The Things That Will Not Stand

 

The Things That Will Not Stand - Michael Gerard Bauer

Author: Michael Gerard Bauer

Publisher: Scholastic Australia

Sebastian is at a university open day with his best friend Tolly when he meets a girl. Her name is Frida, and she’s edgy, caustic and funny. She’s also a storyteller, but the stories she tells about herself don’t ring true, and as their surprising and eventful day together unfolds, Sebastian struggles to sort the fact from the fiction.

But how much can he expect Frida to share in just one day? And how much of his own self and his own secrets will he be willing to reveal in return?

I love Michael Gerard Bauer’s writing. From the beginning, I enjoyed this book because it was full of Bauer’s trademark humour.

As the book progressed though, Frida started to irritate me. I am not good with people who can’t tell the truth. I guess this comes from associating with people who lie constantly. I hate it when I am not sure if someone is telling me the truth because they have told so many lies in the past, so I had a hard time with Frida and her pathological lying.

I did love the banter between all the characters and I particularly adored Tolly. Seb, at times, was a little pathetic and Frida with her lying irritated me, but Tolly was perfect. He was funny, intelligent and the type of person you wished you were friends with. To be perfectly honest I couldn’t understand why Tolly was friends with Seb.

Tolly stole the book from the moment his character was introduced.

‘We’ve had numerous complaints from our other patrons regarding the excessive drug use, offensive language and obscene behaviour at this table.’

I check Frida’s reaction. She’s observing him closely, like she’s dissecting him and peeling back the layers with her eyes.

His introduction is perfect. He flawlessly moves into the banter without missing a beat with Frida and Seb. For some time during the book, I seriously couldn’t understand why Frida preferred Seb over Tolly.

Bauer’s writing is hilarious. The Things That Will Not Stand is wonderfully funny and you will find yourself laughing out loud. Yes, I was little irritated by Frida and her lying. Yes, I thought that Seb was a bit of an idiot, but Bauer writes in such a way that you go through these emotions and yet at the end of the book you feel genuinely for these characters.

The Things That Will Not Stand is pure Bauer. It is heartbreaking and funny. I will admit that towards the end of the book I had reached my limit with Seb’s idiocy and Frida’s lying and then suddenly Bauer takes a different direction (and it isn’t like you didn’t know it was coming), but somehow he had me caring for these characters.  When reading the final chapters, I had tears running down my face (and I hardly ever cry when reading). I finished this book and I realised that for all their annoyances I liked Frida and Seb and I wanted them to be happy.

And despite my irritation, there were times when I enjoyed Frida and Seb a lot. I emphasised with Seb a lot more than I would like to admit (maybe he annoyed me because I saw a lot of me in him!).

There are two words I’m desperately hoping no one utters while we are here. Audience participation. More like audience humiliation is the way I see it. Why couldn’t we have gone to the drones? I’m missing them already. Drones are great. Drones do their thing in the sky. Alone. Drones never expect you to get up there and join them. Drones don’t force you to be part of their show. Drones don’t expect anything of you at all. They just let you be. People should be more like drones!

Oh Seb, I hear you!

The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone

 

The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone

Author: Jaclyn Moriarty

Illustrator: Kelly Canby

Publisher: Allen & Unwin

Bronte Mettlestone’s parents ran away to have adventures when she was a baby, leaving her to be raised by her Aunt Isabelle and the Butler. She’s had a perfectly pleasant childhood of afternoon teas and riding lessons – and no adventures, thank you very much.
But Bronte’s parents have left extremely detailed (and bossy) instructions for Bronte in their will. The instructions must be followed to the letter, or disaster will befall Bronte’s home. She is to travel the kingdoms and empires, perfectly alone, delivering special gifts to her ten other aunts. There is a farmer aunt who owns an orange orchard and a veterinarian aunt who specialises in dragon care, a pair of aunts who captain a cruise ship together and a former rockstar aunt who is now the reigning monarch of a small kingdom.
Now, armed with only her parents’ instructions, a chest full of strange gifts and her own strong will, Bronte must journey forth to face dragons, Chief Detectives and pirates – and the gathering suspicion that there might be something more to her extremely inconvenient quest than meets the eye…
From the award-winning Jaclyn Moriarty comes a fantastic tale of high intrigue, grand adventure and an abundance of aunts.

I fell in love with Jaclyn Moriarty’s writing while reading the Colours of Madeleine series. Oh, how I loved that series. I was in absolute awe of Jaclyn Moriarty and her quirky, unique and imaginative writing, so I was thrilled to see that she had written a series for middle-grade readers.

