Review: Clancy of the Undertow

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Clancy Underhill is 16 years old, living in a tiny, dead end town. She doesn’t fit in – she’s not one of the popular kids, she likes science, and she’s gay (but not out). Life seems tough enough when Clancy’s father is involved with a road crash in which two popular local teens are killed. Clancy and her family find themselves the target of backlash from the town, although no charges have been laid against her father.

I requested this book from Netgalley entirely because of the title, a play on the famous Clancy of the Overflow by Banjo Patterson, which is one of my favourite bush poems. Little did I know at the time that the writer is a local Brisbane guy, who works at Avid Reader, a fabulous local indie book store.

Clancy was an absolute delight. Her character is smart and funny, and trying to find her way in the world in less than perfect circumstances. Currie captures her personality, her dilemmas and the tone of small town life perfectly, and fills the story out with some great characters. Clancy is infatuated by Sandra, girlfriend of the chief of the bogans who launches the campaign of vilification against Clancy’s father. Despite this, Sandra seems to choose this time to loom large in Clancy’s life. Sandra seems to pity Clancy for how she is being treated, but is also seriously annoyed with her boyfriend, who she is sure is cheating on her. Clancy has admired Sandra from afar and is very excited that she is now getting to spend time with her crush.

Nancy also comes into Clancy’s life during this troubling time. Nancy is new to town, and Clancy is certain that when Nancy realises she is not in the popular group, Nancy will ditch her. Nancy and Clancy’s eventual friendship is hard won, and this small step helps Clancy feel like less of the loser she is certain that she is.

Clancy of the Undertow is a story about friendship and family, and how important both are to making it through your teenage years.

5 out of 5 awkward teen moments.

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Review: Words in Deep Blue

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Rachel Sweetie has reached what feels like a dead end. Her brother drowned, and she is struggling to face life without him. She has failed Grade 12, and her prospects are bleak. Her grandmother has organised for her to move back to her home town to live with her aunt, who has found her a job. Unfortunately the job is at Howling Books, a book store owned by the family of Henry Jones, who Rachel was in love with prior to moving away, and who Rachel now needs to add to the list of her things to deal with in the midst of her grief.

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Oh my goodness, this book is wonderful! I received it from Netgalley, but also received a copy through the YA Chronicles subscription box. I was putting off reading it due to the subtitle “a love story”. When I think of love stories, I always think of things like Twilight and A Fault in our Stars, which are totally not my bag. The funny thing is that this is indeed a love story, but it isn’t the superficial boy meets girl love story you usually find in YA. Words in Deep Blue encompasses many types of love – romantic, friendship, family, the love of a place, the love of words and the way grief affects all of these. And how books help.

The story is told my Rachel and Henry in alternating chapters. A goodly portion takes place in the Howling Books bookstore, owned by Henry’s family. Henry’s parents are divorced, and his father Michael clings to the store which is running at a loss. Henry’s mother wants to sell the store, but Henry and  his younger sister George aren’t sure.

One of the most wonderful things about the bookstore is the Letter Library – a section of books where customers can read books, underline their favourite passages and leave letters for strangers … or for people they know. These letters make their way into the text of the book which adds a very pleasing ( and heartbreaking!) dimension to the story.

As you might also expect from a book set mostly in a bookshop, it’s also all about books. There are lots of titles and references, both old and new. If you are an enthusiastic reader (which I assume you are if you are reading a book blog) you will love this about the book.

George is my favourite character without doubt. Still at school she actively feels her difference to the other kids (who call her a freak). She loves the bookstore and escapes through reading. She is a bit goth and wonderfully sassy.

Words in Deep Blue is a wonderful read. You may need some tissues though.

5 out of 5 literary references.

 

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Review: The Most Dangerous Place On Earth

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Tristan Bloch is an outcast – he’s the weird kid that no one else likes. The only people who seem to like him are his English teacher and his mum. Then comes the day that 13 year old Cally finds a letter from Tristan in her locker, professing his love for her.  Cally gives Tristan’s letter to her boyfriend Ryan, hoping he will look after this awkward situation for her. He does. Instigated by Ryan, a bunch of kids from their grade bully Tristan over Facebook, pointing out his flaws, some even urging him to kill himself. Eventually, he does.

Fast forward 4 years and Molly Nicoll is beginning at the school in her first role as an English teacher. She brings fresh eyes to the school and gets to know and comes to care about this group of teens. Little does she know the story of their past, or how it has affected each of them.


I’m not sure what I was expecting when I selected this from the Netgalley list, but I got a lot more than I bargained for. This is a stunning debut novel, raw and honest with some great characters. Lindsey Lee Johnson focuses her lens on rich kids allowed to run amok with little supervision from their parents and fewer consequences for their actions. We meet Dave, who desperately wants to succeed at school but has no idea how. We meet Calista (Cally), still nursing her guilt from her part in Tristan’s end, and trying to spend all of her time too high to notice. We meet Abigail, who is engaging in an illicit affair with one of her teachers in an effort to connect to someone

 The weight of the expectations placed on the teens, plus the lack of engagement  with their parents makes for some terrible decisions and awful outcomes.

