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lauredhel

lauredhel

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Soulless: The Manga Vol. 2 (The Parasol Protectorate Manga #2)
Gail Carriger
Asymmetry (Twelve Planets)
Thoraiya Dyer
Mullumbimby Madness #1: Never Trust a Book with a Colour Cover
Neil Dobbs
The Walking Dead, Vol. 18: What Comes After
Charlie Adlard, Robert Kirkman
Sunburnt Country
Fiona Palmer
Bark at the Moon: Bert Rokey's Letters from the South Pacific, 1942-1945: How a Soldier and Sabetha, His Kansas Farm Community, Survived World War II
Cleta Gresham Rokey
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
Mark Twain
Girl Defective
Simmone Howell
Midnight Blue-Light Special
Seanan McGuire
My Policeman
Bethan Roberts
Queen Of The Road - Tricia Stringer This was really good! Shelved "romance" in my library, it's more of a family drama/rural fiction/mystery with romantic elements. What I didn't expect to find, and was rather overjoyed at, was a book examining in detail what it's like to be a single mother working in a nontraditional job (rural trucking), with what seems to be the world against you.

Good stuff. I'll be looking for Stringer's next book.
My Dirty Dumb Eyes - Lisa Hanawalt what did I just read?
Spike: A Dark Place - Victor Gischler, Paul Lee, Joss Whedon Slight, but fun. The art is decent, and there's a reasonable if a little paint-by-numbers feel for Spike's character and dialogue. The bit with the Easter Island statues was definitely the highlight.
Indigo's Star - Hilary McKay I just love these books. Must buy a set for my son.
Zac and Mia - A.J. Betts Who's the best person to advise you on what to eat when chocolate tastes like wax? Another kid on chemo. Mia and Zac inhabit a world where "he's sick" doesn't mean a cold or a headache or a hangover; it's something else, something menacing, something that echoes in your ears and takes your breath away.

Mia lives in Perth, the child of a single, poor mother. Zac lives on an olive oil and tourist farm down South. Mia listens to Lady Gaga far too loud, yells obscenities at her Mum, and can't figure out why Zac keeps calling her "lucky". She's a ten-percenter, not a fifty-percenter or an eighty-percenter. Zac spends his time on Doctor Google (when he's not fantasising about Emma Watson), classifying his fellow cancer patients in terms of their probability of surviving the next five years. Mia feels like she's the only kid who ever had cancer, and refuses to even tell her friends she's sick. To make things worse, Mia's Mum seems to be a waste of space, and her self-esteem is tied up in her self-perceived "hotness". As she gets to know Zac, she slowly starts to realise that the world is far bigger and lovelier and scarier than she had imagined.

Something I like about modern YA Books like this one is they way they are starting to incorporate social media and online chat in far more realistic and integrated ways than earlier batches of books. When Zac's in isolation after a bone marrow transplant, Facebook, blogs, and Youtube are his social world. When he gets Mia's Facebook friend request, his panicked freezing is both hilarious and authentic:

"My finger overrides my brain and presses the screen.

Confirm

I brace myself but there are no seismic shifts or deafening alarms. This hasn't changed anything. She's just become one more fake friend on my profile page.

Then tap.
Was it the cleaner next door? Or a girl's knuckle?
Tap.
I catch Mum glaring at the wall. "Was that you?" she asks, and I shake my head.
"Maybe there's a mouse."
Tap, the wall insists, Tap tap.
Holy crap! In the space of two hours, the new girl's moved in next door, Facebook-friended me and tapped me? This is happening at warp speed.
I scramble to her page to see her life exposed in comments and photos and emoticons."

I also like Zac's musings about transplantation and the self:

"I try to catch myself being someone else.
I know it sounds like a B-grade thriller -- When Marrow Attacks! -- but if my own marrow's been wiped out of my bones then replaced with a stranger's, shouldn't that change who I am? Isn't marrow where my cells are born, to bump their way through the bloodstream and to every part of me? So if the birthplace of my cells now stems from another human being, shouldn't this change everything?
I'm told I'm now 99.9 percent someone else. I'm told this is a good thing, but how can I know for sure? What if I now kick a footy with the skill of a German beer wench? What if I've forgotten how to drive a ute or ride a quad bike? What if my body doesn't remember how to run? What if these things aren't stored in my head or muscles, but down deeper, in my marrow?"

