Nullaboo Hullabaloo

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Author: Fleur Ferris
Publisher: Puffin

I have always enjoyed Fleur Ferris’ young adult novels and was delighted to see that she had written a book for younger readers. I had high expectations for this book and Ferris did not let me down.

The book is set in a town called Nullaboo and our young protagonist is Gemma Hart. The story opens with Gemma waiting to see what topic she will receive in the science competition. Her heart is set on butterflies, but that topic goes to Nina (last’s year competition winner). Gemma’s topic will be march flies. To say that Gemma is disappointed is an understatement. How can she possibly beat Nina in the science competition when her topic is march flies. March flies!!

Gemma’s mother is an entomologist and has lent Gemma her bug catcher which magnifies things two hundred and fifty times their size and has a microphone and earbuds. Gemma heads off with her bug catcher to catch some march files, but instead of finding march files Gemma captures a fairy. A fairy named Janomi. A fairy who needs help. Fairies aren’t supposed to talk to humans and so Janomi is breaking many rules by seeking out Gemma’s help. Her grandfather has been captured by silver spiders and she needs Gemma’s help to find and rescue him.

Gemma’s bug catcher records this conversation and Nina finds it and uploads it to the Internet. Suddenly there’s hullabaloo in Nullaboo. Nina’s small town finds itself the centre of a media frenzy. A secret government agency barges in to take control and suddenly the fairy colony that Gemma promised to protect is under threat.

There’s so much to love about this book. Gemma is a charming character. Beautifully innocent, funny and so, so likeable. Gemma’s family are gorgeously eccentric. You will also fall in love with the people of Nullaboo.

Ferris has always written rural communities so beautifully – how they pull together when one of their own is in crisis. She continues this theme with Nullaboo Hullabaloo.

I love that the fairies (just like humans) are snarky towards each other. I love that Gemma’s family have their own problems, but when it is needed, they pull together. I love that the book is full of humour and love.

I love how Ferris uses language in this novel. From the secret government agency being called DUD to Gemma’s mother’s nemesis being called Colin Snider.

What I love the most though that this is a story about heart. Once you finish reading this book, you will feel happy. This book made me smile and it made me feel good.

Yes, this is a story about fairies, but it is also a story about community. Nullaboo Hullabaloo tells the story of a community rallying around one of their own to help them protect and save the fairies. And amazingly enough underneath all that Ferris has written about how important it is to put egos and enmities aside to help others in need.

It is a delightful book that will be enjoyed by both boys and girls. It is beautifully illustrated by Briony Stewart. The illustrations capture the story brilliantly. Let’s hope that Ferris writes more stories featuring Gemma and her wonderfully unconventional family and community.

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And I love all the sewing references – Janomi, Bernini, Elna and so on.

Save the Date – What a disaster!

Savethedate

Author: Morgan Matson
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

I had heard such great things about this book and when I bought it, I saved it for a weekend when I knew I would have no distractions because I wanted to enjoy it. Well, I was happy that I read it quickly because this book annoyed me no end. It wasn’t a book, it was a script for a BAD romantic-comedy. You know one of those movies you wait to come onto Netflix – that you don’t waste good money to go see at the cinema.

Save the Date revolves around the Grant family who have grown up in the public eye through their mother’s national comic strip. The Grant family consists of mum, dad and five siblings. The comic strip is adored by many and as such Charlie’s family is considered a national treasure.

The story is told through the eyes of Charlie, 17, who is the youngest and the only child still at home. Charlie adores her family. In her eyes, they are perfect. Charlie’s sister, Linnie is getting married, which means all the Grant siblings will be reunited and Charlie is thrilled about her whole family being together for the weekend. Though the entire weekend is a debacle and it is one error after another. The writer missed the mark completely. What could have been a funny story about a not-so-perfect family just became annoying and tedious. I just wanted it all to end.

It is quite disappointing because I have heard such great things about Morgan Matson’s books and I wanted to like this book. What should have been an easy read is instead a difficult read.

There wasn’t much I liked at all. I did like the comics and I wished there had been more of them because they were great.

I did write notes about this book and every time something annoyed me I wrote it on an index card, but I seem to have lost my notes (which is probably a good thing) because most of my notes were quite snarky.

Of course, this is my opinion entirely. I have read MANY wonderful reviews of this book, particularly in Australia and I am incredibly suspicious of this because this book did receive a lot of publicity here in Australia. I have also read that Morgan Matson is a great author and reviewers who didn’t particularly like this book have praised her other books. Though, I am hesitant because I found this book hard work and I am not sure I could wade through another book that is so excessive and indulgent.