High school is supposed to be a safe environment for young people to experiment with who they are and what they want from their lives … up to a point. The parents in this book were absent for a number of reasons – from being self obsessed, to a terrible illness, to being incapable of entering a two way dialogue with their teen no matter how hard they tried. Some of the kids felt so isolated, confused and despairing about their situations that they felt there was no one they could talk to, not even the adults that were trying to connect.

Johnson beautifully captures the loneliness, fear, despair and hope of being a teenager.

5 out of 5 reminders of why I’m glad I never have to be that age again.

Review: Replica

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As with most of the books I write reviews for, I received this free from Netgalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I’m not sure if there was an error with the file, but I only received part of the book – Lyra’s part. This may have impacted my view of the book and will change the way I do things here a little.

For starters, here is the Good reads plot summary:

Gemma has been in and out of hospitals since she was born. ‘A sickly child’, her lonely life to date has revolved around her home, school and one best friend, Alice. But when she discovers her father’s connection to the top secret Haven research facility, currently hitting the headlines and under siege by religious fanatics, Gemma decides to leave the sanctuary she’s always known to find the institute and determine what is going on there and why her father’s name seems inextricably linked to it.

Amidst the frenzy outside the institute’s walls, Lyra – or number 24 as she is known as at Haven – and a fellow experimental subject known only as 72, manage to escape. Encountering a world they never knew existed outside the walls of their secluded upbringing , they meet Gemma and, as they try to understand Haven’s purpose together, they uncover some earth-shattering secrets that will change the lives of both girls forever…

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Judging from other reviews on Goodreads, Gemma is the stronger, more fully fleshed out character, so I will be reading the rest of Replica eventually as I definitely want to read Gemma’s part of the story.

For me, Lyra’s character is flat out unbelievable. She has been raised in an institution where the children are referred to as numbers, and are not viewed as human beings – they are referred to as “it” by the workers and their individuality is actively discouraged. Lyra mentions many times that she is not used to being touched by others.

Despite having lived her entire life outside of society, Lyra fits in to society remarkably quickly when she escapes from the institute due to a happy twist of fate.She adapts and becomes savvy in a way that I don’t think would happen in the minuscule timeframe given for her to do so.

Lyra also suffers from the unfortunate “I’ve never been loved (or even spoken to a boy) before, but I want to be loved by you” trope with sometimes crops up in YA. Urgh.

Don’t get me wrong, the plot is fine, the way life in the institute is established is interesting although the plot twist is a little predictable but there’s definitely some interesting stuff going on that will make you speed through the book.

I feel badly placed to rate this book, so I do suggest that you check it out. As i feel I only have half the story I rate it

2.5 out of 5 amazing social adaptations.

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Look what I got!

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I ended up buying a few books today, which was unexpected. One of my work colleagues asked me if I’d heard about this book.gifts

I had certainly seen it floating around on Litsy but hadn’t paid it much attention. My colleague was wondering if it would be okay for her 12 year old son but she was worried it would be too scary because zombies. That is one of the magic words that will get my attention every time. We established that it would probably be okay for her son and that I desperately wanted to read it as well. So we wandered over to acquire copies on our lunch break.

While we were there, I noticed this book, which was recently reviewed by the lovely Stephanie of Teacher of YA .

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It, of course, needed to accompany me on my journey home. It’s very happy here in case you were wondering.

The acquisition that I am most excited about though is this one:

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I feel like I’ve been waiting for this book forever. Hannah Kent’s debut novel Burial Rites was absolutely amazing and I was so excited when I heard that her next book was on it’s way. This one is set in 1825 in Ireland… which can only mean one thing, right?

At any rate I’m sure you can guess what I’ll be  doing with my weekend – I will definitely have a review of the Good People on the blog before it is over.

Have you made any recent book purchases that have made you incredibly happy? What were they?

 

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Review: Extracted

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The Tesla Institute (named for its founder and … ahem … head Nicola Tesla) is an academy that trains young people to travel in time – these are the Rifters, a group of young people going on missions and protecting the time stream.

The group that runs the Hollows have a different point of view – this group believes that the Tesla agents are corrupt and have a deep desire to stop them.

One of the side effects of entering the time stream is that it erases your memories of your past.

The story is told from the points of view of Lex from the Hollow and Ember from the Tesla Institute. When Lex’s girlfriend dies during a mission he will do anything to bring her back.

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Most of the time I try to review a book within 24 hours of having read it. It’s been a good two weeks since I finished this book, and here I am. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy it – I really did. I’ve been trying to figure out how to write this review without giving away any spoilers.

I will say that I didn’t even twig that this was a Steampunk novel until I saw it classified as such on Goodreads. I mean of course it is –  a bulk of the action takes place in the 1800s, the costumes (I can picture this as a film) are totally fabulous and there are gadgets all over the place. But my inner Doctor Who nerd grabbed the time travel component of the book and labelled it sci-fi. If you are a Doctor Who fan, you will love the timey-wimey nature of this book. There are some great one liners, the plot is complicated enough to get you thinking.

I don’t know if all the characters were as fully formed as they could have been. I also question the language use of some of the main players given who they were prior to losing their memories. Surely if I lost my memory my speech patterns would still remain the same, or at least very similar…? There was an explanation given for this in the book but it seemed a little half hearted.

Over all this is a great romp through time with some really fun characters and plot devices.

4 out of 5  brains in a jar.

Yes, I went there. I’m not sorry. 🙂