Girl Out Of Water

Girl Out of Water

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Synopsis:

Anise Sawyer plans to spend every minute of summer with her friends: surfing, chowing down on fish tacos drizzled with wasabi balsamic vinegar, and throwing bonfires that blaze until dawn. But when a serious car wreck leaves her aunt, a single mother of three, with two broken legs, it forces Anise to say goodbye for the first time to Santa Cruz, the waves, her friends, and even a kindling romance, and fly with her dad to Nebraska for the entire summer. Living in Nebraska isn’t easy. Anise spends her days caring for her three younger cousins in the childhood home of her runaway mom, a wild figure who’s been flickering in and out of her life since birth, appearing for weeks at a time and then disappearing again for months, or even years, without a word. 

Complicating matters is Lincoln, a one-armed, charismatic skater who pushes Anise to trade her surfboard for a skateboard. As Anise draws closer to Lincoln and takes on the full burden and joy of her cousins, she loses touch with her friends back home – leading her to one terrifying question: will she turn out just like her mom and spend her life leaving behind the ones she loves?

Thoughts:

I continue with my quest to read some 2017 debuts, as I totally failed on that front last year. I’m doing well so far. It was time to read Girl Out Of Water which I’d heard some really good things about. I thought it was an easy to read, interesting book. It was lovely to see a diverse representation of characters in this book too.

Girl Out Of Water centres around Anise who can’t wait to spend the summer with her friends and the ocean. She loves surfing and wants to spend the summer making the most of her free time. However, Anise’s aunt has a terrible accident, which results in Anise and her father having to go to Nebraska to help her aunt with her cousins. Anise is understandably disappointed to miss out on her plans, but she recognises the importance of her family and looking out for her cousins. Whilst in Nebraska, Anise becomes close to a skateboarder named Lincoln. Lincoln challenges Anise to learn skateboarding and step outside her comfort zone.

Anise finds it awkward to be in touch with her friends at home. She’s jealous of the fact that they’re living the summer she wanted. She doesn’t want them to feel bad because they’re having fun without her. I thought it was really clever how the author portrayed how difficult it can be to be away from home when you don’t want to be. She really showed Anise’s battle between wanting to be there for her family and wanting to be with her friends.

Anise’s mother is absent for quite a substantial part of the story. She pops up in her life every now and then, but Anise is practically raised by her father. She has a good relationship with her father which is lovely to read about.

I thought there were some fabulous characters in this book. I really liked Lincoln and his outlook on life. I thought Anise’s father was wonderful too. I did like Anise as a character, but I can imagine that she’ll grate on a few readers as she does come across as a bit bratty in points, but it didn’t affect my enjoyment of the story. I thought overall it was a great debut!

Would I recommend it?:
Yes! 3.5 stars

A solid debut! I think this would be a good summer read!

Advertisements

You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone

You'll Miss Me When I'm Gone

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Synopsis:

Eighteen-year-old twins Adina and Tovah have little in common besides their ambitious nature. Viola prodigy Adina yearns to become a soloist—and to convince her music teacher he wants her the way she wants him. Overachiever Tovah awaits her acceptance to Johns Hopkins, the first step on her path toward med school and a career as a surgeon. 

But one thing could wreck their carefully planned futures: a genetic test for Huntington’s, a rare degenerative disease that slowly steals control of the body and mind. It’s turned their Israeli mother into a near stranger and fractured the sisters’ own bond in ways they’ll never admit. While Tovah finds comfort in their Jewish religion, Adina rebels against its rules.

When the results come in, one twin tests negative for Huntington’s. The other tests positive.

These opposite outcomes push them farther apart as they wrestle with guilt, betrayal, and the unexpected thrill of first love. How can they repair their relationship, and is it even worth saving?

Thoughts:

I always enjoy checking out debut authors because sometimes you can really find some gems. This was totally the case with You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone. I thought it was an emotional, thought-provoking read.

You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone centres around twins Adina and Tovah. Their mother has Huntington’s Disease and both girls have been tested to see if they will develop the awful disease. One tests negative and the other tests positive. Adina and Tovah’s lives are completely turned around. They was already strain on their relationship but with the outcomes of the test it seems to be worse. The story follows their relationship and their story after the test results.

I really enjoyed reading this book although it is heart-breaking to read about such a horrific disease. It certainly made me think. I also thought it was great how the characters were Jewish. I’m all for plenty of representation in books, especially YA and I felt this book taught me things that I didn’t know about the Jewish faith.

