since they first fell in love among the shelves of their favourite bookstore. Lily’s beloved grandfather suffered a heart attack, and his difficult road to recovery has taken a major toll on her typically sunny disposition.

With only twelve days left until Christmas—Lily’s favourite time of the year—Dash, Lily’s brother Langston, and their closest friends must take Manhattan by storm to help Lily recapture the unique holiday magic of a glittering, snow-covered New York City in December.

I’m pretty sure I loved this book as much as I did the first one. This time we know the characters but we get to go on so many more journeys with them. The red notebook returns, Lily and Dash are as adorable as ever, there are emotions and feelings and humour and all the things that made the first Dash and Lily book so wonderful.

The influences of each other are evident in the sequel. Dash is softening his edges and becoming more relaxed about his life and things around him. Lily grows up a little and struggles as her idealistic world view gets shaken but Dash is at her side to help her recover. All the quirky family and friends are there to support them and be their own kind of wonderful as well.

I’m not doing very well in the way of actual reviewing because I just adored this so much it’s all just happiness and synonyms right now, but I will say that Cohn and Levithan really did a great job with this sequel. It has a purpose, it is set one year after the events of book one and that is important. It is also a great chance to see how the pair have grown up in that year, how life has affected them and they’ve affected the world.

I loved this book so much because one of my new favourite quotes came out of it and I did something wild and actually made a picture out of it (see below). Dash and Lily’s love of books is aspiring and Dash has such a way with words it’s lovely without being pretentious, it’s passionate. I’ve always loved Dash’s Dashness from the first time I read his voice in Book of Dares, but he is even better in this one because we get to know so much more about him and what makes him who he is. The same goes for Lily, and in a way this is a book for Lily, or at least with a focus on Lily, but this is also so much about Dash as well.

quote-fbLily gets a lot of my sympathy because she has a rough year that really shakes her idealistic view of the world. But her courage and commitment is commendable and seeing her persevere is wonderful.

There is more of a Christmas focus in this book, but it all still comes down to Dash and Lily and their relationship and lives. It’s gorgeous and heart warming and heartbreaking and so sweet! I really do think you need to read Book of Dares before this otherwise it is all lost on you. Well, maybe not, but you really should read book one first because it’s an experience on its own and is the groundwork for this book that needs to be laid.

You can purchase 12 Days of Dash and Lily via the following

Booktopia | Bookworld

QBD | Dymocks

Amazon | Wordery

Fishpond | Book Depository

Fans of the Impossible Life by Kate Scelsa

Published: 8th September 2015Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Balzer + Bray
Pages: 360
Format: Paperback
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

Mira is starting over at Saint Francis Prep. She promised her parents she would at least try to pretend that she could act like a functioning human this time, not a girl who can’t get out of bed for days on end, who only feels awake when she’s with Sebby.

Jeremy is the painfully shy art nerd at Saint Francis who’s been in self-imposed isolation after an incident that ruined his last year of school. When he sees Sebby for the first time across the school lawn, it’s as if he’s been expecting this blond, lanky boy with mischief glinting in his eye.

Sebby, Mira’s gay best friend, is a boy who seems to carry sunlight around with him. Even as life in his foster home starts to take its toll, Sebby and Mira together craft a world of magic rituals and impromptu road trips, designed to fix the broken parts of their lives.

As Jeremy finds himself drawn into Sebby and Mira’s world, he begins to understand the secrets that they hide in order to protect themselves, to keep each other safe from those who don’t understand their quest to live for the impossible.

Intense is the best word to describe this book. When I finished this it hung over me like a blanket and I looked for ages to find another book to read next that was the polar opposite to this because it was SO INTENSE.

But that isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy it.

It has you on the edge of your seat in a way, not because of the action or drama or adventure, but because you are adamant something bad is going to happen to these poor kids!

There are some strong themes and issues dealt with in this book. There’s depression, self harm, drug use, homophobia and bullying. Not to mention everything else. I loved this book but it was heavy. It was so much to handle, so much happens, so much doesn’t happen; it’s consuming.

Scelsa uses three different points of view, one per character. You can claim Jeremy is the main character because he gets the first person perspective and first introduction, and I found myself thinking the same thing, but Scelsa gives them equal weighting in her own way.

I think second person works so well for Sebby. I can’t imagine his story being told any other way.  It’s just what the reader needs to understand and see his POV.

Mira’s life is explored in third person, it suits her too and without analysing it too much, I really think Scelsa’s choices suit them remarkably well

While there is a lot of intensity and dramatics in a way, the thing I found great about this was that there was hope. Always hope. And I think that that is the best thing to be left with after a book; imperfections, not getting the solutions to everything, but left with a little bit of hope to cling to.

Scelsa captures Jeremy’s loneliness so well. You understand wholly his fear that his new friends will leave, not to mention the fear of going back to school and his uncertainty about being thrust into the world without his consent.

