Category Archives: Contemporary

Blog Tour: Save the Date by Morgan Matson

Save the Date by Morgan Matson

Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: 1 July, 2018
Australian RRP: $17.99

Charlie Grant tries to keep her life as normal as possible. Hanging out with her best friend, pining for Jesse Foster – who she’s loved since she was twelve – and generally flying under the radar as much as she can.

But sometimes normal is just another word for stuck, and this weekend that’s all going to change. Not only will everyone be back home for her sister’s wedding, but she’s also juggling:

– a rented dog that just won’t stop howling
– an unexpectedly hot wedding-coordinator’s nephew
– her favourite brother bringing home his HORRIBLE new girlfriend
– fear that her parents’ marriage is falling apart
– and the return to town of the boy she’s loved practically all her life…

Over the course of four days Charlie will learn there’s so much more to each member of her family than she imagined, even herself, and that maybe letting go of the things she’s been holding on tightest to can help her find what really keeps them together.

Purchase Links: booktopia boomerang  | dymocks  | iBooks  |  QBD  | google

My Blurb (4/5 stars)

Things are changing but Charlie Grant doesn’t want them to. Her parents are selling the house she’s always lived in. She’s about to head to college though she’s yet made her choice. And her sister is getting married. This Weekend! She is, however, looking forward to having all her family members together. She absolutely adores her family and always seek their company. This weekend is not about to go smoothly for her though despite her high hopes.

This novel is told purely from the perspective of Charlie Grant so we only find things out as she does and/or as she thought of them. She is definitely an identifiable protagonist; we all cling to things we love. And the Grant family sounds positively the place you’d want to be in. However, nothing is perfect. There were signs, right from the start, that things weren’t going quite the way Charlie thinks they are.

I love this story of the Grant family and the dynamics of Charlie’s relationships to the people around her. I adore the comic strips that began each part of the story. It is certainly no wonder why Charlie loves her family so much to the extent of neglecting her best friend. It’s a story of a wonderful family; being wonderful does not mean perfect.

Save the Date is a heart-warming coming-of-age story where the protagonist came to the realisation that whilst seasons change and some things ended, there are wonderfully new beginnings to start and things to explore. As she reaches adulthood, relationships may shift but her family will always be there for her. Save the Date is a light & easy read with a dash of humour and where love sparkles brightest of all.

Thanks to Simon & Schuster for copy of book in exchange of honest review. And thanks, AusYABloggers for organising the tour.

Find all the other stops (there are chances to win copies at some stops) by following the Tour Schedule 

About the author

Morgan Matson is a New York Times bestselling author. She received her MFA in writing for children from the New School and was named a Publishers Weekly Flying Start author for her first book, Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour, which was also recognized as an ALA Top Ten Best Book for Young Adults. Her second book, Second Chance Summer, won the California State Book Award. She lives in Los Angeles.

Find her on: goodreads  |  website  | twitter  | instagram

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Review: Rainbirds by Clarissa Goenawan

Rainbirds by Clarissa Goenawan

Clarissa Goenawan’s dark, spellbinding literary debut opens with a murder and shines a spotlight onto life in fictional small-town Japan.

Ren Ishida is nearly finished with graduate school when he receives news of his sister Keiko’s sudden death. She was viciously stabbed one rainy night on her way home, and there are no leads. Ren heads to Akakawa to conclude his sister’s affairs, still failing to understand why she chose to abandon the family and Tokyo for this desolate town years ago.

But Ren soon finds himself picking up where Keiko left off, accepting both her teaching position at a local cram school and the bizarre arrangement of free lodging at a wealthy politician’s mansion in exchange for reading to the man’s catatonic wife.

As he comes to know the figures in Akakawa, from the enigmatic politician to his fellow teachers and a rebellious, alluring student named Rio, Ren delves into his shared childhood with Keiko and what followed, trying to piece together what happened the night of her death. Haunted in his dreams by a young girl who is desperately trying to tell him something, Ren struggles to find solace in the void his sister has left behind.

