Friday, 21 October 2016

Highly Illogical Behaviour by John Corey Whaley

Highly Illogical Behaviour by John Corey Whaley
Published September 2016 by Faber & Faber
Source: Allen and Unwin
Rating: 5 stars

From the blurb: Solomon hasn't left the house in three years, which is fine by him. Lisa will do anything to get into university - including befriending and 'fixing' Solomon for the benefit of a school psychology project.And Clark, Lisa's boyfriend, would do anything for her, because that's what love is.The three become friends, but secrets bubble beneath the fun, and it's not long before each of them relaises there's more than one way to hide yourself from the world. And sometimes, it's only your friends that can bring you back into the light.

From the moment I started Highly Illogical Behaviour, I was drawn into sixteen year old Solomon Reed's world. When he was eleven he started having panic attacks and over the years they began to happen more frequently and become more severe. At his worst they were happening up to three times a day. Water is one thing he finds soothing, and so on his last day in the outside world, he hopped into the fountain at school and lay down in the water. After that he convinced his parents he'd be better off indoors, that was three years ago.

I felt for Solomon instantly. He's happy but he is a little lonely. His parents are wonderful and supportive, but he knows his mum worries he'll be living with them forever. He still has the occasional panic attack and wishes they had a pool, but he's afraid asking for one would get his parents' hopes up.

The story is also told by Lisa Praytor. She was a year above Solomon at school and remembers the day with the fountain. She's a dedicated student and can't wait to leave home and go to university. She's determined to get into psychology and when she realises she's found Solomon, she decides to write about him... without getting his permission first. Lisa is also dating Clark, but she waits a month before introducing them.

Despite Lisa having an ulterior motive, I didn't hate her.It was easy to see why she wanted to go to college so badly and she really did help Solomon, and herself, even if if she went about it in the wrong way. Reading about the three of them hanging out was heartwarming, especially as Solomon almost feels as though he wants to follow them when they leave.

The story explores both mental health and sexuality. Solomon's agoraphobia was portrayed perfectly. Lisa's issue with Clark's sexuality showed that making assumptions about another person or demanding they tell you their sexuality isn't the way to go.

I adored all the pop cultural references, especially those about my favourite tv shows/movies eg. Community and Robin Hood Men in Tights.

Ableist language: lunatic, crazy, lame, insane, dumb, psycho.

Highly Illogical Behaviour is an enjoyable, insightful, honest look at mental health and teenage relationships. I recommend it to readers of all ages.

Thank you to Allen & Unwin for my review copy. RRP A$16.99.

Cover design: Lisa Horton

I love this cover, and initially it's what made me want to read the book. I like this more than the US cover, but, the US cover makes more sense once you've read the story.

I started with a base of Illamasqua Load which is the perfect pale yellow for this cover. I used the following polishes for the stripes: Zoya Creamy, Zoya Maura, Zoya Robyn, Zoya Dana, WnW Who is Ultra Violet?, and Nail It! Toffee Apple.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

Crooked Kingdom (Six of Crows #2) by Leigh Bardugo
Published October 4, 2016 by Indigo Books
Source: Hachette AU
Rating: 5 stars

From the blurb: Kaz Brekker and his crew have just pulled off the most daring heist imaginable.But instead of divvying up a fat reward, they're fighting for their lives. Double-crossed and badly weakened, they're low on resources, allies and hope.While a war rages on the city's streets, the team's fragile loyalties are stretched to breaking point. Kaz and his crew will have to make sure they're on the winning side... no matter what the cost. 

Crooked Kingdom picks up a week after the events of Six of Crows. Kaz and his crew are back in Ketterdram and now they have a serious situation to sort out. Despite being home, their troubles have only increased.

I was thrilled to be able to read this right after finishing Six of Crows, my heart was still racing from the ending of book one and I knew I couldn't rest until the crew had... retrieved their very important cargo... I'm being vague on purpose so as not to spoil readers. This book definitely didn't feel like it was over 500 pages long, I flew threw it in fewer days than it took me to read Six of Crows.

It was fantastic to get back to their group and already know them so well. In Crooked Kingdom we learn more about them which made the story more thrilling and extremely nerve-racking because I wanted them all to make it out alive.

It was great to see Ketterdam explored further and and learn more secrets about this harsh and dangerous city. I will say I got a bit lost in some of the business talk and the auction procedure but I just went with it knowing it would all make sense eventually.

I know a lot of readers are mourning the end of this duology and wishing it was a trilogy, but I am perfectly happy with just two books. A format like this, where plans are made and then foiled, dangerous situations are entered into and then escaped from, often become repetitive and formulaic. Thankfully the plot in book two kept escalating, but under a less skilled author it really could have fizzled and become boring. A third book probably would have been too much for my heart to take anyway.

