I Was Born for This by Alice Oseman

Published: 3rd May 2018 (print)/3rd May 2018 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Harper Collins/Harper Collins Audio
Pages: 395/9 hrs and 45 mins
Narrator: Aysha Kala and Huw Parmenter
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

For Angel Rahimi, life is only about one thing: The Ark – a pop-rock trio of teenage boys who are currently taking the world by storm. Being part of The Ark’s fandom has given her everything – her friendships, her dreams, her place in the world.

Jimmy Kaga-Ricci owes everything to The Ark too. He’s their frontman – and playing in a band is all he’s ever dreamed of doing. It’s just a shame that recently everything in his life seems to have turned into a bit of a nightmare.

Because that’s the problem with dreaming – eventually, inevitably, real life arrives with a wake-up call. And when Angel and Jimmy are unexpectedly thrust together, they will discover just how strange and surprising facing up to reality can be.

Angel is living her best life as an Ark fan and when she gets a chance to meet the band she gets more than she bargained for. I was waiting for Angel to step over her boundaries as a fan but Oseman balances the line quite well. It was interesting seeing Angel’s mindset switch from thinking she knows everything about the band and its members to suddenly realising they are messy and complicated humans just like she is. I love how this is so intimate and yet not at the same time. It’s a snapshot in time where two paths crossed and they changed each other’s lives. I love that it is that simple.

At the same time though, the story is so much more than it first appears. The exploration about identity and expectation, as well trying to find your place in the world is incredibly well done. I loved the complex nature of the characters and how it never felt cliché or stereotypical, the pressures and realities were there and seeing such depth in the characters and their emotions is something Oseman is so good at. You get to be inside the head of these characters and they become real. The two points of view offer great contrast between the experiences of both Angel and Jimmy. Even overlapping the same events it was interesting to see the different perspectives and inner monologues and reactions. Oseman shows us the darker side of fame through The Ark’s experience and how each member copes with the stress and struggle and we see Angel’s life as a fan and her obsession with the band and the affect it has on her life. Each character stands on their own and even through Angel and Jimmy’s eyes we see their lives and struggles too.

Aysha Kala and Huw Parmenter do a wonderful job as narrators; having such an intimate book is helped along by having the voices in your ear like these characters are telling you the story themselves. It also helps bring out the emotion because this story is filled with emotions and with two first person narratives and heightened emotional subject matter there’s going to be a lot of them.

I was curious how the story would end but I think Oseman has perfectly wrapped it up. I was unsure if there would be a sudden shift but I found myself surprisingly satisfied with how the book ended and I’m still a little surprised at the impact it had one me. Oseman has written some beautiful stories and this is another one to add to the list. The complication of emotions, fame, friendships and life all come together all at once and the seeing it play out and aftermath of it all is a beautiful journey to go on.

You can purchase I Was Born for This via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

The Tiny King by Tarō Miura

Published: 8th October 2013Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Candlewick Press
Illustrator: Tarō Miura
Pages: 32
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

Once upon a time there was a tiny king who lived in a big castle guarded by lots of big soldiers. Every day the tiny king eats dinner at his big table (he can never finish it all), rides on his big horse (he is thrown off every time), bathes in his big bath (not much fun), and sleeps, not very well, in his big bed. The tiny king is very sad and lonely, until one day he meets a big princess and asks her to be his queen.

I love the tiny king. The story is incredible sweet and from the cover to the story to the illustrations everything was wonderful. In a way the story gives off very adorable Alice in Wonderland vibes with a tiny king and a giant queen but without any of the marital problems.

Miura’s story is about a lonely king who finds companionship and creates a life filled with happiness and fun. It is super sweet and while it is delightful to see the tiny king live in his big world, it is more adorable to see his little life improve.

The illustrations are complete essentially to the charm. The tiny king in comparison to his large surroundings are fantastic and seeing him in his king bed but a fraction of the size, and his large horse and his large bath are fantastic. There are also tiny details in these illustrations that Miura has included that add a little more to the charm and delight.

