The Sun Is Also A Star by Nicola Yoon

Published: 31st October 2016Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Random House Children’s Publishers UK
Pages: 348
Format: Paperback
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★   ★   ★   ★ – 5 Stars

Natasha: I’m a girl who believes in science and facts. Not fate. Not destiny. Or dreams that will never come true. I’m definitely not the kind of girl who meets a cute boy on a crowded New York City street and falls in love with him. Not when my family is twelve hours away from being deported to Jamaica. Falling in love with him won’t be my story.

Daniel: I’ve always been the good son, the good student, living up to my parents’ high expectations. Never the poet. Or the dreamer. But when I see her, I forget about all that. Something about Natasha makes me think that fate has something much more extraordinary in store—for both of us.

The Universe: Every moment in our lives has brought us to this single moment. A million futures lie before us. Which one will come true?

I can’t believe I waited so long to read this book. I loved it. I loved the unique characters, the different experiences they’d had and the different lives they both lived, and I loved how Yoon makes an entire day feel so long and life changing. I simply adore books that take part in one day but feel like many more. This a full day of so many experiences that make you realise all the possibilities that can happen in one day. It also helps being in New York City because there’s heaps more things to do and transport between places is infinitely simpler.

Both Daniel and Natasha felt like real people. They had experiences behind them, complications in their present lives, and hopes and dreams that are so different from one another but stem from the same desire to live their lives how they want. There is instalove but the way Yoon portrays it is with a feeling, or instinct; there is a connection felt between them which neither can truly ignore. It isn’t just they love each other after a day, there is actual effort in trying to understand one another and an ease when the two interact.

There are a few moments where both of them can be insufferable. But I think it’s important to remember that at 17 these kids are in their own worlds. Natasha has a crisis in her life which brings out her selfishness and her pessimism, while as a poet Daniel is always going to be a cringy teen romantic. I think enough credit isn’t given to Natasha that while Daniel can be weird, Natasha doesn’t have to keep engaging him. Her own curiosities and self-proclaimed connection intrigues her and yes Daniel can come across as pushy and stalkery but if we keep pointing this out it takes away some magic, which is what these stories are all about.

The story is filled with moments that show the flow on effect on people’s actions. How one simple act creates a butterfly effect and small moments can result in bigger things that impact on more than just the lives involved. The writing is incredible, it’s profound without being over the top, there are some beautiful sentences and thoughts expressed that show the issues everyday people face and how deep the everyday can be.

It is a wonderful story about how passion can be a gift or a downfall, dreamers and realists coming together and having an effect on each other’s lives. Yoon explores the fascinating debate about love, fate, and destiny through the story and with three narrators – Natasha, Daniel, and The Universe – you see the different perspectives and learn about secondary characters in quite a poetic way. The structure is perfect and Yoon has stitched together these moments into the main story so it still flows seamlessly and each added bit of info adds a lot of context and explanation in a fantastic tone.

Secondary characters, while only being brief a lot of the time, felt full and complete. With different narrators you see different sides of the characters so you understand them quite well even when they are only present for a brief while. The ending is curious because you get answers and you don’t. And for all the coincidences throughout there are still lives at stake that can be impacted on by the decisions and whims of other people which may change paths completely. I can understand how people can see this as fanciful and unrealistic, but from the very beginning I was invested in this story. I loved how the story didn’t go where I thought it would and I loved the narrative dynamics.

You can purchase The Sun is Also a Star via the following

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This Raging Light by Estelle Laure

Published: 14th January 2016Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Orchard Books
Pages: 312
Format: Paperback
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★   ★   ★   ★ – 5 Stars

How is it that one day Digby was my best friend’s cute twin brother, and then the next he stole air, gave jitters, twisted my insides up?

And with Mom gone, bills to pay and Wren to look after… Why does the best thing happen at the worst time?

This book was such an emotional roller coaster for me. I made so many different noises reading this story. I could barely contain myself as I read. I had to put it down to gather myself but then I immediately had to pick it back up again because I Had To Know. Looking at the notes I took when I read it there is one that is simply “This book. Oh gosh this book is incredible!!!” which is a great endorsement based on emotional response alone.

