Welcome to 2016! We are ten days into the New Year already and reading-wise it has been a fabulous start! I have been on holidays for the last three weeks and while I didn’t read as much as I was hoping to, it was a treat to have uninterrupted reading time. Whether it was lounging in my tent, laying in the hammock or rugged up at night in a blanket, I was delighted to read most of the books below in one sitting (per book of course)! I enjoyed them all – mostly – and thought I would give each one a mini review!
If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan – As the young adult readership expands, there have been calls for more diversity among the stories being told. Sexuality in YA isn’t new however a story about two teenage girls in love in Tehran, Iran is pushing the boundaries in wonderful ways. Set in a repressive religious state, the reader follows the lives of Sahar and Nasrin and their forbidden love. What sets this book apart is the discussion around sexual reassignment surgery and the personal and social challenges the transsexual characters must face. It is sobering and at times, quite confronting to read but I think it is a really important book. The only downside is the writing… at times it was too cliché and the intricacies and subtleties of the relationships could have been explored in more depth. Despite this, it is still a worthy read!
The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh – This is a book I’ve had on my shelf for a long time and late last year I finally added it to my reading pile after a very, very convincing recommendation. I fell in love on the first page; this is one beautiful book! After a childhood spent in the foster-care system, Victoria Jones turns eighteen and is finally emancipated. With nowhere to go, Victoria turns to the only connection she has to the world – her flowers and their meanings. She slowly builds a tentative life around herself but the troubles of her past threaten to tear it all down. This book will make you laugh and it will make you cry; there is beauty on every page. Diffenbaugh’s writing is joy to read; the way she weaves the past and present together is perfectly balanced and easy to follow and her descriptions of landscapes and emotions are vivid and clear. A must read for 2016, if you haven’t already!
Darkmere by Helen Maslin – This was the most disappointing read of the lot. A group of teens are invited to spend the summer at Darkmere Castle, a wild and remote property inherited by Leo. No castle would be complete without a dark, tortured and curse-riddled history and this one is no exception! I felt that the writing really let the story down. There were moments of great intensity and then so many others fell flat. I really, really liked the premise of the story but the execution just wasn’t there. None of the characters are particularly likable or memorable and they were really difficult to connect with. Darkmere does receive some excellent reviews so maybe it’s just me…
The Year it All Ended by Kirsty Murray – Historical fiction has always been a favourite of mine and it is a genre that YA does really, really well. I loved this book; it is a story based on the year following the end of World War One and the difficulties faced by the soldiers returning from the front line and the families left behind… It is beautifully written and very well researched. Murray’s balance between the highs and lows is on point and her teaching of history is subtly woven throughout the story. This is also a must read for 2016!
Frankie by Shivaun Plozza – I have an advanced copy of Frankie (due out in April 2016) and thoroughly enjoyed it! Frankie is a teen girl with an abundance of anger issues. She is feisty, impulsive and reckless but with a huge amount of heart. Set around the streets of Melbourne, this home-grown story explores the dark side of life. The writing is engaging and the issues are relevant; Plozza’s debut novel is written for the target audience and nails it! Watch out for this one!
Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith – This is the third novel for JK Rowling under the nom de plume Robert Galbraith. Rowling is one of my favourite authors but she really pushed my devotion with this one! As a lover of crime, there are some scenarios I can handle and others I can’t. This was one dark tale and it touched on all the themes that make me squirm with discomfort! Of course, it is brilliantly written and features many of Rowling’s trademark moments.
The Weight of Feathers by Anna-Marie McLemore – I must confess that this was a book I purchased for the cover. It was simple yet beautiful and thankfully, the story is too! I have quite a soft spot for stories set in circuses or about travelling performers and this may be one of my favourites to date. There were parts of the story that could have been explored in greater depth however it is such a rich and imaginative story that it doesn’t really matter! McLemore maintains a whimsical tone throughout and captures the magic of the performers perfectly!
The Messenger by Markus Zusak – I read this book many years ago in high school and picked it up again thanks to my book club. There is something about Zusak’s writing style that I cannot connect with! Despite this, I marvel at the stories he tells. The Messenger could not be more different from The Book Thief; it is the tale of a young man living an ordinary life who is pushed out of his comfort zone to help others and in turn, finds meaning in his own life. A great read!
The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson – Sanderson is one of the great fantasy writers of our time! He is a prolific writer who is enjoyed by so many readers. I have read several of his books now but The Rithmatist is different from any of his other works. Contrary to popular opinion, I didn’t enjoy this book as much as his others; it is still a good book, just not what I would consider a great one. For a reason I just can’t name, I didn’t connect with the story at all!
The Girl from Snowy River by Jackie French – From a story I didn’t like to one I could swoon over, page after page. I adore this Australian series; French has captured the heart and soul of this country in her books with stories that explore our short Australian history with gorgeous, strong and competent female characters! They are intelligent and capable in working the land they grow up on and caring for the ones they love. There are strong ties between the characters and the land and French incorporates plenty of Aboriginal history (and folklore) too! I cannot wait to start on the next book in the series!
Over to you! What did you read of the end of year break?