AWW 2016 Update

AWW16My first update covered three months, this time I’ve got two months to deal with and magically I have a few books to look at. I realised yesterday that I actually had read a few Aussie ladies and that another update was needed. I thought when I was doing this I’d post a reminder without being able to add anything new so I’m quite pleased. In future I am aiming for a monthly recap which means I’d best get my reading into gear and have something to update about. But for now I have a wonderful bunch of books to add to my list.

There is still plenty of time if you wish to join the challenge, you can sign up at any time during the year until the end of November. Visit the AWW website for more information.

 

AWW BOOKS Mar-Apr

The Reluctant Jillaroo by Kaz Delaney – Reviewed

Yellow by Megan Jacobson – Reviewed

The Yearbook Committee by Sarah Ayoub – Reviewed

Frankie by Shivaunn Plozza – Reviewed

Risk by Fleur Ferris – Reviewed

Pieces of Sky by Trinity Doyle – Reviewed

Wish List by Belinda Williams – Reviewed

Darkest Place by Jaye Ford

The High Places by Fiona MacFarlane

 

AWW2016 TOTAL

I’ve had to update my goal limit because I’m doing better than I thought I was going to. I’m bumping it up to read 20, review 16. Small increments for safety for now.

Read: 12/20

Reviewed: 10/16

Pieces of Sky by Trinity Doyle

Published: 1st June 2015Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Allen & Unwin
Pages: 290
Format: Paperback
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

Lucy’s life was going as smoothly as any teenager’s could. She was in the local swimming club, and loved it; she lived with her parents and her brother, Cam, in the small coastal town she’d known all her life. She had friends, she had goals – she had a life. Now Cam is dead, her parents might as well be – and Lucy can’t bear to get back in the pool. All she has to look forward to now is a big pile of going-nowhere.

Drawn to Steffi, her wild ex-best-friend who reminds Lucy of her mysterious, unpredictable brother, and music-obsessed Evan, the new boy in town, Lucy starts asking questions. Why did Cam die? Was it an accident or suicide? But as Lucy hunts for answers she discovers much more than she expects. About Cam. About her family. About herself.

This is an incredibly beautiful and heartbreaking story. Doyle has told a captivating tale about loss and discovery and trying to find your place in the world through Lucy and her journey through grief in the aftermath of her brother’s death.

Doyle’s language is wonderful and descriptive; it is sensitive and forgiving but also rough when it needs to be. The imagery is lovely and her words describe the pain felt by everyone and the darkness that has seeped into them all. My favourite line was early on where she writes “She looks up at me and I wonder if she’ll look at me like that for the rest of her life: all hollow like she’s been dug out by a spoon.” Despite being Lucy’s story, Doyle also makes it everybody else’s as well; we feel their pain and torment, their refusal to acknowledge and their struggle to accept.

This is still very much Lucy’s story and her investigation into what really happened to her brother, but it’s also a moving story about how loss can affect families and those who are left behind. Lucy is trying to be strong for her family and keeping to a routine helps her as much as anybody else, but when that’s disturbed by her aunt moving in you realise Lucy’s been distracting herself from her grief as much as everybody else has been too.

Doyle explores the numerous reactions and symptoms of grief, those who succumb to it, those who try and find distraction, those who run, and those who feel unstable and never settle, wildly going through emotional extremes. Lucy is definitely someone who is unable to settle. She doesn’t have the answers she wants and there are new mysteries that keep coming up which send her further from any definitives. So much is happening around her and you really do understand why she wants answers, and why she doesn’t want to share her secrets.

Part of my love for this story was the characters. They really bring this story to life because every one of them is their own unique person with their own history and background. Even simple remarks and observations can tell you so much about who these people are and let you know that they may be hiding something, or not as fine as they claim to be. They feel like real characters, people who could be in your life who have problems of their own and different life experiences to your own.

