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

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

Before You Forget by Julia Lawrinson

Published: 30th January 2017 Goodreads badge
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.

Lawrinson has written an incredibly sweet story about love and mental health and about having a family member experience something that you will never understand completely but something that will affect you in so many ways. There are some really beautiful moments and Lawrinson does an excellent job expressing the confusion Amelia has about her dad. Her yearning for him to see her, to understand her and to her watch their connection come and go as she struggles to understand what he is going through and what she will do when he’s gone.

As a character Amelia was unique and I loved her curiosities. I love how she expresses herself with her art, it was a great way to explore her emotions and who she is. Her obsession with September 11 footage and videos was intriguing too and it shows a side of her character that was different and enlightening. Lawrinson provides great insight into why she watches and rewatches them and it was a fascinating and unexpected character trait but one that I think worked well.

The relationship between Amelia and Eleanor was a curious one, the teenager/adult friendship felt strange but I did understand, I think, why Amelia is drawn to her. What I definitely wanted though was more about Poppy. I loved her character and needed to see more of her. Lawrinson mentions that Amelia and Poppy become close friends and go to each other’s houses, but we know almost nothing about her. She is a side character, one that barely get any depth. We know more about her mother Eleanor than we do Poppy which was such a shame. It felt like she was meant to be a more fleshed out character, she is mentioned a lot, but the friendship with Amelia never comes across on the page.

The focus is on Amelia’s experiences so many characters get mentioned in passing but eventually the focus comes around and we get a bit more exploration of their characters but nothing overly substantial. The narrative covers a range of mental health issues, how they affect those around them as much as how they affect those suffering from them. Not only is Alzheimer’s a key plot point but so is anorexia and alcoholism. For a quick read is has a lot of heart to it. Some parts could have been fleshed out more but I enjoyed what story we had and found the sweetness and the emotion in what was on the page.

You can purchase Before You Forget via the following

BooktopiaDymocks | Amazon | Amazon Aust

Frogkisser! by Garth Nix

Published: 26th February 2017Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Scholastic
Pages: 372
Format: Paperback
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
★   ★   ★   ★ – 4 Stars

The last thing she needs is a prince. The first thing she needs is some magic.

Poor Princess Anya. Forced to live with her evil stepmother’s new husband, her evil stepstepfather. Plagued with an unfortunate ability to break curses with a magic-assisted kiss. And forced to go on the run when her stepstepfather decides to make the kingdom entirely his own.

Aided by a loyal talking dog, a boy thief trapped in the body of a newt, and some extraordinarily mischievous wizards, Anya sets off on a Quest that, if she plays it right, will ultimately free her land—and teach her a thing or two about the use of power, the effectiveness of a well-placed pucker, and the finding of friends in places both high and low.

This is a fairytale through and through. There are talking dogs, princesses and a kingdom to defend and it has so many fabulous and magical moments it is pure delight. I loved how Nix causally throws in comments and lines as if they are perfectly normal sentences when they are not. It is makes reading a lot of fun and adds another layer of humour to enjoy. It is part of the fairytale trope or style I suppose that these things just happen but it was also great having this matter of fact, ‘what are you going to do about it?’ approach as well.

Anya is a great kid, she is thirteen which is hard to remember at times because of the things she achieves, but it is also a great reminder when she is doing these great deeds that she is only a child. There are moments where Anya realises how sheltered her life has been and you see her grow as she comes to understand the imbalance in the world and learn about kindness and the danger of too much power. It is a nice message that works well in the narrative and put in a way kids can appreciate without it being too heavy handed.

The story is filled with small moments and epic Quest moments which balance wonderfully. The individual characters are unique and help make this story feel like a classic fairy tale as well as a new type of story that brings the whole world to life. It is fun and filled with magic, friendships and Nix has established a vivid world that feels new while still cementing itself as a clear fairytale story with a villain, a goal, and a hero.

This is easily an adult or kid book and I think both audiences will have different things to take away from it. Even young kids will love this, it is filled with adventure and Quests, it’s funny but not silly, and Nix knows all the right moves to pull to make a great fairytale story new and exciting whilst also relying on the old and beloved.

You can purchase Frogkisser! via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

DymocksAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

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