Thursday, 19 October 2017

These Violent Delights by Victoria Namkung



These Violent Delights by Victoria Namkung
Published November 7, 2017 by Griffith Moon
Source: Netgalley
Rating: 5 stars

From the blurb: At Windemere School for Girls, one of America’s elite private schools, Dr. Gregory Copeland is the beloved chair of the English Department. A married father with a penchant for romantic poetry—and impressionable teenage girls—he operates in plain sight for years, until one of his former students goes public with allegations of inappropriate conduct. With the help of an investigative journalist, and two additional Windemere alumnae who had relationships with Copeland as students, the unlikely quartet unites to take him down.
Set in modern-day Los Angeles, These Violent Delights is a literary exploration of the unyielding pressures and vulnerabilities that so many women and girls experience, and analyzes the ways in which our institutions and families fail to protect or defend us. A suspenseful and nuanced story told from multiple points of view, the novel examines themes of sexuality, trauma, revenge, and the American myth of liberty and justice for all.

These Violent Delights is the second novel by Korean American author, Victoria Namkung. Set in LA, the story revolves around four women: Jane, Caryn, Eva, and Sasha. Caryn Rodgers, a twenty-two-year-old intern approaches Jane March, a reporter, about an incident that occurred at her prestigious private girls school six year ago. At the time a male teacher made advances at her and when she told the school, nothing was done. Now Caryn wants to write about it and she and Jane deal with the issues that arise once the story is out.

If you know me, my attention is easily caught by a pretty cover. Just last week I was browsing Netgalley for a particular book when I saw the gorgeous cover of These Violent Delights. I clicked on it, read the blurb, and immediately requested it. I started reading it as soon as I was approved and I was completely hooked.

The story is compelling, I immediately wanted to know more about Caryn's life and what had happened to her. Caryn is part Korean and her family and upbringing have shaped her life and how she lives now. She's always been conscious of not wanting to bring shame to the family so it was admirable that she finally felt ready to speak out.

Jane was also a fantastic lead character. It was refreshing to see a working relationship between two women that was supportive rather than competitive or nasty. Jane backed Caryn's story from the beginning, standing up to male colleagues who wanted to question and victim-blame her.

The pacing was perfect, picking up speed and intensity as the plot progressed but never feeling rushed. As the story moved forward, more victims identify themselves and we learn about their pasts and how they're doing now. The three women had all dealt with the abuse in different ways, yet they were bonded by their experience and each of them wanted to stop it from ever happening again.

The story really highlights the problems we face now when dealing with accusations of abuse. There is victim blaming and questioning, and the fact that people always seem to want to protect the male perpetrator, worrying about his career/family/life rather than the victim. This book gives insight into how a case like this can be reported on and the sorts of reactions that arise from the public and media.

These Violent Delights is a captivating story of a heartbreaking issue that is all too common in real life. Written with expert knowledge and sensitivity, you'll find it hard to put down.

Available for pre-order from Griffith Moon.

Thank you to Griffith Moon for my Netgalley ARC.


Monday, 9 October 2017

Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu



Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu
Published September 21, 2017 by Hodder
Source: Hachette AU
Rating: 5 stars

From the blurb: Vivian Carter is fed up. Fed up with her high school teachers who think the football team can do no wrong. Fed up with sexist dress codes, hallway harassment and gross comments from guys during class. But most of all, Viv Carter is fed up with always following the rules.
Viv's mum was a tough-as-nails, punk rock Riot Grrrl in the '90s, and now Viv takes a page from her mother's past and creates Moxie, a feminist zine that she distributes anonymously to her classmates. She's just blowing off steam, but other girls respond and spread the Moxie message. As Viv forges friendships with other young women across the divides of cliques and popularity rankings, she realises that what she has started is nothing short of a girl revolution.

Sixteen year old Vivian Carton lives in East Rockport, Texas, a small town that loves football. She and her mum have lived just down the street from her grandparents, ever since her father died when she was a baby.  Viv knows her mother was a Riot Grrrl when she was a teen, she keeps a collection of zines from that era, and soon Viv finds herself inspired to created a zine of her own when she realises she's fed up of the sexism displayed at her high school.

