The Voting Booth by Brandy Colbert

Published: 7th July 2020 (print)/7 July 2020 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Disney-Hyperion/Dreamscape Media
Pages: 292/6 hrs and 5 mins
Narrator: Robin Eller and Cary Hite
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★  – 2 Stars

Marva Sheridan was born ready for this day. She’s always been driven to make a difference in the world, and what better way than to vote in her first election?

Duke Crenshaw is so done with this election. He just wants to get voting over with so he can prepare for his band’s first paying gig tonight. Only problem? Duke can’t vote.

When Marva sees Duke turned away from their polling place, she takes it upon herself to make sure his vote is counted. She hasn’t spent months doorbelling and registering voters just to see someone denied their right. And that’s how their whirlwind day begins, rushing from precinct to precinct, cutting school, waiting in endless lines, turned away time and again, trying to do one simple thing: vote. They may have started out as strangers, but as Duke and Marva team up to beat a rigged system (and find Marva’s missing cat), it’s clear that there’s more to their connection than a shared mission for democracy.

I found this and thought I would give it ago since even in Australia we’re inundated with news about US politics and the election. After having sat through Red, White and Royal Blue and enduring political explanations I didn’t care about in book form, I was unsure I wanted to read a book seemingly even more dedicated to it. Turns out I was right but not for what I was expecting.

I thought it would be an ok read about two teens meeting on election day and fighting to get a vote counted, no doubt falling in love on the way in this 24 hour type story. What I didn’t expect was every other issue under the sun to come up and so many subplots that by the end I essentially forgot it all began with a voting issue.

The first half is all about voting as Marva and Duke, both from politically focused families, talk about their voting day plans as first time voters. Marva is an activist and passionate about voting rights and making the system easier for people, while Duke lives in the shadow of his brother who was more politically active than he is but still wants to do the right thing.

What I didn’t need was to sit through 27 plus chapters reminding me about how ridiculous the US election process is and I don’t know whether it is because it isn’t my experience or that it is so in your face about how broken their system is, and I get that a few people need to hear this, but it was less of a story and more of a PSA about the troubles in voting and the hassles people have to go through. Side stories about siblings and cats aren’t enough of a distraction from the fact I was over the story and the different blockades in place for Marva and Duke to deal with. I never felt there was an actual story here.

After all of that the voting actually felt like the least important thing in the end once all the unimportant subplots and other issues were discussed. After all the complications it gets brushed over and you forget that that was the start of the book. If it was mean to be a jumping off point for their meeting maybe there shouldn’t have been half a book dedicated to Marva explaining how important it is if it gets pushed aside so quickly.

To Colbert’s credit, her use of chapter headings and flashbacks are a good way to introduce character histories and family relationships. But so many important issues try to be covered in the story that are important during their scenes but then are forgotten just as quickly. Social justice, racial prejudice, class difference, grief are all subjects woven through this story and it is done naturally and sometimes quite well but they are also brushed over very quickly.

There is not much in the way of romance either. Duke and Marva do gradually start to like one another as they traipse all over town which feels like a nice, normal start to a friendship, but the leap to romance felt unnecessary and through the whole thing there were barely any indicators that that’s where the story was headed. Even for a 24 hour type story this was a rushed convenience and it felt out of place.

The blurb makes it sound like the issue in voting is going to be a larger part of the story, and it was in a way but it also meant giving the characters time in a car or waiting in line to talk about everything else. There are too many unnecessary subplots which felt like time fillers when more time could have been spent on establishing the characters themselves and their growing relationship together. The saving grace is that it was short and easily forgettable.

You can purchase The Voting Booth via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | Angus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

Love, Frankie by Jacqueline Wilson

Published: 17th September 2020Goodreads badge
Publisher:
RHCP Digital
Pages: 432
Format: Paperback
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★  – 2 Stars

GROWING UP. FALLING IN LOVE. COMING OUT.

Frankie is nearly fourteen and teenage life certainly comes with its ups and downs. Her mum is seriously ill with MS and Frankie can feel herself growing up quickly, no thanks to Sally and her gang of bullies at school.

When Sally turns out to be not-so-mean after all, they strike up a friendship and are suddenly spending all of their time together.

But Frankie starts to wonder whether these feelings she has for Sally are stronger than her other friendships. Might she really be in love?

Frankie doesn’t want Sally to just be her friend. She wants her to be her girlfriend. But does Sally feel the same?

I picked this up because I was looking for some LGBTQIA books that were directed at younger audiences and while this does have a storyline of a hopeful romance, it honestly falls short. There are a lot of things to praise Wilson for, she shows a strong character who deals with her sick mother and stands up to bullies which is good, but this wasn’t the coming out story I was expecting.

