Book Review: All The Ugly And Wonderful Things

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5star

Title: All The Ugly And Wonderful Things

Author: Bryn Greenwood

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Series? No

Goodreads

Book Depository // Amazon // Booktopia


All The Ugly and Wonderful Things is a book that hooks you in, creeps under your skin, and refuses to let go. Written with a poetic and quiet intensity, the characters of this novel will haunt your thoughts long after the last pages are turned. The book effortlessly provokes a reaction: whether it’s one of disgust or of sympathy. Yet, the emotions never feel manufactured or disingenuous despite the controversial nature of the book’s themes.

“I liked learning things. How numbers worked together to explain the stars. How molecules made the world. All the ugly and wonderful things people had done in the last two thousand years.”

alltheuglyandwonderfulthings

“That’s not the only thing love means. You just got your mind in the gutter.”

Wavy is a girl who grew up without love, told by her own mother that she’s dirty and repulsive. At the beginning of the book, we meet Wavy at the tender age of five, already irreversibly damaged by her psychological and physical abuse. She does not speak, does not allow people to touch her, and is physically unable to eat in front of others. As expected, Wavy has an inherent distrust for the adults she encounters – until she meets Kellen. Kellen, despite being a con man and labelled a ‘fat slob’, is the exception. He’s able to get through her walls and connect with Wavy in a way even her younger brother and grandmother (the other two significant people in Wavy’s life) could not.

“Odd couple that they were, they had a real connection. Then he tugged her boot off and kissed the bottom of her bare foot. I could see him doing that kind of thing to his own kid, but she wasn’t. She was somebody else’s little girl.”

The plot is classic lonely girl meets lonely boy – yet it’s turned on its head by the huge age gap between the two characters. Wavy meets 24 years-old Kellen when she is just 8 years-old.  It’s a gap that seems morally unbreakable, although Kellen signifies safety and belonging to Wavy, two concepts that were completely alien to both of them prior to their meeting. Their relationship is a way for them to find their own comfort and identity in the midst of their awful world. Yet, physically, Wavy and Kellen could not be more mismatched: the text reminds us time and again of Wavy’s waif-like appearance, in contrast to Kellen’s huge form and beer belly. Wavy and Kellen’s bond is no fairy tale romance– it’s messy, fraught with emotional baggage and trauma from their environment.

This book is a remarkable example of the classic writing advice: ‘show, don’t tell’. The reader is never left with a biased viewpoint of our protagonists. Instead, we view Wavy and Kellen’s relationship from a multitude of characters – some recurring, some present for barely half a chapter. The book never presume to tell its audience how to feel about the relationship between Wavy and Kellen. I was allowed to be disturbed as much as I was allowed to be moved. To the very end, I still cannot condone all of Kellen’s actions, both he and Wavy remains extremely flawed. There’s no glorifying of tragedy or romanticising of any circumstances. Bryn Greenwood’s writing unflinchingly explores the ugly places, whether it’s base desires or unpleasant physical descriptors. It’s uncomfortable, it’s confronting, and it will make you question your own moral compass and societal values a thousand times over.

“You can look up the word keening in the dictionary, but you don’t know what it means until you hear somebody having her heart ripped out.”

I can’t quite believe this is Bryn Greenwood’s debut novel, her writing is polished yet evocative. Despite the limited vocabulary of some of her point of view characters, she manages to write some achingly beautiful paragraphs – which just goes to show that SAT words are not everything. The book is captivating, it absorbed and wholly absorbed me until the very end. Although I have only read this one book, I can already tell her stuff will go onto my auto-buy list because this sort of writing is what I live for.

As promised by the title of the novel, the story within is features events that will trigger revulsion – but not necessarily in the manner you would expect. Personally, it was the society around Wavy and Kellen that made me feel the most disgust. It’s a novel completely removed from the white fence, suburban homes – hence, it’s a story that’s completely distant from my own experiences. Its content are at once brutal and beautiful, and it will leave me reflecting and conflicted on the nature of humanity for a long while.

This book does come with a long list of triggers, so please note these before deciding whether you want to read it. Trigger Warnings: child abuse, domestic abuse, implied sexual abuse, drug use, alcoholism, eating disorder.


I am very curious on the thoughts everyone will have upon completing this book, so if you have read it, please come discuss it with me below!

Book Review: This Is Where The World Ends

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Title: This Is Where The World Ends

Author: Amy Zhang

Rating: 3/5 stars

Series? No

Goodreads

Book Depository


This Is Where The World Ends is filled with beautiful and haunting writing. Part teenage love story, part whodunnit mystery – it’s enthralling and engaging. However, the characters and relationship fell a little flat for me, robbing the book of its full impact.

