Monday, 17 August 2015

The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black

This post contains a review and a bookish manicure.

The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black
Published Jan 2015 by Hachette
Source: the publisher
Rating: 5 stars

From the blurb: Near the little town of Fairfold, in the darkest part of the forest, lies a glass casket. Inside the casket lies a sleeping faerie prince that none can rouse. He's the most fascinating thing Hazel and her brother Ben have ever seen. They dream of waking him - but what happens when dreams come true? In the darkest part of the forest, you must be careful what you wish for...

Sixteen year old Hazel Evans lives in a small town called Fairfold, a place known for its fae-inhabited woods. As long as you're a local you're safe (well, most of the time), but visitors are fair game. Hazel and her brother grew up playing in the woods, imagining ways to wake a sleeping prince, and hunting those that would hurt townsfolk. Thier games ended a long time ago, but when the town is threatened, once again Hazel must try and save them.

I've had this book on my shelf since the beginning of the year and I'm so glad I finally read it. Right from the start I adored the conversational tone of the narration, I really felt as though I was being told a modern fairy tale. I also loved Hazel, she's a wonderfully complicated main character and it was wonderful to see her growth over the length of the story.

One of my favourite aspects of paranormal tales is when they would stand on their own if you took away the magical elements, in this case if you removed the fae, we would still have a solid story about a young girl trying to figure out what she wants and who she is. A girl who has been trying to pretend that she doesn't feel inferior and ordinary compared to her beloved brother, and to forget about the neglectful behaviour her parents exhibited when their children were younger.

While we're on the subject of Hazel's parents, I loved that her mum made them kale and raisin granola bars, so I decided to whip some up! I used the Original Glo Bar recipe in the Oh She Glows cookbook, with a few modifications: puffed amaranth in place of puffed rice, raisins in place of chocolate chips, and I made a quick batch of kale chips and crumbled some into the mix - delicious!

The Darkest Part of the Forest is magical, dark, and creepily captivating. And, although I was completely satisfied with the ending, I wouldn't protest if Holly Black decided to revisit Fairfold in the future! While reading I was reminded of Fairytales for Wilde Girls by Allyse Near, and Maggie Stiefvater's Books of Faerie series, so if you're a fan of those, definitely pick up a copy of TDPotF.

Thank you to Hachette for my review copy.

I love the wild greenery on the cover of TDPotF and decided to do nails as tonight I'm attending the Hachette YA Bloggers Night where Holly Black will be a guest.

I started with two coats of Mode Cosmetics Midas Touch.

Then I sponged on the following: Urban Decay Smog, Ulta3 Chinchilly, Orly Take Him to the Cleaners and WnW Collecting Pollen, Ulta3 Tahitian Lime, and Ulta3 Frog Prince.

I used a fine brush and acrylic paint for the details in the greenery.

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Burn by Paula Weston

This post contains a review and a bookish manicure.

Burn (The Repahim #4) by Paula Weston

Published June 24, 2015 by Text Publishing
Source: the publisher
Rating: 4 stars

From the blurb: Gaby remembers everything.For a year she believed she was a backpacker chilling out in Pandanus Beach. Working at the library. Getting over the accident that killed her twin brother.Then Rafa came to find her and Gaby discovered her true identity as Gabe: one of the Rephaim. Over a hundred years old. Half angel, half human, all demon-smiting badass—and hopelessly attracted to the infuriating Rafa.Now she knows who faked her memories, and how—and why it’s all hurtling towards a massive showdown between the forces of heaven and hell.More importantly, she remembers why she’s spent the last ten years wanting to seriously hurt Rafa.

Burn is the fourth and final novel in Paula Weston's much-loved Rephaim series. This is a new adult series that doesn't follow the usual tropes, instead it perfectly blends romance, angel lore, an idyllic Australian setting, action, and a range of realistic, engaging characters. It also wouldn't be a Paula Weston book without a reference to the Foo Fighters and Dave Grohl, check and check!

I love this series, but there was a major bump in the road for me, Shimmer (book three). It pained me last year when I discovered I just could not get through it because it felt like filler and there was just too much standing around for me, so I gave up. Perhaps I missed out on something awesome towards the middle or end of the book, but I have no regrets. And, the wonderful thing about this series is that these book contain prologues as well as a cast of characters - this is such a help when you're reading a series as it's published, often within a year between instalments.

So, I was a little apprehensive to begin Burn, but I needn't have been, this is a fantastic end to the series. We learn what Gaby has remembered about her past with Rafa, Jude, and the others. There's plenty of action; from heated scenes between Gaby and Rafa, to an epic battle on the beach. It's also great to see Gaby become stronger and more confident in who she truly is. I loved the way it all wrapped up, it was a very satisfying ending to this amazing series.