Speaking of my heart, Kaz and Inej, ag! Those two made me so sad, happy, and heartbroken. They are my favourites, though I love the other four as well. Their scenes towards the end had me in tears.

Crooked Kingdom is the perfect sequel to Six of Crows. It takes the stakes and raises them. There's more action, more danger, more depth. It's hard to imagine the level of planning and editing that went into this story, but it was executed perfectly - much like a Kaz Brekker plan.

Ableist language: dumb, crazy.

Thank you to Hachette for my review copy.

Cover art: John Bartlett and Thomas Walker
Cover design: Rich Deas and  Thomas Walker

Like Six of Crows, Crooked Kingdom has a beautiful cover. I used a base of Natio Aura and acrylic paint for the design.

Monday, 17 October 2016

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Six of Crows (Six of Crows #1) by Leigh Bardugo
Published September 2015 by Indigo Books
Source: Hachette AU
Rating: 4 stars

From the blurb: Criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker has been offered wealth beyond his wildest dreams. But to claim it, he'll have to pull off a seemingly impossible heist:Break into the notorious Ice Court(a military stronghold that has never been breached)Retrieve a hostage(who could unleash magical havoc on the world)Survive long enough to collect his reward(and spend it)Kaz needs a crew desperate enough to take on this suicide mission and dangerous enough to get the job done - and he knows exactly who: six of the deadliest outcasts the city has to offer. Together, they just might be unstoppable - if they don't kill each other first. 

Black crow, black crow, tell me what you really know
Will we flourish in this hurricane, or will we fall and die?
Black Crow - Jamiroquai

*Scheming reviewing face*

I remember hearing about Six of Crows when it was released late last year, but I let my ambivalence towards the Grisha Trilogy get in the way and didn't bother to read it. Now I am so glad I waited because I was able to read Six of Crows and follow it immediately with Crooked Kingdom. I did wonder if I should finish the Grisha Trilogy (I've read Shadow and Bone and Siege and Storm but have never read Ruin and Rising) but you don't have to have read that series to read this duology. Though, I do think there are some spoilers for the trilogy in this duology, mostly in book two.

Six of Crows is set in the same world as the Grisha Trilogy, with this story beginning in Ketterdam. Kaz Brekker is a seventeen year old resident of the Barrel, the bad part of town. He runs a gang, the Dregs, and enjoys his reputation as Dirtyhands because people keep their distance from him. He replies on Inej, a Suli acrobat, and Jesper, a sharpshooter from Zemeni. Along the way they recruit Nina, a Grisha, Wylan, a boy good at chemistry and blowing things up, and Matthias, a Fjerden soldier.

Bardugo has done such an excellent job juggling six main characters. Each of them have detailed backstories and different motivations, and none of them were forgettable. I will say I felt more for Kaz and Inej which is understandable since their perspectives are given more time, and for most of the book I lacked a connection with Jesper, but eventually I got to know him better.
Also in regards to the characters, they are so wonderfully diverse in multiple ways: race, religion, and sexuality.

On top of the characters there's a complicated plot involving plans upon plans, tricks upon tricks. The heist idea is handled in such a clever and fun way, and it was suspenseful. More than once I got goosebumps or gasped while reading, it felt as if I was right there with them and I didn't want anything to happen to this unique cast of characters.

The ending wraps up the major plot perfectly, while leaving some mystery for the next and final book. Waiting to read this book ended up being an excellent decision because the wait for book two would have been unbearable.

Six of Crows is an excellent addition to the Grishaverse, and I enjoyed it so much more than the Grisha Trilogy (a series I would like to reread and finish). It's clever, thrilling, and full of heart. You'll fall in love with Kaz and his crew, I guarantee it.

Ableist language: dumb, crazy, lame, demented

Thank you to Hachette for my review copy.

Cover design: Rich Deas

Leigh's books always have stunning covers and Six of Crows is no exception.

I started with a base of Nubar Rockin' the Garden, and then sponged on China Glaze Sea Spray and Barry M White. I used acrylic paint for the crow and wing and the same polish for the buildings.

Thursday, 13 October 2016

The Call by Peadar Ó Guilín

The Call by Peadar Ó Guilín
Published September 2016 by David Fickling Books
Source: Scholastic AU
Rating: 4 stars

From the blurb: Three minutes... On her birthday, Nessa finds out the terrible truth about her homeland, Ireland - the truth that will change her forever.Two minutes... That she and her friends must train for the most dangerous three minutes of their lives: THE CALL.One minute... That any day now, without warning, they will each wake in a terrifying land, alone and hunted, with a one in ten chance of returning alive.And it is Nessa,more than anyone, who is going to need every ounce of the guts, wit, and sheer spirit she was born with, if she  - and the nation - are to survive.

