Living on Hope Street by Demet Divaroren

A raw, confronting yet important story all Aussies should read…

Living on Hope Street is one confronting story that covers very intense issues that include alcohol fuelled domestic violence and hot topics like immigration and refugees and the hope that stems from breaking down barriers and stereotypes when people unite during challenging times.

We all love someone. We all fear something. Sometimes they live right next door – or even closer..

This story is written from various perspectives of different cultures and ages and each voice is distinguished. Kane will do everything he can to save his mother and little brother Sam from the violence of his father. Kane’s neighbour, Mrs Aslan will protect the boys no matter what – even though her own family is in pieces. Down the road, Ada wants a family she can count on, while she faces new questions about herself. Mr Bailey is afraid of the refugees next door and Gugulethu is just trying to make a life away from terror. This is a diverse neighhourhood where everyone comes from different cultures and different walks of live yet find peace, they need to discover what unites them.

Even with different characters, it was very easy to follow the story, it was quite the page turner.

I found this to be an important story that needed to be told because of the themes covered in this book. It was such a great insight into suburban life today even makes you realize everyone is fighting their own battle in some way. It’s very well written and I would recommend this to fans of Contemporary YA books.

Many thanks to Allen & Unwin Publishers for sending me an Advanced Review Copy in exchange for my honest review. Due for release: June 2017

-Annie

Night Shift by Debi Gliori (picture book)

An insight into depression that words often struggle to reach

A groundbreaking picture book on depression with stunning illustrations that both Annie and Meredith read together and highly recommend this as one of the most important picture books of the year.

“I have used dragons to represent depression. This is partly because of their legendary ability to turn a once fertile realm into a blackened, smoking ruin and partly because popular mythology shows them as monstrous opponents with a tendency to pick fights with smaller creatures. I’m not particularly brave or resourceful, and after so many years battling my beasts, I have to admit to a certain weariness, but I will arm-wrestle dragons for eternity if it means that I can help anyone going through a similar struggle.”
– Debi Gliori (author of Night Shift)

This is an amazing picture book that depicts the author’s struggle with depression. The author found this picture book was the best way to communicate her condition with others when she felt it difficult to explain in words – with the clever use of dragons that is used as a metaphor because of their common profile in other stories where they tend to be quite monstrous and pick fights with smaller creatures. I admire the author of this book as she doesn’t let depression eat away at her, she acknowledges her condition but puts it into beautiful illustrations and strives to manage it as well as bring understanding to others. I believe this is an important book and recommend it to readers of all ages.
-Annie

A very good take on explaining depression that I have never seen before. Throughout ‘Night Shift’, it shows that there is more then one way to beat depression but sometimes it doesn’t fully disappear which comes across beautifully. The depression is represented as dragons because dragons are always there, either by leaning on your shoulder, head or flying behind you at a distance. I thought this was quite creative. I also found it helpful in understanding depression a little bit more.
-Meredith

Many thanks to Allen & Unwin Publishers for an Advanced Review Copy in exchange for our honest review.

1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

“If you don’t believe in the world, and if there is no love in it, then everything is phony.” – Murakami 1Q84

A mysterious, strange but intriguing read … 4 Stars!

Books 1-3 review:

When they say that Murakami writes profoundly complex novels, I think I’ve got a glimpse of this reading 1Q84.  This was a long read and it has left me contemplating the meaning behind the story and how to decipher the various elements in the story like the Air Chrysalis, the Maza and Dohta, and the insistent NHK collector symbolism (just to name a few). It’s intriguing and unique compared to anything I’ve read before and leaves me wanting more explanations behind the story. It actually feels like you’re a part of the story and similarly to the characters, you end up having more questions than answers about the world of 1Q84. The writing is very matter of fact (like reading non-fiction) but strangely creative because of the world within a world, story within a story premise. I would say that reading this novel is like going on a strange roller coaster ride in the dark, you don’t know where it’s taking you, it’s intriguing enough for you to stay for the ride. I think this novel defies traditional categorisation; it can be seen as a dystopian sci-fi since it’s set in a parallel universe, and fantasy because the world has two moons with supernatural Little People coming out of a dead goat, a thriller because one of the main characters is an assassin and is getting hunted by a cult. There’s also a major romance angle… This book has so much going on, yet leaves very little explanation on why it happens, you must simply accept the story for what it is. The one thing that screams loud and clear however from the novel is the exploration of loneliness experienced by all the characters. I really felt for the characters because they live in such a lonely world, perhaps not so different to ours. There are a few nuggets of wisdom to be discovered in the story if you have the patience to read it. I recommend this book for curious readers who likes complex, thought-provoking and nuanced reads. This is not a read for the faint-hearted or for readers who likes a fast-paced plot.

Some other interesting quotes from the book:

“Unless you die once, you won’t be reborn.” Tengo confirmed. “But people face death while they’re still alive.”

“Where there is light, there must be shadow, and where there is shadow there must be light. There is no shadow without light and no light without shadow…It is as evil as we are positive… the more desperately we try to be good and wonderful and perfect, the more the Shadow descends to hell and becomes the devil. For it is just as sinful from the standpoint of nature and of truth to be above oneself as to be below oneself.”

– NJ

 

 

Lyrebird by Cecilia Ahern

A feel good contemporary fiction rating 3.5-4 Stars
Blog Duet – Read Along by Annie and Amanda

This was a unique story line where a documentary crew are sent to Ireland to film on location however whilst there, one of the crew discover a mysterious young woman living alone in the mountains of West Cork who has an extraordinary talent for mimicry – just like the famous Australian Lyrebird. The crew are fascinated by this and make her the focus point of their documentary. When they leave, they take Lyrebird with them back to the city. But as she leaves behind her peaceful life to learn about a new world, the question is – is she also leaving behind a part of herself? 