Everything ends. This is obvious. This is the easy part. This is what I believe in: the inevitable, the catastrophe, the apocalypse.

This-Is-Where-The-World-Ends

Once upon a time, there was twelve princesses. No, wait. There was only one princess, and one prince. They snuck out of the house at night and danced in the moonlight.

Firstly, I would like to say that Amy Zhang can write. I found out that she’s currently in her teens – which is at once astonishing and thrilling, as I can’t wait to read what she pens next. Her proses are simple yet lyrical, cutting you right to the bone with each sentence. With This Is Where The World Ends, Zhang also employs imageries wonderfully – alluding to both fairy tales and apocalypses with poetic ease. Although the book is realistic fiction and strictly confines itself to the contemporary world – the whimsical nature of the writing pushes past these boundaries. At times, it felt like I was reading magical realism, which is one of my favourite genres!

They press and press information, but my brain is liquid. The touch the surface and it ripples and then it goes blank again.

The set up of the plot is also endlessly intriguing. I devoured this book in about two hours in my eagerness to get to the bottom of its mystery. It alternates between two point of views and timeline. Firstly: Micah’s present narrative: desperate to piece together the night of the fire – although his mind has been hopelessly altered by the event. Secondly: Janie’s everyday girl musings of the events leading up to the incident. We also get glimpses of Janie’s fairy tale journal – complete with intricate Skarpie (it’s cheaper than Sharpier!) doodles – and a perfect echo of her chaotic, imaginative and inimitable soul. It was a great analogy for the events in her life – and by the time you finish this book, you’ll understand that metaphors are everything to Janie.

She always kept a marker and a match and at least five rocks in her pocket: the marker to write, the match to wish and burn, and the rock to keep her grounded.

While it should be quite obvious that I was smitten by the writing and the structure of the narrative, the book falters when it comes to characterisation. I truly struggled to relate to Janie – she was a dichotomy: part manic pixie dream girl, part spoilt rich kid caricature. Janie believes in fire and permanent markers and solid rock. Janie believes in art and self-expression. Janie believes that Micah is her soulmate. Yet, Janie is also trapped in the makings of societal expectations. She dates popular jocks and hangs out in what self-stylised ‘convenient friendships’. She refuses to acknowledge Micah’s existence at school. She lives according to the very rules that she despises. Small acts of rebellion aside, Janie was quite the hypocrite. Of course, that was the point and the tragedy of it all – but I just did not find her endearing. I felt that we needed to get into her head space a little more – as I was never truly invested.

She said that we shared a soul. What does that mean? She said that we were an atom. I don’t know, Dewey. I think she’s crazy.

Then there’s Micah, who’s passive personality grates me to no end. He simultaneously assumed to role of childhood love, soulmate, and nice guy – always there for Janie but never having his love reciprocated fully. All he gets are stolen moments in the dead of the night, as they played at being Justice around town. Micah constantly allowed himself to be manipulated by Janie – every time he seems to be free from her influences, he slips right back in. It’s an uncomfortable, almost abusive relationship – with Micah being equally at complicit. He lacked his own identity and was constantly being moulded and lead by Janie.

No one is going to believe me.
No one is going to help because no one is going to listen, because he told his story first and he told it better.

However, just as the book is meandering on about what seems to surmount to a teenage love triangle – the book sucker punches you with its main theme: probably readily apparent to anyone who has looked at the cover in detail. Janie’s tragedy is not confined to an identity crisis or her selfishness – she also becomes a  victim of slut shaming and sexual assault. The book offers no easy way out and solution, instead – we are faced with the full brunt of the ugliest side to high school bullying. It’s difficult and uncomfortable, it gets under your skin. Needless to say, the book is not one for the faint-hearted.

Despite the book’s heavy issues and grand mystery – my conflicting feelings regarding characterisation and relationships meant that I was robbed of the book’s climactic impact. I have the sneaking suspicion the book wanted me at some corner in foetal position by its conclusion – instead, I was dry-eyed and felt somewhat cheated of my emotional catharsis. This book could have been so much more, I wanted it to be so much more!


Aside from my issues with characterisation – I think this is one beautifully written novel. As the issues and character dynamics the novel deal with is so extreme, I think you’ll have to check this one out yourself before passing your verdict.

