The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth

Published: 28th May 2013 (print)/6th April 2013 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Balzer + Bray/Audible
Pages: 470/14 hrs and 17 mins
Narrator: Beth Laufer
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★   ★  ★ – 4 Stars

When Cameron Post’s parents die suddenly in a car crash, her shocking first thought is relief. Relief they’ll never know that, hours earlier, she had been kissing a girl.

But that relief doesn’t last, and Cam is soon forced to move in with her conservative aunt Ruth and her well-intentioned but hopelessly old-fashioned grandmother. She knows that from this point on, her life will forever be different. Survival in Miles City, Montana, means blending in and leaving well enough alone (as her grandmother might say), and Cam becomes an expert at both.

Then Coley Taylor moves to town. Beautiful, pickup-driving Coley is a perfect cowgirl with the perfect boyfriend to match. She and Cam forge an unexpected and intense friendship–one that seems to leave room for something more to emerge. But just as that starts to seem like a real possibility, ultrareligious Aunt Ruth takes drastic action to “fix” her niece, bringing Cam face-to-face with the cost of denying her true self–even if she’s not exactly sure who that is.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post is a stunning and unforgettable literary debut about discovering who you are and finding the courage to live life according to your own rules.

CW: self-harm, drug use, sex

I’m not sure what made me start reading this book but I am so glad I did. I loved the story, I loved Cameron and her life and truly I think I could have read about Cameron’s early romances and relationships forever. I was so involved with everything this book was about; I loved the complications and the secrets and the pure freedom of expression of desires. It was wonderful to see that even though everything is hidden, it is possible. Laufer is a fantastic narrator, she uses inflections and tones perfectly and you’re never taken out of the story. I was drawn into Cameron’s world and was with her the entire time.

There are fabulous friendships, the inevitable betrayal and I wanted nothing more than to jump into the book and seek justice for Cameron on her behalf. There is such an energy from those early parts that I fell right into. I didn’t quite feel the same energy in the final parts/chapters until right at the very end. Not quite sure where it kicks over but I think somewhere when she is sent to be “fixed”. The place is a strange set up and while it isn’t nearly as weird as others that no doubt existed, it has a dangerous approach to it all the same.

It’s strange because it could have been a lot worse, and I think Cameron eventually highlights what the main problem with it is, and of course other people do in small ways before, but it was such a weird environment and that comes across in the writing. The majority of the book comes before this though and by then you can clearly see the wrongness going on even if it is disguised as something else.

I loved Cameron’s defiance and her self-assurance. I loved that she knows the risks and yet wants to experience things anyway. Danforth doesn’t preach at us, but through the characters we see the injustice, through their words and their situations we see how messed up this thinking is, how kids are being essentially punished for loving who they love through no fault of their own.

This is a story about teenager’s being teenagers and doing all the things teenagers are going to do. The turn of the decade and coming of age all mix together into an honest story that is filled with passion and kids who are just being kids. There’s marijuana use, some language and a pretty honest exploration of sexuality and sex. It is uncertain, it’s new, it’s exciting and all of that comes across on the page with these characters who you love and hate and see for all their foolishness and faults.

I loved it all, but I really loved the earlier parts the most. I could feel it, right there with Cameron and her childhood, figuring stuff out, never naming it but working on instinct and having those around her to guide her. We go through years of her life and see the people who influence her and who love her. It is a brilliant exploration of best friends and women helping women.

It also has such a great 90s feel, the early years of a decade, the end of another when you can remember the previous decade and new trends are happening, there’s new music and old clothes, a mix of times. Even though this was published in 2012 there isn’t a clear shoehorning of 90s references, it happens naturally if at all. You understood it was from an earlier time and it was also timeless in a way which allowed the story to focus on the characters, on Cameron and her life, and the lives of those around her.

I would have loved the book to go on further, but despite the fact it was already quite long, I wanted to see more after those final moments. I wanted to be vengeful on Cameron’s behalf, I wanted her to be free and to see the previous life she had left behind, I wanted to save so many people from the adults around them. I do love the ending, it was beautifully done and Danforth brings it back to earlier moments so wonderfully well it was a great conclusion. My own wishes though would love to see what happens next and yet I don’t need a sequel because I really do think that would ruin the magic.