This is later echoed in Mia's voice:

"I read about patients having four treatments. THere are successes even then, even after the fifth. A woman has six bone marrow transplants over ten years and she lives, the blood of strangers colouring her cheeks."

I've no doubt this book will be compared to The Fault in Our Stars, just because it features two teens with cancer. This is a very different book, though, so don't go in expecting that quirky hilarious tearjerker Green experience. It is, however, a very worthwhile and entertaining read in its own right, and Fiona Wood's blurb was right on for me - I really didn't want to put it down (I read it in a day). The sense of place is strong and genuine (Perth and the southwest is my stamping ground too). This is possibly the only YA book I've ever read that recognised that "lame" is an ableist word - that's an extra star right there. It's also not a twee romance-heavy book, but I think we're up to more than five stars by now! I can't say much more without spoilers. Check it out for yourself.
The Making of Men - Arne Rubinstein Just a 'meh' for me. I'm not sure what the target audience for this book is. Mostly nuclear white suburban middle-class nondisabled het cis nuclear families in need of remedial basic parenting skills (and yet also willing to buy and read self-help books), as far as I can tell. And a few single het "broken home" families in need of reading yet another bloke lamenting over Teh Tragic Breakdown Of Marriages Today.

I really didn't need a lesson in how I should stop laying my 11-yo son's clothes out for him and coddling him and fulfilling his every whim, so he can learn a bit of independence. I stopped doing that stuff five or six years ago, about when he started getting himself to and from school. I didn't need a lesson in how teenager boys need their privacy sometimes, and need a balanced diet. I dunno. Maybe some people do, I just don't see them as people who are going to run out and read books like this.
The First Third - Will Kostakis This is the story of a good Greek boy with a gay disabled feminist best friend called Sticks, (sounds like a parody? It isn't), a crush on Hayley "it's complicated" Walker-Pryce, and an embryonic career in standup comedy.

Billy's hospitalised Yiayia gives him a bucket list: to "fix" his distant gym-obsessed younger brother, to find a girlfriend for his (gay) older brother, and to find his mother a husband. This may sound like the setup for a cliche-ridden romcom, but the result sidesteps genre banality in all sorts of delicious ways.

Weaving realistic, relevant use of Twitter and other social media into the text, the book delves into Greek-Australian stereotypes and realities, the world of internet dating, and the brittleness of first impressions. But at the core of the book is a funny, tender, winning story of a seventeen-year-old boy who loves his Yiayia; that, in modern teen literature, is rare enough.

Quotes beneath spoiler tags; but they're not particularly spoilery.


"He shrugged. ‘I don't really know him either,' he said. ‘There's this app for my phone. All the guys that are near you pop up and you can chat to them. The expectation is that you're on it to do stuff.'

Sticks had hooked up with guys at parties, but they never did anything serious. I'd expected that the I-had-sex conversation would come after the there's-this-guy-I-like confession and the this-is-so-and-so introduction. He'd always said he wanted it to mean something. But instead he'd downloaded an app, where there was an expectation . . . "

[...]

"‘You know you don't have to do that, right?'

‘Says the able-bodied hetero kid,' Sticks said. ‘If you think you have to jump through hoops to find someone – then my hoops are spinning. And they're on fire.'

Sticks was like baking paper, nothing ever stuck to him. But in an instant, he'd become fragile."
Caution: contains small parts - Kirstyn McDermott, Kij Johnson The titular story wasn't for me, but the rest was amazing. I particularly liked was particularly struck by "What Amanda Wants". I was a bit leery starting this collection as horror is a pick-and-choose sort of genre for me, but I'll definitely be reading McDermott again. (Perfections is sitting on my Kobo calling for me...)
The Yearning - Kate Belle I think I'm the odd one out, but I found this trite. Warnings for sexual abuse of minors and domestic abuse, not treated well in my opinion. I ugghed my way through the clumsy, moralising conclusion of the book.
Perfect - Rachel Joyce Meh. Not what I expected from the blurb, and reaaallllly slow.
Peregrine Harker & The Black Death - Luke Hollands This book is a pulp melodrama-adventure centred on Peregrine Harker, boy journalist in gaslamp-era London. Peregrine, an orphan whose explorer parents disappeared in South America, is full of high hopes and Penny Dreadful dreams. He is assigned to investigate the price of tea, and instructed to do so without getting caught up in notions of conspiracy and murder.

