Truman by Jean Reidy

Published: 9th July 2019Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Illustrator: Lucy Ruth Cummins
Pages: 40
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

Truman the tortoise lives with his Sarah, high above the taxis and the trash trucks and the number eleven bus, which travels south. He never worries about the world below…until one day, when Sarah straps on a big backpack and does something Truman has never seen before. She boards the bus!

Truman waits for her to return.
He waits.
And waits.
And waits.
And when he can wait no longer, he knows what he must do.

Even if it seems…impossible!

I picked up this book because the front cover was absolutely too cute to ignore and I was not disappointed by the story inside. This is the story of a little turtle named Truman who decided to go on an adventure to find his owner.

The perspective focuses on Truman and his life with Sarah and when that changes suddenly Truman isn’t sure what to do. I loved seeing Truman’s deliberations about what it all means when Sarah left that day. The extra beans, her bow, the backpack. I loved so much of this but one of my favourite lines was “She strapped on a backpack so big thirty-two small tortoises could ride alone in it – but zero tortoises did.”

The illustrations are adorable, Cummins has done a brilliant job depicting Truman to bring his little turtle self to life. I instantly became invested with him and his relationship with Sarah. There is a great synchronicity between the words and what is shown on the page. The illustrations are realistic but rough, with a sparseness to them but still with detail that reflects the words of the story. The world is seen through Truman’s eyes and Cummins brings to life Truman’s worldly view as things loom around him and seem vast and expansive. The use of perspective is fantastic and I loved how the world looked to Truman versus the reality.

The story is incredibly sweet and I loved seeing a bond between owner and pet that was unconventional and loving. It was a genuine love and devotion between Sarah and Truman and getting to have a little adventure and mystery thrown in the mix was fabulous. I loved this story from start to finish and it is an absolute delight to read. You will love Truman and his bravery and devotion.

You can purchase Truman via the following

Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | Angus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

The Lightning Thief (#1) by Rick Riordan

Published: 1st March 2006 (print)/ 13 January 2010 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Disney Hyperion Books/Penguin Audiobooks
Pages: 375/10 hrs
Narrator: Jesse Bernstein
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★   ★  ★  ★  – 5 Stars

Percy Jackson is a good kid, but he can’t seem to focus on his schoolwork or control his temper. And lately, being away at boarding school is only getting worse – Percy could have sworn his pre-algebra teacher turned into a monster and tried to kill him. When Percy’s mom finds out, she knows it’s time that he knew the truth about where he came from, and that he go to the one place he’ll be safe. She sends Percy to Camp Half Blood, a summer camp for demigods (on Long Island), where he learns that the father he never knew is Poseidon, God of the Sea. Soon a mystery unfolds and together with his friends—one a satyr and the other the demigod daughter of Athena – Percy sets out on a quest across the United States to reach the gates of the Underworld (located in a recording studio in Hollywood) and prevent a catastrophic war between the gods. 

From the minute I started this book I was hooked. I have wanted to read this for literal years and I’m so glad when I was finally able to it was as great as I’d always heard it to be. Riordan’s voice is fantastic and Percy is a character that shines on the page. Starting as a twelve year old it was a surprise since I’d always thought him older but it worked well because the naïve and inexperienced but enthusiastic mentality works well, Especially as Percy starts to learn about who he is, what he is capable of and the hidden world in which he lives.

I love the Greek myths as a general rule and the explanations and justifications Riordan uses to explain them in our world is fantastic and makes complete sense. I almost wanted to live in such a world. The modernisation of the ancient figures is incredibly clever and the chance to hear more about the well known gods, but some lesser ones as well is great as Riordan doesn’t focus solely on the big well known names.

I cannot understate how clever this book is. The locations of Olympus, the Underworld and how seamlessly the gods have infiltrated our world is amazing. As Percy learns we learn but the writing connects it to the story so there are never clunky exposition and everything is told through a character naturally in dialogue or through experience by Percy himself. What is clever is how Riordan has used real learning issues like ADHD and dyslexia and made it into an advantage for Percy and those like him. There’s a reason, it has a purpose. I loved the reworking of issues into advantages for a secret life.