Jaclyn Moriarty is an inventive, quirky and delightful writer. I am always amazed by her imagination and creativity when reading her books and The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone is no exception. Once you start reading you are captured by Moriarty and she does not let you go and once she has let you go, you want more.

What I love about Moriarty is that she isn’t like any other writer. She is incomparable. While reading this book, I was asked to describe what the book was about – I did my best to explain this book, but I think I failed miserably. You have to read Moriarty’s work to understand her refreshing and original imagination.

Moriarty’s world-building is like no other and it isn’t just her world-building, the way she uses words to immerse you in her story is original and delightful.

‘The Upturned…Ha! You mean the Dishevelled Sofa!’

The Dishevelled Sofa is a cafe in Moriarty’s book. If the name hasn’t captured your attention and made you want to visit, then Moriarty’s description will.

Her attention to detail and vocabulary is incredible. Every word counts. Every chapter counts. All one hundred and nine chapters! This world that Moriarty has created is all hers and her work is complemented by Kelly Canby’s delightful, lively and animated illustrations. The illustrations add to the book.  Moriarty’s writing can easily stand alone but with Canby’s illustrations an extra depth is attached to the book.

Yes, this is a hefty book, but it isn’t an arduous read instead you will find yourself whipping through the pages and loving Moriarty & Canby’s brave, quirky and humorous work. I am delighted that I can introduce Moriarty’s work to middle-grade readers and I know they will love her as much as I do.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I like a book to tell a story. These books did not. They told about things. It’s true that this is what I needed them to do, and yet honestly. Did they have to? ‘Oh, just stop, you insufferable bore!’ I murmured to the authors.

Moriarty is no insufferable bore and when reading her work, I wonder what it must be like to live inside her head. I am sure that Moriarty could make a to-do list funny and creative. You only have to look at the title! It is enormous, like the book, but Moriarty makes it work. She’s a wonder!

Lenny’s Book of Everything

Author: Karen Foxlee

Publisher: Allen & Unwin

The story takes place in Ohio, a state in the USA. It’s set in the 1970s. A time before technology overtook our lives. The main character, Lenny, lives in an apartment with her mum, Cynthia Spink, the proud, hard-working, sharp-witted, anxious mother of two and her younger brother, Davey – her happy-go-lucky brother who has gigantism. Her father, Peter Lenard Spink, has left them. He hopped on a Greyhound bus and never returned.

Lenny’s Book of Everything is captivating, charming and magical. Lenny, her mother and brother, live an ordinary life except for the fact that Davey grows at an alarming rate. At age six, he is four foot and ten inches or the equivalent of about 147 centimetres.

So what makes this book so charming? Is it because it set in the 1970s when life was simpler? The highlight of the children’s week is the arrival of the Burrell’s Build-it-at-Home Encyclopaedia which their mother won for the children through her talented writing. Cynthia Spink’s communication with Burrell’s (through letters) is a memorable part of the book.

The encyclopaedias allow the children a glimpse of the world that exists outside their apartment and their small town. They experience the wonders of the world through the books. Lenny discovers a fascination of beetles and dreams of being a coleopterist. Davey becomes enthralled with birds of prey and travelling to Great Bear Lake. I often wonder if Lenny fulfilled her dream and became a coleopterist.

A lot of the charm and magic of the book lies with the characters. Every character adds an element to the story from Lenny’s best friends CJ Bartholomew and Matthew Milford to the school principal Mrs Dalrymple – keep an eye out for Mrs Dalrymple and Mrs Oliver towards the end of the book!

My favourite character was Mrs Gaspar. The odd old Hungarian woman who lives in their apartment block and who looks after the children when Cynthia works. Every child should experience a Mrs Gaspar when growing up – she’s so beautifully disagreeable.

“The abominable snowman,” said Davey.

“Pah,” said Mrs. Gaspar, and she waved her hand as though we bored her. “I saw him once when I was walking home from school in Hungary.”

This bittersweet tale is full of so many perfect moments that remind you that our best life is experienced through kindness, hope and love. Lenny’s Book of Everything is gorgeous and borders on perfection. Thank you, Karen Foxlee, for giving me the reading collywobbles ♥

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Sam & Ilsa’s Last Hurrah

Authors: Rachel Cohn & David Levithan

Publisher: Allen & Unwin

I was immediately drawn to this book. Who doesn’t love a good dinner party? I liked the idea of twins throwing a dinner party and inviting three guests each, but the other doesn’t know who they asked – it has disaster written all over it. After the first few chapters, I felt slightly cynical and was thinking that it was all too slick and too predictable. I stuck with it, though, and I will say you will enjoy the book if you let go of your cynism. I guess it could be quite a fun read. Though, because I am quite cynical, I thought the book was quite ridiculous.