Bouquet, Celebration, Color, Colorful

Unpopular opinion but I didn’t like The Kiss Quotient

THE KISS QUOTIENT by Helen Hoang

Author: Helen Hoang
Publisher: Allen & Unwin

KIRKUS REVIEW

A woman with Asperger’s falls in love with the escort she hires to teach her about sex and relationships.

Stella Lane’s job as an econometrician is perfectly satisfying, but now that she’s 30, her mother expects her to look for a husband and start producing babies. Stella has never enjoyed dating or sex, so when a male colleague she’s cautiously interested in rudely suggests she should “get some practice,” she takes his advice to heart. Enter Michael Phan, a man as gorgeous as any K-drama star, who abandoned his promising career as a fashion designer and started escorting to pay for his mother’s cancer treatments. At their first appointment, Michael refuses to rush into sex with a woman so frozen with discomfort, regardless of whether or not she’s paid him. Stella, both deeply attracted to him and grateful for his kindness, asks him to consider a long-term arrangement. Michael is hesitant after a past experience with a stalker client, but he recognizes her vulnerability and is overcome by an instinct to protect her. Hoang is sure-footed in her character development; Michael and Stella both have robust, sympathetic stories and complicated, loving families. The initial sizzling sexual chemistry deepens into a satisfying romantic relationship. Both of them are plagued with insecurities even though they are generous and nonjudgmental with each other. Stella is nervous about revealing her Asperger’s to Michael, but he accepts her unconditionally. Michael keeps his escorting a secret from his family and struggles to separate his own identity from that of his con-man father, but Stella judges him on his own merits. An unnecessary late-stage plot twist feels forced and inorganic, but it’s a small misstep.

A well-crafted and charming debut romance.

When I want to read an honest review of a book, my go-to reviews is Kirkus Reviews. I find their reviews concise and truthful. The majority of the time, I feel we are on the same page, but not this time.

I couldn’t connect with The Kiss Quotient. I wanted a fun holiday read and instead, I found myself cringing and wanting it all to end. The Kiss Quotient isn’t a terrible book, it is well written and I am in the minority for not liking this book. This book is LOVED. I think many, many years ago I would have loved this book and I would have been caught up in the romance and attraction of Stella and Michael, but I am not that reader any more. Which I think is a good thing. I am a different reader these days. I would highly recommend this book if you like fun, well-written romances.

There were many reasons I didn’t like The Kiss Quotient, but I will limit it to three.

After he took them out of the city and merged into the light traffic on 101S…

Michael ALWAYS drives – always. There isn’t even a discussion. Not once does Stella ever say that she doesn’t like driving and she would prefer Michael to drive. He always assumes the position of the driver. This bugged me a lot!

They didn’t approve of me at first. Why would they want him marrying a Vietnamese girl with only an eighth-grade education who barely spoke English?…

“I didn’t know that…” It made him look at his grandparents in a new, rather unfavourable light.

Michael learns that his grandparents on his father’s side didn’t like his mother…at first. Obviously, his grandparents came around, which says a lot for them as people, but Michael decides that he’s going to think less of his grandparents because they were worried about who was marrying. Why was this important to the storyline? Are we supposed to think more of Michael because this makes him enlightened? This is barely a blip in the storyline, but it irked me.

Her petite body was composed of elegant shoulders and arms, a little waist that flared to gently curved hips, and shapely legs with delicate ankles.

It irritated me that Stella and Michael were both stunning. I am not sure why this annoyed me so much, but both of them were drop-dead gorgeous and I couldn’t quite relate to either of them because of this. I know that I watch movies and TV shows all the time where the characters are gorgeous, so why did it bother me so much that Stella and Michael were so attractive? Maybe because I found it all so unrelatable and I found the characters were very stereotyped. Stella is a gorgeous, petite and smart econometrician and Michael is the sexy biracial Viet-Swedish escort. My eyes are rolling into the back of my head as I write that sentence. Oh, but apparently Stella is autistic, so that makes her relatable and Michael has issues because of his father, so he’s flawed too. Once again, eye roll. Oh, and I forgot to add that; apparently, Stella is “quirky” – need I say more.

Grace and Fury

grace and fury

Author: Tracy Banghart

Publisher: Little, Brown

I enjoyed Grace and Fury, but it wasn’t entirely what I was expecting. I was led to believe that it would be more groundbreaking. There seems to be a lot of books these days that have us believe that we are going to be thrown into a world where women have very few rights. Is this a way to remind women of how far we have come or is it because it makes for a good story? It would be nice to read a book where the men are the inferior sex or maybe where women and men are equal, but where’s the outrage in that story?