There is adventure and danger, plenty of chances for Percy and others to be heroes and we see the start of this new world. I practically dove into book two after finishing this one. It held strong from start to finish and I loved every minute of it.

You can purchase The Lightning Thief via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

What I Like About Me by Jenna Guillame

Published: 26th February 2019Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Pan Australia
Pages: 256
Format: Paperback
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★   ★   ★   ★ – 5 Stars

You know all those movies where teenagers have, like, THE SUMMER OF THEIR LIVES?

This summer is probably not going to be that.

Source: Everything that’s happened since yesterday…

The last thing sixteen-year-old Maisie Martin thought she’d be doing this summer is entering a beauty pageant.  Not when she’s spent most of her life hiding her body from everyone. Not when her Dad is AWOL for Christmas and her gorgeous older sister has returned to rock Maisie’s shaky confidence. And her best friend starts going out with the boy she’s always loved.

But Maisie’s got something to prove.

As she writes down all the ways this summer is going from bad to worse in her school-assignment journal, what starts as a homework torture-device might just end up being an account of how Maisie didn’t let anything, or anyone, hold her back.

There has only been a handful of times that I’ve known I was giving a book five stars before I had even finished it and this is one of those times. I think I had decided in the first chapter that I loved this book. I love this book because it is simple, full of heart, full of growing up and friendships, not to mention that is felt real from page one through to the very end.

This story is the epitome of teen behaviour, teen angst, teen impulse and teen support. Guillaume has captured the voice so well that you felt like these characters were real life teenagers living their lives in front of you. Doing that and doing that well creates a story that is believable and has a powerful impact on how you interpret a story. When you have a good voice you’re able to be caught up in the events rather than cringing constantly by bad dialogue and Guillaume has excelled.

The family dynamics explored were wonderful in that they were complicated and not perfect. There is no perfect sister relationship and the fact that Maisie often feels like a side character in her own family was really interesting. I loved how the parent relationship is shown too; through a kid’s eyes there is always going to be a limited perspective and coupled with Guillaume’s choice of formatting it allows for a lot more personal interpretation and unease.  

The diary format allows Guillaume to mess with form and fill in details in a creative way and use a casual voice and casual language. It is also a great way to capture Maisie’s voice as she is the one telling the story. This means the events described are already edited by herself and with her own bias and naivety included which adds drama and tension. 

The romance element was absolutely adorable and I did guess it but only just in time and it was even better because it confirmed what I wanted to happen which honestly is the best result to get. It is incredibly sweet but there is another focus on friendship and traditions with friends too which was fantastic. The strange relationships you have with friends you see once a year but have been doing so for most of your life.

One of the reasons why I loved this book from start to finish was that it felt real, it always felt real and believable. It doesn’t try to live up to the United States kind of summer which goes for three months and the goal is always to have “the perfect summer experience”. This is a week over Christmas and New Year and it is exactly what I know and can relate to, going to a small coastal town for a holiday and seeing the same people you always see on that holiday but with a chance of meeting new people along the way.

It is fun, a delight to read, but it is filled with heart too that can hit your emotions all over the place. A favourite book from the first few pages and it stayed that way right until the end. 

You can purchase What I Like About Me via the following

Booktopia | Book Depository

DymocksFishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

Stormy: A Story About Finding A Forever Home by Guojing

Published: 17th September 2019Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Schwartz & Wade
Illustrator: Guojing
Pages: 34
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

In this wordless picture book a woman visits a park and discovers a pup hiding under a bench–scruffy, scared, and alone. With gentle coaxing, the woman tries to befriend the animal, but the dog is too scared to let her near. Day after day, the woman tries–and day after day, the dog runs away. With perseverance and patience–and help from an enticing tennis ball–a tentative friendship begins. 

