Raw Blue

Raw Blue by Kirsty EagarRaw Blue by Kirsty Eagar
Publisher: Catnip
Number of pages:  288
My copy:  paperback, from Book Depository

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?

* * *

I’ve heard of Raw Blue several times from friends who raved about it, and said it was exceptionally good Aussie fiction. Of course, as with most of these good Aussie fiction, it was kind of hard to acquire a copy, so I was really, really glad when this was picked up by a UK publisher so it was available via Book Depository. I picked up Raw Blue because I was headed for a trip to the beach with my colleagues, where there were chances to surf (which we didn’t really do). Plus I have been craving for some good contemporary YA book from all the serious, adult books I’ve been reading back then.

Carly quit university to spend her days surfing in the morning and working as a cook in a cafe in the evening. She keeps to herself, and to her surfing, because it was the only thing that could help her forget about what happened two years ago in school. Then Carly meets Ryan, who seems to be attracted to her. She finds herself drawn to him, but her past is stopping her. Can she let go of all the pain from what happened to her and move forward, if it means being truly happy?

Carly was kind of hard to get into because she’s so…rough. So angry. So alone. For all the good reasons, too, because of what happened to her. But that’s it, she’s so rough. And in pain. I think in the course of Raw Blue , I felt more sympathy for the people around her who tried to reach out to her – Danny, Hannah and Ryan. They seem like truly good people, and the ones that you would want to have when you’re stuck in darkness and would bring you out only if you let them. I thought Danny was especially endearing, with his synesthesia and how he just assumed he was friends with Carly from the start.

Ryan was just as rough around the edges, and it took me a while to figure out if I liked him or not. I thought Janice‘s description about hm and his relationship with Carly was described perfectly: “…and then there’s Ryan, who looks at Carly and thinks she’s a good thing.” I think that’s what we need sometimes — someone who looks at us and sees us as something good, even if we cannot see it for ourselves.

There were some stellar lines in the book, too. Some of my favorites:

My happiness is crunchy. Snapping, crackling and popping in the sun. (p. 143)

I didn’t pick them, they just turned up in my life, and I’m really glad. I think this and I’m suddenly struck down with gratitude for all the things this place has given me. The break, the ever-changing moods of the ocean and the best surfs I’ve ever had. Tonight my world is a bubble. Clear, round, perfect and fragile. (p. 154)

You just have to see those times for what they have – a chance to look down at your life. And when you do, you see it’s a skin made up of shiny little moments. (p. 288)

I liked Raw Blue. Perhaps not with the same intensity as other readers did, but I liked it. When I finished reading this, I was a bit “meh”, but now that I revisited it to write this review, I realized that I did like it more than I thought I did. :) This is good contemporary YA (or really, not so much YA since the characters are a bit older), and I’m really, really glad this is easier to get now than before. I look forward to reading more of Kirsty Eagar’s books. :)

Rating:

Other reviews:
Chachic’s Book Nook
Janicu’s Book Blog

 

Fury

Fury by Shirley MarrFury by Shirley Marr
Black Dog Books, 277 pages

Let me tell you my story.
Not just the facts I know you want to hear.
If I’m going to tell you my story,
I’m telling it my way.

Strap yourself in…

Eliza Boans has everything.
A big house.
A great education.
A bright future.

So why is she sitting in a police station confessing to murder?

If I can judge books by their cover (I know I can, I just don’t do that. Not too often, anyway), Fury by Shirley Marr is one book that I will judge positively. See that really gorgeous cover? I would’ve bought this book just for display on my shelf even if I don’t know if I will like it. I would even keep this book just for display even if I didn’t like it because the cover is just so morbidly beautiful. Don’t you think?

Actually, I don’t think I’d let this book go even so because it’s so hard to acquire — I had to ask my friend who flew to Australia to get my a copy because this is practically unavailable anywhere else. It is available from Fishpondworld, but it costs twice the normal paperback, too. It’s kind of a good thing I liked the book, so I won’t feel too guilty saving shelf space for its gorgeousness, and I feel like the price was pretty worth it.

Eliza Boans has everything: a huge house, great education and grades, and basically a bright future. Never mind that her hotshot lawyer mom (who deals with things besides insurance general) barely pays attention to her, or that she’s just really sick of everything in her life. Whatever Eliza wants, she can get — the perks of being born under privilege. So if she’s got everything and there is possibly nothing else she could ask for, why then would she commit murder?

