Guest Review: The Reluctant Jillaroo – Kaz Delaney

 

The Reluctant Jillaroo

The Reluctant Jillaroo

Kaz Delaney

Allen & Unwin AU

ISBN: 9781925266061

Description:

Surf-loving Heidi impersonates her horse-mad twin to help Harper get a scholarship to attend the much sought-after agricultural school in this rural romance from Australia’s queen of teen, Kaz Delaney. Suitable for teen readers of Rachael Treasure.

Harper Gage has won the opportunity of a lifetime – ten days at Winmaroo Jillaroo and Jackaroo school. The camp could give her the recommendation she needs to go to the exclusive Agricoll for years 11 and 12. But when an accident leaves Harper hospitalised, her twin sister, Heidi, goes in her place. The only problem is that Heidi is not much of a country girl – not like her sister. And to make life even more complicated, her sister’s biggest rival Trent is going to be there. Will she be able to fool him?

And then the reality of the school hits Heidi hard. It’s all dust, snakes and heat – a million miles away from the surf she loves. When she meets the fun and handsome Chaz, life at the school suddenly doesn’t seem so bad, although with Trent acting up and trouble brewing with the other students, Heidi’s not sure how long she can keep her identity secret. And if her secret is revealed, will Chaz ever be able to trust her again

Brenda’s Review:

When Harper Gage injured herself the night before she was to leave for the ten day agricultural school course, which would hopefully set her up for a scholarship at Agricoll in Tamworth, identical twin sister Heidi didn’t think twice. Heidi would be Harper for the duration, and she hoped she could pull it off. Harper loved horses; anything country – while Heidi was a lover of the surf and city. But she had to try – it was her fault Harper was injured after all.

Winmaroo Jillaroo and Jackaroo school was amazing. But Heidi was terrified. When she met Poppy, her horse for the time she’d be there, she fell in love. Poppy was a delightful girl, quiet and secure; Heidi felt Poppy was the only one who understood her. With Trent at the camp – someone Harper went to school with – and the kind hearted and fun Chaz, Heidi’s stress levels climbed. But it was when things started to go wrong that Heidi was sure her secret would be exposed. What would she do if that happened? Would Harper lose everything she’d worked for?

The Reluctant Jillaroo is my first by Aussie author Kaz Delaney and I loved it! Laugh out loud entertainment, as well as some teary moments, plus the usual teenage angst – all set in the rural countryside of NSW around Scone, horse capital of Australia. And I had no idea who the culprit was until the reveal! A really enjoyable read, The Reluctant Jillaroo is one I highly recommend. 5 stars.

Review: Hive – A.J Betts

Hive

Hive (Hive #1)

A J Betts

Pan

Pan Macmillan Australia

ISBN: 9781760556433

 

Description:

All I can tell you is what I remember, in the words that I have.

 

Hayley tends to her bees and follows the rules in the only world she has ever known.

 

Until she witnesses the impossible: a drip from the ceiling.

 

A drip? It doesn’t make sense.

 

Yet she hears it, catches it. Tastes it.

 

Curiosity is a hook.

 

What starts as a drip leads to a lie, a death, a boy, a beast, and too many awful questions.

 

 

My View:

Let’s start by admiring the spectacular cover art with its gold embossing, award winning I would suggest.

 

The narrative is simply driven, and quietly spoken which belies the horrors of the actual landscape. Through Hayley’s eyes we explore a futuristic world where the division of labour determines an individual’s existence and pathway to adulthood, a world where dissidents are not tolerated.

 

 

A J Betts has quickly established this “other world”, the main characters and a mystery that is just starting to be unravelled by Hayley in this, the first book in the Hive series. Hayley is the perfect vehicle for us to explore and experience life in the Hive.  She has a naivety, curiosity and intelligence that connects her to the reader.  We care about Hayley. “Does it ever feel to you like life is a puzzle? “ I nodded. It did. “It’s not like that for everyone you know…. For most people life just happens and they don’t ask why or how. They don’t notice the gaps between the puzzle pieces, or wonder what they mean.” (p.243) Hayley is a naturally curious person, and you know what happened to the cat….

 

A great read that will leave you wanting more. A read that all ages can embrace. A read that will leave you thinking, thinking…so many unanswered questions, so much material here to stimulate discussion.