There are so many brilliant characters in this, so many to admire and have emotional moments about. Laure has done a brilliant job making the reader become invested in these girls and their lives and obviously there are so many heart wrenching and suspenseful moments as they try and cope on their own.

There is uncertainty and fear and all kinds of worries we’re made too experience alongside Lucille. You see her fears of being separated and her worry how to cope, not to mention the mystery of where her mother is and when she’s coming back. We feel her anger and her desperation and determination is compelling.

Wren is character you can’t help but adore and seeing her and Lucille together is magical; the sisterly bond the two girls have is amazing. Wren’s journey and her thoughts alone will break your heart, not to mention that her own fears and her worries WILL CRUSH YOUR SOUL. It really reminds you that she is only a kid and that she is as scared and as worried as Lucille is. As a reader you get to hate a few people in this – the mum, the dad, but for a lot of the time as well you get to be proud of the girls for surviving.

It isn’t just the big things, there’s a lot of little things that will break your heart and make you swell with pride. It’s an incredible story and one that leaves you with so much more than when you started. I basically shoved this book into the hands of anyone nearby and it was wonderful to watch them have the same emotional reactions as I did.

Before I claim this as completely perfect, there were a few things that didn’t sit right with me but I think it adds to the story in a way – a lot can be excused regarding young love and new feelings. Some parts I will also admit made me angry, like proper frustrated because it was so stupid and wrong, but this is what I mean when I say Laure makes you feel a range of emotions with this story. Anger, fear, pain, love. It’s all in there and you will feel all of it.

The additional dramas around their missing mother is also nail biting and filled with tension. It never feels like two separate stories, they blend together brilliantly and they link together seamlessly. A great example of capturing life: everything happens at once and things are not easy, perfect or solved by the end of the book.

There is a sense of hope that shines through though, that even in the toughest moments when there are bills to pay and food to buy you have faith that Lucille and Wren will be ok. Lucille is someone you know will make it all ok, even when she can’t they will get through it, she will always be there for Wren, no matter what happens.

Honestly I don’t know how many more ways I can say that I adored this story. It has so much in it and so many complexities that Laure has blended brilliantly. It’s a love story, a family story, a story of pain and hope and survival, and one that will make you feel everything.

You can purchase This Raging Light via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

DymocksAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

Giraffe Problems by Jory John

Published: 25th September 2018Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Random House Books
Illustrator: Lane Smith
Pages: 42
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

Can you guess what’s making this giraffe self-conscious? Could it be…HIS ENORMOUS NECK Yes, it’s exactly that–how on earth did you figure it out?

Edward the giraffe can’t understand why his neck is as long and bendy and, well, ridiculous as it is. No other animal has a neck this absurd. He’s tried disguising it, dressing it up, strategically hiding it behind bushes–honestly, anything you can think of, he’s tried.

Jory John is back with another fabulous book. Giraffe Problems is a brilliant book that much like Penguin Problems, has a giraffe who is unhappy with his absurdly long neck. This seems to be his only problem, but John explores this singular issue with humour and style.

The narrative is hilarious. The short sentences and the quick words sound just like the complaints of the key character, all beautifully presented in and around Smith’s illustrations. There are no rhymes, but you don’t need them as John writes a great story that reads like a funny list of complaints and grievances by Edward and the annoyance as he interacts with those around him.

There are more words to the story as it goes on and you see how this poor giraffe has tried to cope with his long, long, super necky neck. There are beautiful moments too and I loved the interactions with all the various animals he comes across.

Smith’s illustrations deserve attention on their own. The dark earthy colours on the page bring out the feeling of nature and the expressions and actions on the animals are realistic but have a comical tone as well. The design of each page enhances the story because it makes you move your eyes around to follow the words, or rotate the book or open a flap. It adds another level of interaction beyond only reading the words on the page.