Why do I keep reading bittersweet books about abandoned dogs?! Honestly it is a real problem. Finding forever homes for little sad and lonely dogs breaks my heart but apparently I don’t mind always crying at the end of these books and getting emotional in the middle of these books and sad before I have even begun these books. And it turns out now I don’t even need text to do it.

This story is part of my new favourite type of picture book: one filled with stunning illustrations and no text whatsoever. The entire story is told in pictures and you do not need words to know what is happening. Whether this is to show the events from Stormy’s silent perspective or because Guojing’s illustrations have enough emotion and intent in them to make words redundant I’m not sure but it 100% works.

I cannot stress how divine these illustrations are. Guojing has done a brilliant job in showing emotion and scale, as well as the environment and how it reflects mood. Some pages are broken up into panels like a comic book which acts like stills from a movie so you can see the events, but others are stunning full pages . I was captivated as I “read” because as you study the images you know the story and can understand what is happening. Filled with the colours of nature and beautiful drawings I wanted to hang these pictures on my wall as well as become melancholic about them.

Of course there is a happily ever after because Guojing isn’t allowed to make us feel those emotions with no reward. But it is just another example of how beautiful storytelling not only can be wordless, but can be about real stories and full of heart.

You can purchase Stormy via the following

 Booktopia | Book Depository

Wordery | Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

 

The Gentleman’s Guide to Getting Lucky (#1.5) by Mackenzi Lee

Published: 26th November 2019Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Katherine Tegen Books
Pages: 128
Format: Paperback
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★   ★   ★   ★ – 5 Stars

In this funny and frothy novella that picks up where the New York Times bestselling The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue leaves off, freshly minted couple Monty and Percy fumble through their first time together.

Monty’s epic grand tour may be over, but now that he and Percy are finally a couple, he realizes there is something more nerve-wracking than being chased across Europe: getting together with the person you love.

Will the romantic allure of Santorini make his first time with Percy magical, or will all the anticipation and build-up completely spoil the mood? 

It was a complete shame I didn’t get to read this as an audiobook because I am still living off the high that those books gave me. Instead I had to read it myself but I had all those wonderful voices stored in my head so I could re-enact it as I went along.

There is so much to love about this novella. Not only the further adventures of Monty and Percy, but the joy of seeing them trying to navigate their new relationship in all its awkward and blushing glory.

Narrative wise it is amazing. There are actual proper conversations about feelings and insecurities, not to mention an overflowing display from these two emotional boys who adore one another. The premise of trying to progress their relationship is dealt with in a fun but respectful manner. Lee has already established these characters are flawed but wonderful and seeing the exploration about love and waiting, and the amount of self-reflection about this entire endeavour was so refreshing and I loved that Lee took the time to do that.

Once again Monty steals the show. Monty who is broken but healing, who is insecure but is trying his hardest. His character growth in Gentleman’s Guide was incredible but is clearly hasn’t stopped. There are heartbreaking lines like “Why do you think everyone needs some sort of recompense for being around you?” which crushed my soul, but there is also a lot of the fun and jovial nature we’ve seen between Monty and Percy as well.

This is truly not in a younger YA scope because Monty is not entirely shy about describing various parts of Percy that he enjoys. Considering this novella’s entire premise is trying to find the right time and a bit of alone time to finally be together it is more suited to older readers.

This story also contains new characters which bring their own fun and help set the mood. Felicity makes an appearance as well, Monty’s fabulous sister who deals spectacularly with her brother. I mentioned this in my review of the second book but her character around Monty is divine and I loved seeing the sarcasm and sibling interactions once more.

This is a relatively quick read but there is an emotional depth and a detailed story throughout. With new places and people to introduce their introductions are woven into the narrative well so there is no unnecessary clunky exposition. The blending of a Santorini adventure alongside trying to navigate your own emotions and relationship is juxtaposed wonderfully. I honestly could read about the Montague family forever, no matter how trivial their lives or adventures may be.

You can purchase The Gentleman’s Guide to Getting Lucky via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

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