There is a fantastic fairy tale element to the story and I loved the simplistic but heartfelt approach Miura has taken with this story.

You can purchase The Tiny King via the following

Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | Angus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

Long Lost Review: The Midnight Watch by David Dyer

Long Lost Reviews is a monthly meme created by Ally over at Ally’s Appraisals which is posted on the second Thursday of every month. The aim is to start tackling your review backlog. Whether it’s an in-depth analysis of how it affected your life, one sentence stating that you only remember the ending, or that you have no recollection of reading the book at all. 

Published: 5th April 2016 Goodreads badge
Publisher:
St. Martin’s Press
Pages: 323
Format: Paperback
Genre: Historical Fiction
★   ★  ★  ★ ★ – 5 Stars

As the Titanic and her passengers sank slowly into the Atlantic Ocean after striking an iceberg late in the evening of April 14, 1912, a nearby ship looked on. Second Officer Herbert Stone, in charge of the midnight watch on the SS Californian sitting idly a few miles north, saw the distress rockets that the Titanic fired. He alerted the captain, Stanley Lord, who was sleeping in the chartroom below, but Lord did not come to the bridge. Eight rockets were fired during the dark hours of the midnight watch, and eight rockets were ignored. The next morning, the Titanic was at the bottom of the sea and more than 1,500 people were dead. When they learned of the extent of the tragedy, Lord and Stone did everything they could to hide their role in the disaster, but pursued by newspapermen, lawyers, and political leaders in America and England, their terrible secret was eventually revealed. The Midnight Watch is a fictional telling of what may have occurred that night on the SS Californian, and the resulting desperation of Officer Stone and Captain Lord in the aftermath of their inaction.

Told not only from the perspective of the SS Californian crew, but also through the eyes of a family of third-class passengers who perished in the disaster, the narrative is drawn together by Steadman, a tenacious Boston journalist who does not rest until the truth is found. The Midnight Watch is a powerful and dramatic debut novel–the result of many years of research in Liverpool, London, New York, and Boston, and informed by the author’s own experiences as a ship’s officer and a lawyer.

As soon as I saw this book was being published I put it on my list because I love things about the Titanic and this story sounded incredible. The small decisions and indecisions and multitude of factors that contributed to the Titanic disaster is amazing and this book shows how a series of events outside of the Titanic’s control also contributed to the rescue effort and the aftermath.

Dyer does an absolutely fantastic job placing us there on the night with the SS Californian. We get the perspectives of multiple people on multiple ships, those in charge and those in board and honestly the fictional story Dyer has woven about these people’s lives and their hopes, dreams, and families is incredible. I became invested with these passengers and their experiences, I was there with Stone as he reports what he sees and the doubt, anger and injustices of the events in the time afterwards. The alternating points of view, even if brief, give another sliver of detail and evidence about what happened that night and seeing it play out as you read, when you know the outcome, is actually quite hard because seeing the failures, even in a piece of fiction, is heartbreaking.

I often find myself getting angry when I learn something new about the failures that led to the sinking of Titanic and how much of it was human error as well as natural circumstances. I get angry at those who put class above survival, I get angry at empty lifeboats, I get angry that no one responded in time to the distress signals. This book ignited my passion again and it was fascinating to see a perspective I’d never seen before.

The research Dyer has done is evident and even the fictionalised passengers felt like they came from a real place. They were alive on the page which honestly made reading their story even more heartbreaking because essentially these were real people. These are their stories and the stories of the hundreds of others who perished on that night.

When things get this much attention and you dive deeper into the causes you realise there is more than one person responsible for such a tragedy, but it also makes you realise that if one person had gone a different path, made a different decision, done their job properly, then you realise how close everything came to being completely different and with one different decision hundreds of lives could have been saved.