Blog Tour: The Girl Who Fell + Giveaway + iPhone WallPaper

blog tour banner - the girl who fell

cover - the girl who fell

Book Detail: 

Release Date: March 1st 2016
Publisher: Simon & Schuster/Simon Pulse

Synopsis:

His obsession.
Her fall.
High school senior Zephyr Doyle is swept off her feet—and into an intense relationship—by the new boy in school.
Zephyr is focused. Focused on leading her team to the field hockey state championship and leaving her small town for her dream school, Boston College.
But love has a way of changing things.
Enter the new boy in school: the hockey team’s starting goaltender, Alec. He’s cute, charming, and most important, Alec doesn’t judge Zephyr. He understands her fears and insecurities—he even shares them. Soon, their relationship becomes something bigger than Zephyr, something she can’t control, something she doesn’t want to control.
Zephyr swears it must be love. Because love is powerful, and overwhelming, and…terrifying?
But love shouldn’t make you abandon your dreams, or push your friends away. And love shouldn’t make you feel guilty—or worse, ashamed.
So when Zephyr finally begins to see Alec for who he really is, she knows it’s time to take back control of her life.
If she waits any longer, it may be too late.

Pre-order Links:  Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Book DepositoryKobo


This book was exciting in the ways it challenged our expectations and preconception about the YA genre. I feel privileged to be part of the blog tour. I want to share with you how this book turned tropes around on its head – as well as give you two book-inspired iPhone wallpapers to take away!

5 Ways THE GIRL WHO FELL Destroyed YA Tropes

1.  The Side Characters’ Lives Doesn’t Revolve Around The Protagonist

It’s so often the case in YA that many side characters lose their agency, only fulfilling their purpose in the plot as either a dispenser of advice, or a motivation for the protagonist. We hardly glimpse at their own ambitions and plans. Their only goal seem to be servicing the main character in their story.

Zephyr’s best friend, Lizzie, defies this role. Yes, she’s an excellent friend who dispenses many warnings and advice, always steadfast and loyal. But she also has her own life outside: working towards her goal in becoming a journalist, and dealing with her own long distance relationship. Similarly, Gregg has his own group of friends and his own agency. They both love her, but they also love themselves – and that note made the book all the more authentic. Continue reading “Blog Tour: The Girl Who Fell + Giveaway + iPhone WallPaper”

Diverse Young Adult Book Club

DiverseYA

One of my 2016 resolutions is to read more diversely! Despite my best effort, my mood reading meant that I missed out on a lot of great diverse titles last year. I asked around on twitter, and it seems people were interested in a monthly book club – so here’s how to join in!

DiverseYABC-About

#DiverseYABC is a monthly twitter based book club focusing on titles of diversity: whether it be LGBTQIA, race, gender, ethnic, or cultural. Follow the hashtag and join in on tweeting their photos, thoughts and opinion on the current month’s title. There will be a 1 hour chat at the end of each month dedicated to the discussion of the month’s title and good old socialising.

DiverseYABC-How

Anyone with a twitter account can join by following the #DiverseYABC hashtag. Hop on it and use the hashtag to start chatting about the current title, or suggestion for future book club titles.

Bloggers can also add their review of the January title to the link up below!

DiverseYA-Title

The current title for January is Simon VS The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Abertalli – this was decided by 155 votes over Twitter polls.

DiverseYABC-Twitter

Even if you have read the book, you can still join in the discussion at the end of the month! In fact, I beg you to join us!!

Twitter Chat Date:  Sunday 31st January, 1PM AEDT. Tentative, I noticed this is when most of the bookchats (that I’m awake for!) occur on twitter.

DiverseYABC-Link

Add your review, discussion, graphics, opinion piece, whatever have you – to the linkup below!

Book Review: Night Owls

3star
Title: Night Owls (US Title: The Anatomical Shape Of A Heart)

Author: Jenn Bennet

Series? No

Rating: 3/5

Goodreads

Book Depository


I received a copy of this book from Simon & Schuster Australia in exchange for an honest review.

My opinion of this book changed several times during the read. I alternated between thinking it was adorable and wanting to shake some sense into the characters. Ultimately, the ending of Night Owls placed firm importance on family and love, which means I parted with the book on a happy note.

Book-Review-Night-Owls

I prefer the UK cover, but I like the US title better. I AM TORN.

NightOwlsLikedThe focus on arts!

You’re no HB. You’re like ten Prismacolours all at once.

