Raw by Scott Monk

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Published
: 1st April 2005Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Random House Australia
Pages: 352
Format: Paperback
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★  – 2 Stars

Brett Dalton is filled with hate and not afraid of a fight, but when he is sent to The Farm, his only opponent is himself. Brett Dalton is a tough guy—hardened, angry, uncaring, and always ready to use his fists. When the world hates you, you might as well hate it back. But when Brett is busted by the cops for stealing and sent to The Farm for rehab, there are no fences to keep him in and anger—and love—get in his way. Brett’s trapped in a grave new world, a world where he’s not hardened at all; he’s raw.

What disappointed me most about this book is how much I didn’t really like it. I adored Monk’s other book, Boys ‘R’ Us, and it’s a shame that didn’t happen with this one.

Brett is a hard character to like, he demands things, he never listens or learns, and you want to yell at him yourself for a lot of the book. He fights against those trying to help him, which is to be expected, but he isn’t someone you want to root for either. Just when you think he is starting to learn he goes and does something stupid again. It just makes you hate him even more.

It’s the standard story, Brett hates the world, gets into trouble a lot, gets sent to a rehab facility to straighten him out and befriends the man in charge who uses tough love and friendship to get him to change his ways. It leaves you feeling unfulfilled and while there is character development, it’s unsatisfying and a bit cheesy at times.

It wasn’t overly bad, but Brett manages to get himself in a lot of situations that are sometimes his fault and others they aren’t. It’s a typical story that was enjoyable enough but not one I would read again. It has been on my TBR list for about 15 years so at least I can say I finally crossed it off if nothing else.

You can purchase Raw via the following

Dymocks | Book Depository

BookWorld | Kobo

Booktopia | Audible

The Bad Decisions Playlist by Michael Rubens

Published: 1st August 2016  Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Penguin Books Australia
Pages: 296
Format: Paperback
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★  – 2 Stars

A stranger rolls into town, and everything changes…

…especially for Austin Methune, when the stranger turns out to be his father, presumed dead, and his father turns out to be Shane Tucker, a big time musician—just the role Austin wants for himself.

Austin has a long history of getting himself into trouble, with the assistance of weed, inertia, and indifference. And he’s in deep trouble now—the deepest ever. He’s talented, though. Maybe his famous father will help him turn his life around and realize his musical dream.

But maybe Austin has inherited more than talent from Shane, who also does drugs, screws up, and drops out.

Austin is a tour guide to his own bad decisions and their consequences as he is dragged, kicking and screaming, toward adulthood.

I am not one hundred percent sure I would have read this book if it hadn’t have been for the review I’d read from Jess over at The Never Ending Book Shelf. Having finished it, I’m a little sad to say I stand by that opinion, though my 2 stars is more of a 2.75 really.

I didn’t like Austin at the beginning, I really didn’t. I thought he was foolish, another weed smoking idiot who didn’t take anything seriously and in doing so often ruined the experiences of others. He didn’t care what happened or who he hurt and his apathy was just as frustrating as he inability to be sensible and sincere. I was probably supposed to find it endearing or some charming characteristic of being a teenage boy but it never got past being an eye rolling annoyance. It wasn’t until the halfway point that my dislike turned to tolerance. I accepted Austin, I was disappointed in Austin and annoyed, but even I ended up with a little hope for Austin, albeit begrudgingly. All of which is growth in some way. I can’t say I liked him any better at the end, but you could say he learned some lessons and saw some improvement and that’s admirable.

This is certainly a coming of age story, learning who you are and what matters to you in the world. Each character has things to learn and grow, Austin probably more than others, but no one is without something. I liked that Rubens touches on how a bully is created, and understanding that bullies can be bullied themselves. Not to spoil anything I’ll just say I also liked the friendships in this story. I like that it often isn’t really a friendship and there are different kinds that work well together. It was unconventional and really interesting to read.

