Tuesday, March 8, 2016

[Review] My Sister Rosa by Justine Larbalestier

Publication (dd/mm/yyyy): 26/01/2016
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Pages: 398
Source: Bought
Genre: YA - Contemporary (14+)

Violence | Sexual Content | Profanity
My Rating: 

Intense, thought-provoking

My thoughts


HOLY SHIT. I have not been so hideously disturbed since Gone Girl. If this is the kind of writing that Justine Larbalestier is capable of, I'm certain that her other novels, particularly Razorhurst, will not disappoint. If you're looking for quality Aussie YA fiction sure to keep you up at night, look no further!

My Sister Rosa follows Che as he and his family are pulled from their Sydney home to the bustling New York City for work. Che has had to deal with the constant moving around, pretty much ever since his sister Rosa was born, and every time he makes a list:
  1. Keep Rosa under control
Only at 10 years old, she is precocious, smart, adorable and dangerous. Ever since she learned to walk Che noticed she wasn't quite like other little girls. She would enjoy harming others and feel no remorse. She would lie and steal and cheat to get her way, but after she befriended Apinya which led to the guinea pig incident... after that Che began to study her more closely. Psychopath. He needs to keep a close eye on his sister before she really hurts someone.
  1. I want to spar
Che has kept a promise with his parents ever since he took up boxing: he will not spar until he has finished growing. But after he meets gorgeous Sojourner "Sid" who also boxes at his gym he finds it harder and harder to keep that promise.
  1. I want a girlfriend
Self explanatory. Kind of hard to land a girl when you're constantly moving around.
  1. I want to go home.
Home. Meaning where his best friends are. Sydney.

The plot moved along at a slow pace for most of the book, but once I hit the halfway mark things definitely got more interesting. I suppose that is the case with many thrillers. I could tell that the author thought everything through, and the conclusion was pretty much destined from the start. It was a bit painful to read at times because it was like watching a train-wreck unfold right in front of your eyes.

The writing style was standard for YA. Written in first-person narrative in the perspective of Che, we learn everything through his eyes which means that we are blinded until the very end as well. We can only believe whatever he believes. I'm glad that the author chose to write in his perspective, because at some points I kind of doubted Che - you kind of start questioning what is really happening, which I think is good for a mystery/thriller novel.

I liked Che. I found him to be a well-fleshed out character that was easy to relate to. He's just your typical teenage boy who wants his own freedoms, who wants a girlfriend, who wants a normal family life and upbringing. I'm always interested to see how guys would respond to reading a book written by a woman, but in the perspective of a teenage boy. Since I'm not a guy I can only say for myself, but I think the voice was really well established and believable. I definitely empathised with him and by the end of the story I felt exhausted for him and all that he had to go through.

Family is, unsurprisingly, a big part of this novel. We see a family that is barely keeping it together, on the verge of collapse. Rosa has been a constant source of stress and worry, seemingly for Che more than anyone else, but he's the one she speaks to. She trusts him. She needs him, because no one else understands her. What we see is a tumultuous relationship between brother and sister. Che wants to see only the good in her... the memory of her little baby fingers wrapped around his own pop up more than one time in the story. This brutally honest book begs you to question your own values and beliefs, and I was left wondering how I would respond if I were placed in the same situation. Dwelling on it for too long would put me in a debilitating state of deflated hopelessness. To even think that there are people out there who actually have to live with psychopaths... I can barely even swallow the thought.

I liked the interactions between Che and his Sydney friends, too. Especially Georgie. But the budding friendship that he develops with Leilani in New York City is particularly special. You can tell that their bond goes far beyond friendship, or even lovers. It's almost as though they are platonic soulmates, they go through so much together. I loved that Che's texts "I miss you" to her. I feel like that phrase it too often placed with strictly romantic connotations behind it. Theirs is the kind of friendship that stimulates growth and ongoing support. We're left with a sad but hopeful note between the two of them. I feel like it is a very rare occurrence where I truly feel strongly towards a friendship in a book.

Now.... Sojourner.... She's tall, strong, smart and beautiful. She catches his eye right from the start and somehow they become good friends with the potential for more. I did feel like their connection was a bit shallow, but really, at this age most relationships are. :P They just find each other really attractive. There's such a contrast between his relationship with her, to his friendship with Leilani. Rightly so, but it does leave me with an important message, even if my situation isn't exactly the same as Che's: communication and honesty is key. Another thing... Sojourner and her mums are religious and Che is not, but they're the "cool" kind of religious in that lesbians are great and sex before marriage isn't a sin. I don't know too much about religion so I don't know if her actual branch of Christianity is actually a thing, but if so, it's one that I could get behind. Not often do I find religion to be even so much as mentioned in a book so this was a nice change. I feel like Justine Larbalestier tried to push the boundaries -- boxers AREN'T violent; some girls want to fight and they can still be beautiful; not all Christians are against homosexuality; etc; etc.

