Friday, 30 May 2014

The Other Side of Nowhere by Steve Johnston

The Other Side of Nowhere by Steve Johnston
Published May 1, 2014 by Hardie Grant Egmont
Source: the publisher
Rating: 3 stars

From the blurb: When Johnno and his friends survive the freak storm that rips apart their yacht, they're just glad to be alive. That is, until reality hits: they've washed up on an uninhabited island with few supplies, no phone and no way to get home.

The situation becomes even more desperate when the four teenagers discover they are not alone on the island. There's a hideout where men with guns are covering up a dark secret that they will protect at any cost.

With nowhere to run, Johnno and his friends are forced into a dangerous game with the criminals as they fight to save one of their own. 

The situation becomes even more desperate when the four teenagers discover they are not alone on the island. There's a hideout where men with guns are covering up a dark secret that they will protect at any cost. 
With nowhere to run, Johnno and his friends are forced into a dangerous game with the criminals as they fight to save one of their own. 

The Other Side of Nowhere by Steve Johnston perfectly captures a teenage sailing and camping trip that does not go to plan. Johnno Jones is fifteen, he and younger brother Matty live in the city, but for the past three years they’ve spent their summers at Shell Harbour with Johnno’s best mate, Nick Barnes. Nick restored an old yacht, now named The Dolphin, and he invited Johnno and Matty to go on a trip with him; the plan is to sail to Lion Island and spend a few days camping there. But due to the weather and some unexpected island guests, things go horribly wrong.

Johnno is a great guy, he’s intuitive, smart, but doesn’t feel as confident as Matty or Nick. There’s a great brotherly rivalry between him and Matty and their race at the start of the novel was both fun and realistic. Johnno’s noticed a difference in Nick, they were best mates but after Nick moved to Shell Harbour things changed, now he feels as though Nick makes him work for their friendship, he’s also more serious and moody. Johnno invites his cousin Georgina along, they’re really close and lately Johnno has to keep reminding himself that they’re related though his never really goes anywhere and his confused feelings don’t seem to be shared by George.

The start of the story has quite an ominous tone, from Matty’s near crash, Nick’s dark mood, to the hint of a storm – these elements enhanced the atmosphere, warning that danger lay ahead. Once on the water there’s a false sense of calm with knowledgeable descriptions of sailing over a gorgeous, glittery blue sea – I loved this section, it reminded me of high school and the sailing lessons we got to take as part of an end of year activities week.

There isn’t much information about this book or the author that I can find, but the story definitely felt Australian to me. NSW does have a Shellharbour (one word, not two like the location in the book) and we also have a Lion Island, but from what I can tell this is a fictional setting. I loved the contrasts in this story and the fact that at first the island seems like a holiday destination but turns out to be perilous place.

The story wraps up well, there’s plenty of action throughout the book, but also some really sweet moments between the boys. It’s a book that will be well received by teens looking for action and adventure in a realistic setting.

Thank you to the lovely people at Hardie Grant Egmont for my review copy.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

The Minnow by Diana Sweeney

This post contains a review and a bookish manicure.

The Minnow by Diana Sweeney
Published May 28, 2014 by Text Publishing
Source: the publisher
Rating: 4 stars
From the blurb: A girl called Tom. A flood that has taken the lives of her parents and sister. A guy called Bill, who has let her down. A grandmother who knows her secret. A good friend called Jonah, and a little catfish called Sarah. And the Minnow.
Strangers aren't always welcome in The Crossing, but reading The Minnow is like being a visitor to this small town, and going on a guided tour via the eyes of an innocent fourteen year old girl, Tom. There is so much detail to Tom’s story; she’ll introduce you to characters like Bill, a man who took her in after the flood, Jonah, her best friend, and Nana who resides in the Mavis Orstein Home for the Elderly. Right from the start you’ll be swept up in her tale of a town still recovering from a natural disaster.

There’s quite a dark undercurrent to this story, the blurb includes a subtle warning, but I was still extremely saddened by Tom’s life. The flood killed her parents and her younger sister Sarah, and even though almost a year has passed, Tom thinks about them constantly, even seeing Sarah in a little catfish and conversing with her. Tom is a naïve young girl who is also keenly observational and fascinated by word. Reading this I felt immersed in her world and enjoyed her funny and sometimes odd perspective.

Once Tom’s secret is revealed I just wanted to wrap her up and keep her safe, so it was good to see she did have supportive people around her, like Jonah, Nana, and Jonathan. I adored Jonah for sticking by Tom, I loved Nana and her funny old sayings, and Jonathan for driving her to and fro, and encouraging her to think about everything.