My favourite person was Josephine and I actually really liked Austin when he was with Josepine. She was strong and self assured, she knew who she was and had respect for herself which was fantastic. She also brings out the best in Austin and he seems quite nice when they are together. A lot of characters had aspects of them that I really liked. Rubens writes well developed characters, they are established and have their own complexities that make them feel real and allows you to have sympathies, opinions, and connections with them. I don’t want to say this book was terrible, because it actually wasn’t. I just didn’t get too excited about it, I didn’t mind the plot I thought it was clever and had interesting moments, but when I finished the book I wasn’t that impressed, which I’m a bit sad about to be honest. But it’s quite possible that it’s just me.

You can purchase The Bad Decisions Playlist via the following

Amazon Aus| Amazon

Dymocks | Booktopia

Book DepositoryBookworld

QBD

My Brilliant Career by Miles Franklin

Published: 1901 (print)/1st April 2013 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
William Blackwood & Sons/Bolinda Audio
Pages: 319 pages/1 disc
Narrator: Megan E Rees
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Fiction/Classic
★   ★  – 2 Stars

“I am given to something which a man never pardons in a woman. You will draw away as though I were a snake when you hear.” With this warning, Sybylla confesses to her rich and handsome suitor that she is given to writing stories and bound, therefore, on a brilliant career. In this ironically titled and exuberant novel by Miles Franklin, originally published in 1901, Sybylla tells the story of growing up passionate and rebellious in rural New South Wales, where the most that girls could hope for was to marry or to teach. Sybylla will do neither, but that doesn’t stop her from falling in love, and it doesn’t make the choices any easier.

It feels so strange to write this review when I am currently taking part in the Australian Women Writers Challenge that celebrates the female writers of Australia specifically with challenges named after Stella Miles Franklin, but, having just finished My Brilliant Career I have to say I am wholly unimpressed and I can’t help feeling slightly guilty about it.

I experienced such a roller coast of emotions about this, at one moment I was cheering on Sybylla as she stood up against the men around her, and at other times I was rolling my eyes at her indecision and her constant back and forward and self-pity.

When I began I thought it was wonderful; Sybylla was headstrong, she didn’t want to marry, she seemed like a feminist, she yelled at men who dared to touch her without permission when they thought they had the right. She knew what she wanted and didn’t let anyone dictate who she was or what she thought.  However, as the book went on, it started to waver. You’d have moments where there’d be a spark and Sybylla would be fiery and independent again and you expected that her grand moment had arrived where she’d do something, but then it disappeared as soon as it had arrived. She goes on A LOT about her looks. A casual mention is all we’d need but it is filled with her lamenting her ugliness and while she says she can pity herself, she hates it when other people pity her. No one probably does but going on about herself as much as she does it looks like she wants someone to pity her.

If it was written today I would be interested to see the response because reading it now she seems like such a complainer and it drags on with her indecision. She is the typical teenager trope, she is selfish and complains about having to do anything, and from the ages of 17 to 19 acts the same and thinks the world is out to get her and everything anyone does is to upset her life intentionally. She hasn’t got the sense to see what is right in front of her, she plays the ‘poor me’ card far too often for it to retain any sympathy in the reader, and the fact that she can’t see the best choice for her is infuriating. I’m surprised those around her don’t do more to stop her moaning. Of course it’s evident her parents aren’t the best, her mother can be unfair and harsh, but Sybylla doesn’t help herself either.

I did enjoy all the other characters though, Harold Beechum was enjoyable, he is nice and a little odd but likable. He puts up with Sybylla’s nonsense much longer than I certainly would have. I’m surprised he didn’t walk away from her given all the trouble she caused him with her indecision and changing her mind constantly about what she wanted.

The lack of clear conclusion in the novel makes it worse, Franklin makes the reader put up with all of Sybylla’s moping and carrying on but there’s no clear indication whether anything ever happened at the end. Surely a strong ending could have made up for the middle part where you wanted to yell at the girl and tell her to stop being such a whiner. Because I listened to the book as an audio I wasn’t sure how much longer it had to go and when it ended I actually said out loud, ‘is that it?’. I sat through all of that and wasn’t even granted a clear conclusion and instead given an unsatisfactory ending that is beyond tragic and just terrible.