You can purchase The Miseducation of Cameron Post via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

Angel Mage by Garth Nix

Published: 30 September 2019 (print)/26 September 2017 (audio)

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Publisher: Allen & Unwin/Bolinda Publishing
Pages: 472/15 hrs and 3 mins
Narrator: Kristin Atherton
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Epic Fantasy
★ ★ ★ – 3 Stars

More than a century has passed since Liliath crept into the empty sarcophagus of Saint Marguerite, fleeing the Fall of Ystara. But she emerges from her magical sleep still beautiful, looking no more than nineteen, and once again renews her single-minded quest to be united with her lover, Palleniel, the archangel of Ystara.

A seemingly impossible quest, but Liliath is one of the greatest practitioners of angelic magic to have ever lived, summoning angels and forcing them to do her bidding.

Liliath knew that most of the inhabitants of Ystara died from the Ash Blood plague or were transformed into beastlings, and she herself led the survivors who fled into neighboring Sarance. Now she learns that angels shun the Ystaran’s descendants. If they are touched by angelic magic, their blood will turn to ash. They are known as Refusers, and can only live the most lowly lives.

But Liliath cares nothing for the descendants of her people, save how they can serve her. It is four young Sarancians who hold her interest: Simeon, a studious doctor-in-training; Henri, a dedicated fortune hunter; Agnez, an adventurous musketeer cadet; and Dorotea, an icon-maker and scholar of angelic magic. They are the key to her quest.

The four feel a strange kinship from the moment they meet, but do not know why, or suspect their importance. All become pawns in Liliath’s grand scheme to fulfil her destiny and be united with the love of her life. No matter the cost to everyone else.

This story is an investment. It is slow and vast and while it takes a little while to wrap your head around it, once you are immersed into this fascinating world Nix has created it is quite interesting, especially when you realise how complex and simple the story itself is. I will admit it took me a couple of goes to start this but I made myself return and I’m glad because it was a different kind of story which made it interesting.

Once the explanation is established about how summoning angels works with icons and icon makers, seeing how society works is fascinating. Whether to sacrifice your own days, months, years for the use of Angel Magic is a great decision and the way Nix has created varying levels and rules and restrictions is a testament to his world building capabilities. The grander explanation is revealed gradually and with a few key scenes that explain how the use of magic works with character dialogue and inner thoughts to help you grasp it fairly quickly. The multiple character points of view allow great insight into this world and the history, as well as the rules and limitations that exist. Nix also skilfully uses these scenes to advance the plot so every part of this lengthy tale is used with purpose.

It is easy to see how this may be seen as slow. Initially I thought so too, especially as an audio, but if you immerse yourself in the world, with these characters and their various lives, overlapping and coming together it wraps itself around you and it plays out reasonably well. The time is justified, it doesn’t drag out, but a lot happens which is used to build up to the climax and the war, not to mention getting all of the many players in place. The inspiration for this story was the Three Musketeers and you can see this in how Nix has reimagined the Cardinal and her guards. I loved all the female representations, even though they are still called sir it was always a surprise to have everyone important and high up be female as well as many other characters. It was another great change on the well-known story and a great improvement.

To be fair there are a lot of characters to keep track of, but only a few end up being ones that keep coming back and you have the time in the narrative to get to know everyone and their roles. I enjoyed the characters of Agnez, Henri, Simeon, and Dorotea a lot. Each of their different lives are another fascinating look at the world, and seeing the events that bring them together is clever and full of creativity on Nix’s part. They are full of personal history and have great character depth and having listened to this as an audio I got a range of wonderful voices as well.

Atherton does a great job as narrator. Her reading is well paced, can be slow at times but it is also an addition to the grandeur of the story. Dealing with angels and magic, even if it is common occurrence, doesn’t stop the story from feeling epic. I really liked this different type of fantasy, it is a love story across time and magic, of musketeers and angels that was exciting as it was profound. I’m glad I persevered because I appreciate the world Nix has built, the drive behind Lilliath, and the diversity in his characters. Plus it was a really satisfying ending which is a great reward.