 

 

 

 

Review: Heaven Sent – S.J. Morgan

Heaven Sent

Heaven Sent

S.J. Morgan

MidnightSun Publishing

ISBN: 9781925227451

 

Description:

At almost sixteen, Evie’s life isn’t all she’d hoped it would be. She lives in the dodgy end of town with her mum and her mum’s deadbeat boyfriend, Seb; and adolescent scoliosis means Evie’s forced to wear a back brace until she’s stopped growing.

 

Then one night, she meets Gabe. Breathtakingly handsome, he crashes, spectacularly, into Evie’s life. He says their meeting was no accident and convinces Evie he’s been sent to turn her fortunes around. Evie’s best friend, Paige, dismisses him as a pot-head, but Paige has issues of her own and has started spending all her time chasing older men instead of higher grades.

 

As the weeks go by, Evie’s luck seems to be on a constant upswing and she begins to wonder if she and Gabe really were ‘meant’ to meet; even if she’s noticed that so many aspects of Gabe’s story don’t add up…

 

But there’s someone else waiting in the wings and, for Evie as well as for Gabe, life is about to get a whole lot more complicated.

 

 

My View:

For some reason I do not read a lot of YA novels – and yet each time I do I ask myself why I do not seek out more of this genre?

 

This book is a fabulously satisfying read; the characters are well developed, the situations/issues raised are illuminating, thought provoking and the narrative was engaging and SATISFYING, yes I know that word again.

 

You really will enjoy reading this novel.  J

 

 

 

Review: Clean – Juno Dawson

Clean by Juno Dawson cover art

Clean

Juno Dawson

Hachette Children’s Books

Quercus

ISBN: 9781786540362

 

Description:

I can feel it swimming through my veins like glitter … it’s liquid gold.

 

When socialite Lexi Volkov almost overdoses, she thinks she’s hit rock bottom.

 

She’s wrong. Rock bottom is when she’s forced into an exclusive rehab facility.

 

From there, the only way is up for Lexi and her fellow inmates, including the mysterious Brady.

 

As she faces her demons, Lexi realises love is the most powerful drug of all…

 

It’s a dirty business getting clean…

 

 

My View:

The perfect read for YA and adult readers; issues that connect and resonate, flawed characters with redeeming features, a narrative that illuminates many contemporary social and mental health issues that you do not need to live a life of excess to appreciate.

 

And I should add – THE BEST cover art this year! I love the rose gold shimmer…the hypodermic needle punctuating the cover, leaving a drop of red blood. Such a great image. And a wonderful tactile experience holding this glossy, liquid gold book in your hand.

 

This is engaging reading taking you on a journey I hope you never need to experience.

 

 

 

 

 

Post Script: I Have Lost My Way – Gayle Forman

We can lose ourselves so easily….


I Have Lost My Way

 

I Have Lost My Way

Gayle Forman

Simon & Schuster Australia

ISBN: 9781471173721

 

Description:

Around the time that Freya loses her voice while recording her debut album, Harun is making plans to run away from everyone he has ever loved, and Nathaniel is arriving in New York City with a backpack, a desperate plan, and nothing left to lose. When a fateful accident draws these three strangers together, their secrets start to unravel as they begin to understand that the way out of their own loss might just lie in help­ing the others out of theirs.

 

 

My View:

My first taste of Gayle Forman’s evocative and immersive writing was in 2015 when I read I Was here. What a read! I have Lost My Way is just as exceptional; it is heartbreaking yet simultaneously heart-warming. The narrative is fast paced and choc-a-block full of contemporary social issues.  This is an all ages book, a book that reminds me that I should read more fiction that is classified YA and certainly more books written by this talented author.

 

A complex, engaging, satisfying and heart-warming read.

 

 

 

The books I read in 2016

The books I read in 2016

Rachel at The Perth Project Shares the Books She Read in 2016

The Perth Project

In case you didn’t know, I am a certified #booknerd. I love to read and have for as long as I can remember; my bookshelves are overflowing, there are piles of books all around my house, I can find a quote from a favourite book for any occasion, and I just can’t stop buying books despite already having  SO MANY that need to be read.

In 2015 I set myself a challenge of reading a certain number of books and failed miserably. In 2016 I set myself a much more realistic goal of reading 25 books, and I’m happy to say I smashed that goal, finishing my 35th book just before New Year’s Eve.