For a classic of Australian literature that is so idolised, I am trying to see what all the fuss is about, considering it didn’t seem to have much in it. Is the fact that she didn’t want to marry? Or that she was headstrong and independent? Is that what it’s revered for, because she is a unique character of her time that goes against the grain of what everyone thinks she should do? Because she doesn’t do it very well, and it’s all very well being independent and headstrong, but if you don’t do anything with that, what’s the point? And if you do that you end up having a pretty unsatisfactory life and I’m pretty sure that’s where Sybylla has ended up.

You can purchase My Brilliant Career via the following

Physical

Amazon 

Dymocks | Booktopia

Bookworld | Book Depository

Audio

Booktopia

Bookworld | Book Depository


Book Bingo Book
AWW16

 

Riot: A 1960’s Love Story by Charles S. Isaacs

Published: 8th September 2015 Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Harpers Ferry Press
Pages: 458
Format: ebook
Genre: Historical fiction
★   ★  – 2 Stars

It’s September 1967. As the Vietnam War and a militant Antiwar Movement hurtle toward explosive confrontation, Steve Harris – white, idealistic, and naïve — begins his freshman year. During that year, he will fight to end the war, fall in love, confront painful truths about his family, and be jailed and beaten by police. Through this crucible, he emerges with a transformed consciousness, of the world and of himself.

The change begins with a rousing antiwar speech delivered by Emma Gold, a Depression-era radical. When Emma introduces him to young Cat Crawford — inter-racial, brilliant and exotically beautiful – his bewitching is complete. The two students’ instant friendship blossoms before long into a passionate love affair. Their bond is tested, though, by the mounting demands of the Antiwar and Black Power Movements, and by their own deep-seated psychological issues.

1968 is marked by campus unrest, urban rebellion, assassinations, and political violence that leads the two into clashes with the Chicago Police and the National Guard. The story builds to a heartrending climax during the street battles surrounding the Democratic National Convention.

This is a complex, fast-paced journey on an emotional roller coaster, punctuated by flashes of self-discovery, and bursting with political and sexual passions. 

Note: I was provided with a copy of this book by the author for review.

I have mixed feelings about this story. The content was interesting; I learnt a few things and felt I was reading through history, but at the same time I didn’t really connect with the characters or their story. I am fully prepared to accept it may have been me so don’t let that deter you, there is no denying the effort and creativity Isaacs has gone to to bring this story to life and pack it with so much history.

Described as a 1960s love story there is a blossoming love but romance isn’t the sole focus of the novel. Steve is a college student who finds love and friendship during a critical time in late 1960s America; the Vietnam War has begun and the civil rights movement is underway. These important moments of history get embroiled with his life and Isaacs tells a story about the life of students and regular Americans who are trying to stop a war no one wanted and survive the tensions between black and white America.

After being fairly oblivious and uninterested in politics and racial conflicts, Steve has his eyes opened when he befriends bookshop owner Emma and fellow student Cat and soon he discovers the world of anti-war protests, boycotts, and the civil rights movement. In doing so you see Steve find his feet and a sense of purpose, he jumps at the chance to become involved.

Steve, Emma, and Cat are the three central characters, detailed and complicated enough which makes them well rounded. Steve is naive but willing to learn, and his eagerness to contribute is admirable. When he meets Emma and Cat you begin to see him grow and become more aware, which in turn affects other aspects of his life and the decisions he makes. Emma is a fiery, strong willed woman who is passionate and willing to fight for what she believes in, she goes out of her way to help people and her generosity and good nature compliments her fierceness really well. Cat is similar in her own way, though her past holds her back and she wavers between fighting for what’s right and holding back. Throughout the story you see the stress of fighting a war affect everyone, especially Steve and Cat, and the strain adds drama to their relationship.

Isaacs mentions at the end that only a very small part of the book is fiction, many names, events, books, and songs mentioned are real and historically accurate, something which helps to bring the late 1960s to life. As you read you recognise key moments in history like protest marches, Martin Luther King Jr’s speech, flowers in rifles, and the fight for civil rights. If you love history then this would probably be a fascinating account of American history to dive into. At almost 500 pages there is a lot of detail and Isaacs paces it accordingly. Things follow at a realistic pace, day by day almost rather than large jumps and in doing so it shows how much actually happened in such a short period of time and the ongoing effort people did behind the scenes before grand demonstrations. This does make it a slow read when nothing seems to happen for a long time, but this  is where the romance and personal relationship elements balance with historical events.

