A Lifetime of Impossible Days by Tabitha Bird

Published: 4th June 2019Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Viking
Pages: 395
Format: Paperback
Genre: Fiction
★   ★   ★   ★   ★ – 5 Stars

Meet Willa Waters, aged 8 . . . 33 . . . and 93.

On one impossible day in 1965, eight-year-old Willa receives a mysterious box containing a jar of water and the instruction: ‘One ocean: plant in the backyard.’ So she does – and somehow creates an extraordinary time slip that allows her to visit her future selves.

On one impossible day in 1990, Willa is 33 and a mother-of-two when her childhood self magically appears in her backyard. But she’s also a woman haunted by memories of her dark past – and is on the brink of a decision that will have tragic repercussions . . .

On one impossible day in 2050, Willa is a silver-haired, gumboot-loving 93-year-old whose memory is fading fast. Yet she knows there’s something she has to remember, a warning she must give her past selves about a terrible event in 1990. If only she could recall what it was.

Can the three Willas come together, to heal their past and save their future, before it’s too late?

This is a beautiful story filled with magical realism, love, family, forgiveness, finding yourself. Told over  a few months and across a few decades, Bird explores the fascinating ability to change the past from the present and affect the future from the past. It’s amazing how through a simple action so much can change and I love how Willa knows it works in the future, but she doesn’t understand how it works in the past.

I loved Willa from the very start. I love her at 93 when she is trying to live the wild and quirky life she wants, but she also is struggling with losing her memory and generally being old. From early on Bird gives us a great insight to who she is with her thoughts and language and how she interacts with those around her.

Willa’s forgetfulness weaves into the writing quite well and you have to pay attention because it shifts so suddenly it feels real. One moment knowledge is there, the next it has drifted away. When you see it happening it is quite sad, but that is also what makes this story work, it keeps the reader in the dark for later secrets to come out and it plays into whether Willa is reliable, dreaming, making up stories, or all three. Something which helps understand those around her as well.

I also loved young Willa and middle Willa for their own reasons. Eight year old Willa is strong and fierce, she is a devoted sister and seeing her trying to do her best but be stuck in the body of a child breaks your heart, but it makes you love her more as she takes on the responsibility and burden of saving her family and herself.

As the story progresses you see the changes in each of the Willas; not just because of events that have happened or haven’t happened, but seeing them grow. There is a clear tone difference in how Bird write them which is wonderful. You can clearly see the different ages and life experiences coming through.

There is no chance of confusing the three different life stages as Bird separates each perspective with the date and age of Willa with each alternating chapter. But even when they are together they seamlessly interact and each has a descriptive name which helps identify them. There are also beautiful pen decorations throughout which are not only beautiful, but help keep track of where and when they story takes place. Gorgeous title pages also break up the different months to help understand the events are happening at the same time but over different years and lives.

One this Bird does remarkably well is managing the overlapping nature of the story. The things we’ve seen come back again and the present day is also the past. We’re teased with snippets of information, uncertain memories and information about characters and history that are in the past but also in the future. It was an excellent exercise of the mind because you keep these three people in your head, each their own character, own person with own lives, but they are also one in the same.

I adore the imagination that Bird has explored in this story. It has magic and it has heart and love, but there are also serious issues happening. The way Bird has approached these issue is with restraint but doesn’t shy away from the realities either.

You can purchase A Lifetime of Impossible Days via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | Angus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

The Return of Thelma the Unicorn by Aaron Blabey

Published: 1st October 2019Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Scholastic Australia
Illustrator: Aaron Blabey
Pages: 28
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

The world misses its favourite unicorn, but Thelma is reluctant to don her horn and sparkles again. However, with the support of her best friend Otis, she realises the importance of spreading love and joy — no matter what people think.

This is a great sequel because not only does it address Thelma’s ongoing desire to still be a unicorn and the apprehension she has given her experience last time, but it also solves the question about what the rest of the world did when their favourite unicorn suddenly vanished off the face of the earth.

Otis is back being Thelma’s number one fan and he is a great sounding board for what Thelma should do. He has a bigger role in this one and he is adorable in his love and affection for Thelma.

