Wednesday, 10 February 2016

My Sister Rosa by Justine Larbalestier

My Sister Rosa by Justine Larbalestier
Published January 27, 2016 by Allen & Unwin
Source: the publisher
Rating: 4 stars

From the blurb: Che Taylor has four items on his list: 1. He wants to spar, not just train in the boxing gym. 2. He wants a girlfriend. 3. He wants to go home. 4. He wants to keep Rosa under control.Che's little sister Rosa is smart, talented, pretty, and so good at deception that Che's convinced she must be a psychopath. She hasn't hurt anyone yet, but he's certain it's just a matter of time. And when their parents move them to New York City, Che longs to return to Sydney and his three best friends. But his first duty is to his sister Rosa, who is playing increasingly complex and disturbing games. Can he protect Rosa from the world - and the world from Rosa?

My Sister Rosa by Justine Larbalestier is set in New York City. Seventeen year old Che Taylor has just moved there with his parents, and his ten year old sister, Rosa. It's been two years since he's been home to Sydney, and five years since they've lived anywhere permanently. Che just wants to go home, hang out with his friends, spar, and find a girlfriend. Unfortunately looking after Rosa keeps him busy. His anxiety about what she'll do next d only increases when they meet the McBrunight family and Rosa sets her sights on the twins, Seimone and Maya.

The characters in this book were so well done, I immediately felt for Che, I could feel the weight of responsibility he shouldered for Rosa. His parents are aware of some of her issues; she was a slow developer, she would tell lies in public to get them in trouble, and she's seen many doctors, but each time Rosa figures out how she should react and her parents believe she's cured. Che holds back so many unspoken words whether it comes to Rosa's actions or his boxing. He really struggles because he loves his sister and wants to believe she can change.

I liked that Che had a hobby that kept him busy, and that he maintained contact with his friends in Sydney via text. He also develops a love interest that brings out his insecurities and shows how kind and caring he is. These aspects made him seem all the more real.

Despite being on his side, there were enough clues that made me wonder if Che was going to turn out to be an unreliable narrator, I started looking for twists and turns, sure that everything I presumed would be wrong. The ending was interesting, but it was not wholly surprising and I think I was expecting a bit more, something bigger and more sinister.

My Sister Rosa is a clever, creepy, and thought-provoking YA thriller.

Thank you to Allen & Unwin for my review copy.

I loved the faded tone of this cover and thought I'd give matching nails a go. I decided to skip the hands and just paint the sparrow.

I started with a white base coat and then sponged on Nail It! Matte Grey. On the top of each nail I sponged on a small amount of China Glaze Elephant Walk.

I used a fine brush and acrylic paint for the sparrow.

Monday, 8 February 2016

Unbecoming by Jenny Downham

Unbecoming by Jenny Downham
Pubished October 2015 by Scholastic
Source: the publisher
Rating: 5 stars

From the blurb: Three women - three secrets - one heart-stopping story. Katie, seventeen, in love with someone whose identity she can't reveal. Her mother Caroline, uptight, worn out and about to find the past catching up with her. Katie's grandmother, Mary, back with the family after years of mysterious absence and 'capable of anything', despite suffering from Alzheimers. As Katie cares for an elderly woman who brings daily chaos to her life, she finds herself drawn to her. Rules get broken as allegiances shift. Is Mary contagious? Is 'badness' genetic? In confronting the past, Katie is forced to seize the present. As Mary slowly unravels and family secrets are revealed, Katie learns to live and finally dares to love.

Unbecoming is Jenny Downham's third novel. Set in the town of Bisham, we meet seventeen year old Katie, her mother Caroline, and her younger brother Chris. She's never met her maternal grandmother but Mary has come to live with them after her mother was called as the emergency contact. Mary has dementia but despite this Caroline does not want her to live with them. It's a subject that she chooses not to discuss, but she was abandoned by Mary at a young age and brought up by her aunt. Katie on the other hand finds Mary delightful and the two instantly bond. Katie sets about writing down the stories Mary tells her and keeps them in a book to use as a way to remind Mary of who she is.

I assumed because there were three women in this story, that there would be three perspectives, but there are only two, Katie's and Mary's. I think it was a clever way to approach the story as Caroline is not a likeable character on first meeting her, but she's also in the dark about a lot of her early childhood and as she learns about it so does the reader, this bring us closer and allows us to have more empathy towards her.

I adored Katie, she's a wonderful girl but she feels trapped by her mother's rules and by her secret - she thinks she's a lesbian and is terrified of her mother finding out. Already she's being teased at school by her former best friend, but having Mary in her life allows her to grow and discover who she doesn't want to be.

Mary was lovely and her story was so sad. She's confused about who she is, why she's come to stay with her daughter and grandchildren, but takes pleasure in telling Katie stories of her younger years.