There are a lot of positives about this book, the research is incredible, the detailed exploration of key historical moments, and the subject is interesting, but despite that I found that I couldn’t get into the story. It wasn’t the length, being an ebook I didn’t actually notice it until much later, I just found I wasn’t connecting with the characters or their lives and the writing style was hard to get into. I say this of course contrasted with the fact that it was interesting to read about all the protests and the effort students and people went to show their disapproval of the war, and the campaigns they ran to boycott products. I did enjoy reading about the civil rights, the reactions to King’s speech and the fight for equality. But aside from recognising these moments and learning the details I still couldn’t connect.

There are surprises and a few unexpected moments that add emotion and drama as Isaacs links history with the romance and the fiction, and seeing the everyday person react and interact with history offers great insight away from it being simply a past event. I’m disappointed I didn’t love this book more, but there is no denying that it was an interesting read.

You can purchase Riot via the following

Amazon

Amazon Aust

Risen (#1) by M. T. Miller

Published: 13th January 2016Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Self Published
Pages: 87
Format: ebook
Genre: Dystopian Fantasy
★   ★  – 2 Stars

In the middle of nowhere, a nameless individual rises from the dark. With barely any knowledge apart from how to speak and how to kill, he finds himself in a world gone mad. Worse off, nearly everything that moves is out for his blood. 

Not knowing where to turn, the wanderer traverses the desolate landscape of a ruined continent. Along his travels, his mind and body are pushed to their limits as he desperately tries to make sense of what is going on, what he is, and why he exists. 

Foe after foe meets their end at his hands, yet each kill only serves to raise more questions. Is he even human? What has happened to the world? Where does his path lead?
The answer lies beyond the blood-stained horizon.

Note: I was provided with a copy of this book from the author for review.

From the start Miller fills you with curiosity with a main character with no memory and a target on his back. From then on it leads you into a strange story filled with mutated people and a society that has fallen apart.

Unfortunately, I just could not get into this book. I could see where Miller has left room for the continuing series which is great, there is a curiosity to finding out exactly what happened to Nameless and more about this dystopian land he’s found himself in. But while it was an ok read, I couldn’t engage very well with the characters or the story. I feel like I’m the only one because other reviews are giving out three and five stars so maybe don’t just take my word on it.

There was a lot I liked, Miller’s writing is evocative and clever, the opening pages are vivid and descriptive; the story certainly opens on a surprise and there are a few good twists. You become used to Nameless and his strange ways, you also settle into the story and learn alongside Nameless as he discovers where he is and what he might be. With a back story provided by a beggar Nameless befriends, a brief rundown is given about how the continent has ended up the way it has. This brief explanation is actually enough for now as there are other pressing matters happening, and the vicious Skulls hunting Nameless are their own mystery to focus on.

Miller has been clever in that through Nameless’ escape from these menaces we’re shown a bit more of the world and where it’s ended up. We also discover more things about Nameless on the way in interesting and mystifying ways. Being the first in a series it’s evident that there will be more revealed later on, and Miller offers just enough to satisfy while leaving room to reveal more further down the track.

It is action packed which reinforces that idea that Nameless is always being hunted, and the scenes change quite quickly but I didn’t mind that. To me it suited this strange new world where danger is everywhere, and the more you see of the Skulls you realise they are relentless in their chase and there’s never a moment of peace.

It’s intriguing and not without charm, there isn’t a great deal of suspense or draw that keeps you reading, it’s more idle curiosity to see where it will go. The mystery of Nameless is a mystery worth solving on its own; whether this is enough to propel you onto the next book I’m not sure. It’s a short read which works in its favour so perhaps with each installation and more of the story is revealed an alluring tale will be told.

You can purchase Risen via the following

Amazon | Amazon Aust

 

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