Doyle’s expression of Lucy’s family is certainly admirable for their intensity and emotional complexity, but a lot of focus must be on the others as well. Lucy’s friends Steffi and Evan bring some relief to both Lucy and the reader, but its clear Doyle hasn’t made these two any less complicated or real. Steffi is a girl doing her own thing, never caring about what others thought, but you know there is something beneath the surface. Evan is much the same, he is cheeky and clever, you do fall a little bit in love with him, but he is also lost and feels neglected, whether he’ll admit it outright or not. As much as Cam’s death propelled this story, in a way it is also the characters themselves that is pulling you through it. You get caught up in following their lives and interactions, becoming invested in who they are and the lives they live, even if many of these interactions are as a result of Cam’s death. Which possibly makes no sense, but it’s kind of true I think.

The reason why I think this story feels so real is because the uncertainty of general teenage life is mixed together with the grief. Lucy looked up to her brother, he taught her things and included her in his life, hence her understandable sorrow. But between her sadness a budding romance wedges in, as well as a resurfacing friendship and struggling to discover where she fits in the world. All of this pushes its way through demanding attention and Doyle shows Lucy’s inability to cope remarkable well, you see her being pulled in so many directions and she doesn’t feel she has anyone to turn to for help. But what makes her so admirable is that she often perseveres regardless, she finds a way to enjoy herself and keep going.

It also feels so real because Doyle’s writing places you in a scene. You are on the pool block, you’re riding through a coastal town, walking through the city streets. Her words include you in the lives of her characters and you may as well be a fly on the wall, experiencing alongside them. Landscapes and locations are woven into the narrative and through Lucy’s eyes we hear her story but also see her world as well.

There really is so much to adore from this book, from the vivid descriptions to the wonderful familiar feeling it produces from reading about places you know and recognise. There are secrets to uncover and shocking suspicions, combined with fantastic characters this is a story that will keep you immersed from the first page until the last.

You can purchase Pieces of Sky via the following

Booktopia | Amazon Aust

Book Depository | QBD

AmazonDymocks

Readings | Publisher

A&R Bookworld| Boomerang Books

AWW16

Risk by Fleur Ferris

Published: 30th June 2015Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Random House Australia
Pages: 279
Format: Paperback
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

24973955Taylor and Sierra have been best friends for their whole lives. But Taylor’s fed up. Why does Sierra always get what – and who – she wants? From kissing Taylor’s crush to stealing the guy they both met online for herself, Sierra doesn’t seem to notice when she hurts her friends.
So when Sierra says Jacob Jones is the one and asks her friends to cover for her while she goes to meet him for the first time, Taylor rolls her eyes. 
But Sierra doesn’t come back when she said she would.
One day. Two days. Three . . .
What if Taylor’s worrying for nothing? What if Sierra’s just being Sierra, forgetting about everyone else to spend time with her new guy? 
When Taylor finally tells Sierra’s mum that her daughter is missing, Taylor and her friends are thrown into a dark world they never even knew existed.
Can Taylor find Sierra’s abductor in time? Or should she be looking for a killer?

I did not stop this book once I picked it up and for those who saw me tweeting into the early hours about this book, you understand the emotions I experienced.

What Ferris has done is told a gripping story that is real and could easily be a report on the news. This is an incredible message about the people on the internet and the possible dangers they pose. It’s about mistakes, friendships, evil, and the modern world. The parallels with reality are evident and there is a strong message woven through it, but it isn’t overbearing. What makes this not a report on the news is that Ferris includes all the elements to make this story feel real and truthful, but at the same time she also makes it a compelling novel, with all the great novel components. It is a beautiful story that is told with such heart.

Like all wonderful stories there are characters you love and Callum is someone I fell in love with pretty quickly. He is adorable and a sweetheart and he tries to be the best friend to Taylor that he can be. The personality of each character shines on the page and you love them because they’re real and they’re different, and Ferris makes you feel like they are standing right beside you as they speak.

As you read there’s a pounding in your chest that never fades, the story takes hold of your soul and pulls you through this gripping tale. So much happens before you are even half way and Ferris keeps up the intensity incredibly well. It’s easy to say the story is broken in two stages, but there are so many overlapping moments of mystery and various aftermaths there are mini moments and events throughout which stop it being placed in a simple before and after style story.

A wonderful moment is realising Taylor is still such a kid. She gets excited about things and let’s her mind wander with possibilities and having dreams that don’t come to fruition. Because of this I think it’s also easier to see how simple and blameless she is in everything that happens. As you read you pick up the red flags but at the same time you understand why Taylor doesn’t.