My Blurb (3 stars)

Judging by the book’s blurb alone, it is doubtful that I’d have picked it up. Judging by the cover, I would have definitely added it to my TBR but who knows when I’d have read it. However, a quick look at the author’s Indonesian surname clinched it. If you don’t already know, I was born & grew up in Indonesia. On the other hand, this may be a bad thing cuz you know you expect a lot from your own countrymen or women (or maybe that’s just me…).

I thought it was a little bit iffy that the book is fully Japanese (set in Japan with Japanese MC, etc). Then again, as we grew up (in Indonesia) obsessed with everything Japan (their mangas, dramas, etc), it’s really not a strange choice at all. I am a big fan of Japanese lit myself… I’ve read my share of mangas, watched J-dramas, & read a number of novels too. From all this, I’d say that Clarissa Goenawan has made a fair representation of Japanese style of living. I wonder though what Japanese people actually think…?

In essence, I do feel that this book is quite Japanese. The strange dreams (Haruki Murakami, anyone?) and relationships (brother-sister, teacher-student, etc). I loved Murakami’s books so I didn’t mind the dreams and in a way, maybe this author seeks to emulate him? And those relationships… well… I’ve seen them in mangas (especially ones for mature audiences) but I’m so glad that there were lines that were not crossed in this book.

The story is being told from the sole perspective of Ren Ishida who came to the town of Akakawa because his sister has been murdered. At the beginning, he just appears to be lost and aimless… in his grief, he drifted and some things just kind of fell on his lap. I don’t feel like he actively tried to investigate his sister’s murder so I don’t see this novel as the usual who-dun-it. He was driven more by his dreams to find something of which he wasn’t quite sure what. Will the truth destroy him or set him free?

“Sadness alone can’t harm anyone. It’s what you do when you’re sad that can hurt you and those around you.”

The reading was easy and quite enjoyable. There were some parts which I thought were kinda stilted but not many. I loved the little town with its gothic-esque feel. The MC, Ren, was easy on the eye & developed to grow easy on the heart too. If you like everything Japanese, you may enjoy this easy fare (in comparison to Japanese works that is).

About the author

Clarissa Goenawan is an Indonesian-born Singaporean writer. Her debut novel, Rainbirds, is the winner of the 2015 Bath Novel Award. Her short stories have won several awards and been published in various literary magazines and anthologies, such as The MacGuffin, Your Impossible Voice, Esquire, Monsoon Book, Writing The City, Needle in the Hay,
and many others. She loves rainy days, pretty books, and hot green tea.

 

Find Clarissa on:  website  |  goodreads  |  instagram  | twitter  |  facebook

Review: Jenna’s Truth by Nadia L. King

Jenna’s Truth by Nadia L. King

Jenna’s just a teenager who wants to fit in. The popularity that she wanted though, quickly turns into infamy when two “well-meaning” friends spark a controversy that alters her life forever. What happens when the popular kids are responsible for one of the most painful and humiliating events in your life?

Inspired by Amanda Todd’s tragic story of bullying, Jenna’s Truth is more than just teen short story – it’s a lesson in empathy, self-awareness, and speaking out about what matters.

Jenna’s Truth is a gripping story, which explores the themes of cyberbullying, teen drinking, sex, and suicide.

Life is not black and white, and sometimes teens can be the most insensitive people.

Buy Links: Booktopia  |  B&N  |  Boffins Books  |  foyles  |  Serenity Press

My Blurb (3.5 stars)

When Nadia first approached me for a review, my first reaction was I can’t possibly handle this story; it sounds like a very tough read (ie. triggery, traumatising, etc). However, I wanted to support, not only an Aussie author, but also this very important issue for which we need to tackle thoroughly.

