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

AWW Update

This update includes all the AWW books I have read so far this year. Ideally I would have broken this up into three posts but so I don’t create too many out of place posts I’ve added them into one. There will still be the last update and final wrap up in December though. Looking at the list I have once again come out of the gate with a bang, then the April-June slump is to be expected but not a bad effort there, and as we head back on track with July-September it is a tad directionless but still some good titles in there. I am hoping I can actively direct my reading back to Aussie women, the last few months have only caught AWW titles around the edges, I’m aiming for some intentional reading for the final quarter.

Reviews obviously are behind but I have a lot of these coming up over the next few weeks so hopefully that will boost my review numbers significantly.

January-March

Fairytales for Feisty Girls by Susannah McFarlane

Growing Up Queer in Australia ed Benjamin Lee – Review

Summer Time by Hilary Bell

Goodwood by Holly Throsby – Review

A Day at the Show by Gwyn Perkins – Review

Just the Way We Are by Jessica Shirvington – Review

Shout out to the Girls Review

Meerkat Choir by Nicki Greenberg – Review

Celeste the Giraffe Loved to Laugh by Celeste Barber – Review

Charlotte Pass by Lee Christine

Wundersmith by Jessica Townsend

The Mistake by Wendy James

Meet Me at the Intersection ed Rebecca Lim

Welcome to Orphancorp by Marlee Jane Ward

Clancy the Quokka by Lilli Wilkinson – Review

Star Crossed by Minnie Darke – Review

A Trip to the Beach by Gwyn Perkins

Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley

Cocaine Blues by Kerry Greenwood

Faking It (#2) by Gabrielle Tozer – Review

April-June

The Ex by Nicola Moriarty

Those Other Women Nicola Moriarty

The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl by Melissa Keil

What I Like About Me by Jenna Guillaume

The Anzac Bilby by Claire Saxby

The Easter Bunnyroo by Susannah Chambers

Archibald the Naughtiest Elf in the World Causes Trouble for the Easter Bunny by Skye Davidson

Ten Things I Hate About Me by Randa Abdel-Fattah

Before You Forget by Julia Lawrinson – Review

July-September

Queer Stories ed. Maeve Marsden

Ella and the Ocean by Lian Tanner

My Friend Fred by Frances Watts

Blinky Bill: The Quaint Little Australian by Dorothy Wall

Blinky Bill Grows Up by Dorothy Wall

Blinky Bill and Nutsy by Dorothy Wall

AWW20 TOTAL

Read: 35/40

Reviewed: 11/35

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

Star Crossed by Minnie Darke

book-bitePublished: 5th Mark 2019Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Michael Joseph
Pages: 387
Format: Paperback
Genre: Fiction
★   ★ – 2 Stars

Sometimes even destiny needs a little bit of help. When childhood sweethearts Justine (Sagittarius and serious skeptic) and Nick (Aquarius and true believer) bump into each other as adults, a life-changing love affair seems inevitable. To Justine, anyway. Especially when she learns Nick is an astrological devotee, whose decisions are guided by the stars, and more specifically, by the horoscopes in his favorite magazine. The same magazine Justine happens to write for.

As Nick continues to not fall headlong in love with her, Justine decides to take Nick’s horoscope, and Fate itself, into her own hands. But, of course, Nick is not the only Aquarius making important life choices according to what is written in the stars.

Charting the ripple effects of Justine’s astrological meddling, STAR-CROSSED is a delicious, intelligent, and affecting love story about friendship, chance, and how we all navigate the kinds of choices that are hard to face alone.

Why rely on fate when you can rewrite the stars?

When Justine Carmichael (Sagittarius, aspiring journalist and sceptic) bumps into her old friend Nick Jordan (Aquarius, struggling actor and true believer) it could be by change. Or perhaps it’s written in the stars.

Justine works at the Alexandria Park Star – and Nick, she now learns, relies on the magazine’s astrology column to guide him in life.

Looking for a way to get Nick’s attention, Justine has the idea of making a few small alterations to ‘Aquarius’ before it goes to print.

It’s only a horoscope, after all. What harm could changing it do?

Having read the blurb for this when it came out, I was really intrigued because it sounded fun and light-hearted. Unfortunately when it came to actually reading it, I couldn’t engage with the story and found myself skimming quite a lot. The story shows how changing something as innocent as the horoscopes can affect others, but it is long, clunky, drawn out and often uninteresting. The premise sounded great but the actual writing is what turns you off. I think it would have benefited from being shorter, to keep it a more succinct series of events. I understand you need to have it take place over a long time to get the benefit of multiple horoscopes but this could have been done without so much extra detail.

To Darke’s credit, I initially enjoyed the interweaving moments of other people’s lives to see how it wasn’t just Nick’s life Justine was affecting, but they had no connection to the story that I saw and I skipped those after a while to try and get through the story faster. Eventually I skimmed the last half to get the gist of the story and see how it concluded, but I had no connection to the characters or had any interest in whether they got together or not so sitting through page after page of the drama and lead up to that wasn’t worth the time.

You can purchase Star Crossed via the following

Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | Wordery | Fishpond

 Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

Faking It (#2) by Gabrielle Tozer

Published: 23rd January 2015Goodreads badge
Publisher:
HarperCollins
Pages: 368
Format: Paperback
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★  – 2 Stars

Things are looking up for Josie Browning. Her boyfriend, James, is crazy about her, and she’s scored a writing job at indi. Now the pressure is on for Josie to prove she’s got what it takes to help plan indi’s launch. Plus, she’s battling with flatmates, frenemies and confusing feelings for travel writer Alex.

High on the perks at indi, Josie’s doing a pretty good job of faking her way in the industry – even though she still hasn’t mastered her hair straightener. But when Josie is invited to a media junket, she accidentally sets off a string of lies that threaten to ruin her reputation, love life and career forever.

Second book, second chance to warm up to main character Josie but once again it did not happen. I liked her even less this time around. I didn’t like her character and I can’t understand how she changed from one book to the other. There doesn’t seem to be a huge shift but the small moments of poor behaviour in the first book seem to be her dominate trait this time around. After fighting for James her eyes start to wander, after landing her dream job she sabotages her chances, what annoyed me most is she becomes the kind of person who would out a piece of clothing just because some guy made a joke about them.

I understand that she is thrust into a new role and she tries to be something and someone she isn’t, which is an uncomfortable experience but she is meant to be smarter and have more common sense than this, it’s built up in her backstory and by her previous experiences unless she has learnt nothing from the events before. Like last time I had to remind myself of her age constantly, she is only 18, but the drama and troubles around her were so petty telling myself it was a flights and fancy of a naïve, immature 18 year old was a stretch given everything she has experienced.

I tried so hard to love this book. I connected more with the first book than I did this and the fact I can’t even bring myself to give it three stars says a lot. I wanted to put this down so many times and I did but I always picked it up again. I couldn’t take Josie and everything in this book and so I’d take a break and try and come back but another paragraph and I’d have to stop. I was frustrated and annoyed and I wasn’t invested enough to care about anything happening. The fact I finished it even with the strong desire to quit at every turn was only to see the story through despite having no real interest in the outcome.

You can purchase Faking It via the following

Dymocks | Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

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