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review 2014-10-22 06:54
The Aussies do it again
Every Breath - Ellie Marney

***This review has also been posted on The Social Potato

The two books I came across this year that were pitched as some hybrid of Sherlock made my priority lists and while one let me down, Every Breath most certainly did not. Every Breath was FUCKING AMAZING. I guess I’ve kind of come to expect that from Aussie YA though. The Aussies have it right, a couple of exceptions aside, they know how it works. They know us cray teens. They feel us, yo.

Now that I’ve said that, I have no idea where to go. Do I start with the amazing characters, the fantastic plot, or just the general excitedness I felt while reading this amazeballs mystery? Or do I instead talk about how much I love the main characters as a couple and how they are the ship to ship?

So many things to talk about but not nearly enough words to do so. Isn’t that every reviewer’s problem?

I figure I’ll start with the beginning. With Rachel.

Rachel is an amazing female lead and oh so relateable.I love how she isn’t all happy and isn't easily adjusting to the new move her family had to make for financial reasons. While she’d give anything to be back, she has also made friends and isn’t casted as a loner cliché. In fact, one of the sub plots deals with her adjustment to the city and how she grows to embrace it. Of course, it isn’t some 180 degrees turn, hell no. It’s just her maturing about the situation they are. It’s wonderful to watch her develop and she is just such a realistic character. She is also pretty mature but then again, she has moments when she is not.She isn’t always wiser than the world, she can be naïve, she makes bad decisions, she says hurtful things. It’s what we teens do.

James Mycroft could be my one true love. I LOVE HIM SO MUCH. MY PRECIOUS. But seriously. I have to admit, he wasn’t a 100% perfect. I did have some problems with his characterization but even as I say that, he was realistic. I am not going to dwell into my problems with him because most people won’t care and it all comes down to personal tastes. Moving on to the good. Have I mentioned he was fabulous? HAVE I? Because I should. Again and again and again. I think he is one of the best tortured guys I have come across.  He has the whole tortured vibe but he isn’t a jerk. He’s just eccentric. He is also just an amazing friend. You wouldn’t think he could be but he is. He cares for his friends and while he can be self-centered at times, he is not malicious.

Can we talk about the romance now? Can we talk about how perfect these two are for each other because they are? One of the things I adore about Aussie YAs is how mature the relationships tend to be. Once they realized there were feels involved, they didn’t do the awkward chicken dance around it. That’s the ship you wanna ship. Where even when mean things are said, they work it out in a way that  is respectful to the other person. They are supportive, for the most part, they know each other’s deepest darkest secrets and they aren’t perfect!

The plot keeps you on your toes. Of course, it isn’t ‘OMG MINDBLOWING’ but it was definitely exciting. I love the way they work these things out. Given James’ super smartness, it isn’t surprising he manages to figure things out so easily, but he doesn’t always work everything out right away which makes the mystery a little more realistic. It isn’t that the mystery is unpredictable because it isn’t but it isn’t predictable either which makes it all the more fun. Some of the leads they had did sometimes throw me off though because there didn’t seem to be enough supporting evidence. The puzzle pieces did fit though once the mystery was solved so I wasn't too worried about that.

I think the best thing about this story was just the secondary characters. Mycroft aside, the secondary characters took the cake. There was depth to them and they weren’t just flat characters. In fact, they were essential to the story, they weren’t just plot devices. Rachel’s brother was a fantastic addition and the story wouldn’t have been complete without Mai and Gus.

I am really looking forward to reading the sequel and seeing where things will go from here.

If you’re looking at this and wondering if the hype is telling a lie, let me reassure you, it’s not. Go grab yourself a copy. NOW.

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review 2014-04-22 20:49
Past The Shallows by Favel Parrett
Past the Shallows - Favel Parrett

Knowing Favel Parrett is Australian meant that I had exceedingly high expectations for Past The Shallows. A little unfair perhaps but I have yet to come across an Australian YA novel that I dislike. I am pleased to announce this statemement is still true. Past The Shallows is hauntingly beautiful and I'm still thinking about it now.

 

As you can probably guess from the synopsis, the story is bleak. There is a great deal of loss and hopelessness throughout - the whole book is weighed down by a heavy, almost inescapable sadness. Then there was Harry. There's a reason people always talk about wanting to think like a child again because even those who are forced to grow up far too quickly can lose themselves in childlike delight and fantasies. Harry was a small ray of light in a terribly grim story. It is because of Harry that Past The Shallows also highlights the kindness of strangers. Harry's interactions with George and Jake are bursts of gold. I'm still not completely sure why George took to Harry so much (I don't think it was anything sinsister either, so don't worry about that). I thought perhaps he was friends with Harry's granddad or another member of the family. Either way, I loved their time together and just like Harry, I felt relieved to have a small respite from the oppressive nature of the father. It's a testament to Favel Parrett's talents that the father, whilst saying very little, and not being around all that much, was such a dark presence, constantly upsetting the balance.

 

With regard to the other characters, it's impossible to feel sorry for Miles, the middle man, literally. Miles is the Atlas of the story, bearing the weight of responsibility for his little brother, worrying about his big brother, along with the expectations his father holds for him. Instead of being allowed to explore and be the child that he is, like Harry and his rich friend of sorts, Miles has come of age and must work on the boat, putting himself in danger both from the sea and the temperments of his father and colleague Jeff (a brutal, heartless man who I despised - see, once again, being able to invoke such emotions in reader is a testament to Favel Parrett's writing). Many of the scenes between Miles and Harry were heartbreaking - particularly when the father took a turn for the worse. 