There are just so many important messages and themes addressed in <i>My Sister Rosa</i>. I feel like this is one that I will need to reread, simply so I can go back and analyse more closely; look for the signs early on. If you've read the book I'm sure you share the same urges. It is so hard to write about this book without feeling like I'm spoiling things. It's much better just to go into this book without knowing anything about it, but I assure you - you won't be disappointed.


AUSTRALIA: A&R | Booktopia


I have received this review copy in return for an honest review.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

[Review] Signs Point to Yes by Sandy Hall

Add to Goodreads
Publication (dd/mm/yyyy): 20/10/2015
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Pages: 613
Source: For review
Genre: YA - Contemporary (12+)

Violence | Sexual ContentProfanity
My Rating: 

Fluffy and light read

My thoughts

(It's actually 2 stars but I don't actually have a graphic for it and I'm too lazy to make one just for this book. If ever I come across another 2 star book maybe then I'll make one.)

I should have run the other way as soon as I saw the cover and read the description, but it's been such a long time since I actually reviewed a book that I'd been sent for review (unsolicited) and I was in the mood for a light and fluffy read . . . Well, that's exactly what this book is: fluff. I felt like I was actually using less brain cells to read this book than I would have had I been watching an episode of The Bachelor. For some people that's not such a bad thing at all. After all, reading is a portal to another life, an escape from reality. But. I just could not connect at all. I'm only disappointed in myself because I knew exactly what I was walking into. One look at the cover and you should know what's in store for you. Now that that's out of the way, let's go a bit deeper.

Signs Point to Yes follows Jane, whose plans to spend the entire summer following graduation from high school writing Doctor Who crossover fan fiction are short-lived when her mum has other plans for her, namely, an internship at the place where she works. In order to avoid this, she decides to pick up a babysitting job instead. Unfortunately, that means she will regularly have to bump heads with the super hot but sort of awkward/dorky lifeguard with whom she used to be friends, Teo. Which is only a bad thing because his best friend REALLY hates her. Drama ensues.

I couldn't bother to work on a better summary of the book. These characters did nothing for me. I could not relate to them (which may have had something to do with the third-person narrative) and I found all their decisions and actions silly and juvenile. I could not believe how much blushing was in this book. The romance between Jane and Teo was blatantly shoved in our faces by the amount of blushing that went on. Mind you, I love a good story involving sexual tension where you're basically melting from frustration because CAN'T THEY JUST GET TOGETHER ALREADY? But I don't know. In this book, it was just... lackluster, and maybe that has something to do with the fact that they're such boring cliche characters.

Now let's talk about Ravi, Teo's best friend. Please tell me I'm not the only one who believed wholeheartedly that he has a massive crush on Teo and would do anything to have babies with him. I'm obviously not a guy but I have a hard time believing their friendship is just a friendship. I was so sure that there would be a big reveal, where Ravi confesses that he is actually gay and loves Teo, but I was sorely disappointed. Also, his reasoning for hating Jane was laughable. I'm sure there is a guy out there just like Ravi and let me tell you, he is one guy I hope never to meet because he's a massive tool. The only redemptive factor was his dedication to Teo, but again... I'm betting that he's secretly harbouring fantasies involving an alternate reality where they get together.

While we're at it, let's mention the "perfect" big sister Margo. Now, I also have a "perfect" big sister (seems like all big sisters are the "perfect" one). Which is fine. And this is probably where I had the most potential to really relate to Jane. Because I understand what it's like to be the lesser of the two and feeling like you're unable to meet expectations by comparison. Turns out Margo has a secret of her own. I like that this secret brings the sisters closer together, but I don't feel like the issue was explored completely. At the big reveal their parents seemed to brush it off, which kind of went against everything that the girls had implied from the beginning: that the parents would blow up.

Maybe I'm just too old to appreciate Signs Point to Yes. I feel like maybe tweens will like this, but I refuse to believe that anyone their age would act in the same way. The dialogue was also quite stale, and there was a lot of telling involved (a big writing no-no!). I gave this book an honest try, and I even ended up finishing it which I think is a big achievement on my part.

Let me ask my magic 8 ball: Would I recommend this book?

Don't count on it

(Only if you're really young, like <15 years, and/or you're looking for shallow fluff.)