Jenna’s Truth is a very short story and despite the hard topic, also quite simplistic. Keeping in mind that it was originally written for “a publisher specialising in books for children with language and literacy difficulties”, this revised edition is still very much accessible for teens who do not find reading particularly enjoyable and yet get the message across. If I managed to read this story in less than 30 minutes; this story is do-able for a lesson (note for teachers: teachers guide included!).

While Jenna’s story is tragic and some readers may find it to be full of triggers, I didn’t find it to be that bad. I actually thought that it could have been a lot worse! I’m not saying that some bullying isn’t that bad. I’m saying that this story isn’t as graphic as some other books I’ve read so was therefore within my comfort zone. Nothing feels much worst than being bullied but this story does share that there is hope… but sometimes, you need to seek some help.

A rather straight-forward story, Jenna’s Truth informs all readers that bullying is NOT acceptable, help is available, and consequences are dire.

Thanks to the author for an e-copy of this novella; review is my own honest thought.

About the author

Australian author, Nadia L King, was born in Dublin, Ireland. Nadia is a YA author and short story writer.  She is passionate about using stories to connect with teens. Nadia is a particularly hopeless horse rider but she enjoyed that one time she rode an ostrich. She also loves riding camels, and hopes to one day ride an elephant.  Nadia lives in Western Australia with her family. 

Find Elizabeth on: goodreads  |  website  | twitter  |  facebook  | instagram

Come back tomorrow for Q&A with Nadia! 😀

Blog Tour: Differently Normal by Tammy Robinson

Differently Normal by Tammy Robinson

Heartbreaking and heartwarming in equal measure, DIFFERENTLY NORMAL is about first love and the sacrifices you’ll make for the ones you hold close. For fans of Nicholas Sparks and Jojo Moyes.

For Maddy, life is all about routine. It has to be, to keep her autistic sister happy and healthy. With just Maddy and her mother as Bee’s full-time carers, there’s no time in Maddy’s life for complications like friends, let alone a boyfriend. So when Bee joins a new Riding for the Disabled stable and they meet Albert, the last thing on Maddy’s mind is falling in love.

Some things, she’s about to learn, are outside of our control. Albert has resigned himself to always being a disappointment to his strict father. When he meets Maddy, he gets a glimpse of what being part of a family can be like, and of the tremendous sacrifices that people will make for the ones that they love.

DIFFERENTLY NORMAL is a heart-wrenching tale of love and loss, because sometimes it takes letting someone else in to discover who you really are . . .

‘A funny and poignant tale about first love. Tammy Robinson is a natural storyteller.’ Nicky Pellegrino

Purchase links:  booktopia (AU)  | Dymocks (AU)  whitcoulls (NZ)  | Kobo  | iBooks  | Google Play

My Blurb (3.5/5 stars)

What really piqued my interest in this book is the New Zealand author & setting. I’ve not read many of those; I could probably count them on 1 hand. The next factor of interest is the main character’s responsibility as a carer for her autistic sister. She sounds amazingly strong, generous, and loving. I’m not sure if I could be like that…

Unless someone has someone else who is so dependent on them for everything like my sister is on me, they can’t understand. They might think they do, but they don’t. Everything I do, every single decision I make, has to be weighed up carefully to decide how it will affect my sister. I have to consider things we may encounter that will upset her….There are a million things that will either make sister happy or upset, and only two people in this whole world who know what those things are. It’s a heavy responsibility.

There are 2 perspectives in this novel; Maddy’s & Albert’s. Both of their families are dysfunctional in different ways and whilst Maddy is too busy for love, Albert never thought he’d ever recover from his heartbreak. And then, they met. It was touch & go but they were obviously made for each other. Albert’s dreams of his future takes him far from home whilst Maddy’s commitment to her sister meant she might never leave home. Some sacrifices are needed, a compromise required; will they be able to work this out?

