The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy (#2) by Mackenzi Lee

Published: 2nd October 2018 (print)/2nd October 2018 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins Publishers
Pages: 450/11 hrs and 16 mins
Narrator: Moira Quirk
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★   ★  ★ – 4 Stars

A year after an accidentally whirlwind grand tour with her brother Monty, Felicity Montague has returned to England with two goals in mind—avoid the marriage proposal of a lovestruck suitor from Edinburgh and enroll in medical school. However, her intellect and passion will never be enough in the eyes of the administrators, who see men as the sole guardians of science.

But then a window of opportunity opens—a doctor she idolises is marrying an old friend of hers in Germany. Felicity believes if she could meet this man he could change her future, but she has no money of her own to make the trip. Luckily, a mysterious young woman is willing to pay Felicity’s way, so long as she’s allowed to travel with Felicity disguised as her maid.

In spite of her suspicions, Felicity agrees, but once the girl’s true motives are revealed, Felicity becomes part of a perilous quest that leads them from the German countryside to the promenades of Zurich to secrets lurking beneath the Atlantic.

Naturally after finished Gentleman’s Guide I had to pick up book two to see what our favourite sister Felicity was getting up to. Admittedly with a slow start it took me a while to get into the story but once I did it was engaging and full of wonderful surprises. It had so much to live up to compared to Gentleman’s Guide and while it isn’t quite the same story, it is its own story and Felicity needed her own story too. There was a lot more humour in Gentleman’s but I think that comes from Monty, he steals the show in every scene in this book too which is completely on form.

The story takes place a year after the events of the previous book and seeing how they have all fared after those events is delightful. Felicity is the main character this time around with new characters and a new adventure ahead we understand a lot more of her character than what we got to see before.

One thing I missed was that I didn’t see the sarcastic Felicity that I loved from the first book in this. Having said that her interactions with Monty and Percy were as fantastic as before; the three of them together radiate family and sibling relationships. On her own though, Lee shows off a lot more of her insecurities and her determination, which isn’t to say it wasn’t there before, but now we have her own perspective to give us more insight than a few off the hand remarks about the annoyances of her brother and his melodramatics.

Felicity recaps much of the previous book but not in an unnatural way, more like reminders to herself of all she has achieved and what she is capable of. These moments of unfairness where she talks about injustices can come across as repetitive but I chose to look at it as ongoing pep talks Felicity gives herself when faced with challenges or defeat.

Quirk does a wonderful job as narrator for the audio and the inflections and voices for each character suited them so I was never once removed from the story. With each voice it brought out the characters and it was amazing to see how the assigned voice to the characters reflected their personalities.

There’s a lot of adventure and drama as well as great character exploration and growth. While it may not have been as hilarious, there is still humour and a fierceness I enjoyed a lot. Lee doesn’t try and replicate the events or style of the first book, but it still fits in perfectly as a sequel and gives an adventure just as daring and dangerous.

One of the best parts of this is the female camaraderie and the friendships. There’s unity and ferociousness and seeing these women plan to take on the world and the patriarchy and the inequalities of their time is fantastic. It was excellent to see these women band together and fight for the lives that they want and deserve and Lee never makes it preachy, though so much of it can easily be applied today.

There’re some harrowing moments and the realities of exploring Englishman and Europeans on the world ring true but there is a wonderful representation of other cultures and great diversity in characters as well. This is definitely a fabulous adventure to go on and a story that was full of surprises.

You can purchase The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy via the following

Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | Wordery

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue (#1) by Mackenzi Lee

Published: 27th June 2017 (print)/27th June 2017 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins Publishers
Pages: 513/10 hrs and 47 mins
Narrator: Christian Coulson
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★   ★  ★  ★ – 5 Stars

Henry “Monty” Montague was born and bred to be a gentleman, but he was never one to be tamed. The finest boarding schools in England and the constant disapproval of his father haven’t been able to curb any of his roguish passions—not for gambling halls, late nights spent with a bottle of spirits, or waking up in the arms of women or men.

But as Monty embarks on his Grand Tour of Europe, his quest for a life filled with pleasure and vice is in danger of coming to an end. Not only does his father expect him to take over the family’s estate upon his return, but Monty is also nursing an impossible crush on his best friend and travelling companion, Percy.