It’s senior year for brother and sister Sam and Ilsa and time for one final dinner party at their grandmother Czarina’s rent-controlled apartment on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. The rules are simple: The twins may each invite three people and see how the guests interact. The premise is excellent and one that I could get on board with but I struggle with the book beyond the blurb.

Sam’s list of invitees is his ex, Jason Goldstein Chung who comes across as obnoxious and bitter. Ilsa’s ex, Parker, who appears to have no faults – he is sophisticated, gracious, kind and considerate. Sam’s final invitee is Johan, an Afrikaner whom Sam has been checking out on the Subway and he decides to invite to his dinner party (as you do!). Ilsa’s list consists of her school friend Li Zhang, KK Kingsley who is a rude socialite and I expect we are automatically supposed to dislike her because she’s presumedly white and privileged and finally Frederyk Podhalanski, a blonde Polish exchange student who communicates mostly through his sock puppet, Caspian. I never grasped the whole storyline with the sock puppet and I hope someone can help me with my blatant ignorance. I also found Caspian rude and obnoxious, but this was acceptable behaviour (for some reason) – once again, if someone could explain this “character”, I would appreciate it.

Like most dinner parties there is too much alcohol, too many exes in one room and too many unresolved “issues” and most of those issues seem to stem from the twins. The evening is narrated from alternating points of view over the evening – Sam & Ilsa. The book I gather is meant to be a humorous romp, but I thought it was severely lacking and it was trying too hard to be witty, hilarious and edgy. I found it all a little too politically correct and a good dinner party needs to be the opposite. This is one dinner party that won’t be remembered fondly, but I know, that others will hold it dearly in their hearts – each to their own.

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Undead Girl Gang

Author: Lily Anderson

Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin

Undead Girl Gang is a hilarious and quirky novel. As we know, I am susceptible to a great book cover and I am also known not to read a book if I don’t like a cover. I didn’t like the cover of this book.  I know that many fans have swooned over the cover, but I can’t cope with the denim or the enamel pins. Luckily, for me, I received it in hard copy and was able to take the cover off to read it. I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to feel about this book but I wanted something light and fun to read and the blurb suggested this may fit the bill and it did.

Lily Anderson has written a well-crafted and unique tale but what I loved most was the characters, particularly the main character Mila Flores. Mila is snarky, sarcastic and witty and I fell in love with her immediately. We meet Mila at her best friend’s funeral. According to the local police, Riley committed suicide. The third suicide in less than a week at Cross Creek. Mila doesn’t believe that Riley would commit suicide and feels there is foul play at large. Mila is at Riley’s funeral and she’s annoyed. She’s annoyed that Riley isn’t there, she’s annoyed that everyone believes that Riley committed suicide and she’s annoyed that Aniyah Dorsey wrote a poem for Riley and that the Fairmont Show Choir is going to perform.

“Your poem fucking sucks,” I growl at her.

I was enjoying Mila’s internal dialogue while at the funeral, but when she utters those words to Aniyah Dorsey I was hooked and so I began chapter two.

Mila is Mexican-American, overweight and Wiccan. Before Riley died, Mila and Riley would dabble in spells and so Mila decides that she needs to bring Riley back from the dead to prove that she didn’t kill herself and was instead murdered.

In bringing back Riley, Mila also unwittingly brings back June and Dayton – the two other girls who had committed suicide. Bringing back June and Dayton wasn’t part of the plan. June and Dayton were popular girls and as such had little to do with Mila and Riley who were seen as Fairmont Academy outcasts.

Suddenly Mila has three undead girls and all the girls have issues that need to be resolved. None of the girls can remember what happened to them leading up to their deaths, but all three are adamant that they didn’t commit suicide and so begins a hilarious chain of events that eventually brings the unravelling of what happened to all three girls.

Though it wasn’t the mystery that kept me reading until the end, it was the characters. I enjoyed getting to know Mila, Riley, Dayton and June. All four girls were smart, sassy and funny. The four girls get to know each other and realise that they actually like each other.

It was the character of Mila that I relished the most.  I enjoyed her snark. She was a character that I would love to see in a television show. Lily Anderson did a great job with her.

“People are assholes,” I say.

He laughs quietly. “That should be your catchphrase.”

Undead Girl Gang is a well-paced page-turner that will make you laugh out loud. Yes, the book does lack suspense but it is much more than a mystery and the snarky, witty narration definitely makes up for any weakness in the plot. A book that is highly quotable and completely relatable – particularly if you find people incredibly annoying. This is a joyful and hilarious book about friendship. So if you like books with quirky, funny, snarky, sarcastic and witty characters that will make you laugh out loud, this book is perfect for you.

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