Differently Normal is such a cute heart-warming read. The romance is pretty goofy especially at the beginning and I loved it to bits. I’m pretty embarrassed that I’ve probably snorted a bit on my train commute and kept finding myself grinning at Albert’s & Maddy’s antics. It’s a beautiful romance! Of course, a spanner was then thrown into the works and I am rather upset at this turnaround in the story. I feel that there needs to be a ‘spanner in the works’ but I don’t feel that this is the one; I just feel that the story’s sparkle dimmed and the weave loosened to become a rather frayed ending.

Nevertheless, Differently Normal turns out to be a comfort read; a light humour with a bit of teary mess near the end. It’s perfect for me-time at the end of a very long & hard day as spending time with this adorable couple will definitely loosen you up.

Thanks to Hachette Australia for copy of book in exchange of honest review. 

 

About the author

Tammy Robinson is a contemporary women’s fiction author from the Bay of Plenty, New Zealand. After years spent working her way round the world, Tammy settled back in New Zealand with her husband, their two girls and a newborn baby boy. She has published six novels through Amazon, and DIFFERENTLY NORMAL was her first novel with Hachette New Zealand. She is currently working on PHOTOS OF YOU, which Hachette will publish in 2019.

Find her on: goodreads  |  twitter  | facebook  | instagram

Blog Tour: Goodbye, Perfect by Sara Barnard + Giveaway

Goodbye, Perfect by Sara Barnard

When I was wild, you were steady . . .
Now you are wild – what am I?

Eden McKinley knows she can’t count on much in this world, but she can depend on Bonnie, her solid, steady, straight-A best friend. So it’s a bit of a surprise when Bonnie runs away with the boyfriend Eden knows nothing about five days before the start of their GCSEs. Especially when the police arrive on her doorstep and Eden finds out that the boyfriend is actually their music teacher, Mr Cohn.

Sworn to secrecy and bound by loyalty, only Eden knows Bonnie’s location, and that’s the way it has to stay. There’s no way she’s betraying her best friend. Not even when she’s faced with police questioning, suspicious parents and her own growing doubts.

As the days pass and things begin to unravel, Eden is forced to question everything she thought she knew about the world, her best friend and herself.

My Blurb (4 stars)

Did I have a crush on a teacher? Sure, I did. I’ve probably done some silly things too, not that I can remember any of them now but knowing my naivety, I probably would have had though it would be nothing sexual. It’s incumbent on the teachers to act the adult and respect boundaries (enforce it, even). But what’s the right thing to do when it’s your best friend who’s embroiled in this? Do you keep your loyalties to her or spill the beans to the adults as surely it’s better for your friend?

There is never an easy answer. I value loyalty as highly as Eden did in this book so despite my adult common sense clamouring for Eden just spill the beans, my heart approved of her sense of loyalty. I know I’m ready contemporary YA and not any espionage thriller novel but still… didn’t they think that their phone will be tracked and/or tapped? Errr… that part sort of didn’t gel with me. There wasn’t even a hint of such thought going through Eden’s or Bonnie’s minds whilst that was one of the first things I thought of.

As a mother, I do worry that my sons may become involved in this issue one day so I’m glad that there is a book I can get them to read! This is a very pertinent issue that we all need to be aware of and the reasons why they are wrong and illegal. I believe this book is empowering, not only in its subject matter, but also just in being a teen. Eden is an admirably balanced & mature girl despite or is it in spite of her troubles.

Goodbye, Perfect is very easy on the eyes and can be read fairly quickly. It’s a great discussion starter and I’d recommend for the mums & daughters to take the chance and read together.

Thanks to Pan Macmillan Australia for copy of book in exchange of honest review. 

GIVEAWAY

Courtesy of Pan Macmillan Australia, 1 paperback copy of Goodbye, Perfect is up for grabs! To enter, simple leave a comment with what book you are currently reading and include a random sentence/short paragraph from it. I will draw the winner on the evening of Sunday, 4th March.

Please note this giveaway is limited to ANZ residents only.