That’s not to say it isn’t there at all. There are a few major themes playing out through this narrative from illness, bullying, as well as a young girl trying to work out if she loves her new friend. Wilson combines all of these together well so we see and understand the pressure Frankie is under concerning her mother and the girls at school, but also her own internal struggles she has to come to terms with.

I found myself becoming worried for Frankie and what Sally’s intentions were for her, I didn’t want to read about any homophobic slurs, especially since Frankie is so unsure herself and since the blurb wasn’t matching up with the story I was reading. However Wilson brings it together in a slow but sure way and you see the start of a story between these girls where there is something more than friendship on the cards.

This story is young adult but it is very much aimed at the low end with younger readers. There is drinking and talk of drugs but none are actually done and there is never a feeling of long term between Frankie and Sally, more is placed on the long lasting friendship than the romance. But it is still an important story about young girls of thirteen and fourteen discovering who they are.

While it feels unresolved and open, the ending is positive in its own way. Not to have Sally outed if she isn’t ready is an unspoken hurdle but there is a light in the future for both girls. The story ends in hope for Frankie and for her mother as well which is a good decision from Wilson given the young age of her main character. For young teens trying to work out their own sexuality it is a stepping stone to show how small steps can feel like big steps and at this age there doesn’t need to be definitive answers or pressure. It just wasn’t the full experience I was looking for and it fell flat in terms of voice. I may have forgiven it if it fell into the junior category, but bumping this into the YA group I wanted a strong voice and writing style that felt less childlike.

You can purchase Love, Frankie via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

Eclipse (#3) by Stephanie Meyer

Published: 7th August 2007 (print)/4th May 2009 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Little, Brown and Company/Bolinda Publishing
Pages: 629/16 hrs and 25 mins
Narrator: Ilyana Kadushin
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★  – 2 Stars

This book should not have been 16 hours long. This story didn’t need 629 pages.

I wanted to claw my eyes out for 95% of this book and for the other 5% I’m furious because there’s actually good story hidden amongst this which we could have had. There is a unique and interesting narrative buried in here but you would never know, you have to break through the hours and hours of nothing before you come across decent parts of the story and by then you’re so apathetic and drained emotionally that these little moments only offer short lived joy.

Because I refuse to entirely dump on this series I will highlight the positives. There is decent foreshadowing that I recognise for events in the next book, but of the very limited details I know it isn’t a deterrent. I can see Meyer trying to build up suspense and history without doing it in an obvious way.

This is the story where we get a lot more backstory about the vampire and werewolf legends. There are long stories about origins and histories, about past events and fights. It’s not uninteresting, but it’s a lot. There’s the usual Bella/Jacob/Edward fiasco, eventually after half the book of the bickering we’ve seen before there is a truce of some kind. I swear the name Bella is said more times than any other word in this book, and doing this as an audio reminded me constantly of The Magic School Bus episode when Wanda lost her bullfrog and 90% of the episode was here yelling Bella all over the place. That was this. Just Bella repeated over and over by Jacob, by Edward and by Jacob again.

Even though I’ve only read three so far, I’ve worked out you could break the Twilight books down in three main sections: Bella having conversations with Edward/Jacob about not dissing the other, Bella doing housework because Charlie is apparently an invalid who can only watch TV or work, heavens knows how he survived without her before now it’s nothing short of a miracle, and the third part is the long talks about either the vampire/werewolf way of life. Sprinkled in there you have school stuff, Bella yearning to be immortal after having her first love that totally will last forever, and let’s not forget the mortal danger she is always in but that never takes up nearly enough time.

The best thing Bella ever does in this entire 600 page endurance is she punches Jacob for kissing her when she doesn’t want it. For those few moments Bella was a great character, and Charlie becomes grosser by congratulating Jacob for kissing her and not taking her side when she explains why she punched him. For a brief moment Bella was a strong character who fought against things she didn’t like, but soon she was reduced once more to her whining self that is veiled thinly into presenting as her being strong and getting her way.

The fight scene that this whole book (and the previous) has probably, poorly been leading up to was actually quite good. It didn’t quite make up for the previous 14 hours but it was interesting, well presented, vivid and full of emotion. Where this writing was when the rest of the book was happening I do not know. This is part of the 5%. These small gems of writing makes me so sad this series isn’t presented better. It could have been a new, unique retelling of the vampire/werewolf myth and seeing what Meyer is actually capable of in some scenes makes me mourn for the other utter nonsense we have to endure.

Kadushin again narrates us and I’m used to her tone and manner in reading these characters. There isn’t a huge range in her voices but you pick it up after a while. As I go into the final book I hope I will be able to sum this story up into a short summary because once you break through the angst and the yearning to the plot underneath it might sound like a decent read.

You can purchase Eclipse via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

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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