Grace and Fury is another book where female readers are meant to be incensed at the fact that women are subservient to men. It is all a little predictable. Though in saying all that, I did enjoy this book and I found it easy to read, fast-paced and gripping, but I am hoping that the next book in the series is more left of centre and takes the characters in a different direction. Grace and Fury is just another feminist story of oppression and resistance that is beginning to get a little old and unoriginal.

A story about two sisters, Nomi and Serina, who are fighting for their freedom in a world where women have no rights. One of the sisters has been chosen as a Grace (a Grace is a female companion to the royal leader) and the other sister has been sent to an island where she must fight for her life under primitive and cruel conditions.

The setting is a world with a tyrannical monarchy that makes the rules up as it sees fit. The only choices that women have in this world are servitude, factory work and marriage unless of course you are chosen to be a ‘Grace.’ A Grace is an attendant to the royal monarch and means that you and your family will be looked after. A Grace will never want for anything, but in return, she is a servant to the royal monarch in every way. She can make no choices for herself and must never refuse her royal monarch.

Serina wants to be chosen to be a Grace to the Heir of the monarch and she and her mother have spent their whole life working towards this goal. Of course, we have Nomi, the unruly rebellious sister who wants nothing but to be able to read and study like her brother. In this world, it is illegal for women to go to school or to read (sound familiar?).

Of course, nothing goes smoothly and Nomi being the wild younger sister sets off a chain of events that results in the girls being separated and facing challenges that they haven’t been prepared for in their young lives. Serina has been brought up to be a Grace and Nomi was brought up to be her sister’s maid. Neither is equipped to deal with the challenges that they are about to face.

Also, just once, I would love a character like Serina – who has trained her whole life to be a Grace to crumble under the adversity that is thrown her way, but of course, she doesn’t and she rises to the challenge – as all strong women do.  I understand what the author is trying to achieve, but I find it all a little banal and would welcome something a bit unexpected in stories like this one if only to throw the reader off balance.

I  was disappointed that considering this was meant to be a story of women empowerment that there were love stories thrown in for both girls. Though thankfully the romance didn’t take over the plot. I found both romances to be unnecessary and I think the author could have found more original ways to incorporate these men into the story.

Grace and Fury is an entertaining book and you will find it gripping and hard to put down once you start reading but if you are looking for a book with a fresh take on female empowerment than you need to keep looking.

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Just Breathe

Author: Andrew Daddo

Publisher: Penguin

Just Breathe, a beautiful coming of age book. I consider myself a person who isn’t too emotional, even a tad cynical at times, but this book by Andrew Daddo melted my cold heart – I also shed a tear and I can’t remember the last time I shed a tear when reading a book.  I heard Andrew Daddo on the radio and he said when he asked his fifteen-year-old daughter what should he write about next, she suggested, ‘write something to make me cry’. Well, I’m sure Daddo’s daughter did cry.

This is a book about possibilities. Two young people who are on the brink of discovering who they are and what they hope for their future.  Just Breathe is an exhilarating, emotional rollercoaster – the rollercoaster of being a teenager.

What I particularly liked about this book was that the two characters that the book centres around are such great kids. Emily and Hendrix are two kids who are dealing with challenges in their life, but they aren’t letting these challenges rule their life or determine their future. Together they are navigating their own lives and supporting each other to be the best person they can be.

Emily is dealing with a life-threatening tumour but she doesn’t want it to define her, nor does she want it to limit her life. She wants to fall in love, to make mistakes and most importantly, she wants to be a teenager.

Hendrix is living and training as an elite athlete. His father is controlling his life because his father’s dream is to see Hendrix as the next national champion. In the beginning, Hendrix believes that this is what he wants, but as his world expands, he realises that life has so many more possibilities and that he doesn’t want to be tied to his father’s dream.

Emily and Hendrix are two beautiful characters who are intelligent, funny and snarky. Daddo’s writing is superb. Just Breathe will capture your heart from the moment you start reading and it never let’s go.

Special mention must go to Ethan. Hendrix and Ethan strike up an unlikely friendship through their running and Ethan reminds Hendrix of what it is to be a teenage and particularly a teenage boy.  Ethan provides us with many moments of sheer joy and humour. He is also the friend that everyone should have in their life. Ethan is an easy-going character whose actions start at his heart, not his brain. He doesn’t have a malicious bone in his body and he wants the best for everyone, but he isn’t a syrupy character and I applaud Daddo for providing us such a great character.

Just Breathe shows us that teenagers are fundamentally the same no matter the era. Daddo has managed to write a beautiful book that captures that fantastic time of being a teenager. When you can see all the possibilities that life has for you, but you are also frightened and overwhelmed by those possibilities. As you read this book, you will be taken on an emotional ride that will make you feel, laugh and cry. Just Breathe is a book full of heart.

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