I know angels are a sticky point for a lot of YA readers, but do not let that put you off this series, there is so much more to it than just angels. If you're a Daughter of Smoke and Bone fan, give these books a go.

Thank you to Text Publishing for my review copy.

I've always loved the covers of this series, from the original Aussie cover of Shadows, to the eventual adoption of the UK redesign. I did nails inspired by the colours of Shadows way back when I started with bookish nails, and I attempted nails to match Haze the night before my flight to LA 2 years ago, but in my haste they were a bit of a mess and I never finished them. So, in honour of the final book, I did nails to match this gorgeous cover.

I used acrylic paint to sponge on the various greens of the background.

I used a fine brush and acrylic paint for Gaby and her brilliant orange wings.

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Green Valentine by Lili Wilkinson

This post contains a review and a bookish manicure.

Green Valentine by Lili Wilkinson
Published July 29, 2015 by Allen & Unwin
Source: the publisher
Rating: 4 stars

From the blurb: When Astrid and Hiro meet they give each other superhero names. She's Lobster Girl and he's Shopping Trolley Boy. Not an auspicious beginning. But it gets better. Then it gets worse. Much worse. Classic romantic comedy: girl-meets-boy, love blossoms, and is derailed. Incredibly engaging, upbeat, funny and smart. 
Astrid Katy Smythe is beautiful, smart and popular. She's a straight-A student and a committed environmental activist. She's basically perfect.
Hiro is the opposite of perfect. He's slouchy, rude and resentful. Despite his brains, he doesn't see the point of school.
But when Astrid meets Hiro at the shopping centre where he's wrangling shopping trolleys, he doesn't recognise her because she's in disguise - as a lobster. And she doesn't set him straight.
Astrid wants to change the world, Hiro wants to survive it. But ultimately both believe that the world needs to be saved from itself. Can they find enough in common to right all the wrongs between them?

Green Valentine is Lili Wilkinson’s latest novel. I’ve read all but one of her YA books (A Pocketful of Eyes is on my shelf but I’ve been saving it because I don’t want to be done with reading all her books) and it’s every bit as funny as her previous novel, Love-Shy (my favourite Lili book).

Set in the fictional Melbourne suburb of Valentine, Astrid Katy Smythe lives with her recently separated mother (her father cheated and has since moved out). She has two best friends, Paige (the most popular girl at school), and Dev (he’s openly gay and it was awesome to see that this was completely accepted at their school).

Astrid is a passionate environmentalist; she looks down on consumerism, processed foods, plastic and packaging, and wants people to care about more than just cute animals. She’s also extremely judgemental, annoying and flawed (a character type that Lili writes really well, I adored the same characteristics in Penny from Love-Shy). Despite claiming to care about the environment, Astrid is not a vegan – this is the single biggest personal choice someone can make if they truly care about our world and all animals (want more info? Watch Cowspiracy.) She describes herself as a vegetarian, but she’s not as she makes exceptions for organic meat and bacon (cue eye rolling). So while I could see this admission coming from the moment I started reading, and I could rant about how annoying it was for me to read, it really contributed to her character; I believed Astrid exists, and the fact that she wasn't perfect made her judgeyness all the more infuriating, yet she was also lovable and relatable.

Astrid meets Hiro Silvestri, an Asian-Italian student from her school, as she’s trying to petition people at a local mall while dressed as a lobster. She immediately judges him as one of the stoner kids, but as he doesn’t recognise her they strike up a friendship, despite Hiro admitting that he detests girls just like her (the popular, pretty girls he likes to call Missolinis).

The mistaken identity plot line was fun, it allowed Astrid to get to know Hiro in a way that wouldn’t have been possible, and ultimately it brings them closer together. Hiro has learnt a lot about gardening from his grandmother, and when their school garden project takes off, Hiro and Astrid begin guerrilla gardening at night – this totally reminded me of a very short lived tv show from 2009, Guerrilla Gardening. The gardening aspect was so different for a YA novel but it was really well done, with wonderful descriptions and ultimately they were doing something really positive.

The plot lost me towards the end, things started to seem a little unrealistic, almost too dramatic and movie-like. Astrid and Hiro apparently garden each night until the early hours of the morning and then go to school on a couple of hours sleep and this happens every night for weeks/months on end. The evil workings of the local council seemed a little far-fetched, and the identity of the major was obvious, even if Astrid didn’t put it together. The “hippies” Astrid and Hiro meet also seemed clichéd, this plot line was my least favourite.