Jenn Bennett mentioned in the author’s note that she wanted to celebrate artists: not just the ones in museums and galleries – but every day people and their attempts at self expressions. Both our protagonists are very much defined by their passion for art – with Bex exploring human anatomy, while Jack practices beautiful yet illegal street art. I enjoyed that they both had an identity outside their mutual attraction, and that they found a kindred spirit in one another.
Continue reading “Book Review: Night Owls”

Book Review: Maybe Someday

Maybe Someday Colleen Hoover

3star

Title: Maybe Someday

Author: Colleen Hoover

Rating: 3/5 stars

Series? No

Goodreads

Book Depository


I was in the mood for a quick romance, and having heard so many great things about Colleen Hoover, I decided to check this out. While I did enjoy it for the most part, the plot revolves around a lot of cheating which is a big NO in my book. I am so conflicted about this!

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Book-Review-Maybe-Someday-Pro

1. A Connection Deeper Than Words

“There isn’t a doubt in my mind that we could be perfect for each other’s life, Sydney. It’s our lives that aren’t perfect for us.”

Barring the whole uncomfortable cheating thing aside, I did think the relationship between Sydney and Ridge were well written. I could feel their physical attraction, and even their deeper bond. I enjoyed seeing their mutual passion for his music. Ridge is also deaf, and it was interesting to see how he coped with it, along with glimpsing at how Sydney made him yearn for more. They did have very good chemistry, if it weren’t for the tiny little fact that Rhys had a completely awesome girlfriend in Maggie, I think I would have enjoyed this pairing.  However, my knee jerk reaction to his infidelity meant I could never fully immerse in this story. Continue reading “Book Review: Maybe Someday”

Book Review: The Rest of Us Just Live Here

5star

The Rest of Us Just Lives Here by Patrick Ness

Title: The Rest of Us Just Live Here

Author: Patrick Ness

Rating: 5/5 stars

Series? No.

Goodreads

Book Depository


Fact:  I will systematically read everything Patrick Ness writes because he owns a piece of my heart.

Fact:  I am always afraid that my next Patrick Ness book will disappoint me, because how could ANYONE wow fickle old me consistently?

Fact: Patrick Ness delivers once more with The Rest Of Us Just Lives Here. A book largely devoided of magic and grandeur, but so completely audacious and heartbreaking and magical anyway.

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IT POKES A LITTLE FUN AT THE YA GENRE

One of them showed me a poem about how we’re all essentially alone. As if they’re not the biggest clique of togetherness there ever was.

Each chapter in the book begins with a flash to the indie kid’s storyline – you know the ones: Destined (with a capital D) for larger than life stories: they hunt down vampires and deities and immortals, saving the world and dying in the process. The book points out how laughably mundane and predictable their crazy lives are: from their supernatural lover to the constant betrayals that rock their world. In fact, the indie kids and their lives are so predictable that they’ve repeated the same story for generations in this town. Even their quirky names such as Finn or Satchel are laughably monotonous. Continue reading “Book Review: The Rest of Us Just Live Here”

Book Review: More Happy Than Not

More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera

5star

Title: More Happy Than Not

Author: Adam Silvera

Rating: 5/5 stars

Series? No

Goodreads

Book Depository


This movie is total bullshit. It’s supposed to be funny and the only thing I’m laughing at is how the studio managed to disguise an uncomfortably dark movie as a summer comedy.

Rashika recommended this book, because she is
feasts on the tears of innocents.  Do not let the title fool you, this book will eat your happiness for breakfast and you’ll be crawling back wanting more. This review is going to be really hard for me to write because I’m still a puddle of feels, so please excuse my belligerent ramblings.

Review-More-Happy-Than-Not

This chart is the work of a madman who wants his happy ending; I should imitate his insanity.

In a lot of ways, More Happy Than Not is focused on the pursuit of happiness in a devastatingly indifferent and cruel world. We meet Aaron Soto, a teenager living in the Bronx who’s struggling with the suicide of his father and his family’s poverty.  Though we get told that Aaron has had his own brush with suicidal thoughts, for the most parts, he tries to live his life positively.  He has a supportive and loving girlfriend in Genevieve, their relationship is wonderful and will make you smile.  He has a group of long time friends, and while they’re not entirely trustworthy, they are ready company. He also has his mother and brother, though their presence is peripheral for most of the book,  Aaron lives day by day, striving for contentment and mostly satisfies himself with thoughts of Genevieve.  Then comes Thomas, a bright spark of a boy who lives life on his own terms.  Their meeting turns this book and its plot on its head.

This is how Thomas lives his life, one misfired dream after the other. That journey may stretch for a lifetime, but even if he doesn’t discover that spark until he’s an old man, Thomas will die with wrinkles he earned and a smile on his face.