The argument Blabey makes is an interesting one. What did it matter that she wasn’t a real unicorn? She made people happy and isn’t making people happy a good thing? He balances it out though and Thelma has learnt from her past experiences because while she is scared, Otis grounds her and she remembers to also be herself, they can love her for being her.

Blabley great rhymes are back and I love how he uses the pages and the illustrations to work together in telling the story. There’s anticipation and suspense as you turn the pages, and the rhyming makes sense and with the right rhythm can be read with a nice flow.

The illustrations are big and bold with a lot of full pages and colour that stand out. There’s a few small, fun details too which are nice in the background. One thing Blabey can’t seem to decide on is whether Otis and Thelma wear clothes because seeing it switch from page to page is hilarious.

There is a pop culture reference in there which I get, but it was weird, but I can see people loving it. I think it was the accompanying illustration that weirded me out more than the eye rolling reference but I can’t complain because it’s a kids book after all.

There is a nicer message in this story because Thelma gets to keep being who she loves and she has found a balance in her life with a great support system around her. Otis and Thelma are an adorable pair and Blabey beautiful skirts around whether they are just friends or have gone further. I like he left it vague and I love that he has made a story where he shows Thelma’s dreams are indeed possible with the right kind of attitude and support.

You can purchase The Return of Thelma the Unicorn via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | Wordery | Angus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

The Vanishing Stair (#2) by Maureen Johnson

Published: 22nd January 2019 (print)/22th January 2019 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Katherine Tegen Books/Harper Audio
Pages: 384/9 hrs and 13 mins
Narrator: Kate Rudd
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Young Adult / Mystery
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

All Stevie Bell wanted was to find the key to the Ellingham mystery, but instead she found her classmate dead. And while she solved that murder, the crimes of the past are still waiting in the dark. Just as Stevie feels she’s on the cusp of putting it together, her parents pull her out of Ellingham academy.

For her own safety they say. She must move past this obsession with crime. Now that Stevie’s away from the school of topiaries and secret tunnels, and her strange and endearing friends, she begins to feel disconnected from the rest of the world. At least she won’t have to see David anymore. David, who she kissed. David, who lied to her about his identity—son of despised politician Edward King. Then King himself arrives at her house to offer a deal: He will bring Stevie back to Ellingham immediately. In return, she must play nice with David. King is in the midst of a campaign and can’t afford his son stirring up trouble. If Stevie’s at school, David will stay put.

The tantalising riddles behind the Ellingham murders are still waiting to be unravelled, and Stevie knows she’s so close. But the path to the truth has more twists and turns than she can imagine—and moving forward involves hurting someone she cares for. In New York Times bestselling author Maureen Johnson’s second novel of the Truly Devious series, nothing is free, and someone will pay for the truth with their life. 

Johnson has done an amazing job with this sequel because it brings all the mystery of the first book and as the clues and evidence unravel it also raises new questions which I totally wasn’t expecting. We may find out the answers to some of the questions in Truly Devious, but the answers to the questions raised in The Vanishing Stair are as equally intriguing and in a way a whole lot more dangerous. The characters we fell in love with in Truly Devious are back, the events of the previous story still there but with a small jump in time. We get to see how the school and students have coped after the events of book one and how Stevie is managing as well.

One of the best things of this story is how Johnson has treated her characters. I love how each person at Ellingham have their uniqueness explored in a respectful and honest way. Stevie’s passion for true crime, as well as her own anxiety and self-care techniques are part of her day to day, and Nate’s introvert nature is accepted, jested about sometimes between friends but is never seen as a problem. The reasons that these students have been accepted into Ellingham is openly welcomed and celebrated and Johnson constantly reminds us that these are gifted kids who have a passion and a talent beyond the norm that they need to be free to explore and develop.