You can purchase Angel Mage via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | Wordery | Angus and Robinson

Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

The 117-Storey Treehouse (#9) by Andy Griffiths

Published: 23rd July 2019 (print)/23 July 2019 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
  Pan Macmillan Australia /Macmillan Australia Audio
Pages: 384/1 hr and 37 mins
Narrator: Stig Wemyss
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Junior Fiction
★   ★   ★  ★  – 4 Stars

Andy and Terry live in a 117-story treehouse. (It used to be a 104-story treehouse, but it just keeps growing!) It now has a pyjama-party room, a water-ski park filled with flesh-eating piranhas, an Underpants Museum, a giant-fighting-robot arena, and the Door of Doom (don’t open it or you’ll be COMPLETELY and UTTERLY DOOMED!).

For as long as Andy and Terry have been writing books together, Andy has always been the narrator and Terry has always been the illustrator. But when Terry tries to prove that he can narrate as well as draw, the story goes completely out of control and the Story Police arrive to arrest the whole treehouse team for crimes against storytelling! Andy, Terry and Jill go on the run, but how long can they evade the Story Police and stay out of Story Jail?

There are so many things to love in this new Treehouse adventure. One thing I quite enjoyed was Storytelling Gaol and the Story Police who arrest you for lazy storytelling like ending a story with “It was all a dream”. A great practice. Crimes against good and proper storytelling should be openly encouraged. But that isn’t the only fun addition to the treehouse. With 13 new storeys there are fun rooms like the Miniature Pony room, the Waiting Room, the Underpants Museum room, and many more.

The usual charm of the Treehouse series is back: the way Andy addresses the reader/listener, the reoccurring characters like Mr Big Nose and the impossible book deadlines, and Jill is there with her logic and sensible answers, but she is also there have crazy fun with the boys as well.

There is also a clear formula to these stories which surprisingly doesn’t get old. It treats each book like the first book you’ve read of Griffiths and Denton. Even going through the treehouse introduction again is fun because we get to explore the new rooms and see Denton illustrations. Even with the audiobook Wemyss makes this fun because of his fun voices so you can imagine these rooms, much like radio dramas with sound effects and different voices commenting on random aspects and features.

This time around Terry wants to try his hand at narrating because “illustrators can narrate too!” which kick starts the story and also reveals that in the Terry/Andy universe there are similar authors to our world but not quite. There’s Looney Tunes logic, a touch of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and the absurdity and strangeness results in a lot of hilarity and you can’t help but laugh.

I love the meta nature of this particular adventure because I feel like Griffiths included some of his own criticisms he’s seen, if not, it is a great self-reflection on some of the plots in this series. All in good faith though and always filled with humour.

I’ve started looking forward to experiencing these books as audios because I adore Wemyss’s narration and I will sacrifice Denton’s illustrations because the story is just as entertaining. While I know Denton does amazing work, the audiobook has done the book justice and the creativity to be able to interpret those drawings into sound is quite wonderful.

You can purchase The 117-Storey Treehouse via the following

QBD | Dymocks | Book Depository

Booktopia | Angus and Robertson | Fishpond

Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

Wordery | Publisher

Playing Beatie Bow by Ruth Park

Published: 4th December 1984 (print)/15th September 2012 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Puffin Books/Bolinda Audio
Pages: 208/6 hrs and 14 mins
Narrator: Kate Hood
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Classic
★   ★   ★  ★ – 4 Stars

1478198Distraught over her parents’ separation, Abigail follows a strange child called Beatie Bow and time slips back a hundred years where she becomes involved with an Australian shopkeeper’s family.

I was unsure what to expect from this, I’d heard great things about this Aussie classic and since it was reasonably short I was intrigued. I enjoyed the story from the start, I liked how Abigail is defiant and independent, and I loved the relationship she had with her mother.

I was quite drawn into the story by the end, it feels like a longer story than it is and time stretches on but does not drag. Park has done a great job mixing the time periods and blending the historical with the contemporary. Despite being published in 1980, there is a wonderful 70s vibe through this story because it is the time of the women’s liberation movement and this comes across in the dialogue between Abigail and her mother. Limiting minor spoilers I loved how fiercely Abigail is trying to reason with her mother over her relationship with her father. It gave a wonderfully modern feel to the story and I think Park does a great job satisfying both parties with how she handles the situation.

I was surprised by the ending but Park makes this work in how she loops it back to the earlier story. It subjects your expectations and keeps a little of the magic alive, certainly giving a satisfactory feel as a reader as we too have become attached to these figures of history as we spend time with them as well.