About the author

Sara lives in Brighton and does all her best writing on trains. She loves books, book people and book things. She has been writing ever since she was too small to reach the “on” switch on the family Amstrad computer. She gets her love of words from her dad, who made sure she always had books to read and introduced her to the wonders of secondhand book shops at a young age.

Sara is trying to visit every country in Europe, and has managed to reach 13 with her best friend. She has also lived in Canada and worked in India.

Find her on: goodreads  |  website  | twitter

Review: If I Tell You by Alicia Tuckerman

If I Tell You by Alicia Tuckerman

‘The second our eyes lock in the dark is all the time I need to know that whatever happens next, my life will never be the same.’

Life and love don’t wait until you’re ready, but what if finding yourself means losing everything you’ve ever known?

Seventeen-year-old Alex Summers lives with a secret and the constant fear someone will find out. But when a new family moves to town, they bring with them their teenage daughter Phoenix Stone. When Alex falls for Phoenix, there is no warning. In a small town with small minds, girls don’t go out with other girls, even if they want to.

In fear there is bravery – you can either cling to the edge or have the courage to jump. But what do you do when you’re left spiralling through the freefall?

This is a heart-wrenching story of love in an unloving Australian landscape.

My Blurb (5 stars)

Truthfully, I didn’t know what to expect from this book. I don’t read many LGBT books though not because I purposely avoid them but more that they’re not particularly books I usually come across without having to research or specifically look for. I’ve done a lot of reading challenges so it’s come up a few times and I would usually have to really look for them. In addition, If I Tell You, is geared towards young adult… there are even less LGBT/YA books.

Alex Summers is an easily likeable character. She has dreams and wishes for her wedding day though there is one particular details which would differ from what her mother would’ve dreamed or planned. This is a secret Alex has kept from everyone. When Phoenix Stone arrived in town though, she was a temptation Alex cannot resist.

If I Tell You is told solely from Alex’s perspective and from it, I must say that it’s a pretty UN-likeable town (and I’m being nice here!) despite her supportive friends (I adore Lin!). I think Lin is the bright shining star in this book for me and that’s because I could identify with her better being Asian in ancestry. Which makes me think that Alex may be the bright shining star for those who have been and/or are experiencing the same sort of situation. How can you be happy when you can’t be yourself?

I was caught by story from the very first sentence. And I just couldn’t put the book down. I love that it’s very Aussie in setting & feel though I don’t know if I actually want to visit this town; it’s more of a homey sort of feeling that I’m sure we can all identify with. I cannot condone the behaviours of some of the people especially the mother. As a mother of 2 young children, I feel conflicted; I wanted to know further the reason for her reaction as I can think of dozens!

Writing this review is very hard for me. I feel like I am also treading a fine line as I may accidentally have written something which sounded okay to me in my head but due to missing the nuances of spoken words, they may be misconstrued. So, I’m just going to wrap it up by saying explicitly that I loved this book for its potential in the LGBTQIA+ community but also for the wider audience. I loved this book for all the feels; the giddiness of first love to the heartbreak of loss. If I Tell You is a compelling coming-of-age tale and all of you should jump into it.

Thanks to Pantera Press for copy of book in exchange of honest review

About the author

 

Alicia Tuckerman is a driving force for young LGBT voices within Australia. Raised in rural NSW before she left home at the age of sixteen, she accepted a position to study at the Hunter School of Performing Arts.

Described as having an overactive imagination as a child, she recalls writing stories her entire life. Alicia attributes surviving her teenage years to the comfort, release and escape writing offered and she hopes to inspire the next generation of readers and writers to embrace their true passions.

Alicia was inspired to write If I Tell You after finding a lack of YA novels featuring two central lesbian characters. She draws on her life experiences to explore the joys, triumphs and cruelties of modern day adolescence and considers there is no fantasy world she could create that is more terrifyingly beautiful than the one we’re expected to live in.