Set in a fictional town, this story had such a strong Aussie feel to it, from the lingo – a twenty dollar note is referred to as a lobster, to the setting, to the characters, you could slot this town into any state and it would fit there perfectly. 

The writing is beautiful, it’s no wonder this debut novel won the 2013 Text Prize. It’s descriptive yet each word feels chosen with care, it’s captivating and it’s bleak but the occasional funny or touching moment shines through the depths and reminds you that there’s hope despite the death and loss.

According to Tom there are perfect jam-doughnut days: clear and sunny, but also quite cool and crisp, and preferably in autumn, so the release of The Minnow feels perfectly timed: grab yourself a copy, a jam doughnut, then find a comfy place to read and settle in for a sad, heartbreaking, bittersweet novel.

Thank you to the wonderful people at Text Publishing for my review copy.

Purchase:  Angus & Roberston  /  Booktopia  /  Bookworld  /  Fishpond (intl shipping)

Text Publishing always have the most amazing covers and this is definitely the case for The Minnow. I knew I had to recreate this underwater look on my nails.

I started with a base of Orly Liquid Vinyl.

Then I used acrylic paint and very fine brush to paint some of the images from the cover: the little crab, the feet, leaves, branches, and shells.

I've worn this for the past two days and I've grown quite fond of the little crab.

Monday, 26 May 2014

The Haunting of Lily Frost by Nova Weetman

This post contains a review and a bookish manicure.

The Haunting of Lily Frost by Nova Weetman
Published April 23, 2014 by UQP
Source: the publisher
Rating: 4 stars
From the blurb: When Lily Frost’s parents make her move from the only home and best friend she’s ever known to a country town, things are dire. Lily knows no one – but someone seems to know her. 
Upon entering her new attic bedroom, Lily faints. Coming to, she’s overcome by someone else’s secrets – the girl who lived there before. Determined to uncover why, she is thrown into the path of cute local boy Danny, who just happened to be the girl’s ex-boyfriend.
After Lily finds out the girl mysteriously disappeared a year ago, she discovers that the one-street town holds more twists and turns than originally meets the eye. 
For Lily, life in this small town is about to get very interesting as she finds herself seeing things she thought belonged to the dead.

I heard about a new Aussie YA novel, The Haunting of Lily Frost by Nova Weetman, during the same week that Jo, Jenna, and I decided to go on a ghost tour -  spooky, right? No, not really, but I will say that this book was scarier than the ghost tour! The ghost tour was like an evening bush walk with not-very-scary stories whereas Lily’s story gave me chills.

Fifteen year old Lily Frost lives in Melbourne with her parents and younger brother Max, until her parents decide to move them to a small town called Gideon, two hours away. From the moment Lily sees a photo of the old house she’ll be calling home she has a weird feeling, and things only get weirder for her once they move.

Lily’s story starts with a descriptive and vivid scene of her almost-drowning at age five, watched over by their next door neighbours’ German Shepherd (referred to in the book as an Alsatian). This life-changing event is a crucial link to Lily experiencing ghostly sensations once they move into the old Sarenson house. Her connection to a girl missing from the town is enforced by two key elements: water, and another German Shepherd Dog, this time belonging to Danny, the missing girl’s former boyfriend. These elements enhanced the ghostly atmosphere and kept me on edge as I read.

I immediately liked Lily, she’s outraged at having to move and leave behind her bff, Ruby Harada, and I admired her attempts to change her parents’ minds: arguing followed by the silent treatment. She’s worried about leaving Ruby because she doesn't feel as though she can make friends without her, she’s a little awkward and lacks self-confidence, and she sounded like an authentic teenager.

I also adored Ruby because she stuck by Lily, even when she was being negative and moody, and also didn't baulk at the idea of the ghost in Lily’s room. She won my heart from the moment she talked about painting each fingernail a different colour to help her decide on which colour to use.

Now, I scare easily so maybe some readers won’t find Lily’s story that scary, but for me there is something about a haunted bedroom, it has to do with falling asleep and letting your guard down. So the fact that Lily not only chose that room but also slept in it made her the bravest girl in my eyes. Each time she felt or saw something in her room, my heart would race!

This story pairs family relationships and growing up, with a thrilling paranormal element, making this a fun, entertaining, and spooky YA novel.

Thank you to the fantastic people at UQP for my review copy.