I thought the characters were really well developed. I loved how they were completely different to one another. Yet both characters were fighting their own battles. I was completely invested in their story, desperate for them to find themselves. The story really gripped me from the start and kept me gripped until the end of the story. I’m still thinking about it a week later which really shows the impact that it had on me.

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!

I thought this was a wonderful, emotional debut novel. I’m intrigued to see what Rachel Lynn Soloman writes next!

Twelve Steps To Normal

Twelve Steps to Normal

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Synopsis:

Kira’s Twelve Steps To A Normal Life

1. Accept Grams is gone.
2. Learn to forgive Dad.
3. Steal back ex-boyfriend from best friend…

And somewhere between 1 and 12, realize that when your parent’s an alcoholic, there’s no such thing as “normal.”
When Kira’s father enters rehab, she’s forced to leave everything behind–her home, her best friends, her boyfriend…everything she loves. Now her father’s sober (again) and Kira is returning home, determined to get her life back to normal…exactly as it was before she was sent away.

But is that what Kira really wants?

Thoughts:

I thought it would be interesting to read a book about recovery after addiction and how a family copes with such a thing. I also wanted to read another 2018 debut. I’m always keen to find new writers, so try to get to a few debuts a year. Whilst Twelve Steps To Normal wasn’t a bad read, it wasn’t amazing. It sticks in that middle ground for me.

Twelve Steps To Normal follows Kira as she returns to live with her father after he comes out of rehab. Kira has been living with her Aunt and has had to leave her home, school, friends and boyfriend. Since she had left, Kira distanced herself from everyone at home, trying to protect herself. Now she’s back, Kira wants her life back. She wants everything to return to how it was, but as time goes by, Kira wonders if that’s really what she wants.

This book has so many characters. I did wonder if there were a little too many to really delve into the characters deeply. Kira’s dad brought home some other sober friends from rehab that lived with them until they were ready to go home. It was nice to see their journey too, but I don’t feel like we learnt a lot about them. Then there’s also Kira’s friends, her father, her ex-boyfriend and a love interest.

As for Kira, I have mixed feelings about her. I could understand her reservations about her father. Her friendships confused me though. I don’t feel like she treated her friends well but she was easily forgiven. I also didn’t like the way she treated her father’s friends. She was quite rude and took a while to understand them. I also felt deeply sorry for Alex, the love interest, he was a sweetheart and she was pretty nasty! I realised she had gone through a lot, but I wasn’t impressed with her as a character overall.

I appreciated this book for being a story about repairing relationships after family trauma but I was desperate for this book to be more about Kira and her father. I wanted to learn more about her father’s recovery and his battle with addiction. I think I was expecting it to be deeper than it was.

Would I recommend it?:
Yes!

Whilst this book didn’t blow me away, it was a decent enough read about repairing relationships after hardship!

This Is Not A Love Letter

This Is Not A Love Letter

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Synopsis:

One week. That’s all Jessie said. A one-week break to get some perspective before graduation, before she and her boyfriend, Chris, would have to make all the big, scary decisions about their future–decisions they had been fighting about for weeks.

Then, Chris vanishes. The police think he’s run away, but Jessie doesn’t believe it. Chris is popular and good-looking, about to head off to college on a full-ride baseball scholarship. And he disappeared while going for a run along the river–the same place where some boys from the rival high school beat him up just three weeks ago. Chris is one of the only black kids in a depressed paper mill town, and Jessie is terrified of what might have happened.

As the police are spurred to reluctant action, Jessie speaks up about the harassment Chris kept quiet about and the danger he could be in. But there are people in Jessie’s town who don’t like the story she tells, who are infuriated by the idea that a boy like Chris would be a target of violence. They smear Chris’s character and Jessie begins receiving frightening threats.

Every Friday since they started dating, Chris has written Jessie a love letter. Now Jessie is writing Chris a letter of her own to tell him everything that’s happening while he’s gone. As Jessie searches for answers, she must face her fears, her guilt, and a past more complicated than she would like to admit.

Thoughts:

I wanted to read this book after finding out about it at the end of last year. I loved its simple cover and the title made me wonder what it was going to be about. I found this book to be utterly gripping and I devoured it quickly, not expecting it to be as deep as it was.