AUSTRALIA: Booktopia

INTERNATIONAL: Book DepositoryAbeBooks

I have received this review copy in return for an honest review.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

[Review] Lair of Dreams (#2) by Libba Bray

Add to Goodreads
Publication (dd/mm/yyyy): 26/08/2015
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Pages: 613
Source: For review
Genre: YA - Historical (14+)

Violence | Sexual ContentProfanity
My Rating: 

Captivating - what a thrilling read!

My thoughts

OMG, 'LAIR OF DREAMS' WAS SO GOOD! This is an example of a really good sequel to a series! It has its own storyline and plot, and the characters are developed well, in that the author didn't depend on the first book to serve as their only characterisation. The overarching plot of the series has vastly widened, opening up towards grander things in books to come!

The characters are such a delight. 

They all have their own demons they need to face. I don't think I've encountered any other author who has a talent of writing many different characters, able to give life and substance to them as individuals. I'm as always sensitive to the inner turmoils and mini tragedies that people undergo, which all these characters face in their own ways. Sam- of actually being seen for who he is and letting anyone else in, Mabel- identity and unrequited love, Jericho- being seen for who he is, unrequited love, freedom, powerlessness, etc,etc.

I found myself reading this book every free moment I had. 

I even brought this book to work! (I only ever bring a book to read on night shifts because we're normally too busy otherwise.) I just could not pull my eyes away, it was a masterfully strung together plot existing within 600+ pages. The description did get a little excessive at times, but it never detracted from the plot and character building long enough for me to want to put it down for long.

I loved the attention to historical detail.

 The segregation and racism towards Chinese people... This is the first time I've seen it addressed in a YA novel. Ling really grew on me. I think it's an important angle of American history and hope it is explored further in the next book. The slang and places and fashion and descriptions were little touches that went a long way. A good historical fiction novel is achieved when you know the author has done their research and they place you seemingly without effort in that historical point in time.

The romance was just... How do I even begin to tackle this topic? 

There are so many bittersweet feelings attached here, and as always I found myself being swept away by it all. Henry's pursuit for his long-lost lover Louis just tugged on my heartstrings and would not let go. And of course, the love triangle, or rectangle--point is, it's still a bit of a mess. We saw traces of it in 'The Diviners', but in its sequel we see more of it being played out. I'm all for Jericho and Evie. What can I say? I'm a sucker for the stoic man with a heart of gold, though I do feel for Mabel. I know how unrequited love feels, and I can only imagine how much harder it is when you see the one you really like be enamoured by your best friend instead of you. To want the best for those you care for, whilst also secretly resenting everything and feeling the unfairness of it all. But all in all, I'm interested to see how these relationships develop in the next book. I can't help but feel invested; there's just something about these characters that I can't get out of my mind, and along with that attachment is my desire to know how they all get on.

I loved the exploration of dreams in this book, and dream walking sounds like a power both glorious and terrifying.

I like how, in true Bray fashion, the concepts related to dream walking and the dream world and the sleeping sickness, etc, were revealed gradually. Bray writes tension and suspense to perfection and I remember distinctly that I had that rare experience of completely losing myself in a world within a book.

I'm eager to see how everything ties in.. What is the bigger picture here? Why do these people have extraordinary powers? What is Project Buffalo and how did it originate? And so on. I'm just full of questions, but I have no doubt Bray will reveal the answers in her own time.

Until then, we are left to speculate in the dark.


First line: Every city is a ghost.


"'If I could dream of any place, I'd dream of a cabin on the bayou,' Louis had said at the time. 'A little cabin. Fishing boat. A newspaper fulla crawfish ready to eat.'
'Would I be there?' Henry asked quietly.
'Wouldn't be a good dream if you weren't.'
And just like that, Henry knew what it was to be in love. (115)

 "'Perhaps there are things that exist only because we make them so, because we must.' (318)

 "Evie sat up, glaring. 'I did not come to this party to hear a lecture from you, Sam Lloyd. You steal people's wallets. Don't act like you're better than I am.'
'Me? Sure, I'm a thief and a con. But not you, kid. Unfortunately, you care. I know you.'
'No you don't,' Evie said, lying back again. 'You just think you do [...] But nobody really knows anybody. We're all just a bunch of Pears soap ads walking around clean and neat, ready to wash away to slivers.' (403)


AUSTRALIA: Booktopia | The Nile | Fishpond | Bookworld

INTERNATIONAL: Book Depository | Wordery | AbeBooks | Kennys

I have received this review copy in return for an honest review.

Related Posts with Thumbnails