I've been looking forward to Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu for months and it did not disappoint! Vivian is a fantastic main character, one I'm sure a lot of teens will easily relate to. She's one of the good girls, but she's far from perfect. She often finds herself wanting to do better, to stick up for someone or to ask the new girl to sit with them; but she doesn't act on those thoughts so as not to draw any negative attention. It's just the way her school is. But over the course of the story, Viv does start talking to other kids in her school, befriending the new girl, Lucy; chatting with new boy, Seth. And starting a zine when females at her school are targeted by male classmates and the administration.

I loved the exploration of female friendships and how the story didn't take the typical route. Viv has to balance her newfound friendship with Lucy with the relationship she shares with her best friend, Claudia. A lot of YA books would have made this into a major drama, but in Moxie it's portrayed in a realistic way. The same goes for Viv's relationship with Seth, it made her conscious of not ditching her friends in order to spend every moment with him.

Another relationship that was wonderful was between Viv and her mum. They're close, and her mum is pretty relaxed, but she's also not the girl she was in the 90s. It was understandable that Viv would feel resentful and cautious in regards to her mum dating again and I thought this was well done.

There's a strong focus on intersectional feminism with black girls at the school speaking up and making sure they are included in the movement. Again, Viv wasn't perfect and was still learning what it means to be a feminist, and I love that this was included because it's something often left out of feminist discussions.

Ableist language: dumb, crazy.

Moxie is the book teens need to be reading. It's inspiring, it's moving, it's relevant. It's definitely found it's way onto my list of favourite books!

Thank you to Hachette for my copy.


Cover design: no credit given in the book.

I've done nails for one of Jennifer's previous books, The Truth About Alice, and knew I wanted to do nails as soon as I saw this awesome pink cover! Because of the hand on the cover, I decide to paint my own nails for a change - but I also did a set of false nails too. I used black eyeliner to draw the stars on my arm at the end.

You can watch the video below or on my YouTube channel, Cook Read Create.








Monday, 2 October 2017

Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King and Owen King


Today I have a bookish nail art tutorial for nails to match the cover of Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King and Owen King. This is a gorgeous cover, front and back.

Cover artwork: Vasava Studio.

You can watch the video below or on my YouTube channel.









Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Piglettes by Clémentine Beauvais




Piglettes by Clémentine Beauvais
Published August 8, 2017 by Pushkin Children's Books
Source: Allen & Unwin
Rating: 5 stars

From the blurb: A wickedly funny and life-affirming coming-of-age roadtrip story - winner of France's biggest prize for teen and YA fiction. Awarded the Gold, Silver and Bronze trotters after a vote by their classmates on Facebook, Mireille, Astrid and Hakima are officially the three ugliest girls in their school, but does that mean they're going to sit around crying about it?
Well... yes, a bit, but not for long! Climbing aboard their bikes, the trio set off on a summer roadtrip to Paris, their goal: a garden party with the French president. As news of their trip spreads they become stars of social media and television. With the eyes of the nation upon them the girls find fame, friendship and happiness, and still have time to consume an enormous amount of food along the way. 

As soon as I saw the cover for Piglettes, the English translation of Les petites Reines, by Clémentine Beauvais, I knew I needed it. The cover screamed "READ ME, LOVE ME!" and I immediately bought the French audio book and listened to it three times, it's that good. I was thrilled when the English version, translated by the author - how cool is that? - finally came out!

Piglettes is the story of fifteen-year-old Mireille Laplanche. Mireille lives in Bourg-en-Bresse with her mother and step-father. For the past couple of years, Mireille has been voted top pig by her male classmates, but this year another two girls are also nominated, Astrid and Hakima. Mireille has built up a tough exterior and says it no longer bothers her, but deep down it does. The three girls hatch a plan to cycle to Paris and tackle some other problems they each have.