Still it isn’t in Monty’s nature to give up. Even with his younger sister, Felicity, in tow, he vows to make this yearlong escapade one last hedonistic hurrah and flirt with Percy from Paris to Rome. But when one of Monty’s reckless decisions turns their trip abroad into a harrowing manhunt that spans across Europe, it calls into question everything he knows, including his relationship with the boy he adores.

There is so much I love about this book. Lee develops her characters brilliantly and seeing how rich and complicated they are and then also see them grow but remain their same essential selves is all you could ever want from a novel. The story is captivating with adventure and intrigue, but there are also moments of compassion and intimacy which bring out each character’s uniqueness and these are the moments we get to know them best.

Monty and Percy’s relationship is fabulous and is heart-warming and heartbreaking all at the same time, and Felicity and Monty’s sibling dynamics are hilarious and believable. Monty is the main character but his interactions and travels with the other two help us understand their world and the wider society and expectations. Lee brings in the scandals and the dangers of the era and through these three characters you also see the day to day life so you are completely immersed in this time and how 18th century society operated. Lee doesn’t dwell on too much explanation though as it all blends together wonderfully as she uses the characters and their circumstances to add in detail and background.

Monty is such a fantastically complicated person. I went from loving his roguish attitude at the start, then properly hating him as a scoundrel but when you start to realise who he truly is I fell in love with him.  It was such a wild ride to go on with him. I respected Lee’s character choice to have this villainous person as a main charcater so I told myself it was author’s choice to do so, don’t hate the book because the character is truly horrible, but when you realise, and it isn’t long until you realise, oh the heartache and the realisation hits you in the face and it is painful and perfect and incredible. I felt sad for him at times and it breaks your heart because you want him to be happy and safe which isn’t always entirely possible. He is the kind of character you hate at the start and would completely die for by the end.

The audio is amazing because Coulson puts in the perfect tone and accent for Monty which is a pure joy to listen to. His snark and attitude, Felicity’s exasperations, and Percy’s sweetness come across so well they really feel like actual people and each character stands out on their own and with their own voice. The inflections and the humour bring all the joy of this story to life and I loved the narration immediately.

Characters aside, the plot is wonderful, it is creative, not overly complicated but has enough daring and adventure to make it captivating. Lee manages to capture how people have always very much been people and mixing it together with the chaos of a manhunt and drama of every kind creates a brilliant story that I loved from start to finish.

You can purchase The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

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

Love and First Sight by Josh Sundquist

Published: 2nd January 2018Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Pages: 304
Format: Paperback
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

Love is more than meets the eye.

On his first day at a new school, blind sixteen-year-old Will Porter accidentally groped a girl on the stairs, sat on another student in the cafeteria, and somehow drove a classmate to tears. High school can only go up from here, right?

As Will starts to find his footing, he develops a crush on a sweet but shy girl named Cecily. And despite his fear that having a girlfriend will make him inherently dependent on someone sighted, the two of them grow closer and closer. Then an unprecedented opportunity arises: an experimental surgery that could give Will eyesight for the first time in his life. But learning to see is more difficult than Will ever imagined, and he soon discovers that the sighted world has been keeping secrets. It turns out Cecily doesn’t meet traditional definitions of beauty—in fact, everything he’d heard about her appearance was a lie engineered by their so-called friends to get the two of them together. Does it matter what Cecily looks like? No, not really. But then why does Will feel so betrayed?

This is an interesting book because it makes you think about whether given the option, would vision impaired people chose to gain their sight? Like most groups there are arguments for and against, there are people who have no desire while others would give it a go. Will is someone in the camp of wanting his sight but Sundquist makes it a gradual decision, something which has developed as he experiences more things with sighted people. Personally I was surprised Will chose to do this. I understand completely that being blind in a world so reliant on sight would be incredibly hard, but Will never seemed to worry about it, his change of heart comes from his time with Cecily and it makes him reconsider.

Sundquist does put forward both sides of the debate, Will’s dad makes a good argument for why Will doesn’t need to have sight for his life to be fulfilled, and showcases the amazing skills he had gained from living his life without sight. Even for a fiction book it was incredibly hard for me to wish Will didn’t get the surgery. It isn’t for a sighted person to tell someone they shouldn’t get a chance to see, but I will admit I agreed with Will’s dad at the start, he had developed a range of skills that he would lose when sighted. Where Will’s dad was against the surgery I thought his mum was pushing for it. I felt like her desire in life was to “fix” Will, while nothing is stated outright I felt like his inability to see had been a burden on her life and she never trusted him to navigate the world on his own, giving him sight would free her from this.