And because I am always curious about what other people are reading, here are the books I read in 2016:

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Post Script: Our Chemical Hearts – Krystal Sutherland

Today we have guest reviewer Rachel sharing her thoughts on:

our-chemical-hearts

Our Chemical Hearts

Krystal Sutherland

G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers

ISBN: 9780399546563

 

 

Description:

John Green meets Rainbow Rowell in this irresistible story of first love, broken hearts, and the golden seams that put them back together again.

Henry Page has never been in love. He fancies himself a hopeless romantic, but the slo-mo, heart palpitating, can’t-eat-can’t-sleep kind of love that he’s been hoping for just hasn’t been in the cards for him—at least not yet. Instead, he’s been happy to focus on his grades, on getting into a semi-decent college and finally becoming editor of his school newspaper. Then Grace Town walks into his first period class on the third Tuesday of senior year and he knows everything’s about to change.

Grace isn’t who Henry pictured as his dream girl—she walks with a cane, wears oversized boys’ clothes, and rarely seems to shower. But when Grace and Henry are both chosen to edit the school paper, he quickly finds himself falling for her. It’s obvious there’s something broken about Grace, but it seems to make her even more beautiful to Henry, and he wants nothing more than to help her put the pieces back together again. And yet, this isn’t your average story of boy meets girl. Krystal Sutherland’s brilliant debut is equal parts wit and heartbreak, a potent reminder of the bittersweet bliss that is first love.

 

Rachel’s View:

Our Chemical Hearts is a beautifully written, character-driven YA novel about first love and it’s heartbreaking inevitability.

26-yeard old Australian Krystal Sutherland’s debut is utterly heartbreaking yet at times incredibly uplifting. Filled with humour and pop-culture references, it’s the kind of book you stay up all night to read.

Henry Page – self-aware 17 year old, budding author and film buff, has never been in love. But that all changes when Grace Town walks into his life. But don’t for one minute think this is a story about love at first sight, or even a typical boy-meets-girl story. Grace dresses in oversized men’s clothing, looks vaguely unclean and utterly unhappy, walks with a cane and seems pretty disinterested in life, making her as far from a typical love interest as you can get. But on top of all that she is enigmatic, smart, witty, and her way with words soon has Henry hooked. Sure enough he falls in love, but through the soaring highs and deepest lows, Grace has to ask if he really is in love with her – or just the idea of her.

And this is where things become really real. Because love is complicated, life is not straight-forward, and sometimes as much as we want things to work out, they just don’t. As Henry finds out more about Grace’s past, he becomes more determined to love her, purposely ignoring the warning signs and massive ups-and-downs of the relationship because of the way it has changed his world. It’s no doubt they’re both going to be transformed by this ride and it’s inevitable, far from happily-ever-after ending.

But it’s that moment when Henry finally realises how little he actually knows about Grace – this girl he supposedly loves with every fibre of his being – that there will be many a reader shouting ‘preach’, because damn this book is relatable!

One of the things I loved most about this book were the pop-culture references – while many new authors try to avoid mentioning specific technologies, celebrities or other aspects of today’s digitally-driven world in an attempt to be ‘timeless’,  Krystal Sutherland has cemented this novel firmly in the world of today. The snippets of poetry (“I love you as certain dark things are to be loved, in secret, between the shadow and the soul”), movie quotes, celebrity name drops and dozens of other offhand pop cultural references pepper this book giving it a relatable, realistic edge that a lot of first novels lack.

My love for this story withstanding, it does struggle in some areas – I hated how Grace was constantly referred to as ‘broken’ because of her mental and physical illnesses and think the book would have gained a lot by sharing some of her perspective so that her history and struggles could have been more than just a plot device.

All in all, Our Chemical Hearts is fast-paced, quick-witted bittersweet story about love, loss, and how these things shape our lives. It is a darkly beautiful, honest love story that you’ll want to come back to again and again.

“Love doesn’t need to last a lifetime for it to be real. You can’t judge the quality of a love by the length of time it lasts. Everything dies, love included. Sometimes it dies with a person, sometimes it dies on its own. The greatest love story ever told doesn’t have to be about two people who spent their whole lives together. It might be about a love that lasted two weeks or two months or two years, but burned brighter and hotter and more brilliantly than any other love before or after. Don’t mourn a failed love; there is no such thing. All love is equal in the brain.”

 

Thanks Rachel