Having said all that, I really enjoyed this book. I started reading it the afternoon I received it and didn’t stop reading until I finished it that evening, and I haven't been reading much fiction lately, so this was a big deal for me. The story is fun, Astrid is entertaining, and the romance was sweet. It was a really positive story and I think it could make a lot of readers think about the world. I know a lot of people will not be able to look past Astrid's quirks, but if they do, they'll come to see her as a girl trying to figure out how she can make a difference in the world.

Thank you to Allen & Unwin for my review copy.

I love the cover of Green Valentine, it’s quite different from Lili’s last few novels.

I started with a base of China Glaze White Out.

I used acrylic paint for the leafy lips and vines.

Friday, 24 July 2015

Falling into Place by Amy Zhang

This post contains a review and a bookish manicure.

Falling into Place by Amy Zhang
Published September 9, 2014 by Greenwillow Books
Source: the publisher via Netgalley
Rating: 5 stars
From the blurb: On the day Liz Emerson tries to die, they had reviewed Newton’s laws of motion in physics class. Then, after school, she put them into practice by running her Mercedes off the road. Why? Why did Liz Emerson decide that the world would be better off without her? Why did she give up? Vividly told by an unexpected and surprising narrator, this heartbreaking and nonlinear novel pieces together the short and devastating life of Meridian High’s most popular junior girl. Mass, momentum, force—Liz didn’t understand it in physics, and even as her Mercedes hurtles toward the tree, she doesn’t understand it now. How do we impact one another? How do our actions reverberate? What does it mean to be a friend? To love someone? To be a daughter? Or a mother? Is life truly more than cause and effect?
I read this back in January and for some reason took no notes, so I’m just going to tell you how this book made me feel: depressed and sad, but it was also beautiful and something I want to recommend to every YA reader. Liz was an amazing and complex main character, she’d been a mean girl for so long but was tiring of it, but she also found it a hard role to abandon. Reading about how she planned her death really got to me, I could not stop thinking about what it would be like to plan it in so much detail and spend all that time with such a big secret. I loved this book and despite the sad theme, it’s a book I definitely want to re-read. It’s a powerful and intense story so don’t let the topic put you off reading it.

Thank you Greenwillow Books for my Netgalley review copy.

I loved this cover on first sight and knew I’d do my nails to match, these were done back in February.

I started with a base of China Glaze At Vase Value and I used acrylic paint for the car, hand, road, and all the equations.

Friday, 17 July 2015

Molly and Pim and the Millions of Stars by Martine Murray

This post contains a review and a bookish manicure.

Molly and Pim and the Millions of Stars by Martine Murray
Published June 24, 2015 by Text Publishing
Source: the publisher
Rating: 3 stars
From the blurb: Molly’s mother is not like other mothers: she rides a yellow bike and collects herbs and makes potions, perhaps even magical potions. Molly wants to be normal, like her friend Ellen, and watch television and eat food that comes in packets. But when Molly’s mother accidentally turns herself into a tree, Molly turns to the strange and wonderful Pim for help. And as they look for a way to rescue her mother, Molly discovers how to be happy with the oddness in her life.

I don’t read a lot of middle grade fiction, but my attention was captured as soon as I saw the lovely cover of Molly and Pim and the Millions of Stars by Martine Murray.

Molly and her mother live near the woods, along with their cat, Claudine, and their dog, Maude. Molly’s mother isn’t like the mothers of her friends at school. Her mother goes wandering in the woods at dawn to collect herbs, she makes potions, and she doesn’t like Molly to eat packaged foods. Molly just wants to be normal, like her best friend Ellen’s family.

When Molly’s mother accidentally turns herself into a tree, Molly has to fend for herself, battling the nasty and nosy neighbours, the Grimshaws, and finds she has no one to turn to, except Pim, a boy from school. Molly struggles with loneliness, believing that Ellen will judge her for being different and abandon her if she shares her problems, so instead she suffers on her own.

I liked the focus on friendship and how tough it can be for any child that feels as though they or their family are different, and how communicating can often resolve this issue, if you’re lucky to have an understanding friend like Ellen. I also enjoyed how much nature was a part of this story, it was easy to picture the woods, how green Molly’s garden must be, and the wonderful local animal life.

Molly and Pim and the Millions of Stars is a sweet and heart-warming story, perfect for children and adults too.

Note – in the story Molly makes reference to some cashew-chocolate balls that she makes to feed herself while her mother is a tree, and it was mentioned a couple of times that she shared her meal with Maude the dog. Kids, please don’t feed your dog treats containing chocolate because it’s toxic to them and can be fatal.

Thank you to Text Publishing for my review copy.