The writing is so well done you get inside the head of characters, even with the differen points of view, you still get inside their mind and you understand them completely and that is in part why this book is intense, you really understand these characters thoughts and feelings and intricacies of their lives. You see their fears and hopes and lives before you and you want nothing but for them to be ok.

I’ve seen this be compared to Perks of being A Wallflower and I can kind of see where they’re coming from but at the same time I think this is different from that. Similar yes, but also different. I adored Wallflower and I loved this, but to compare them does neither of them justice.

You can purchase Fans of the Impossible Life via the following

Booktopia | BookWorld

DymocksWordery

QBD | Book Depository

Fishpond | Amazon

The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr

Published: 12th January 2017Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Penguin
Pages: 303
Format: Paperback
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

Seventeen-year-old Flora Banks has no short-term memory. Her mind resets itself several times a day, and has since the age of ten, when the tumor that was removed from Flora’s brain took with it her ability to make new memories. That is, until she kisses Drake, her best friend’s boyfriend, the night before he leaves town. Miraculously, this one memory breaks through Flora’s fractured mind, and sticks. Flora is convinced that Drake is responsible for restoring her memory and making her whole again. So when an encouraging email from Drake suggests she meet him on the other side of the world, Flora knows with certainty that this is the first step toward reclaiming her life.

With little more than the words “be brave” inked into her skin, and written reminders of who she is and why her memory is so limited, Flora sets off on an impossible journey to Svalbard, Norway, the land of the midnight sun, determined to find Drake. But from the moment she arrives in the arctic, nothing is quite as it seems, and Flora must “be brave” if she is ever to learn the truth about herself, and to make it safely home.

Having heard about this book at a recent publishing event, I grabbed it immediately. I loved the idea of Flora and I was fascinated to see how this played out. It is pushed I suppose as being similar to 50 First Dates, but it isn’t like that at all. Flora knows her story; she retells herself about what has happened with cues and prompts from notes, her notebook, and people around her.

Her parents have been by her side since the accident but a family emergency takes them away, suddenly Flora is on her own which is where the adventure really begins. Remembering kissing Drake is the key to the entire book, it is what drives Flora and it is the motivation that gets her through, even when her memory fails her.

There are a lot of great achievements for Flora moments in the story that are average for everyone else; she buys plane tickets, goes to the shops, she navigates her world pretty superbly, considering. There is a point however, around the beginning of the book, where the whole thing seems a tad incredulous. These parents who have wrapped up their daughter in cotton wool for 7 years leave her with her friend and go overseas; though Barr does offer reasoning and explanations which fit the narrative and the story rather nicely.

All uncertainty aside, by the end of the book of course I had tears welling up in my eyes and I’m frantically turning pages. It’s 2am, I haven’t been able to put it down, worried for all the things that may happen or have happened and I just keep reading on, getting myself emotional and forgetting all the doubts from the beginning because Barr makes sure everything fits.

This is a beautiful story, I really wish Flora was real so I could be proud of her and love her and praise her for all she has achieved, not that someone being fictional ever stopped me. There are moments that are crushing and silly and sad, but at the end it’s so uplifting and it’s a great little book. The writing explores Flora’s moods incredible well. The fear, the uncertainty, the frustration! There is a great moment when it just gets to Flora and you see her frustration at her inability to recall anything. She isn’t going through life blissfully unaware – she knows she forgets and she knows it must annoy people, it annoys her most of all. It’s amazing when she has these emotional changes because it also helps depict how her memory works, how it can go at any time.

I adored that Flora got out and had her adventure, it gives her hope and joy and it makes you curious about just how she is managing to do all of this. Barr explains it well; there are repeat paragraphs and phrases throughout, which normally may be tedious but it kind of works here. There is a constant repetition and it helps you understand and figure out where Flora’s brain is at, what stage of remembering and forgetting and how she is working her way back.

Books like this make you also realise how technology has been such an improvement to people and their lives. Writing things on phones, text messages you can reread, taking photos and giving yourself reminders; it’s all so critical to Flora and her journey.

There are surprises in this which are crushing and delightful and wonderful to read. Barr expresses Flora’s actions in a way that makes you understand her process and it brings you inside her mind and shows life from her perspective. Of course there are times when she is foolish and in a strange grey area between being 17 and ten years old, she has the impatience and impulse of a child but the desire of a teenager and it can be a strange mixture but this only adds to the story.

This book had a hold of my heart for all the right reasons. Flora and her determination will fill you with warmth and pride as you see her take on the world in order to follow this one new memory that has changed her world entirely.

You can purchase The One Memory of Flora Banks via the following

Publisher | Booktopia

Amazon | Book Depository

Fishpond | Dymocks

BookWorld

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