I was really hoping that Piglettes would be as wonderful and hilarious as I hoped and it definitely lived up to my expectations! I loved getting to know Mireille, she's funny, smart, loyal, and brave. But she's also insecure and hurt due to the bullying at school and the fact that she doesn't know her biological father and he's ignored her letters.

I adored the friendship that developed between the girls. Mireille puts aside her pain, and instead encourages the other two to be strong, to love themselves, to be confident. It was especially nice to see Mireille and Astrid taking care of Hakima as she's younger than they are.

Mireille's crush on Kader, aka The Sun, was so sweet and entertaining. I love that she couldn't hide her admiration of him and how silly and adorable she was around him.

Ableist language: moron, idiot, lame, crazy.

Piglettes is a charming, heart-warming story of three girls refusing to give in to bullying and injustice. It will have you smiling and laughing from beginning to end.

Thank you to Allen & Unwin for my copy.


Cover illustration: Helen Crawford-White of Studio Helen.

I just adore this cover. I love the vintage style, the colour, and how perfectly it suits the story. Helen is one of my favourite illustrators and I'd love her to paint each and every wall in my house! Check out her beautiful website for more of her brilliant work.

You can check out my video on YouTube at Cook Read Create or watch it below.





Thursday, 31 August 2017

Take Three Girls by Cath Crowley, Simmone Howell, and Fiona Wood



Take Three Girls by Cath Crowley, Simmone Howell, and Fiona Wood
Published August 29, 2017 by PanMacmillan
Source: ARC from the publisher
Rating: 5 stars

From the blurb: 3 award-winning authors.
1 compelling book.
ADY - not the confident A-Lister she appears to be.
KATE - brainy boarder taking risks to pursue the music she loves.
CLEM - disenchanted swim-star losing her heart to the wrong boy.
All are targeted by PSST, a toxic website that deals in gossip and lies. St Hilda's antidote to the cyber-bullying? The Year 10 Wellness program. Nice try - but sometimes all it takes is three girls.

Four years ago, on the now defunct podcast Ladies of YA, I interviewed Fiona Wood and she let slip that she, Cath Crowley, and Simmone Howell were working on a book together. I have been eagerly anticipated that book since that day. Finally receiving an ARC of Take Three Girls, a book coauthored by my three favourite authors, was a dream come true. To say I love this book would be an understatement because I love it with ALL my heart.

Sixteen-year-olds Clem, Kate, and Ady are in Year 10 at St Hilda's, a private girls school in Melbourne. Clem and Kate are boarders, but Ady is a day girl. Clem, a competitive swimmer was forced to board after her parents relocated to Singapore for work. She chose not to room with her twin sister Iris. Kate, a passionate cellist, has left her country home to try and get a scholarship so she can study medicine and not be such a burden on her parents' finances. She winds up rooming with Iris, both of them studious and serious. Ady loves fashion and art, and now dreams of becoming a costume designer. Her parents are fighting non-stop, and she's tiring of her friends and their judgemental ways. The three girls are thrown together in a new initiative at school, and they find the friendship they've all been unknowingly searching for.

Told from three perspectives, I was instantly hooked by the voices of Clem, Kate, and Ady. Each girl so different, yet also sharing similar qualities, insecurities and fears. All three of them have problems they try to avoid, despite knowing they need to eventually deal with them. They were well developed, and as the story went on, their histories and personalities were revealed in depth.

An accident forced Clem to stop swimming and now that she can return to her former pastime, she finds she's not really bothered about it. She's also struggling with how her body has changed in the six weeks since she stopped training. She's conscious of the weight she's gained and finds herself fixated on food. And Stu, he boy who bumped into her, causing her to break her wrist. She falls head over heels for him; her crush was sweet and naive.

Kate knows she's lucky to be attending such a good school, one that will hopefully keep her from having to return to her small town, even though she loves her family home. She dreams of becoming a musician and enjoys experimenting with sampling songs and playing over them on her cello. She finds Oliver, a fellow cello player in the orchestra, incredibly annoying, but watching them slowly get to know each other was such a delight. Kate's torn between doing what she feels is right and doing what her heart desires.