Purchase: A&R  /  Booktopia  /  Bookworld  /  Dymocks  /  Fishpond (intl shipping)

I love how atmospheric this cover is, it perfectly captures the river in Gideon.

I started with 1 coat of China Glaze White Out.

I sponged on a few shades of blue: Natio Turquoise, Picture Polish Marine, Ulta3 Berry Blue, and a green: China Glaze Starboard, layering them to match the blue-green sky of the cover.

I used acrylic paint and a fine brush to paint the moon and then the trees, Lily, and the bridge.

Finally I painted the lower quarter of each nail black, using acrylic paint.

I love having this spooky night scene on my nails, this is a mani I’ll be wearing for a few days.

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Stacking the Shelves (15)

Stacking the Shelves is hosted by Tynga's Reviews - it's a way for us to share the books we received during the week

Vlog - if you're here to see Molly, this week she pops in at 3.40 minutes:

For review:

Spark by Rachael Craw (NZ YA)
More Than This by Patrick Ness 
Dangerous Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl


This is Shyness by Leanne Hall (Aussie YA)
Run by Tim Sinclair (Aussie YA)

I mentioned in my vlog that by today I may have put up a recap of the National Book Bloggers Forum that I attended on Tuesday....but I didn't get around to it. I'll try and get one up this week!

Also, the OzYAChat is on again this week! Join us Thursday, May 29 at 7pm AEST to talk about Aussie YA sci-fi and fantasy

Friday, 23 May 2014

Goose by Dawn O'Porter

This post contains a review and a bookish manicure

Goose (Paper Aeroplanes #2) by Dawn O’Porter
Published May 1, 2014 by Hot Key Books
Source: the publisher
Raintg: 4 stars

From the blurb: It's a year and a half on from Paper Aeroplanes, and Renée is now living with her Aunty Jo. They even have geese, and Renée likes to sit and watch them, wondering if she'll ever find 'the One' - someone who will love her no matter what, and be there for her no matter how bad things get. She and Flo are in their final year at school, and they've got some tough choices to make - like will they go to university? And if so where - and will they go together? Renée's usual ambivalence on the matter shocks Flo, who had assumed they'd continue as they were, the best and closest of friends, forever. She feels as though she needs Renée's support more than ever, so when a handsome young boy enters Flo's life, she finds herself powerfully drawn to his kindness, and his faith. Renée and Flo's friendship will soon be tested in a way neither of them could have expected - and if Paper Aeroplanes was a book about finding friendship, Goose is the novel that explores whether it's possible to keep hold of it.

Goose by Dawn O’Porter is the sequel to Paper Aeroplanes, one and a half years on, again on the island on Guernsey.  It’s now 1997 and Renee and Flo are in their final year of high school, both girls are looking forward to leaving the island, but it turns out they each have their own idea of what it should involve.

I adored Paper Aeroplanes, it perfectly captured teenage life in the 90s as well as being honest, funny, and sad. Goose follows along in the same vein, the girls are older now so the topics in this story are also more mature and there’s a focus on what it’s like to go from being a teenager to an adult.

Renee is fed up with school and being forced to learn so Flo’s idea to head off to uni together does not appeal to her anymore. Her home life is much happier, she’s living with Aunty Jo, her nan, and a pair of geese. She’s got a job at a local pub, is making money, and finally meets her long time crush, Dean.

Flo on the other hand cannot wait to leave and envisions the pair of them going off to uni and continuing their friendship. Her home life has also improved, her brother left and she gets along with her mum a lot more. But, she cannot stop thinking of her father’s death. She goes inside a local church one day to avoid the rain and she enjoys her time there so much that she starts going regularly, joins a bible group, and meets Gordon, a local singer in a rock band that sings songs about God.

I was really happy for both girls and their living situations. Neither of them were very happy, loved, or supported in Paper Aeroplanes, so it was good to see the improvement. When it came to their love lives I knew exactly what was going to happen to each of them. As an adult I felt very nostalgic reading about their dating foibles, for teens I think it would be a great look at what they have to look forward to, ha!

The story takes a dark turn that I did not see it coming at all. I was really shocked by the event that occurs towards the end of the book. I think the way it was dealt with dampened my enjoyment of this book because I didn't quite love it as much as Paper Aeroplanes, even though I desperately wanted to. It’s too spoilery to discuss anything about it, so I’ll just say there were aspects of the recovery that I liked (forgiveness), and other aspects that made it seem like everyone involved moved on too quickly (but, people do grieve in different ways).