What I loved about this book was just how real it seemed. What Taylor experiences is not unheard of, nor is there a simple solution. Ferris uses Taylor as a great tool in telling a beautiful story while also spreading a message. She never preaches, nor does Taylor, and Ferris seamlessly explores the dangers of the modern world while also entertaining (and providing feels).

I implore everyone to read this book, it is not just a gripping and suspense filled story, but it acts as an educator for teens and parents alike. Ferris has used her skills and her background to create a captivating and truly beautiful story that also offers guidance and explores some very real consequences of the online world.

You can purchase Risk via the following

Booktopia | Amazon Aust

Book Depository | QBD

AmazonDymocks

Publisher | A&R Bookworld

AWW16

The Yearbook Committee by Sarah Ayoub

Published: 1st March 2016Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 HarperCollins Australia
Pages: 320
Format: Paperback
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

Five teenagers. Five lives. One final year.

The school captain: Ryan has it all … or at least he did, until an accident snatched his dreams away. How will he rebuild his life and what does the future hold for him now?

The newcomer: Charlie’s just moved interstate and she’s determined not to fit in. She’s just biding her time until Year 12 is over and she can head back to her real life and her real friends …

The loner: At school, nobody really notices Matty. But at home, Matty is everything. He’s been single-handedly holding things together since his mum’s breakdown, and he’s never felt so alone.

The popular girl: Well, the popular girl’s best friend … cool by association. Tammi’s always bowed to peer pressure, but when the expectations become too much to handle, will she finally stand up for herself?

The politician’s daughter: Gillian’s dad is one of the most recognisable people in the state and she’s learning the hard way that life in the spotlight comes at a very heavy price.

Five unlikely teammates thrust together against their will. Can they find a way to make their final year a memorable one or will their differences tear their world apart?

I knew a Melina Marchetta recommendation wouldn’t let me down and a reading binge until 4am proves me right. The Yearbook Committee is a beautiful story that encapsulates how people from different situations can come together (albeit unwilling), and can have their lives changed forever.

The story is told through five character perspectives, across nine months of the school year, and reveals the ups and down of teenage life and the experiences of living in contemporary Australia. The joy of reading Aussie books is recognising the locations and references, and Ayoub captures that Aussie feeling, our language and our culture, making this story feel natural and familiar.

The layout revolves around the monthly yearbook meetings and the school terms, and Ayoub’s creative in getting information without needing it to be told in detail. Using character’s traits and personalities to her advantage, Ayoub provides the ideal amount of information keeping it feeling natural with the story at hand. The focus is centred on the yearbook and character personal lives, and though things are mentioned within this space, Ayoub never makes us feel like we need to see them play out.

Being a book about modern teenagers, there’s naturally a lot of social media to include and Ayoub integrates technology and texting seamlessly and creatively. Each character shift is broken up with a Facebook style post and it sets the tone for not only the coming chapter, but it fits into the overall and arching story. Ayoub also ends each chapter with a hanging question, a moment, or thought that can be profound or concerning. Each character is contemplating or observing and it’s a great tactic; it finalises their chapter and can have such an impact on what has happened or what is going to happen.

There are characters you like immediately and certainly those you don’t like for the entire novel. Then there are the few that grow on you as you read. The more Ayoub reveals about them and the more you get to know them your feelings shift until you grow to respect each one for who they are. Again, not everyone, some of them you want to kick in the face, those feelings don’t change. There were times when I wanted to reach into the pages and hug these people, even now having finished it I still want to give them all a massive hug. One part that I loved was that so many characters connect with each other and overlap and they don’t always know it. Friends of friends and relatives of others know one another and when you notice you realise how connected everyone is.

Getting to see each committee member’s point of view is a powerful tool. You feel sorry for them all in varying degrees and certainly for various reasons. Their life outside of school is opened up and the different struggles and conflicts they face are laid bare, making you realise everyone has something to hide and problems of their own. The Tolstoy quote Gillian posts is a perfect example: All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. Each of these characters is unhappy in their own way and sometimes these unhappinesses can break your heart.