This Is Not A Love Letter centres around Jessie. Her boyfriend Chris used to send her love letters every Friday since they started dating. Jessie never wrote back to him however much she appreciated them. Chris suddenly disappears after Jessie called for a week’s break on their relationship. Jessie starts to write letters to Chris detailing what happened whilst he was missing. Jessie has a lot of guilt over events that have happened or conversations that were said during their relationship. As the book progresses, Jessie starts to pour out more details. Could it be that Chris was a victim of racial hate crime?

As we read through the story, we learn more about the people in Chris’s life. We learn more about what he is like as a person. Little snippets of information about him start to come through during Jessie’s interactions with others. At the start of the story, we don’t learn much from the detectives. It is not until he had been missing for longer that they started to take notice. This book really is difficult to categorise. Is it a love story? Is it a mystery? It really has a slice of both genres.

It was interesting to see how the author slipped in the possibility that it could be a racial hate crime after Chris had experienced some hate from others in the community. Chris is the only black baseball player in the town and had achieved a full scholarship which made him resented by other baseball players. Kim Purcell has been very clever with this book as she created so many possibilities for what had happened to Chris. It is revealed that he has suffered with mental health problems in the past, so when that is revealed, you wonder if he could have done something to himself.

This book really was a pleasure to read and whilst very sad in points, I thought it was beautifully written. I really enjoyed reading Jessie’s letters to Chris which became more and more intimate and touching as the story progressed. I felt like she began to know herself better and become closer to those around her.

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!

An unexpected beautiful read. I didn’t expect to enjoy this book so much!

Notes On A Nervous Planet

Notes on a Nervous Planet

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Previously reviewed by the same author:

Synopsis:

The world is messing with our minds.

Rates of stress and anxiety are rising. A fast, nervous planet is creating fast and nervous lives. We are more connected, yet feel more alone. And we are encouraged to worry about everything from world politics to our body mass index.

– How can we stay sane on a planet that makes us mad? 
– How do we stay human in a technological world?
– How do we feel happy when we are encouraged to be anxious?

After experiencing years of anxiety and panic attacks, these questions became urgent matters of life and death for Matt Haig. And he began to look for the link between what he felt and the world around him.

Notes on a Nervous Planet is a personal and vital look at how to feel happy, human and whole in the 21st century.

Thoughts:

I absolutely adored Reasons To Stay Alive. I thought it was such a raw, honest look at depression and anxiety from someone who truly knows how it feels. I thoroughly enjoyed Notes On A Nervous Planet which looks at how technology and the media is affecting our minds.

Notes On A Nervous Planet is an important book because it really explores how technology now can affect our mental health. Goodness knows social media isn’t all that it’s made out to be. We only see segments of people’s lives that they choose to share. Yet we still let ourselves be affected by what we see online. Matt Haig speaks openly and honestly about the dangers of technology and social media and how it has impacted his life.

I love how in both of his books he writes short, witty chapters. Within the pages there’s so much insight though. Matt Haig is a writer that really makes me think. I love the advice he gives as well on how to be happier today. He had some great tips that definitely made me stop, think and discuss with friends. Not many authors can do that.

Reading a Matt Haig non-fiction book makes me feel like I’m talking to a wise friend. I adore Matt’s writing style and his honesty. He honestly made me feel like this messy world could and should be a happier place.

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!

Whilst I preferred Reasons To Stay Alive, I still thought this book was incredible. Matt Haig writes such insightful things that really resonate with me.

The Midnights

The Midnights

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Synopsis:

Susannah Hayes has never been in the spotlight, but she dreams of following her father, a former rock star, onto the stage. As senior year begins, she’s more interested in composing impressive chord progressions than college essays, certain that if she writes the perfect song, her father might finally look up from the past long enough to see her. But when he dies unexpectedly her dreams—and her reality—shatter.

While Susannah struggles with grief, her mother uproots them to a new city. There, Susannah realizes she can reinvent herself however she wants: a confident singer-songwriter, member of a hip band, embraced by an effortlessly cool best friend. But Susannah is not the only one keeping secrets, and soon, harsh revelations threaten to unravel her life once again.

Thoughts:

On my quest to read more 2018 debut authors, I picked up The Midnights. I didn’t really know what to expect from this book. It’s a decent read although I did find it dragged in some places.