I’m so glad we got to re-visit Renee and Flo in Goose, it’s another true-to-life look at growing up and how friendships can change over time, especially when you’re young.

Thank you to the wonderful people at Hot Key for my review copy.

So, I was going to do nails for both books but they’re so similar, so I decided to go with Goose.

I started with a base of China Glaze White Out.

On my thumb, index, and pinky nails I used a makeup sponge to do a gradient using Bloom Cyndi and China Glaze Stone Cold.

On my middle and ring nails I used acrylic paint and a very fine brush to paint the neon orange brick walls.

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Paper Aeroplanes by Dawn O'Porter

Paper Aeroplanes (Paper Aeroplanes #1) by Dawn O’Porter
Published May 2, 2013 by Hot Key Books
Source: ARC from Michelle and purchased a finished copy
Rating: 5 stars
From the blurb: It's the mid-1990s, and fifteen year-old Guernsey schoolgirls, Renée and Flo, are not really meant to be friends. Thoughtful, introspective and studious Flo couldn't be more different to ambitious, extroverted and sexually curious Renée. But Renée and Flo are united by loneliness and their dysfunctional families, and an intense bond is formed. Although there are obstacles to their friendship (namely Flo's jealous ex-best friend and Renée's growing infatuation with Flo's brother), fifteen is an age where anything can happen, where life stretches out before you, and when every betrayal feels like the end of the world. For Renée and Flo it is the time of their lives.

It’s not often I re-read books, these days it’s because I do not have the time and because I fear my reaction to a 5 star read the second time around – what if I don’t like it as much? What it if re-reading it totally changes my feelings? I chose to re-read Paper Aeroplanes because I never reviewed it when I read it six months ago, and because I have the sequel and wanted to refresh my memory. I’m happy to report that Paper Aeroplanes did not suffer from a re-read, if anything I loved it even more.

Paper Aeroplanes by Dawn O’Porter is set in Guernsey, an island off the coast of France, in 1994. Renee Sargent and Flo Parrot are fifteen year olds attending Tudor Falls, an all-girls high school, and this is the year they become best friends.

The story is told from both Renee and Flo’s perspective and each girl provided a distinct voice and point of view. Renee’s mum died from cancer eight years ago. Since then her father left them and she and younger sister Nell now live with their grandparents. Her Pop is always putting her down and harassing her, usually before she’s had a chance to actually do the things she’s being accused of. Nell seems to hate her but won’t talk to her. School is an escape for her, somewhere she can be herself. She enjoys making jokes, playing tricks, and skiving classes. Flo lives at home with her mum, older brother Julian and baby sister Abi. Her mum kicked her father out and now taking care of Abi falls to Flo as her mum just doesn’t care. Her father, who she loves dearly, lives in a rundown house and now drinks a lot, she feels as though she’s the only one who loves him and that he’s the only one she can talk to. Her so-called best friend is atrocious. Sally is one of the meanest girls I’ve read about, she constantly puts Flo down but Flo doesn’t want the hassle of trying to ditch her.

Renee and Flo are perfect for each other and watching them become best friends was a highlight of this book. They have different situations but they are also so similar – they both have unhappy home lives, they both have friends who aren’t really their friends, they both understand the grief of losing someone close to you. Their friendship wasn’t perfect, they had ups and downs, but that was so realistic of any friendship, teenage or adult.

The author loosely based this story on her teenage diaries and it really lent such an authentic atmosphere to the book. I could picture the island, how it made the girls feel so hemmed in. Their houses too gave off such a strong feeling of sadness and tension. Dawn was also not afraid to write honestly about so many topics from periods, sex, and masturbation, to family and friends. Her writing perfectly captured teenage life and there is so much here for teens to relate to no matter how different their lives are to Flo and Renee’s.

The story wraps up perfectly, there is resolution for every plot line, and a sense that these two are ready to move on and tackle their next year of school together. The first time I read this I didn’t know there’d be a sequel, but now that I know, I am so keen to read more about Renee & Flo.

This is a fantastic book for teens and adults, and not just girls even though it does focus on more girl-related issues. I’d recommend this for anyone who loves honest, realistic contemporary stories, the 90s, and for fans of My Mad Fat Diary.

Purchase: Angus & Robertson  /  Booktopia  /  Booworld  /  Dymocks  /  Fishpond

Monday, 19 May 2014

Raw Blue by Kirsty Eagar

This post contains a review, photos, and a bookish manicure.