It’s little wonder that Aaron was drawn to Thomas from the get-go. For someone who’s been learning how to be happy, Thomas’s no-nonsense approach to life must have shone like one of those mating fireflies Genevieve spoke about.  Thomas tells thing as it is, and while he has a slightly flakey approach to life, he never compromises on his own satisfaction. Aaron, who struggles to please everyone and anyone around him, could have learned a few lessons from Thomas.  As the two begins to spend more time together, we see a beautiful friendship fleshing out.  I came to love both of these characters for their complexities and all the layers in their interactions.  I really enjoyed seeing Aaron slowly coming to terms with his feelings and facing decisions that would dictate his future happiness front on.  Is happiness achieved by pursuing your own desires? Or is it in playing out the perfect life as your family and friends have imagined it?  Why is happiness so damn difficult and elusive anyway? I love the questions that Aaron and Thomas’s relationship started to pose, I also loved the realistic portrayal of this relationship and the implications of Aaron’s sexuality.

“I’m the liar, not him. I lied to Genevieve, to my friends, to everyone. But I’ve pushed my limit and here’s the truth: this is the most painfully confusing time in life and he’s the first person who said all the right words to me and reminds me of the first days of summer where you leave home without jacket, and my favorite songs playing over and over.

Another thing the book confronts is the lies we tell each other and ourselves. The lies about how some things are not worth remembering. The lies about science overruling nature.  Adam Silvera ingeniously incorporated these themes into the book with a slight science fiction twist.  In this universe, you can undergo the Leteo procedure, a memory modification that could wipe out anything that could make a charmed and happy life difficult:  cheating partners, dead siblings, ex-lovers, lost children, and the heavy weight of guilt.  The book questions whether you can really escape your identity, and whether you’ll be truly better off without all the ‘rough edges’ in your life.  It never gives you a clear answer either way, but that’s what makes it so beautiful (AND FRUSTRATING, AND TEARS *SOBS*)


I apologise for this incredibly vague review, but I think it’s one of those books that’s best enjoyed with as little information as possible.  Just dive in blind, bring along some tissues, and come back to commiserate in misery and awe and love with me when you are done.

Seriously one of the best contemporary books I have read, ever. I am still thinking about it, an entire week after reading the last page.  It had amazing characters that makes you weep, beautiful writing, and it confronts oft-seen topics in a fresh and complex way.  READ IT.

Book Review: The Accident Season

The Accident Season

5star

Title:  The Accident Season

Author:  Moira Fowley-Doyle

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Series? No

Goodreads

Book Depository


The Accident Season was a bit of a surprise for me, I didn’t expect it to bowl me over and delight me in EVERY way possible. I eagerly read every beautiful, haunting sentence. I craved its slight dark and off-kilter spin on reality. I laughed, cried, and loved along with all of the main characters. It’s a story about a family curse, with a big fat highlight on the family, identity, and the memories which define us.
Review-The-Accident-Season

It’s the accident season, the same time every year. Bones break, skin tears, bruises bloom.

Every October, Cara and the rest of her family suffers through the inexplicable accident season. Around every corner, tragedies of every size awaits them: from the little, such as a landslide of hardbacks (being a book worm is, as you are all aware, a deceptively dangerous hobby) – to the large, such as the passing of their beloved uncle, Seth. This year, Cara also discovers that Elsie, a childhood friend she has lost touch with, lurks in the background of all her photos. The mystery that is the Accident Season and Elsie seem intrinsically linked, and this book follow our protagonist as they unravel the truth. Continue reading “Book Review: The Accident Season”

Book Review: Risk

3star

Title: Risk

Author: Fleur Ferris

Series? No

Rating: 3 stars

Goodreads

Book World


Twitter has a way of making me read books I would normally never pick up, I just really like participating in twitter chats!  When I heard that the newly established #bookclubaus’s August pick was Risk, I went to purchase a copy promptly.  While I really appreciated the main message in the book and ultimately found it emotionally tight, I did have a couple of problems as well.

At first, Risk starts out unnervingly like a typical high school drama – and while I love watching Mean Girls – my tolerance for this type of fiction is low in my old age.  Thankfully, the frenemy plot soon got left behind and Risk started to confront larger issues.  Risk mainly looks into the danger of catfishing and victims of internet dating scams.

Review-Risk

PLOT

Taylor and Sierra are best friends from childhood, they love one another, though Taylor can’t help feeling that Sierra’s life is too charmed, too perfect.  They were both approached by a charming guy on a chatroom, though he ultimately chooses to take Sierra out on a date, leaving Taylor envious and hurt.  However, the story takes a dark twist when Sierra does not return from her date.

There is nothing but overwhelming waves of grief wedged between periods of disbelief and numbness…

Continue reading “Book Review: Risk”