The Midnights centres around Susannah who lives at home with her mum and dad. She’s living a fairly normal life, working, going to school and jamming with her dad who used to be in a band. Susannah is a songwriter and wants to write an amazing song to impress her dad who she absolutely idolises. However, Susannah’s dad dies unexpectedly and Susannah finds her life being completely turned upside down. She has to move to Orange, to live with a grandmother she didn’t know she had. Susannah’s mum seems to be acting differently as well. Susannah feels pretty lost until she meets a girl who seems far too cool to be friends with her. Her new friend introduces Susannah to a band and life begins to change for her once more. Susannah realises she can reinvent herself, but soon secrets from the past start to unravel…

Susannah is an interesting character. I wanted to root for her and found her voice to be incredibly well written. I loved that she had such a strong connection to music and the ties it had with her father. Her relationship with her mother was complex. They were so up and down. I wasn’t overly convinced by some of the decisions Susannah made. I felt like there was a lot of resentment there because Susannah didn’t always understand her mother’s decisions. It was really interesting to see the relationship develop over time. It felt like a realistic relationship especially as they were both experiencing grief. Relationships are hard sometimes and I loved how that was portrayed in The Midnights. I adored Susannah’s grandmother and thought she helped Susannah to grow over the course of the story.

I did really enjoy how this story was full of music references, it was clear that it was a massive passion in Susannah and her father’s lives and I loved how that was the thing that bound them together.

Whilst this story did drag in places for me, for the main part I was super impressed with this book. It’s certainly a promising debut!

Would I recommend it?:
Yes! 3.5 stars!

I really enjoyed this debut novel! It’s a slow-burner but worth persevering with.

Banned Books #51- Taming The Star Runner

Welcome to this month’s edition of Banned Books. This month we read Taming The Star Runner by S.E. Hinton.

Taming the Star Runner

Taming The Star Runner by S.E. Hinton
First published: 1988
In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2002 (source)
Reasons: offensive language

Do you understand or agree with any of the reasons for the book being challenged when it was originally published?

BETH: As one of the older releases on our list this year, you might hope that opinions and prejudices about certain things in books diminish as we become more enlightened as a society. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. I think there are always going to be a group of individuals that are easily offended, over-protective of children’s sensitivities or sometimes, they just want something to complain about. There could be valid reasons for monitoring children’s reading, within reason, if they may be reading something a bit too adult for them and this is a decision parents and librarians can make but challenging/banning books for a silly reason? I don’t agree with that at all. Back in 1988, our use of profanity wasn’t that different from what it is right now so I don’t think the reason for challenging this book was the right one either back then or now.

CHRISSI: I really don’t understand the reasons why this book is banned. Offensive language? Hm. Yes, there is some bad language in the story, but nothing worse than children might hear on TV, from peers or even from parents. It wasn’t as if this book was written in a time where bad language wasn’t used as frequently as now. I actually thought it might have been the drug mention that tipped this one into a banned/challenged book, but I was wrong.

How about now?

BETH: The reasons for challenging/banning a book ALWAYS manage to surprise me and that’s one of the reasons why I don’t look at the reason until I’m writing this review so that I can try and guess what might be so offensive myself. In Taming The Star Runner, I thought – “Okay, they might have a problem with underage teenage drinking, the smoking and the incidence of violence in the novel.” Then I went to the website (link above) so certain I was right and saw one reason only – offensive language. I just can’t call this anymore, it’s far too unpredictable! As the book was challenged in 2002, which feels relatively recently in my eyes it’s obvious some people will pick on anything and have issues with the smallest things. I don’t remember any incidents of offensive language in this novel but if there was, I feel like it was very minor? Furthermore, I think this is a book aimed at the young adult market who would probably be hearing a lot worse language in everyday life than what they read in this book!

CHRISSI: I have to agree with Beth, there are far worse incidences of language in everyday life than in this book. It’s actually a bit of a joke for me, to know that this is challenged due to its language. Really?! Children/young adults here much worse than what was in this book. *sigh* I feel like most of the books that we read have ridiculous reasons for banning a book. I feel like we need to be more open minded and accepting that children/young adults are exposed to much worse things than in some of these challenged choices.

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: I enjoyed it for the most part. I thought it was an engaging story with an interesting male lead who was so broken at the start of the narrative that I was constantly compelled to read on, invested in his journey to become a writer and deal with his personal issues. I have to admit, I didn’t like the “horsey” bits as much but I think this is a personal preference, I’m not really a “horsey” girl. I feel like the story would have been just as good without the inclusion of Star Runner but I do understand why he was there, as the animal representation of Travis.

CHRISSI: I enjoyed this book much more than I thought I would. It didn’t take me long to read at all and I was interested enough in the story to keep turning the pages. Again, like Beth, I wasn’t keen on the horse elements of this story. I’m not a horse fan.

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: Probably!

CHRISSI: Yes!