 

The prose was very simple. Much was left unsaid. However, this was part of the beauty of the novel. On the one hand, it reflected the pure, simple, and wholly good nature of Harry. On the other hand, it reflected the sadness and emptiness felt by all those left in the wake of the father's moods and the mother's death. Similarly, it also mirrored the setting and the lives of those in the fishing huts and caravans in the town. 

 

Being a story about fisherman, naturally the sea is also a character in Past The Shallows. At times, generous and giving, at other times a playground and a means of escape. However, it is also something that can be more fearsome and overwhelming than the father. I remember watching a surfing documentary and one of the Hawaiian coastguards (or something similar) said that from a young age, in Hawaii, the children are taught to respect the ocean as much as they enjoy it. I kept on remembering this line whilst reading Past The Shallows, particularly in light of the father's and Jeff's behaviour.

 

Overall, there are plenty of other themes in the novel such as, guilt, grudges, loneliness, friendship, escaping vs. running away. Far too much in this little book to dissect in a short review. However, I would highly reccomend Past The Shallows. It is thoughtful and moving and will haunt you for days. 

Source: sophsophia.blogspot.co.uk/2014/04/past-shallows-by-favel-parrett.html
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review 2014-01-27 17:22
Life In Outer Space by Melissa Keil
Life in Outer Space - Melissa Keil

 

Publisher: Hardie Grant Egmont

Format: Kindle e-book

Rating: 3/5

 

Sam and his best buddies are the geek clique of the school. Fans of cult horror movies and World of Warcraft, they are quite happy to stay out of the way of the 'populars', keeping their heads down in class and seeking refuge in the computer room at lunchtime. Then Camilla joins the school and upsets the apple cart. Camilla, having moved around her whole life and been the 'new girl' way too many times, avoids joining cliques and seeks being friends with everyone. This includes Sam and his crew. Over the course of a school year, Camilla's easy-going nature and general kindness brings together members of the student body who have previously avoided each other and helps Sam to believe in himself and his talents and his true friends.

 

Whilst reading this book, I couldn't help hearing the song 'For Good' from Wicked in my head. Firstly because this book is about those marker people who change you in some way. Secondly because it is a story set during the last year of high school and people like to sing this for leavers assembly and such like, don't they? Anyway, I like these kinds of stories and I enjoyed this book.

 

I didn't like Camilla at first because she seemed like every other manic pixie dream vintage dress wearing free spirt kind of girl. However, she really grew on me and by the end I was completely Team Camilla. Also, there are people out there who are genuinely like her - effortlessly cool, hippie, nomadic types. We didn't get to see too many of her flaws but a) it was Sam's story and b) we were seeing her through Sam's rather rose-tinted glasses.

 

Sam verged on being a bit of a Debbie Downer, which might be why Camilla came off so annoyingly perky and twee in the beginning. However, Sam really needed someone like Camilla to push hum to do things outside his comfort zone and learn to embrace life and everything that comes along with it. She also helped show him clique snobishness can go both ways - the majority of the 'populars' didn't necessarily hate the 'nerds' but the 'nerds' never gave them a chance because of the actions of one member - Justin.

 

The rest of Sam's gang were a cute ensemble. Adrian was the Howard Wolowitz of the group, fully embracing his nerdiness and not letting it hold him back from pursuing what he wants. Allison was sweet and I loved the scene at the beach where she found her voice and began to open up to the other girls. Some women say they can't be friends with other women but I think every woman needs a good girl friend. Camilla became Allison's person and it was very sweet. Finally, Mike, Sam's stoic, karate loving BFF since kindergarten. I appreciated that his story arc was not about his sexuality - it didn't define him. He had his own battle to deal with.

 

I really enjoyed the scenes when the whole school class came together, such as the beach and prom scene. The writing was strong as Melissa Keil presented a diverse body of students trying to deal with feeling a bit silly having spent the past five years looking down on and not speaking to each other. We all went through this during final year.

 

Along with growing up and moving on, another major theme was that of absent parents. It seemed like Camilla's need to reconcile everyone and everything stemmed from loneliness. Her dad - a music journalist - was constantly at gigs and enjoys globe hopping. Her mother is more concerned with running her modelling agency and pampering herself. There's a really sweet bit towards the end where Camilla, literally run down from trying to help everyone, finally accepts help from Sam and his family. I thought Melissa Keil handled Sam's parents' problems really well too. The extent to which their unhappiness effected Sam didn't manifest until the final third of the book when they make a decision and it was very well done.

 

Overall, I enjoyed this book a lot. The film references were lost on me because I don't watch horror films, however I would've loved to go to their prom! A nice Aussie novel.

 
Source: sophsophia.blogspot.com/2014/01/reading-mutiny-challenge-life-in-outer.html
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review 2013-11-15 10:39
Have you met Sherlock's brother?
Every Breath - Ellie Marney

I received a copy from the publisher, Allen & Unwin, in exchange for an honest review. This however did not influence my review in any way.

Honestly, though the premise of the story intrigued me and spiked my Sherlock senses (a big fan of Arthur Conan Doyle's original characters), I did not expect to be so hooked by the opening chapters as I was. I didn't put this book down for two days!

The characters were multi-dimensional and interesting and they felt real to me - Watts and Mycroft but also the supporting characters and the villains, which could have been even more fleshed out had there been more time, but everything in this novel happened pretty fast so you can see why they weren't. The tension between Watts and Mycroft really jumped off the page at me, I was practically screaming "KISS! KISS!" at them...I wish I was kidding!

The writing wasn't fantastic but the dialogue was witty and I think it will appeal to teenage and young adult readers, particularly Australians when they see places as the major settings of the book! I'm looking forward to seeing where the story goes from here.

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