At first glance, I thought this book is about some psychopath who just got bored about her life and decided to go on a killing spree. Other reviewers praised Eliza’s voice in the story, about how she seems to lack remorse and her wit and all that, so I was expecting to read about a girl who kills just because she had nothing else to do. But my expectations were far from the truth. Eliza is a witty narrator whose voice shines with authenticity, but even with that, I wasn’t sure if I would be friends with her. Come to think of it, I don’t think she’d even pick me as her friend, anyway, if I were one of the privileged students of Priory. She is without remorse for a reason, and despite knowing that what she did was wrong, as a reader I can’t help but sympathize.

The mystery behind Eliza’s confession and the things leading up to it unfurls gradually and naturally, and I was kept guessing to what exactly happened. For a moment there, I almost felt like I was Gossip Girl, being privy with the rich boys and girls’ lives, and seeing just how many things could go wrong with these things. I liked how each of Eliza’s friends were given enough spotlight but not too much that we know too much about them. I especially liked how the author built Eliza’s friendship with Neil — it was my favorite part of the book, and probably also the saddest, but it feels like there’s nothing else that can be done with it. I couldn’t connect with Eliza at first, when I wasn’t really sure what to make of her, but her honesty and loyalty won me over, making me want the best for ever even if I’m not sure what it is exactly.

Fury doesn’t really end in a happy note, if you’re looking for a happy ending. It leaves unanswered questions that readers are left to ponder. Books with an open ending are some of my favorite books because it leaves readers to imagine what could happen and to contemplate on what should happen based on their own beliefs and convictions.

This is my first Shirley Marr, but it will definitely not be my last. In fact, I’ve already asked my friend who’s going to Australia this month to get me a copy of her second book, Preloved. Ah the lengths readers go to get some books. :) I think Shirley Marr’s Fury will be a hit for readers who liked the friendships in Lauren Oliver’s Before I Fall and the social hierarchies and complications of Courtney Summers’ Some Girls Are. It doesn’t have the drama or romance of the former nor the grit and intensity of the latter, but if those books are your thing, then Fury should be in your TBR pile. :)

Rating:

My copy: paperback, bought by a friend from Australia

Other reviews:
Back in the Midnight Garden
Book Harbinger

Pink

Pink by Lili WilkinsonPink by Lili Wilkinson
HarperCollins, 304 pages

Ava has a secret. She is tired of her ultracool attitude, ultra-radical politics, and ultrablack clothing. She’s ready to try something new—she’s even ready to be someone new. Someone who fits in, someone with a gorgeous boyfriend, someone who wears pink.

Transferring to Billy Hughes School for Academic Excellence is the perfect chance to try on a new identity. But just in case things don’t work out, Ava is hiding her new interests from her parents, and especially from her old girlfriend.

Secrets have a way of being hard to keep, though, and Ava finds that changing herself is more complicated than changing her wardrobe. Even getting involved in the school musical raises issues she never imagined. As she faces surprising choices and unforeseen consequences, Ava wonders if she will ever figure out who she really wants to be.

Humor, heart, and the joys of drama—on- and offstage—combine in Ava’s delight-fully colorful journey of self-discovery.

Ava is sixteen, and she has a secret. No, her secret is not that she’s gay and that she has a girlfriend. Her secret is this: she wants to be a normal girl. Ava is 16, and she has very liberal parents and she has an ultra-radical, ultra-feminist and ultra-cool girlfriend, Chloe, who she knows she loves. But Ava is tired of being ultra-cool and always wearing black. She wants to care about school. She wants to study. She wants to fit in. She wants to even try dating a guy. And, she wants to wear pink. So Ava works her butt off so she can get a scholarship to Billy Hughes School for Academic Excellence, so she can try to have a normal life without the knowledge of her girlfriend or her parents. She gets in, and she immediately wants to be a part of the popular crowd up until it was time for the audition for the school musical. Ava tried out for a part, but fails miserably, and ends up joining the stage crew, a group of “losers” according to the popular group. However, as Ava spends more time with her new friends — she is not even sure who are the real friends, if it’s with the stage crew or the popular kids — she finds it harder and harder to keep her secrets.

I have this weird compulsion to acquire pink things. Some people I know in real life are often amused at the number of pink things I own. Would you believe that even in acquiring a gadget, the availability of the color pink is a factor in my decision? :p I used to deny that my favorite color is pink because I thought it was too girly, but as I grew older I cannot deny the fact that I kept on gravitating towards that color. But that’s really not the reason why I wanted to read Pink by Lili Wilkinson. I borrowed this from my friend Celina after Chachic was done with it because I was curious with all the positive reviews that this book has been getting from other bloggers I know. That, and it was written by an Australian author, and based on experience, Australian YA books are always good reads. And so here we go.