Raw Blue by Kirsty Eagar
Published 2009 by Penguin AU
Source: purchased p’back and Kindle book
Rating: 5 stars
From the blurb: Carly has dropped out of uni to spend her days surfing and her nights working as a cook in a Manly café. Surfing is the one thing she loves doing … and the only thing that helps her stop thinking about what happened two years ago at schoolies week.

And then Carly meets Ryan, a local at the break, fresh out of jail. When Ryan learns the truth, Carly has to decide. Will she let the past bury her? Or can she let go of her anger and shame, and find the courage to be happy?

And then Carly meets Ryan, a local at the break, fresh out of jail. When Ryan learns the truth, Carly has to decide. Will she let the past bury her? Or can she let go of her anger and shame, and find the courage to be happy?

There is something about reading a book set in your home town. In this case I’m talking about the wonderful Northern Beaches, a place that feels like a holiday destination all year round, a coastline dotted with amazing beaches, perfect for laying out in the sun, swimming, surfing, snorkelling and so much more. I first read Raw Blue in 2011 and immediately fell in love with it, especially the setting of Manly and Narrabeen. I decided to re-read it this month because Jo is visiting and I was going to show her around this wonderful place, and snap a few photos.

Carly Lee is nineteen and moved to Narrabeen two months ago, leaving behind her family on the Central Coast.  She quit her uni course and now works nights at a café in the Corso, leaving her days free to surf the Alley at North Narrabeen Beach. Carly is not only dealing with a mother who wants to dish family gossip every time she calls, but also a distant and cold father, as well as an incident she tries so hard to forget.

Carly has a prickly personality, but she’s just trying to protect herself from the world. Inside she’s carrying around shame and guilt; I immediately felt for her and was drawn in by her story. All she wants to do is work just enough to support her surfing, and keep to herself. Luckily for her she inadvertently meets amazing people who want to help and be there for her, namely Hannah, Danny, and Ryan. Hannah was a sweetie, always there to offer company and a cup of tea. Danny made me laugh so many times, his innocence and happiness was such a contrast to Carly’s shame and sadness. And Ryan, he tried so hard to be there for her, even when he had no idea what was going on, I adored him.

There were so many things that I clicked with during this story, not only the setting, but the family dynamics, Carly’s need for independence, the buoyant feeling she got that felt so unexpected but also amazing. This book really sang to me, and I know it has that effect on so many readers.

Shamefully, I have never learnt to surf, but I still enjoyed all the surfing scenes, the descriptions, and the lingo. I don’t think it’ll ruin anyone’s reading experience if you have no idea how to surf or if you’re not a beach person. You can really feel the author’s knowledge and love of the sport through her writing and each scene was so vivid.

Raw Blue is a wonderfully Australian YA novel, perfect for fans of contemporary reads.

Inspired by Rey and The Tome Travellers (that sounds a bit like a band name!), I have a few photos of some of the locations mentioned in Raw Blue.

North Narrabeen Beach, this is where Carly and Ryan like to surf (that sentence makes me think of this song from Cougar Town)

Here’s a look in the opposite direction, all the way down to Collaroy Beach

Raw Blue at Narrabeen Beach

The pelicans that like to perch on the streetlights along the bridge over Narrabeen Lakes.

Sleepy pelican

Northern side of Narrabeen Lakes

Raw Blue at Manly Beach

The Corso

I had to do nails for this book because I love it so!

I started with 2 coats of BYS French White and when dry I added a layer of quick drying top coat.

Once dry I used the watercolour technique – you can google this to find videos and tutorials, but here’s how I did it:  working on one nail at a time, I dabbed on some polish in a few places on my nail, not huge blobs of polish, but enough so that it wasn't as dry as a normal coat of polish. I took a long striper brush, dripped it in acetone, and then swiped over the polish, dragging it horizontally and making lines back and forth across my nails. First I did this with a light blue, Bloom Kate, then I followed it up with a darker blue, Essence Let’s Get Lost. Try not to dig into the nail polish too much, or you will dig into the bottom layer of white. Use more acetone if you can’t get the polish to spread out and work quickly so that the polish you applied doesn't dry before you can get the acetone on it.

Once dry I applied a layer of top coat, this smoothed the polish out, so don't think you've done it wrong if you have a layered feel to all the polish you applied and dragged around!

On my ring nail I used acrylic paint and a very fine brush to paint Carly, and then I gave that nail another coat of top coat.

I wore this manicure for 4 days, that’s pretty long for me, but I really liked this look and I did not want to remove Carly and the waves from my nails!