I don't read a lot of horror, I'm really sensitive to it and scare easily. I make exceptions for Stephen King books but even then I read them during the day, and if I'm particularly disturbed, I watch at least one episode of a sitcom to take my mind off it. When a copy of The Call showed up I thought I'd make an exception for it as I'd been seeing really positive reviews, and I'm glad I did.

The Call is set in a alternate Ireland, one with a declining population. Around twenty-five years ago the Irish made a truce with the Sidhe (fairies) and they were banished to another world, the Grey Land. Ever since that day no human has been able to leave or enter Ireland. Then The Call began. Children as young as ten would disappear, leaving their clothes behind. They would return 3 minutes and 4 seconds later, usually dead, their bodies often disfigured and badly injured. Some survive. The odds used to be 1 in 100 but these days they have improved to 1 in 10.

Fifteen year old Nessa Doherty has been training for the past four years. All over the country, survival training camps have been taking in kids and teenagers, making them athletes and fighters. Nessa lost her older brother before she'd been told about The Call and now she is determined to survive. Her parents were hesitant to let her go as Nessa has a disability: she had Polio as a child and as a result her legs are twisted. She can walk and run but is able to move faster when she can fashion a pair of crutches out of branches.

I was drawn to Nessa from the minute her story started. She's amazingly strong, dedicated, and intelligent. She speaks Gaelic, English, and Sidhe. She participates even when some of the instructors tell her not to bother, and she hates being pitied. She has wonderful, loyal friends in Megan and Anto, and while she loves them, she tries to always stay calm and a little distant.

This was such a clever take on Irish mythology and the way the story was told was excellent too. Nessa is the main narrator but each time The Call occurs we are transported to the Grey Land with that teen and shown their experience. These scenes are gory, gruesome, and creepy. The Grey Land is a dangerous place and the Sidhe love to hunt and torture the teenagers.

This was a thrilling story that only grew more intense as the plot progressed. As more teens are Called, the chance of Nessa being called increased. I had no idea how the story would end but it concluded perfectly. This could easily be a standalone, but I've heard talk of a sequel which I'm already keen to read.

The Call is a unique spin on Irish mythology, with an admirable main character, a suspenseful plot, and lashings of horror. If you're a fan of The Darkest Part of the Forest or the Book of Faerie series, this will be your cup of tea as well.

Thank you to Scholastic for my review copy.

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

The Devil You Know by Trish Doller

The Devil You Know by Trish Doller
Published July 1, 2015 by Bloomsbury
Source: the publisher
Rating: 4 stars

From the blurb: Eighteen-year-old Arcadia wants adventure. Living in a tiny Florida town with her dad and four-year-old brother, Cadie spends most of her time working, going to school, and taking care of her family. So when she meets two handsome cousins at a campfire party, she finally has a chance for fun. They invite her and friend to join them on a road trip, and it's just the risk she's been craving-the opportunity to escape. But what starts out as a fun, sexy journey quickly becomes dangerous when she discovers that one of them is not at all who he claims to be. One of them has deadly intentions. 

The Devil You Know is Trish Doller's third novel, and one I was thrilled to read because Trish is one of my favourite authors. Set in High Springs, Florida, we meet Cadie Wells. Ever since the death of her mother, she's been caring for her younger brother, Danny. Her father doesn't seem to notice that Cadie is holding them all together, and while she loves Danny, she's starting to feel resentful. She jumps at the chance to do something different and attends a lake party one night, meeting a pair of cousins, Noah and Matt McNeal. When they invite her on a road trip, she says yes.

Cadie is the sort of character that a lot of readers will be able to relate to. She's kind and caring, but she's put up with a lot since losing her mum three years ago. She feels unappreciated and as though her dreams don't matter. It was easy to see why she would enjoy taking the night off from her life, and playing a more confident and outgoing version of herself. And why she'd say yes to road tripping with two strangers.

Recently I've read a couple of YA books labelled thrillers and found myself underwhelmed. I'm happy to report that this story is thrilling and suspenseful. The setting of the lake and the idea of a road trip helped that atmosphere along. And even when I was picking up on the clues quicker than Cadie was, I was still enthralled until the chilling ending.

The Devil You Know is an intense, suspenseful story of a girl from a small town looking to change her life. It's atmospheric, captivating, and also tinged with hope.

Ableist language: insane, crazy, lame.

Thank you to Bloomsbury for my review copy.

Friday, 7 October 2016

Nothing Tastes as Good by Claire Hennessy

Nothing Tastes as Good by Claire Hennessy
Published September 2016 by Hot Key
Source: Allen & Unwin
Rating: 5 stars

From the blurb: Don’t call her a guardian angel. Annabel is dead – but she hasn’t completely gone away. Annabel immediately understands why her first assignment as a ghostly helper is to her old classmate: Julia is fat. And being fat makes you unhappy. Simple, right?As Annabel shadows Julia’s life in the pressured final year of school, Julia gradually lets Annabel’s voice in, guiding her thoughts towards her body, food and control.But nothing is as simple as it first seems. Spending time in Julia’s head seems to be having its own effect on Annabel . . . And she knows that once the voices take hold, it’s hard to ignore them. 