Ady is creative and observant. She's slowly becoming aware that she's tired of playing games and being fake, something she's had to do with her group of friends. She's also not into her boyfriend Rupert, even though she feels as though she should be, instead she later finds herself attracted to a girl named Max, someone she meets through Kate. Ady's also dealing with the guilt that she and her siblings are the reason her father is an alcoholic and coke addict, but she's determined to play it cool and not talk to anyone about her home life.

I made so many notes in regards to pop cultural references, whether it was art or music, as well as places the girls go. I loved the layers to each character and finding out all the little details that influence their lives.

The story tackles a lot of subjects including bullying, feminism, sexism, addiction, sexuality, friendship, and first loves. It looks at them realistically and sensitively and in a way that's totally relatable for teens. It's so relevant to the social issues in our world right now, and I hope that it's picked up by teenagers and their parents.

Ableist language: crazy, fuckwit, dumb, lame.

Take Three Girls is a touching, funny, beautiful story, one that is sure to appeal to readers of all ages. It made me nostalgic for my teenage years while at the same time speaking to me as a woman in her thirties. I love the characters, I love the setting, I love the issues, I LOVE THIS BOOK. I cannot wait to reread it when the finished version is in stores!

Thank you to PanMacmillan for the ARC.


Wednesday, 23 August 2017

In the Dark Spaces by Cally Black



In the Dark Spaces by Cally Black
Published August 1, 2017 by Hardie Grant Egmont
Source: the publisher
Rating: 5 stars

From the blurb: The latest winner of the Ampersand Prize is a genre-smashing kidnapping drama about Tamara, who's faced with an impossible choice when she falls for her captors.
Yet this is no ordinary kidnapping. Tamara has been living on a freighter in deep space, and her kidnappers are terrifying Crowpeople – the only aliens humanity has ever encountered. No-one has ever survived a Crowpeople attack, until now – and Tamara must use everything she has just to stay alive.
But survival always comes at a price, and there’s no handbook for this hostage crisis. As Tamara comes to know the Crowpeople's way of life, and the threats they face from humanity's exploration into deep space, she realises she has an impossible choice to make. Should she stay as the only human among the Crows, knowing she'll never see her family again … or inevitably betray her new community if she wants to escape?

Cally Black's debut novel, In the Dark Spaces, won the 2015 Ampersand Prize. Tamara lives in secrecy on board a spaceship called Starweaver Layla, along with her baby cousin, Tamiki (nicknamed Gub). Her aunt Lazella smuggled them on board a year ago when she took a job working in the kitchen. No children are allowed so Tamara and Gub rarely speak, instead communicating in facial expressions, gestures and the occasional whisper. Tamara is desperate to grow so she can pass for a sixteen-year-old and earn a spot on the crew, so she spends Gub's nap times sneaking around the ship via the ducting and crawl spaces.

I didn't know much about In the Dark Spaces before I started, but I always enjoy the Ampersand Prize winners so that was enough for me. I really liked going into this with little knowledge because I was absolutely blown away.

I love contemporary reads and they will always be my go-to. While I do have a vivid imagination, my brain can be lazy and prefers to imagine scenarios that are familiar to me. If I read about a character walking along the street and hopping on a bus, I can easily picture that. But when I read fantasy or sci-fi, my brain protests. I read the description of a space ship, for example, and my brain complains "too hard!" In the case of In the Dark Spaces, once the action took off, my brain was happy to go along for the ride.

The story surprised me with its uniqueness and creativity. I really hadn't expected what arrives on the ship and I was both terrified and intrigued. Tamara's actions were understandable and admirable. She's a child who has longed for a home, somewhere to be safe. She's also loyal and brave, always wanting to do the right thing. I adored her. The scenes between Tamara and Gub were so beautiful, and also bittersweet.

The action is fast-paced and thrilling. Once the story got going it did not stop and I was captivated by Tamara's journey. It was dark and sad, but also reflected all too closely our current world.

