Monday, 25 April 2016

Sunkissed and Star Struck by Jenny McLachlan

Sunkissed (The Ladybirds #3) by Jenny McLachlan
Published August 2015 by Bloomsbury
Source: purchased
Rating: 4 stars

From the blurb: Kat can't believe her family are sending her to Sweden for the summer. But without her friends, or even a phone signal, can Kat make it on her own?In a land of saunas, nudity and summer sun, Kat soon realises she has nowhere to hide. It's time to embrace who she really is, underneath what she's been thinking people want her to be. Especially if she's going to win the heart of mega fit Swede Leo! Can Kat find her inner strength and prove she's got what it takes?Kat soon finds that when you're surrounded by phosphorescence and wonder it's easy to sparkle. Or maybe that's what happens when you fall in love . Or maybe you only shine when you're true to yourself. 

Fifteen year old Kat Knightely's parents have had enough with her attitude and always finding herself in trouble, while they head to the USA for a holiday, they're sending her to spend the summer with her Aunt Frida in Sweden. What Kat doesn't realise until she lands in Stockholm, is that she will be spending the summer on an island, Stråla. No phone, no friends, no shopping.

I loved both Flirty Dancing and Love Bomb, the previous two books in Jenny McLachlan's Ladybirds series, but I wasn't as keen to read Kat's book as she hadn't been the nicest girl to Bea and Betty in the past. I'm so glad I gave Sunkissed a chance because Kat's story ended up being one of my favourites.

Kat feels ignored and inferior, never as good as her older sister Britta. Her family enjoys races - triathlons, obstacles courses, you name it, but Kat prefers hanging out with her friends and shopping for clothes. She's absolutely devastated at the thought of not spending the summer with Bea, Betty, and Pearl, especially when she discovers there's no mobile phone service on the island.

Stråla, the fictional island, is based on the Swedish island of Grinda, and the descriptions of it sounded so beautiful. It was clear the author had been there and you can read about it on her blog. It sounded like an idyllic place to spend a summer and I couldn't stop thinking about what it would be like, I even dreamt about it the night I finished the book.

I enjoyed all the Swedish references, from the language, to the food, to the Little Frog Dance, and it was fun to google them all as I read.

Sunkissed is a beautiful summer story that will have you planning a trip to a Swedish island. Kat's summer turns out to be a chance for her to grow and find out who she is alone, as well as what role she plays in her family. It gives her a chance to make new friends, and discover a part of her heritage that she'd long forgotten. It was sweet, romantic, and most of all, fun.

Ableist language: lots and lots of use of the words dumb, dumber, dummy etc

Star Struck (The Ladybirds #4) by Jenny McLachlan
Published March 10, 2016 by Bloomsbury
Source: the publisher via Netgalley
Rating: 4 stars

From the blurb: In a huge fantastic final hurrah to our lovable heroines - Bea, Betty, Kat and Pearl - Jenny McLachlan's latest book tells Pearl's story. Pearl is the 'bad girl' of the group - she drinks, she smokes, she swears - and she's mean to Bea and Betty. But she did fly halfway round the world to rescue Kat in Sunkissed. If there's one thing Pearl knows deep down, it is how to be a friend. And now, more than ever, she could really use a friend.There will be laughter, there will be tears and there will definitely be kissing. Most importantly, Pearl will be keeping it fierce!

Fifteen year old Pearl Harris lives with her mum, and older brother, Alfie. Her dad left and now has another family. Pearl loves musicals and has been taking in part in them at school since Year 7. When new girl, Hoshi, arrives and ruins her chance at a lead role, Pearl decides to ruin Hoshi's life in return.
Out of all the girls in Jenny McLachlan's Ladybird series, Pearl was the one I least liked. She's been horrible all the way through, until we got a glimpse of what a good friend she could be in Sunkissed. Star Stuck, the final book in the series, is our chance to see the real Pearl.

What we find out is that Pearl's home life is awful and only getting worse. Alfie has an explosive and unpredictable temper, sometimes he's joking around and within in instant, he turns violent. To make it worse, her mother often laughs it off, blames Pearl, or ignores what's going on altogether. The one solace she has at home, are her fish. She loves her tropical fish and takes a lot of pride and care with their environments. She has to keep her room locked just so Alfie can't come in and ruin her hideaway.

While none of that is an excuse for being a bully, it sheds light on why Pearl has treated the other girls poorly in the past, something she's trying to make up for now, by hanging out with Bea and Betty and trying her hardest not to tease them. Instead she sets her sights on Hoshi because of her jealousy.

Star Struck is a really beautiful story of friendship and forgiveness, and while the scenes in Pearl's home made me feel sad and scared for her, the friends she has made me hopeful and happy. This series has been a lot of fun and I can't wait to see what Jenny McLachlan writes next!

Ableist language: dumb, dumbass, midget, plus Pearl and Tiann seemed racist when discussing Hoshi, though later Pearl tells Tiann off.

Thank you to Bloomsbury for my ARC via Netgalley.

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