There is drama and mystery, all the things a good crime story should have. Johnson doesn’t hold back from the realities of this kind of story but she also tries not to be too gruesome or detailed. There is a good balance between what Stevie is capable of finding out due to her position, but has all the fun or sneaking out and maybe being in places you should go. The 21st century issue of technology with mysteries is used to the story’s advantage and using these modern conveniences doesn’t essentially make anything easier but it helps when Stevie is confined to a school in the mountains and has no actual job or resources to use beyond her immediate surroundings and her desire to find answers.

Rudd is once again a great narrator. Her voice captures Stevie’s uncertainties and her passion, you can see these characters come to life in your mind and all the teenage awkwardness, uncomfortableness and enthusiasm is all expressed perfectly. Her pace is wonderful and her tone keeps you engaged throughout.

This is a series you must read in order so if you haven’t already, you should check out Truly Devious. There is a third book coming soon so if you become enraptured in this series like I have, you won’t have to wait long.

You can purchase The Vanishing Stair via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

#LoveOzYa Book Bingo Wrap Up

Image result for loveozya logo

Image result for loveozya logo

I was incredibly excited when I learnt about this bingo because while I am already doing many challenges and bingos this year, I couldn’t ignore one so specifically up my alley. From the best intentions to dive into this on 1 Oct, I actually didn’t get going until two weeks in which to me makes my achievement even greater.

As I was struggling in that last week to make up a bingo and find the books that would fill the categories I needed but were of a reasonable length that I could actually finish them in time, the temptation to include the same book for multiple categories was high but I felt it wasn’t in the true spirit of bingo. I also cursed all the YA books I’d read during the year which I couldn’t include since they were read outside of October. Thankfully I managed to get there in the end and even had a couple of choices for lines at one point.

I’ve included a list of the books I read below, some I have already reviewed, some I will be hopefully reviewing in the coming weeks . I really hope the #LoveOzYA team do this again soon or make it a regular thing because I had a lot of fun and not only did I get books of my TBR list finally, I read some truly amazing Aussie YA in the process. I am now planning on finishing the card because I think it is a great way to diversify my reading and there’re a great many more books I would like to read that fill in some of these squares.

 

Fantasy: Newt’s Emerald by Garth Nix

High School: You Must be Layla by Yassmin Abdel-Magied

LGBTQIA: Finding Nevo by Nevo Zisin

Contemporary: My Life as an Alphabet by Barry Jonsberg

Historical: Emmie and the Tudor King by Natalie Murray

Sci Fi: Illuminae by Amie Kaufman

Start of a Series: Foundling by D. M. Cornish

Stand Alone: Playing Beatie Bow by Ruth Park

Own Voices: When the Ground is Hard by Malla Nunn

Thelma the Unicorn by Aaron Blabey

Published: 1st February 2015Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Scholastic Australia
Illustrator: Aaron Blabey
Pages: 28
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

Thelma is an ordinary pony who longs to be more. Thelma dreams of being a glamorous unicorn. Then in a rare pink and glitter-filled moment of fate, Thelma’s wish comes true. I am special now, she cried out loud. And so, a star was born…

This is a fun story about fame and living your dreams but also about being yourself. Thelma dreams of being a unicorn and through a few fortunate actions her wish is granted. I loved how there’s a wonderful unintended explanation for Thelma becoming a unicorn. A fortunate accident which springboards her fame that is both plausible and silly.

There are many great parts to this story; Otis being supportive of Thelma when she is just a pony, her own realisation that fame may not be all it is cracked up to be, and the fact that she might be happier just being herself is a positive lesson.

This writing has a wonderful rhythm and as you read you get caught up in the creative rhymes and it pushes you along. The text is simple and has a few styled words for emphasis, and it moves around the page to work with the illustrations a little better.

Blabey’s illustrations are quite fun. They are realistic but have a quirkiness to them, helped along by the silly nature of the story. I liked the design of Thelma, it played into her feeling plain, and she doesn’t start out as a standard looking horse but a simple looking pony.

There’s a wonderful message about the troubles and downside of fame which is important, and it shows readers that getting what you want isn’t always the best thing. Blabey doesn’t press the message though, the fun story of Thelma is the focus and the emphasis is on what she learns about herself and her own life.

You can purchase Thelma the Unicorn via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | Angus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

 

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