In the Dark Spaces is an impressive, clever debut. The story is violent yet heartwarming, graphic yet sweet. The plot and pace will trap you, the characters will captivate you, and you'll be hooked all the way to the satisfying conclusion.

Thank you to Hardie Grant Egmont for my copy.


Cover design: Astred Hicks

I love this cover! I didn't really think about it much before I started reading, but once I was into the book, I got it! I think it's really subtle and clever, and I love the colour scheme.

I have a nail art tutorial for this look, you can watch it here or on my YouTube channel.






Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

*Scroll down for a link to my video review


Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
Published May 18, 2017 by Harper Collins
Source: purchased the physical copy and the audio book
Rating: 5 stars

From the blurb: Eleanor Oliphant leads a simple life. She wears the same clothes to work every day, eats the same meal deal for lunch every day and buys the same two bottles of vodka to drink every weekend.
Eleanor Oliphant is happy. Nothing is missing from her carefully timetabled life. Except, sometimes, everything.
One simple act of kindness is about to shatter the walls Eleanor has built around herself. Now she must learn how to navigate the world that everyone else seems to take for granted – while searching for the courage to face the dark corners she’s avoided all her life.
Change can be good. Change can be bad. But surely any change is better than… fine?

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is Gail Honeyman's debut novel. Set in Glasgow, we meet twenty-nine-year old Eleanor. Eleanor works as a finance clerk for a graphic design company. Eleanor has a very routine-bound life: she goes to work, eats very similar meals each day, speaks to her mother on the phone on Wednesday evenings, and each weekend she spends her time somewhere between sober and drunk. Then Monday finally comes around and her week repeats itself. Her world is very small, she has no friends, and she's incredibly lonely. But if you asked her how she was, she'd tell you she was fine.

Clearly Eleanor is anything but fine. She has depression and won't acknowledge some aspects of her former life, and therefore is quite an unreliable narrator. I was captivated by her voice from the first page, I could hear her clearly and was immediately intrigued. Honeyman has developed her character so well, with layer upon layer of detail. Her quirks, mannerisms, and habits were revealed via her daily life and interactions with those around her. I found her easy to relate to and also felt extremely protective of her.

The relationships in this story were the focus, particularly the growing friendship between Eleanor and her new co-worker, Raymond Gibbons. Eleanor's reluctance to interact with Raymond was understandable, and highlighted her feelings on other humans. Eleanor is very judgemental, often seeing other people as unintelligent. She's also very critical of appearances, even though she dislikes being judged for her own appearance as she has some facial scarring from a childhood incident.

Initially I didn't know the setting was Glasgow, I had wrongly assumed England, possibly London, as Eleanor frequents places like Tesco. But 46 pages in I realised my mistake and from then on I could easily imagine the voices with Scottish accents.

There's a perfect balance of humour and heartbreak in Eleanor's story. While I spent a lot of it clutching at my heart, sobbing, and trying to get my breathing under control, I often found myself laughing aloud at Eleanor's jokes and mannerisms. The friendship made my heart very happy, and I adored seeing Eleanor's life improve.



On a personal note, I found myself relating to quite a few aspects of this story. I like routine so I understood Eleanor's need for it. I also get eczema on my hands so I found it to be a visceral experience as my hands were as red and sore as Eleanor's because I read this during winter. Also, Raymond's mother reminded me of my English mum and I adored her scenes. And I loved Eleanor's immense vocabulary, I must have written down at least thirty words that I want to look up in the dictionary.

The pacing was perfectly done, with events acting as catalysts to slowly introduce change into Eleanor's rigid, solitary lifestyle. Slowly, her world starts to widen, causing her long-held assumptions and delusions to be examined, leading up to a heartbreaking climax, followed by a satisfying resolution.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is a sensitive exploration of loneliness, grief, mental health, and survival. Eleanor's voice is captivating and her story is compelling. I loved this book so much that immediately after finishing the library copy, I went out and bought it in paperback and audio book via Audible, then ended up reading it three times in a row over the course of three weeks. I hope you love this beautiful, impressive, debut as much as I do.