Jenny Downham really knows how to write an emotional story, and Unbecoming is no exception, I felt so much for this family and really loved the time spent reading about their lives. The ending was beautiful, full of hope yet tinged with sadness too.

This is a YA book that could easily be enjoyed by adults as well, it's a realistic coming of age story combined with historical fiction.

Thank you to Scholastic Australia for my review copy.

The three women in this story have varying shades of red hair and I love how this is represented here (the cover of the new edition also has a great design).

I started with 2 coats of BYS Kung Fu Blue.

I used a fine brush and acrylic paint for the hair.

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Summer Skin by Kirsty Eagar

Summer Skin by Kirsty Eagar
Published January 27, 2016 by Allen & Unwin
Source: purchased
Rating: 5 stars

From the blurb: Jess Gordon is out for revenge. Last year the jocks from Knights College tried to shame her best friend. This year she and a hand-picked college girl gang are going to get even.The lesson: don't mess with Unity girls.The target: Blondie, a typical Knights stud, arrogant, cold . . . and smart enough to keep up with Jess.A neo-riot grrl with a penchant for fanning the flames meets a rugby-playing sexist pig - sworn enemies or two people who happen to find each other when they're at their most vulnerable?It's all Girl meets Boy, Girl steals from Boy, seduces Boy, ties Boy to a chair and burns Boy's stuff. Just your typical love story.

Summer Skin is the fourth novel by Aussie author, Kirsty Eagar. Set in Brisbane at a college called Unity, we meet Jess Gordon, economics student, and her friends Farren, Leanne, and Allie. Unity is a co-ed college and the girls all live on campus. Their rivals have and always will be the boys from Knights College, and an event last year only made them more keen to teach them a lesson. The girls have come up with a event to shame the boys, and it's in preparation for this when Jess meets a Knights boy, she nicknames him Blondie, later finding out his name is Mitch.

From the beginning the dynamic between Jess and Mitch is tense yet fluid, each of them sure they know what to expect, only to find out their assumptions are wrong. Jess has never really been in love and has rules about what she will and won't do with a guy. Mitch has an interesting past, more complicated and not as predictable as I was expecting.

Their experiences at college and their tentative relationship felt so real, something Eagar always excels at writing about, she captured their lives perfectly and I know other readers will connect with it, whether a student now, or looking back on their years at uni.

Summer Skin is a perfect YA read for teens and adults, spanning a year of a girl's life in which she discovers who she wants to be.

I love the brightness of this cover and thought I'd do a simple manicure to match.

I started with 2 coats of Ulta3 Fruit Tingle.

I used acrylic paint for the stripes on my middle and ring finger.

Monday, 1 February 2016

Silence is Goldfish by Annabel Pitcher

Silence is Goldfish by Annabel Pitcher
Published October 2015 by Hachette
Source: the publisher
Rating: 5 stars

From the blurb: My name is Tess Turner - at least, that's what I've always been told.I have a voice but it isn't mine. It used to say things so I'd fit in, to please my parents, to please my teachers. It used to tell the universe I was something I wasn't. It lied.It never occurred to me that everyone else was lying too. But the words that really hurt weren't the lies: it was six hundred and seventeen words of truth that turned my world upside down.Words scare me, the lies and the truth, so I decided to stop using them.I am Pluto. Silent. Inaccessible. Billions of miles away from everything I thought I knew.

Silence is Goldfish, Annabel Pitcher's third novel, is set in Manchester, England. Tess Turner is fifteen and lives with her mum and dad. Four years ago she realised that she wasn't living up to her parents' expectations, particularly her father's, and she made a promise to herself that she would try harder. She pretends to have different friends, friends they'd like more than her real friend, Isabel. She does the extra-curricular activities she's forced into, even signing up for a local play because her dad, Jack, loves acting and is still trying to make it. But after discovering that not only is Jack not her biological father but that he was disgusted by her when she was born, she decides to stop talking. She then attempts to run away to London and head to the fertility authority to find out who her real dad is. On the way she stops to buy supplies and picks up a torch in the shape of a goldfish. She doesn't end up running away, but she keeps the torch and is surprised when it starts talking, so she names him Mr Goldfish and carries him with her.

It was so easy to get pulled into Tess's world, unlike everyone around her, the reader knows exactly why she stops talking, and it was easy to empathise with her situation. She believes her father hates her and she doesn't know how to deal with the information. She retreats into her own world, something she finds comfortable. She's sick of trying to be someone she's not, sick of feeling unwanted. She becomes obsessed with the idea of finding her biological father and fixates on a new teacher at school, absolutely sure he's the one, despite the objections of Mr Goldfish (on the subject of Mr Goldfish, I could not stop imagining him as the goldfish from the episode of Scrubs where the janitor hears a goldfish talking to him, if you've seen the show you'll know what I mean!)