I loved the surprises at the end, sweet but still having that humour seen throughout. It is a wonderful example of understanding the benefits to being different and what may be a problem for you, may be a solution to someone else. I love Penguin Problems and I am a huge fan of Giraffe Problems as well. I am looking forward to seeing what other ideas John comes up with because I’m sure it will just as delightful.

You can purchase Giraffe Problems via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

The Crayons’ Christmas by Drew Daywalt

Published: 15th October 2019Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Penguin Workshop
Illustrator: Oliver Jeffers
Pages: 32
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

‘Tis the season for all of us to write our holiday wishlists. But everyone–even the crayons–know the best presents are the ones that you give. In this unique book, readers get to see how Duncan, the crayons, and their families celebrate the holidays. With real, folded letters from the Crayons that you can pull from their envelopes and read, games, punch-out ornaments, a poster, and a pop-up tree, this book is the perfect gift for fans of The Day the Crayons Quit and The Day the Crayons Came Home.

I was incredibly excited when I saw there was a Christmas themed Crayon book. I’ve loved the other two and to return to their funny little world was fantastic.

In this new book the Crayons are preparing for Christmas and letters keep arriving from all over the place— from travellers, from online shopping, and from numerous crayon relatives. The letters are wonderful. They’re funny, clever, and I love the interactive envelope style instead of the printed letters we’ve seen in the past. It reminds me of the old Jolly Pocket Postman books. Inside there are letters that relate to the story but there are also recipes, games, and cut outs that the reader can use and enjoy too. There is also the inclusion of other holidays and traditions which adds some diversity.

The crayons still do crayon things, they’ve melted, they lose their paper wrapping, and they have their colour themed jokes that we’ve seen in past books. Running jokes about where Duncan leaves his crayons are back too with the addresses on the various envelopes.

This time we get to see beyond just the crayon adventures as other things in Duncan’s world are animated too. As Duncan and the house set up for Christmas Daywalt shows us that mugs, decorations and stationary all interact with one another, their little quips and comments part of the charm.

Jeffers’ illustrations bring all this to light with his adorable depictions of these crayons and their holiday activities. Crayons in costumes, playing in the snow and playing rock, paper, scissors with actual paper and scissors is quite wonderful.

If you’ve loved the previous Crayon books this is definitely a fun new adventure, and one that offers more than just a delightful story.

You can purchase The Crayons’ Christmas via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

The Naughty List by Holly Lansley

Published: 1st October 2019Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Make Believe Ideas
Illustrator: Lara Ede
Pages: 32
Format: Picture Bookpict
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

A brand-new picture book told in the form of a letter to Santa. The letter is written by a boy named Tom, who is trying to convince Santato put him on the Nice List, even though his behaviour has been bad all year! Hear all about the things Tom has done and the ways he tries to spin them to Santa.

This is a fabulous book written in the style of a letter to Santa which is hilarious, clever, and even at times very sweet.

There is so much to love about this book. From page one I was in love and seeing the colourful and decorative formatting makes it even more enjoyable and brilliant. The formatting is big and bold, filled with colour and decoration with emphasis placed by the letter writer which in turns helps when reading and shows how passionate Tom is in his belief and his reasonable explanations.

The rhyme is fantastic, it’s a great poem about all of Tom’s well intentions but essentially naughty adventures through the year which may have got him on the Naughty List. I loved how Tom explains his actions and how insistent he is that he wasn’t actually being naughty at the time he was having an adventure or quite often just trying to help.

The illustrations are woven into the story with the text appearing on lined paper reminiscent of a child’s Christmas list and reflects the story of this complaint letter to Santa. There are drawings on the letter which are from Tom’s hand but there are also drawings on the adjacent page in a more defined style depicting the action he’s defending himself against. I liked Ede’s style of bright and cartoonish drawings. Tom’s cheeky nature comes through as well as those suffering around him.

This is a brilliant book not just for the story and the rhyme but the creativity of the formatting and the presentation was a huge bonus. This is a funny and clever book that is a wonderful spin on why one may find themselves on the naughty list this year.

You can purchase The Naughty List via the following

Booktopia | Book Depository

Angus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

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