One interesting component was the way we are brought into Will’s sightless world. There is great imagery and explanations about how he goes about his day to day life and I will admit it was quite fascinating seeing him learn and understand about the sighted world. Things sighted people learn naturally are completely incomprehensible to him and I liked the gentle and vivid way those around him explained things. On the flip side, I loved how Cecily explains images and experiences to Will. They capture a moment in vivid detail that even if you can’t picture it, you grasp the concept. It was a clever approach and something her character would be capable of doing.

I liked Cecily, she was friendly and helpful and her friendship with Will develops and grows in a believable way. I initially was annoyed that Will would find Cecily unattractive because of something simple, but Sundquist actually explains it quite well about how it is much deeper than looks, it is about trust and betrayal. I was prepared to argue when I picked what her secret was, but to his credit Will handles it well and adds a few reflections and arguments of his own about the nature of beauty and societal expectations.

I was curious why Sundquist chose this topic, as an amputee he understands what it can be like missing something, but it was an interesting experience to chose to write from, especially one where it essentially gets “fixed”. Sundquist adds suspense and uncertainty whether Will’s operation will succeed which gives some extra tension, especially since we’ve follow Will’s fears and wishes about wanting to experience the sighted world. Whatever you think about his decision it is a sweet story and one that demonstrates the differences between the sighted and non-sighted world. The focus of the book is about Will and his sight, but there are heartfelt moments about friendship and living a full life around that as well which gives it a bit more narrative variation.

You can purchase Love and First Sights via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | Angus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

The Sidewalk’s Regrets by Kate Larkindale

Published: 1st February 2019Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Evernight Teen
Pages: 304
Format: ebook
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

Seventeen-year-old Sacha McLeod isn’t looking for someone to rock her world. But when she hears the boy in the music store play the guitar, the music thrills her and she falls hard for Dylan and his sound.

Sacha finds herself spending less time with her violin and more time with this guy. Her plans for her violin-virtuoso future—and her self-confidence—are shattered when she screws up the audition for a summer music program. Failure isn’t something she’s had to face before, so when Dylan asks her to spend her vacation with him in the city, she lies to her parents, pretends she won a place in the summer school, and secretly moves in with Dylan.

She’s expecting romance, music, and passion, but when she finds herself playing second fiddle to Dylan’s newly acquired drug habit, she realizes despite what the songs say, sometimes love isn’t all you need. 

Note: I received a copy of this book from the author for review

CW: Drug use

I was pleasantly surprised by the direction this story took. It wasn’t the rock and roll summer story I was expecting, though there were a few tropes like instant love which was convenient, but from a “first love at seventeen” approach the infatuation and impulsiveness makes sense. The narrative starts off slow as we are introduced to Sacha and her world of classical music. Her sheltered music life gets a jolt when she hears the music of Dylan for the first time and she is thrown into this rock and roll world. From there the story starts rolling and soon it has a nice flow which is maintained through the rest of the story. It was quite fascinating because the story doesn’t follow the typical route I was expecting, but there are still great moments of tension and drama you come to expect from this kind of story. It’s a story of a band trying to hit the big time, a girl whose dream might not happen, and the lure of fame and the rock and roll life. The three of those things together sound like a story already told but Larkindale adds a new approach and it makes for an engaging story.

Sacha’s mindset and her goals are explored quite well through this and you see how her reasoning and her justifications change with each new experience. It’s one way to see it as her constantly changing her mind, but it makes more sense that she justifies things to herself, especially given her situation and her desire to stay with Dylan. The depiction of drug use is well done and a very apt description from what I have read elsewhere. It is a key part of the story and there are moments where using drugs is described in action and character reaction. Larkindale also shows the gradual descent of usage, the way it starts off small and soon grows into something bigger. It also shows how easy it is to actually fall and how you can go from top to bottom fairly fast.

Even though the perspective is always through Sacha, the rest of the characters felt real. Larkindale has given them a lot of depth into their passions and desires and you understand their motives and actions, even if they seem foolhardy at the time. This is a story revolving around one summer, but Larkindale takes it beyond that as well and you see the characters grow and find out who they are. I loved how the story ends up, the experiences of the characters makes this story and seeing how the story ends is satisfying once you have gone on this journey with them.

You can purchase The Sidewalk’s Regrets via the following

Book DepositoryDymocks

 Wordery | Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

Previous Older Entries Next Newer Entries