The rest of the characters were also well thought out and believable. It was hard to like Jack at first, he really is demanding, judgemental, and bossy, but as we learn more about his childhood and his fear of failure, his behaviour, while unacceptable, is understandable. I adored Isabel and Henry too.

The ending was resolved well, I couldn't wait for someone to step in and help Tess out, and for the family to finally talk about their situation. It left me hopeful that Tess could go on and cope living in a world she doesn't quite feel a part of.

Silence is Goldfish is a beautiful story and one I'd recommend for teens and adults.

Thank you to Hachette for my review copy.

I love this cover, the greeny blue colour and the school of fish, plus Mr Goldfish down on his own.

I started with 2 coats of Butter London Slapper.

I sponged on some blue, L.A Colors Sea Siren, and some light green, China Glaze Def Defying and Sinful Colors Pistache.

I used a fine brush and acrylic paint for the fish and the bubbles.

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Iris and the Tiger by Leanne Hall

Iris and the Tiger by Leanne Hall
Published January 27, 2016 by Text Publishing
Source: the publisher
Rating: 5 stars

From the blurb: Twelve-year-old Iris has been sent to Spain on a mission: to make sure her elderly and unusual aunt, Ursula, leaves her fortune–and her sprawling estate–to Iris’s scheming parents.
But from the moment Iris arrives at Bosque de Nubes, she realises something isn’t quite right. There isan odd feeling around the house, where time moves slowly and Iris’s eyes play tricks on her. While outside, in the wild and untamed forest, a mysterious animal moves through the shadows.
Just what is Aunt Ursula hiding?
But when Iris discovers a painting named Iris and the Tiger, she sets out to uncover the animal’s real identity–putting her life in terrible danger. 

Iris and the Tiger is a wonderful, creative story that captivated me from the start. I felt sorry for Iris, her parents are greedy and don't care about her, and from what we glean about her school life, it sounds like she's feeling lonely and out of place. At Bosque de Nubes she finds a new home, one filled with magic, family, and new friends. Her adventures with Jordi were a delight and watching her become more confident was satisfying, knowing she'll take that confidence back home. The night I finished this I had a fantastic dream involving the beast car from the story, and I have a feeling the imagery from this book will stay with me for a long time.

Thank you to Text Publishing for my review copy.

I adore the cover of Iris and the Tiger and thought I'd challenge myself to paint nails to match. I new this set would take a while so I timed myself by watching Disney movies - I got through Mary Poppins and Alice in Wonderland.

I used acrylic paint and a very fine brush.

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

I read The 5th Wave in April 2013 and absolutely loved it. It was thrilling, it was clever, and I couldn't put it down. I never did nails to match but I'm off to see the film version this evening so I thought I'd celebrate with a manicure!

I started with a base of Orly Lemonade.

I used acrylic paint, a fine brush, and a small piece of sponge to paint Cassie and the trees.

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Inbetween Days by Vikki Wakefield

Inbetween Days by Vikki Wakefield
Published September 25, 2015 by Text Publishing
Source: the publisher
Rating: 5 stars

From the blurb: At seventeen, Jacklin Bates is all grown up. She’s dropped out of school. She’s living with her runaway sister, Trudy, and she’s in secret, obsessive love with Luke, who doesn’t love her back. She’s stuck in Mobius—a dying town with the macabre suicide forest its only attraction—stuck working in the roadhouse and babysitting her boss’s demented father.
A stranger sets up camp in the forest and the boy next door returns; Jack’s father moves into the shed and her mother steps up her campaign to punish Jack for leaving, too. Trudy’s brilliant façade is cracking and Jack’s only friend, Astrid, has done something unforgivable.
Jack is losing everything, including her mind. As she struggles to hold onto the life she thought she wanted, Jack learns that growing up is complicated—and love might be the biggest mystery of all. 

Inbetween Days is Vikki Wakefield's third novel and it's yet another example of how she excels at writing about teens, loneliness, and small towns. Everything about Jack and the town of Mobius was palpable: her longing, the isolation, the mystery, the heat of the summer. The relationships were realistic and complicated, no matter who it involved: her sister, her mother, Jeremiah. The ending was perfect, not quite wrapped up but with just the right amount of resolution.

Thank you to Text Publishing for the review copy.

For the base of this manicure I used China Glaze First Mate, Nailt It! Cornflower, Models Own Blueberry Muffin, LA Colors Illusion, and Butter London Sprog.

For the grass and bushland I used Ulta3 Tahition Lime, Ulta3 Mermaid Green, and China Glaze Into the Wild.

For the movie screen I used acrylic paint.