Ayoub doesn’t placate you with idealistic and fake endings; she offers you solutions and results, consequences and outcomes. And yet, there is also a delightful ambiguity remaining, taunting you with things left open and unanswered. Nothing that says there will be a happily ever after which is why, in those final emotional chapters when you can’t stand it anymore but have to keep reading, Ayoub delivers a realistic and perfect conclusion, one that suits these characters you’ve grown to love, one that feels real, one that crushes your heart and is feels just right, even when you’re trying not to cry.

My only criticism with this story (a minor personal desire), is that I wish that we could have seen the final yearbook layout. It would have been a bittersweet inclusion and if possible I would happily donate to a fund that gets this put into production. Until such time, I am content with this important, beautiful, and divine story that will open your eyes and move your soul.

You can purchase The Yearbook Committee via the following

Booktopia | Amazon Aust

Book Depository | QBD

AmazonDymocks

Readings | Publisher

A&R Bookworld| Boomerang Books

AWW16

Frankie by Shivaun Plozza

Published: March 23rd 2016Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Penguin Australia
Pages: 314
Format: Paperback
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

Frankie Vega is angry. Just ask the guy whose nose she broke. Or the cop investigating the burglary she witnessed, or her cheating ex-boyfriend or her aunt who’s tired of giving second chances…When a kid shows up claiming to be Frankie’s half brother, it opens the door to a past she doesn’t want to remember. And when that kid goes missing, the only person willing to help is a boy with stupidly blue eyes … and secrets of his own. Frankie’s search for the truth might change her life, or cost her everything. 

There’s so much to love about Frankie. Plozza’s story is filled with rawness, pain, heart warming moments, and soul crushing scenes. From its opening pages until the end we’re taken on an amazing journey, not a very long one time wise, or that grand in the scheme of things, but amazing none the less.

From the start you are invested in these characters and their lives. The ongoing mystery about what Steve Sparrow said to Frankie isn’t the only hook, nor is her newly discovered half brother. Her life with her aunt and her abandonment by her mother is a captivating and painful tale that connects in all the right places. Plozza makes you empathise so much with Frankie and what she deals with.

I’m not entirely sure if it’s healthy, but I got Frankie. I agreed with her philosophies and I admired her, even when she was doing wrong. Her determination is admirable and while your heart pounds and you personally feel the guilt when she disobeys her aunt, I loved her still. I love her attitude and her fierceness, plus her attempt to do the right thing in a world that hasn’t been that kind. Her love and respect for her aunt is beautiful and contrasted perfectly with her desire and urge to do things that aren’t always right. There is a definite emotional tug-of-war that never lets up.

There is a view that Frankie doesn’t accept the chances she’s given; she is provided so many chances to right her wrongs that she doesn’t take for one reason or another. But while it seems like she is her own worst enemy, seeing her decisions and thought process from her point of view, you forgive her. You understand her anger comes from a real place, something that can’t be fixed overnight. You see her desire to find her brother and do something when no one else seems to be. Her uncontrollable temper gets her into trouble and her attitude aggravates others, but seeing it through Frankie’s eyes makes it understandable. The fact that Frankie tries so hard to be good breaks your heart, and seeing her struggle and fight those helping her is torture.

Every single one of Plozza’s characters are divine. She has created such a diverse range of people all mixed up in this one story. They have their own stories to tell, they are cheeky and boorish, innocent and misguided. Their life stories can be sussed out in the simplest comment or in their silence. You fall in love with so many so easily and watching them make mistakes and have victories and turmoil is one of the best parts about reading this.

A lot of love must be focused on Aunt Vinnie, she is incredible. For all the conflict between the two you can tell she loves Frankie fiercely. She grounds her and scolds her but she loves her as well and there are some fabulous scenes that demonstrate that Aunt Vinnie has always been and will always be Frankie’s one defender. Against every crappy thing life has thrown Frankie’s way, Aunt Vinnie will be there.

Plozza tells this fantastic story with heart and style and humour that highlights truths and realities of an imperfect world and brings flawed people to life. It isn’t a story of heightened teen angst or drama, it’s real and it’s honest, and it’s a powerful story about the realities in life and the good and bad it contains. And it will crush your soul in the process. It’s brilliant.

You can purchase Frankie via the following

Booktopia | Amazon Aust

Book Depository | QBD

AmazonDymocks

Readings | Publisher

AWW16

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