I couldn’t resist doing a manicure to match this cover illustrated by the author.

I started with a base of China Glaze Secret Peri-Wink-Le.

I used acrylic paint for the detailing.

Claudine was on the back cover, so I decided to include her as well.

I used Ulta3 Glamourpuss for the stars.

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Lullaby by Bernard Beckett

Lullaby by Bernard Beckett

Published May 27, 2015 by Text Publishing
Source: the publisher
Rating: 3 stars

From the blurb: Rene’s twin brother Theo lies unconscious in hospital after a freak accident left him with massively disrupted brain function. There is hope, though. An experimental procedure—risky, scientifically exciting and ethically questionable—could allow him to gain a new life.

But what life, and at what cost?

Only Rene can give the required consent. And now he must face that difficult choice.

But first there is the question of Rene’s capacity to make that decision. And this is where the real story begins.
Lullaby, by New Zealand author Bernard Beckett, is set in an unspecified future. Eighteen year old Rene is talking to a hospital psychologist, Maggie, and they have six hours to talk before she must decide if he is competent enough to make the decision to save Theo’s life. Theo’s brain is severely damaged but his body is intact. Scientists are working on a way to scan a brain for memories and then implant those into another brain. They wish to use Rene and Theo in an experiment and are hoping Rene will allow it.

This was a very interesting book and it definitely captured my full attention. Rene starts off trying to be smart and funny, hoping to impress Maggie and sway her judgement, but eventually he begins to share the details of his life with Theo. We learn about their parents death, their games as children, their school years, and the girls they liked and loved. It was clear there was once a really strong bond between the two of them that began to weaken as they grew older.

Listening to Rene was heartbreaking, he feels like his world is ending and that he is to blame. I enjoyed his interactions with Maggie and thought I was pretty sure of the decision he would make. The pacing was perfect, by the end the urgency and importance of the situation was palpable.

I stopped taking notes as I read because I became so absorbed with the story, but I do remember moments of surprise and the twists were unexpected, though the ending was not. It’s a book that left me wanting a little more.

Lullaby is a captivating, clever, and unique story, and I recommend it to any YA or adult reader.

Thank you to Text Publishing for my review copy.

Friday, 5 June 2015

The Flywheel by Erin Gough

This post contains a review and a bookish manicure. Excuse the short review as I read this back in February but wrote the review this week.

The Flywheel by Erin Gough
Published Feb 1, 2015 by Hardie Grant Egmont
Source: the publisher
Rating: 4 stars
From the blurb: Seventeen-year-old Delilah’s crazy life is about to get crazier. Ever since her father took off overseas, she’s been struggling to run the family’s cafe without him and survive high school. But after a misjudged crush on one of the cool girls, she's become the school punchline as well. With all that’s on her plate she barely has time for her favourite distraction – spying on the beautiful Rosa, who dances flamenco at the tapas bar across the road.

Only her best friend Charlie knows how she feels about Rosa, but he has romantic problems of his own. When his plan to win an older woman’s heart goes horribly wrong, Del is the only one who can help Charlie stay out of jail.

All this leaves Del grappling with some seriously curly questions. Is it okay to break the law to help a friend? How can a girl tell another girl she likes her without it ending in humiliation and heartbreak? And – the big one – is it ever truly possible to dance in public without falling over? 
The Flywheel by Erin Gough won the Ampersand Project in 2013. Set in Sydney, seventeen year old Delilah Green has been left in charge of her father’s café, The Flywheel. After her mother left them, a trip was the only thing to get her father excited, so he went overseas during school holidays, leaving their manager and Del in charge. But when he decides to stay longer, Del lies and says everything is fine, despite the manager getting deported, her barista stealing from them, and her lack of school attendance. To top it off things between Del and her best friend Lauren aren’t what they used to be, and Del is still getting teased at school because she’s gay.

Poor Del! She had so much on her plate and she really struggled with keeping her life on track. The idea of her running a café on her own may have seemed a little implausible, but the reason she lied to her father was admirable. I adored her friendship with Charlie, and the way she was so good at trying to care for others. Her crush on Rosa was so sweet and I wanted nothing more than for her love to be reciprocated.

I liked the look at female friendship, the lack of communication between Del and Lauren caused a misunderstanding between them which is so common for teenage girls.

The Flywheel is a sweet, fun, love story and it’s no wonder it won the annual Ampersand Project. It’s a wonderful example of Aussie YA and I highly recommend it to all readers.

Thank you to HGE for my review copy.

I couldn’t resist doing a manicure for this lovely cover.

I used acrylic paint for the gradient background and to paint Del, Rosa, and their surroundings.