Kate Hood does a great job as narrator. Her use of accents makes each character stand out, though Park’s writing does that well enough as it is, with each time period represented through dialogue, language and descriptions.

The historical aspect brings to light a side of Sydney I hadn’t thought about before. The reign of Queen Victoria and the fact Australia is still reasonably new are charming factors, and Park shows us a little of how life was during that time. I understood how Park makes it sound rather peaceful and fulfilling, while also showing the hardships. The balance between the current times and the olden days is surely the perfect way to live and seeing Abigail come to that realisation was great.

For a time before young adult books were really a thing, this is a good coming of age story that fills in the gaps between kids and teens, for those early years before becoming a fully-fledged teenager and are still trying to navigate growing up and moving on from childhood.

You can purchase Playing Beatie Bow via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | Angus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

Soulless (#1) by Gail Carriger

Published: 1st October 2009(print)/26 September 2017 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Orbit/Hachette Audio
Pages: 357/10 hrs and 48 mins
Narrator: Emily Gray
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Steampunk/Paranormal
★   ★   ★    ★  ★ – 5 Stars

Alexia Tarabotti is laboring under a great many social tribulations. 

First, she has no soul. Second, she’s a spinster whose father is both Italian and dead. Third, she was rudely attacked by a vampire, breaking all standards of social etiquette.

Where to go from there? From bad to worse apparently, for Alexia accidentally kills the vampire–and then the appalling Lord Maccon (loud, messy, gorgeous, and werewolf) is sent by Queen Victoria to investigate.

With unexpected vampires appearing and expected vampires disappearing, everyone seems to believe Alexia responsible. Can she figure out what is actually happening to London’s high society? Will her soulless ability to negate supernatural powers prove useful or just plain embarrassing? Finally, who is the real enemy, and do they have treacle tart?

I have so much love for this book, this world, this series, and Alexia herself. The story introduces us to preternatural woman Alexia Tarabotti. She has no soul which is information she can’t really share with anyone and when she touches someone who is of a supernatural persuasion she cancels out their abilities. This comes in handy when you live in a society with vampires and werewolves. I love her. She is sarcastic, she is polite and proper to the point of hilarity, and being soulless she certainly brings a lot of fun and frustration to those around her.

Soulless is our first introduction to Alexia and it is a fantastic introduction. It is also a brilliant way to introduce us to this Victorian world where vampires and werewolves exist in everyday society and are just as respectable as the next person. Please, please, please I beg you do not let the fact that there are vampires and werewolves in this deter you. It is not your Twilight, Anne Rice, or Vampire Academy vampires, or really any other vampire you’d be thinking of I promise you. This book and series has been described as a cross between Jane Austen and P.G. Wodehouse and I wholeheartedly agree. It is a steampunk, Victorian era, alternate reality where everything is the same, Victoria is Queen but instead there are werewolves and vampires which have been assimilated into society. There are rules, societal etiquette to consider, and they are highly civilised and these supernatural creatures are accepted into society no problem and society has evolved around them to accommodate.

The tone of the blurb is a great indication of the tone of the book. One thing I adored was Carriger’s use of language. It’s not so fanciful that it is hard to understand but her use of language is elegant, with wonderful humour without making it seem silly. There are dirigibles and glassicals and all many wonderful Victorian era inventions, phrases, customs, but there is a fantastic steampunk/paranormal/mystery part as well. This is the ideal way to introduce the world and society protocols because things have gone slightly haywire and in trying to work out the mystery behind it, you get told the history and standards of the modern world these characters live in.

The pure joy of this is not even these supernatural creatures, it is Carriger’s storytelling ability and her way with words and dialogue. There is mystery and danger and Alexia’s prowess at weaving through the chaos in her upper class manner is wonderful. The issue of societal rules and manners are half the fun as even as these dangerous and dastardly things happen social niceties must be observed. The absolute best way to experience this I my opinion is as an audio. I adored how Gray annunciates and it is quite fantastic to hear all the fancy words and the accents and inflections she uses are divine. If audios aren’t your thing though, the book is fantastic on its own because the story is captivating and the language and the dialogue Carriger uses only enhances this great narrative which is as delightful and hilarious as high society is allowed to be.

You can purchase Soulless via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

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