Alicia is a Law Clerk and now lives in the Swan Valley region of Perth with her wife and two children, where she does most of her writing in the small hours before the kids wake up, or on her daily commute to the office!

Find Alicia on: goodreads  |  instagram  | twitter  |  facebook

Review: The Three of Us by Kim Lock

The Three of Us by Kim Lock

A life lived in the shadows. A love that should never have been hidden.

In the small town of Gawler, South Australia, the tang of cut grass and eucalyptus mingles on the warm air. The neat houses perched under the big gum trees on Church Street have been home to many over the years. Years of sprinklers stuttering over clipped lawns, children playing behind low brick walls. Family barbecues. Gossipy neighbours. Arguments. Accidents. Births, deaths, marriages. This ordinary street has seen it all.

Until the arrival of newlyweds Thomas and Elsie Mullet. And when one day Elsie spies a face in the window of the silent house next door, nothing will ever be ordinary again…

In Kim Lock’s third novel of what really goes on behind closed doors, she weaves the tale of three people with one big secret; a story of fifty years of friendship, betrayal, loss and laughter in a heartwarming depiction of love against the odds.

My Blurb (5 stars)

The one sure thing I know I’ll come across in this novel is a female character giving birth. Well, okay, maybe I don’t actually know for sure but that’s 3 out of 3! It’s not the focus of this particular novel but it’s there… I remember my reading experience of Lock’s novel (Peace, Love, and Khaki Socks) and I could never forget that birthing scene and it will always forever colour my view of Kim Lock’s novels. She’s just gone from strength to strength!

The Three of Us opens with Thomas Mullet, a 70+ year old man, at his first appointment with a counselor. He’s there because he’s running out of time and needed guidance on what to do before time’s up. And within 5 pages, the first bomb was dropped. And it was a pretty big one…

There isn’t much I could say about the book without giving hints which may spoil it for you. Whatever your first expectation is… that’s not it. What I can say, however, was that it’s a love story; there is heartbreak and there is happiness. This book spans about 50 years of these characters’ lives. It began in the 60s when Thomas & Elsie just begun their lives as husband & wife. When brides are to give up their fulfilling jobs and maintain an efficient sparkling household. It ended in more recent times when wives and/or mothers are expected to work full time and maintain an efficient sparkling household. But still… in the span of half a century, society has not change all that much

‘Society is more tolerant?’

Thomas gave a wry laugh. ‘We like to think so, don’t we? But I reckon it’s just different versions of the same intolerance. There’s still criticism – horrible things still happen because of narrow minds.’

It was a very uncomfortable read for the first third of the book. Mainly because I have an aversion towards a certain trope and I was very anxious for it not to be employed here. By the end of the first third, the second bomb detonated. A little relief with the way the plot is taking but it was still a rather uncomfortable read. Uncomfortable because we do not speak of these things; we do not expect it in our mundane daily life (as an aside, I actually do know one household and… whatever works for them to be happy, you know).

This is the best of Kim Lock to date even though I still preferred her first work (being lighter in mood). However, The Three of Us is a novel we currently need in the world. The world does not change by itself. We change it. And sometimes, we need a prompt, a push, a nudge, a shove, to change it. In The Three of Us, you will find a love story like no other. I would highly recommend it for a bookclub read. I can guarantee you a very lively discussion! Some wine and chocolates are warranted to chill things a little.

Thanks to Pan Macmillan Australia for copy of book in exchange of honest review

About the author

Kim Lock was born in 1981. She is the author of two previous novels Like I can Love and Peace, Love and Khaki Socks. Her non-fiction has appeared in the Guardian, Daily Life, and the Sydney Morning Herald onlineShe lives in the Barossa Valley, South Australia, with her partner and their children, a dog and a couple of cats.

Find Kim on: goodreads  |  website  | twitter  |  facebook

Come back tomorrow for Q&A with Kim! 😀