The exploration of human nature, the flaws, the failings and the clear evidence that when put in a corner humans can often be their own worst selves if it means survival and self-preservation will captivate and anger you as you read. I was fascinated and ashamed and amazed by every page and every moment and Dyer has gone into such detail that I believed and mourned for their characters and their circumstances whether they were on the ship or not.

There is so much more to the story of Titanic and this is another brilliant tale about those on the outside looking in and how it isn’t just those on the Titanic that are responsible, but those around her as well. This story is a fascinating look at the aftermath as well as the night itself in how the press, public and those involved reacted and coped after the fact and the quest for finding justice for the lives lost that night.

Green Lizards vs. Red Rectangles by Steve Antony

Published: 2015Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Hodder Children’s Books
Illustrator: Steve Anthony
Pages: 28
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

The Green Lizards wanted to defeat the Red Rectangles.

The Red Rectangles wanted to defeat the Green Lizards.

They were at war!

Who will win, the green lizards or the red rectangles?

I love the absolute absurd nonsense that this book contains. I love that there’s no explanation whatsoever, and I love that there’s chaos and a lack of logic everywhere you turn. The battle rages through the pages as the green lizards make ground but then on the next page the red rectangles surge forward. A few solo voices try to speak up but are silenced and the battle rages on.

Anthony never explains why the green lizards and the red rectangles are fighting, but the reasons why are irrelevant as the story is fantastic. The illustrations are great and add another level to the story because Anthony uses the whole page with bright, solid colours but also keeps it minimalistic, and seeing the various distinctions between the myriad of lizards was quite enjoyable.

You really can’t think about it too much because the sentience of the red rectangles raises a few questions but it is a funny and clever story about nonsense battles and how working together can be a lot more rewarding.

You can purchase Green Lizards vs Red Rectangles via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

Long Lost Review: To Hold the Bridge by Garth Nix

Long Lost Reviews is a monthly meme created by Ally over at Ally’s Appraisals which is posted on the second Thursday of every month. The aim is to start tackling your review backlog. Whether it’s an in-depth analysis of how it affected your life, one sentence stating that you only remember the ending, or that you have no recollection of reading the book at all. 

Published: 4th June 2015 Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Hot Key Books
Pages: 504
Format: Paperback
Genre: Fantasy/Short Stories
★   ★  ★  ★   ★ – 5 Stars

Far to the north of the magical Old Kingdom, the Greenwash Bridge Company has been building a bridge for almost a hundred years. It is not an easy task, for many dangers threaten the bridge builders, from nomad raiders to Free Magic sorcerers. Despite the danger, Morghan wants nothing more than to join the Bridge Company as a cadet. But the company takes only the best, the most skillful Charter mages, and trains them hard, for the night might come when only a single young cadet must hold the bridge against many foes. Will Morghan be that cadet?

Also included in this collection are eighteen short stories that showcase Nix’s versatility as he adds a fantastical twist on an array of genres including science fiction, paranormal, realistic fiction, mystery, and adventure.

Nix has always been a masterful storyteller and these short stories are evidence of that. In a single story that focuses on one moment in time, Nix has the ability to give you an entire understanding of the world with only a few words and in doing so you gain total comprehension of what this world is like and who these characters are.

I loved the diversity and similarities in the stories, and I loved that they captivate you from the first sentence, drawing you in. It is always fantastic to return to the Old Kingdom and the story of the bridge is wonderful, but the short stories are pretty amazing as well. Set across different genres and eras Nix’s voice is through all of them and it’s amazing to see his twists on genre, well-known stories and mythologies.

Across the 18 stories there are vampires, unicorns, spies and legendary kings to name a few, as well as further stories about Nix’s own work. The way Nix mixes together multiple elements and builds them into the new story is incredible and seeing the familiar references or inspiration throughout shows off how clever he can be.

I love everything Nix does and with a collection like this it goes to show that my admiration isn’t unsubstantiated.

You can purchase To Hold the Bridge via the following

 Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | Angus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

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