Wednesday, 27 May 2015

You're the Kind of Girl I Write Songs About by Daniel Herborn

You’re the Kind of Girl I Write Songs About by Daniel Herborn
Published May 1, 2015 by Harper Collins AU
Source: the publisher
Rating: 3 stars
From the blurb: Tim’s a young singer-songwriter with a guitar case full of songs and dreams of finding an audience to embrace his tunes. 
Mandy’s obsessed with music and a compulsive dreamer. She’s longing for something more fulfilling than daytime TV and cups of tea with best friend Alice, something like the excitement and passion of rock ’n’ roll.
When their eyes meet at a gig, sparks fly across a crowded room and hope burns in their hearts.
But in a city of millions and a scene overrun with wannabes, can they ever get it together? Will Mandy’s nerves doom their romance before it even starts? And where does the darkness in Tim's songs come from?
This is a story of Sydney's Inner West, of first love, crush bands and mix tapes; of the thrill of the night and what happens when the music stops.

Daniel Herborn’s debut novel, You’re the Kind of Girl I Write Songs About, is the story of Mandy and Tim, two teens living in Sydney’s Inner West. Mandy lives at home with her older sister, her father, and step-mother. She took a year off after finishing high school but so far all she’s done is sleep, watch lots of daytime tv, and work at a local cafe. Tim lives has always wanted to be a musician. He’s currently living with his uncle, writing songs, and playing any gig he can, which is how he meets Mandy.

Mandy is someone I’m sure a lot of us can relate to, whether we’re a teen or an adult. Her summer is not going how she thought it would, she feels restless, as if she’s waiting for something, but she doesn’t know what. She loves music and it is one thing that gets her out of the house, that and hanging out with her best friend, Alice.

To begin with there's a bit of mystery with Tim’s story as he’s repeating Year 12 and it’s clear something happened in the previous year, plus his parents are absent from his life. He loves how music allows you to reinvent yourself, and how you can convey things in songs that you’d never say aloud.

I was expecting a lot from this book, it’s Aussie YA and set in my city, but unfortunately I didn't love it, instead I felt disconnected, though on the whole it’s not a bad book.

The chapters are very short and that was off-putting, I found it a hindrance in getting to know both Mandy and Tim. The mystery surrounding Tim’s life turned out completely different to what I was expecting and I didn't believe the resulting change in dynamic between Mandy and Tim. There is also insta-love and while it’s not as over-the-top as in some other YA novels, Mandy and Tim do seem to think that their relationship has been through a lot when in actual fact it’s been a very short amount of time and nothing very dramatic happened to them.

This book is a lovely ode to Sydney, to its music scene, and the suburbs of the inner west.  The descriptions of summer evenings in the city were spot on, and there are a lot of bars, clubs, and suburbs mentioned, as well as a lot of music references from so many decades and genres that I don’t think they’ll date the book.

I get quite excited at the prospect of new Aussie YA, and while this didn't quite deliver, I’d still recommend it to contemporary YA fans.

Thank you to Harper Collins for my review copy.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Just a Girl and Just a Queen by Jane Caro

This post contains a review and a bookish manicure.

Just a Girl and Just a Queen by Jane Caro
Published May 11, 2011 / May 1, 2015 by UQP
Source: library / the publisher
Rating: 4 stars / 3 stars
From the blurb of Just a Girl: Determined, passionate and headstrong, Elizabeth I shaped the destiny of a kingdom.

Her mother; Anne Boleyn, was executed by her father Henry VIII. From that moment on, Elizabeth competed with her two half-siblings for love and for Britain’s throne. In the gilded corridors of the royal palace, enemies she couldn’t see – as well as those bound to her by blood – plotted to destroy her.

Using her courage to survive and her wits to confound those who despised her, this young woman became one of the greatest monarchs the world has ever seen.

Even though she was just a girl, she had already lived a lifetime.

From the blurb of Just a Queen: Just a girl to those around her, Elizabeth is now the Queen of England. She has outsmarted her enemies and risen above a lifetime of hurt and betrayal – a mother executed by her father, a beloved brother who died too young and an enemy sister whose death made her queen.

Not knowing whom she can trust, Elizabeth is surrounded by men who give her compliments and advice but may be hiding daggers and poison behind their backs. Elizabeth must use her head and ignore her heart to be the queen her people need. But what if that leads to doing the one thing she swore she would never do: betray a fellow queen, her cousin, Mary, Queen of Scots? 

When I received a copy of Just a Queen for review and realised there was a previous book, I decided to grab a copy from a local library and review both books. Just a Girl focuses on Elizabeth’s childhood and the years before she became Queen of England. Just a Queen picks up Elizabeth’s story, twenty-eight years later, after Mary Queen of Scots has been beheaded.

I found Just a Girl to be completely engaging, there was plenty of intrigue and mystery, as long as you’re not too familiar with Elizabeth’s story. I enjoyed the liberties the author took in showing us what Elizabeth may have thought and felt during her life. Her life was filled with death, from the execution of her mother, Anne Boleyn, to the later deaths of her father, brother, and sister. But, she also learnt a lot from her time in and away from court, and these experiences shaped her future as Queen.

In contrast, I didn't find Just a Queen as compelling. I read it only a day after finishing Just a Girl, but the spark was missing from this part of Elizabeth’s story. The focus is on whether or not Elizabeth was to blame for the order to have Mary executed and the back and forth regarding this issue grew a bit tedious. I enjoyed looking back in time to Elizabeth’s earlier years as Queen, but often details became repetitive and sometimes things were said twice in consecutive paragraphs.

Nevertheless, this is still a really intriguing time in history and reading these books had me googling more details on Elizabeth’s life, as well as wanting to return to a couple of tv shows I never finished: The Tudors and Reign.

Each book contains a large cast of characters, and the author has provided a list of these for the reader, though as they’re included at the end, I wasn't aware of it until I finished Just a Girl, so if you find the cast hard to keep straight, you can always refer to the back. The author also includes a note about her love of the Elizabethan era and the research she did for these books. It’s clear the research was extremely thorough and I enjoyed her interpretation of events. She also hopes to write a third book and I know I’d be keen to read it, so fingers crossed!

Just a Girl and Just a Queen provide a historically-accurate glimpse into Elizabeth’s life both before and during her reign as Queen of England. I highly recommend these for fans of historical fiction, and books such as the His Fair Assassin series by Robin LaFevers.

Thank you to UQP for my review copy of Just a Queen.

I love the simplicity of both covers, so I kept my manicure simple as well.

I started with 2 coats of Ulta3 Berry Crush. I followed that with a coat of Orly Take a Chance.

I used acrylic paint and a fine brush to paint the crown on the ring nail.