Set in Irleland, Claire Hennessy's new YA novel, Nothing Tastes as Good, revolves around two girls: Annabel McCormack and Julia Jacobs. Julia is in high school, she's the editor of the school newspaper, and she dreams of becoming a journalist. Annabel died three weeks ago, despite receiving treatment for long term anorexia. Annabel's discovered there's an afterlife in which she takes orders from someone she refers to as The Boss. Her job is to watch over Julia and help her out. Until she can help Julia she's unable to visit her family or enter their house.

Claire Hennessy took a risk when she created Annabel, the narrator of the story. She's got very strong opinions about bodies, fat, and food. These opinions are in complete opposition to the Body Positivity (BoPo) movement that is becoming more popular these days. Annabel equates fat with laziness, weakness, and failure. She's disgusted by food. She thinks eating means being out of control and shows a lack of discipline. But, the risk paid off because at first this attitude is overwhelming, it's so nasty and negative. Yet, it's believable. Annabel has been anorexic for some time, she's received different treatments, spent time in hospital. Ultimately nothing could save her because her thoughts and feelings were too strong.

There are layers to Julia's story that Annabel has to discover as she spends more and more time watching over her life. She can influence Julia's thoughts and actions. She thinks she's there to help Julia lose weight, to get control of her over eating. It's completely captivating and scary watching how easily a girl's thoughts can be turned against her. How she can go from reasonably happy to hating herself in a short amount of time.

Both characters were well developed. We get to learn more about Annabel's life via her memories, and we learn more about Julia as Annabel discovers her secrets. I felt for both girls equally, and I'm sure teenage readers will connect with them as well.

Nothing Tastes as Good is a powerful, heartbreaking story. It's an honest, realistic, and confronting look at eating disorders, societal pressure, and friendship. It's a book I'd recommend to both teens and adults.

Thank you to Allen & Unwin for my review copy. RRP A$19.99.

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Tell Us Something True by Dana Reinhardt

Tell Us Something True by Dana Reinhardt
Published July 20, 2016 by Rock the Boat
Source: Bloomsbury AU
Rating: 4 stars

From the blurb: Seventeen-year-old River doesn’t know what to do with himself when Penny, the girl he adores, breaks up with him. He lives in LA, where nobody walks anywhere, and Penny was his ride; he never bothered getting a license. He’s stuck. He’s desperate. Okay . . . he’s got to learn to drive.
But first, he does the unthinkable—he starts walking. He stumbles upon a support group for teens with various addictions. He fakes his way into the meetings, and begins to connect with the other kids, especially an amazing girl. River wants to tell the truth, but he can’t stop lying, and his tangle of deception may unravel before he learns how to handle the most potent drug of all: true love.

When I first read the blurb for Tell Us Something True, I immediately thought of one of my favourite books, About a Boy by Nick Hornby. It's a book I read via audio (I highly recommend Julian Rhind-Tutt's narration) and I can return to it again and again. The main character, Will Freeman, isn't the nicest guy, but there's something compelling about watching him stumble through his life, going from self-centred single guy, to someone with meaningful relationships.

Seventeen year old River Dean isn't quite on Will's level. He doesn't go to a support group for teens with the idea to trick them, he comes across it accidentally, and at a point when he really needs someone to talk to. Do his problems compare to those shared by the group? No, and River is aware of that the more he interacts with them.

This book shows such a realistic portrait of what it's like to be a teenager. River has become the sort of person who ditches their friends in favour of their partner, so when he gets dumped, his friends are right there to remind him of what a pain he's been and they don't hold back. It was also excellent to have his family present in the story, including his mum, step-dad, and half-sister.

River's actions probably won't sit well with some readers, but as I mentioned, he didn't do it maliciously. He does want to tell the truth but he finds it harder as he slowly befriends some of the kids in the support group. And there are definitely consequences for his actions and this is dealt with in the conclusion.

I love the setting of LA, it was easy to picture River walking around and learning how to take the bus. The setting was so vivid, I could easily picture this being made into a movie.

Tell Us Something True is an honest, fun, and clever take on what happens when a teenager lies his way into a support group, and the lessons he learns after meeting the participants.

Ableist language: lame, dimwit.

Cover illustration & design: Chris Silas Neal

This is such a bright and bold cover, and the illustrations made for a fun manicure.

I started with a base of China Glaze Happy Go Lucky, the perfect shade of yellow for this book. I used acrylic paint for River, Daphne, and the rain drops.