Amanda
Lyrebird made me miss Ireland. A land that is full of beautiful landscapes and where nature and magical lore go hand in hand. So, a character who has the gift of mimicking sounds fit effortlessly into the lore of Ireland. I enjoyed how this story unfolded as it is a commentary on fame and our society’s obsession with it. It also highlighted how people can be both selfish and kind. Although I found it to be slow paced at times I would recommend this to fans of contemporary fiction. I rated this 3.5 stars, was a lovely read.

Annie
This isn’t really something I normally read however I found the writing to be fluid and set at a nice pace. I also enjoyed the read along I participated in with Amanda. A nice contemporary fiction read I rated 3.5 stars, the story really brings beautiful Ireland to life. Laura (Lyrebird) is such a unique character as she lives in recluse and is suddenly fronted with a documentary crew who are fascinated with her life and she has to make the life changing decision of staying put or embracing the opportunity. I also liked her unique way of communicating – cries like a Lyrebird. I recommend this to fans of contemporary adult fiction.


Special thanks to Harper Collins Publishers for sending us Advanced Review Copies in exchange for our honest reviews

We Come Apart by Sarah Crossnan and Brian Conaghan

high impact – high emotion – intense – 5 star read
Due for Release: March 2017

Award winning authors Brian Conaghan and Sarah Crossan join forces to tell the high impact story of Nicu and Jess, two troubled teens whose paths cross in the unlikeliest of places.

I found this to be an intense, fast paced read that had me gaping in the end. I call this, the British Eleanor and Park…

A fantastic book, executed so cleverly with a dual perspective that has both voices of both characters so well defined and distinctively heard. Nicu is fresh from Romania and with limited English, he’s struggling to navigate life in a new home, is facing family pressures of an arranged marriage and faces unfathomable racism in his new school. Meanwhile Jess – born and raised in London is friends with the wrong people, already holds a criminal record and is dealing with a broken family.

Both Nicu and Jess meet during a reparation scheme when both of them are caught stealing at different times and form such an unlikely alliance. The story explores socio-economic issues and racism that exists among youth today. It also cleverly demonstrates how behaviours that label kids as juvenile delinquents indicate underlying currents that trigger this sort of behaviour which normally starts at home. The friendship that is formed between both Nicu and Jess is so beautiful – they draw strength from each other to hopefully become better people.

Initially, I thought this was a book of poetry due to the way it’s written however it’s almost like reading someone’s journal. I could see this being turned into a short film – it’s that good!

Special thanks to Bloomsbury Publishers for sending me an Advance Review Copy in exchange for my honest review. This book is due for release: March 2017.

-Annie

Something in Between by Melissa de la Cruz

Insightful – Relevant – 4 stars

The synopsis of this book captivated me and this was one book I really could not put down!!!  This story is thought provoking as it deals with very real issues that we don’t seem to think about or even understand – unless it was to happen to us personally. “Something In Between” is told by protagonist Jasmine del los Santos  who migrated with her family from The Philippines to The United States of America. Her parents are highly qualified in The Philippines however in America, her mother is a hospital cleaner and her father is a bus driver – both trying to make it in America to give their children a better life and better opportunity.
Jasmine is a model student – captain of the cheer squad – no time for social life or parties as her parents push her to study and engage in extra curricular activities. Her grades and activities have ensured her a spot in a prestigious college only to have it all undone for her when she is selected for a National Scholarship that she is to turn down when she discovers her parents are actually “undocumented aliens” a.k.a: illegal immigrants and have been living under the radar all her life.

Although I had an idea from the start where this story would be going, I found I really felt the emotions Jasmine was feeling and I was just so wrapped in the story, I really wanted to know what happened next – does she get her green card? does she get deported? what about the guy she’s met? can Jasmine really forgive her parents for the major let down?  It was so interesting to read and I highly recommend this book to all YA contemporary fans – it’s interesting, insightful and relevant..

Many thanks to Harlequin Publishers for sending me an Advanced Review Copy in exchange for my honest review.

-Annie

The Fall of Butterflies by Andrea Portes

A heartbreaking and sobering read I rated 4.5 stars

Willa Parker was the least popular resident of What Cheer, Iowa and she is headed east to start a new life as per her famous genius mother’s wishes. Willa has no intention of fitting in at her new place, Pembroke as she does not plan to stay for long until she meets peculiar, glittering Remy Taft – the richest, most mysterious girl on campus and finds this may be a place where she could maybe, possibly, sort of fit in after all.

A great story about farm girl Willa becoming friends with a rich teen Remy. The characters are so different and well defined and the story blossoms as it focuses on such an unlikely friendship and real youth issues. Narrated by Willa (the protagonist) it feels as though Willa is talking directly to you as the reader. I found Willa’s ability to remain calm and strong during some very crazy events with her newly best friend Remy (who is a teen spiraling out of control) radiated through the pages. When Willa looks at Remy, she sees a girl who has everything yet for Remy, everything comes at a price and she feels her life is spinning out of control. However, Remy is one of those girls who simply doesn’t want to be saved – she is “a person with wings”.

This heartfelt novel explores the meaning of friendship, new beginnings, and the joy and devastating pain of finding home in a new place. It also explores the effects of what elicit drugs can have on close friendships. It’s such a moving story and you find it to be a tear jerker but you draw strength from strong characters to get to the end of the story. This is truly a book you just have to read for yourself to understand the feels of this book.

Special thanks to Harper Collins Publishers for sending me an Advanced Review Copy in exchange for my honest review.
-Crystal