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 Lampo Circus (#2) by Alexandra Adornetto

Published: 1st March 2008 (print)/March 28 2011 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
HarperCollins Australia/Bolinda Audio
Pages: 400 pages/6 discs
Narrator: Alexandra Adornetto
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Fantasy/Young Adult
★   ★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

The arrival of Federico Lampo and his travelling circus brings a new threat to Drabville when the children are kidnapped and transported to the grim world of the Conjuors’ Realm. Lord Aldor, assisted by Ringmaster Lampo and the vicious Contessa Bombasta, is plotting to conquer the fairy province of Mirth. . 

The children embark on a quest to warn the Queen of Mirth, encountering some fearsome obstacles, not least the ferocious Grin Bandits and their tooth–extracting apparatus.

As the day of battle draws near, Milli and Ernest realise that if Lord Aldor defeats them, theirs won’t be the only lives at stake…

Having had Milly and Ernest grow on me after book one, it was only natural I dove into book two. Also I listened to it on audio book again and it was great to hear Adornetto’s narration again, excellent continuity which is often not the case with audio book series I’ve realised.

After the events of The Shadow Thief, Milly and Ernest’s town of Drabville is settling into their new lives, being lively, and trying to think of a new town name. Their relief at being joyful and carefree means their guards are lowered when villainy threatens the town once more. The arrival of the Lampo Circus seems innocent enough, but there is a sinister nature about it that no one seems to notice.

Initially I didn’t love this story as much as the first one. It was an odd premise; it didn’t grab me as quickly as the other one did. Adornetto retains her wonderful language, her style, her narration and absurdness, so that was a comfort when they story itself was a bit odd and hard to engage with.

When the story eventually gets going, which was quite a bit of a way in I thought, but it gets to settle into the adventurous style Milly and Ernest do best. There were a few great surprises this time which made the adventure more fun. While there was adventure and suspense in the first book, I feel this had more the journey/adventure style where there a greater chance of the unknown.

There is a great moral tone which Adornetto doesn’t wave in your face, but works incredibly well in the context (no spoilers). I loved the surprises and I loved the magical element that is the crux and climax of the story. It balanced out the strangeness from the beginning and worked really well.

I would have loved a better ending. Not the conclusion per se, but the actually ending of the story. I feel like it was a tad unresolved, I still had questions that needed answering, but judging by what Adornetto has done with this second book regarding events in book one, I feel more answers will be provided in book three. As the continuing adventures of Milly and Ernest go, this was a great addition.

You can purchase The Lampo Circus via the following

Booktopia | Angus and Robinson

Kobo | Amazon

QBD | Audible | HarperCollins

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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

Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

Published: 11th October 2011Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Random House Children’s Books
Pages: 260
Format: Paperback
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

“I’ve left some clues for you.
If you want them, turn the page.
If you don’t, put the book back on the shelf, please.”

16-year-old Lily has left a red notebook full of challenges on her favourite bookstore shelf, waiting for just the right guy to come along and accept its dares. Dash, in a bad mood during the holidays, happens to be the first guy to pick up the notebook and rise to its challenges.

What follows is a whirlwind romance as Dash and Lily trade dares, dreams, and desires in the notebook they pass back and forth at locations all across New York City. But can their in-person selves possibly connect as well as their notebook versions, or will their scavenger hunt end in a comic mismatch of disastrous proportions?

I picked this up after hearing a synopsis of the plot, but when I realised it was a David Levithan collaboration I wondered why I hadn’t heard of it sooner.

I loved this story. I loved the premise and the treasure hunt, hidden journal, and mystery authors. I loved that it was innocent and fun and that it worked because of so many reasons. In the age of Google and phones it was a good old fashioned hunt with clues and cryptic messages that needed to be understood to be played properly. Respect for the quest and curiosity as the main propulsion.

Each journal entry offers more insight into either Lily or Dash and it’s clear how the two connect with one another. We follow Dash’s perspective and see his intentions and reasons, the same for Lily’s chapters, but we get a little more when we read what they tell one another and challenge one another to do.

I had a fleeting moment, very, very fleeting, where I compared Dash to Holden Caulfield but then I immediately changed my mind and reprimanded myself for thinking such a thing. Dash is Dash for many reasons. No one lets him get away with being a snarly sullen teen who *almost* judges the world and others as lesser people. But Boomer is his best defender, and others see right through him. As you get to know Dash you fall in love with him and see his side of things and love him more for it.

Lily has the same issues in a way. She’s 16 but has the innocence of an 8-year-old at times. She needs to be protected by the family for an odd reason I’ll admit, but her wide-eyed charm of loving life, Christmas, and her family is very sweet.

All the characters in this are charming and wonderful in their own way. Cohen and Levithan have done a wonderful job in this collaboration and you can see how they’ve created these amazing characters that are charming but not entirely faultless or too perfect either. The story is set at Christmas but isn’t necessarily a Christmas story. It is about two teenagers finding each other in a city of millions and connecting on a deeper level and finding something special in one another. Cohn and Levithan explore Lily and Dash’s lives through each other and it tells a wonderful story filled with adventures and surprises and a little bit of luck and the desire to take chances.

You can purchase Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares via the following

Booktopia | Bookworld

QBD | Dymocks

Amazon | Wordery

Fishpond | Book Depository

 

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