This was a great setup for me, but sadly it failed to deliver. It was packed with infodumps and Blytonesque racism. The first three nonwhite men we meet are described as "grotesque", "scarred", "gnarled" and "warty". All the well-worn pulp hallmarks are there: telltale cigar butts, secret symbols clutched in the hands of corpses, a token feisty and beautiful woman, and being shot at a lot. The book does little to play with, subvert or parody the genre, though - it's all worn tropes and mindless action and twists, with the rushed story happening around and to Peregrine. I felt that it ultimately lacked depth and substance, failed to explore character even slightly, and failed to contribute anything new.

Recommended for fans of : Tintin without the sense of humour.
True - Erin McCarthy This New Adult novel was just "meh" for me, I'm afraid. Set in college around naive middle-class virgin (yes, it's a plot point) Rory and bad-boy-from-the-wrong-side-of-the-tracks-but-with-a-heart-of-gold Tyler, it starts out as a consent issuefic, morphs into a class and drugs issuefic, and tries to be a romance all at the same time, without ever quite succeeding at any of the above.

Unfortunately, the writing was often awkward and stilted, the pacing was uneven, and there were some race and disability issues that threw me out of the story.

Mostly, however, I was bothered by an issue also highlighted by Ridley on a Death Author thread: "Sexual assault isn’t a meet cute." The book opens with minor character Grant attempting to rape Rory, and this is all about showing us how manly and ethical Tyler is, when he saves Rory from the situation. The aftermath and consequences of the sexual violence are barely examined; it's just all about getting Rory to notice Tyler. Ugh.
Fairytales for Wilde Girls - Allyse Near Isola Wilde is a tousled, wayward St Dymphna's student with a set of "brother-princes" and a best friend called Grape. She lives on the border of Vivien's Wood, where it is rumoured that Merlin is trapped in a tree. Her brother-princes, straight from her mother's fairytale book, are ghosts and mermaids and faeries and furies, protectors no-one else can see; her father rages at her about her "imaginary friends".

But they are not so imaginary. Magic, ghosts, and death leak and swirl and bite around Isola and through the wild wood. One day, as Isola walks the woods, she sees a stripe-stockinged dead girl in a bird cage, hanging from a tree. From here the book accelerates into a maelstrom of menace. Isola has to negotiate the world of teenage parties and the tentative manoeuvres of first love, all the while wondering what will threaten her next, which of her protectors she can trust, and whether she can unravel the mysteries of the woods.

The book is described in the blurb as "bubblegum-gothic", but I'd probably extend that to "bubblegum-gothic-thriller-fairytale". It holds plenty of tension, a few surprises, and a fair serving of heebie-jeebies. This is not your Disney magic, and these are not your Disney fairies; cliches are side-stepped at every turn, and even the teen romance, which is sometimes at risk of becoming a mundane, routine part of books like this, rang true and held my interest. I gasped out loud, I laughed out loud - I loved this book, and couldn't put it down. Allyse Near is solidly on my list of authors to watch closely.

Content note for suicide imagery.
Blackbirds - Chuck Wendig And this started so well! I inhaled the first 70 pages without blinking. And then... it all went downhill. Needless over-the-top gore, failure to really explore the core fantasy concept (maybe in future books?), unnecessary overuse of the R-word and misogynistic insults (If you won't use the N-word, don't use the R-word!), lots of sexualised violence. I mean, sure, whatever, if you're into the gonzo I'm-so-edgy thing, this might be the book for you. I was just disappointed and grossed out, after being sucked into the hook so effectively.

Don't get me wrong - Chuck Wendig can WRITE. His grasp of voice and pacing is superb. There's a pile of potential here, if he can shake off the shock-jock stuff. And do a little more research-picking; a couple of egregious factual errors bugged me.
Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong - Prudence Shen, Faith Erin Hicks Well, THAT was fun - I laughed out loud enough times to annoy (and interest) the kid. Great pacing and beats, awesome robots, and punchy, easy-to-distinguish characters. I reckon this GN would translate to an animated movie or TV show just great.
The Sunlit Zone - Lisa Jacobson I wasn't expecting to much like this slim volume, but I somehow ended up loving it. It's got slowpocalypse, Aussie sense of place, beautiful (and sometimes heart-wrenching) description, genepunk, family drama, terrorism, sexuality, humour, even echoes of future-tech almost-selkieness - and all in verse. Nothing wraps up neatly, yet it feels satisfying.

Little flaws here and there were not enough to knock it off a five-star rating for me. This isn't like anything else.