I have to agree with almost everyone else that Pink was loads of fun. This book had all the ingredients of a typical contemporary novel: somewhat outrageous premise, popular and unpopular kids, parties and secrets, but I liked how the author made these elements more interesting with other details, such as the theater set up! I loved reading about Ava’s experiences as part of the stage crew. Back in high school, we used to produce stage plays for one class and I have always loved that time of the year when we had to do rehearsals, find costume and music and then stay up late in school to set up our stage and props and fix the music. I’ve never been one to want to be onstage — I tend to avoid that as much as possible. I love working backstage more. My favorite scenes in the book would have to be the ones when they were busy setting up the lights and their first run (their dress rehearsal, I think?), where Sam was in the main control room giving orders to everyone through their headsets. Our high school didn’t have that, but we had a main control room for the sounds, and I can remember how cool I felt when I wore a headset for a production for my church community with that scene.

I generally liked all of the characters, although I felt a bit lost with Ava. Ava was definitely confused, and I have to be patient with her at times because I have to remember she’s young and some stupid decisions are made when we do not know better. Some of her mistakes were not just stupid but downright mean, and I felt like sometimes I was just waiting for a car crash to happen. It’s not that I had a hard time connecting with Ava . I just wished she would not keep on swinging everywhere to please people and just try to look at what she wants. I also thought some of the characters felt a little bit cardboard, although they did gain more dimension in the end. And I know I was supposed to be on the Ava-Chloe team but Chloe really annoyed me with all her feminist/liberal/I’m-too-cool-for-these-things talk. Seriously? I had to sympathize with Ava there — it must be exhausting to keep up that kind of image if it does not come to you naturally.

I liked that the author did not go for a 100% happily ever after ending, although I felt like Ava did not really resolve all her own issues there. She seemed less confused in the end, but I’m afraid she ended up as one of those female protagonists that I would remember for that and not for her strength.

I also loved all the geeky Wikipedia talk, and the random facts that Sam blurts out in the conversations. This is a guy who would rather read than play Nintendo DS. I would definitely insert a character like that in my next novel. :P Despite my misgivings with some of the main character, I still thought Pink was still pretty entertaining read. And I’m not just saying that because my favorite color is pink. :)

Rating:

My copy: borrowed from Celina

Other reviews:
Chachic’s Book Nook
Steph Su Reads
Persnickety Snark
The Crooked Shelf


Six Impossible Things

Six Impossible Things by Fiona WoodSix Impossible Things by Fiona Wood
Publisher: Pan MacMillan Australia
Number of pages: 263
My copy: paperback, borrowed from Chachic

Fourteen year old nerd-boy Dan Cereill is not quite coping with a reversal of family fortune, moving house, new school hell, a mother with a failing wedding cake business, a just-out gay dad, and an impossible crush on Estelle, the girl next door. His life is a mess, but for now he’s narrowed it down to just six impossible things…

* * *

Six Impossible Things by Fiona Wood is a loose retelling of the Cinderella fairy tale with a guy as the main character. Dan Cereill’s life just kind of fell apart. His parents split after his dad came out, they lost their family fortune, he moved to a new-old house and transferred to a new school and his mom opened a wedding cake business that was doomed to fail from the start. And then there’s his neighbor, Estelle, who’s caught his eye and his heart from the moment he saw her, but had absolutely no idea that he exists.

Oh what a cute, cute book this was. Despite the dreary set-up of Dan’s new life, his voice was quite the contrary. Dan was sarcastic yet real, and he dealt with his problems with the best way a fourteen-year-old can. The humorous approach makes the entire situation just hilarious instead of pitiful, and at the back of my mind, I just thought that they would eventually get through this. As for how, that was the thing I was supposed to find out in the story. Since this is kind of a retelling of Cinderella, I liked figuring out what character was equivalent to that character in the fairy tale, even if it took me a while to figure out who was who. But even if you know how Cinderella turns out, the events in this story still took me pleasantly by surprise that, well, I just ended up sighing happily by the last page. :)

The writing in Six Impossible Things was fresh and light and so readable that I never had a hard time connecting with Dan. Dan is awkward and dorky but still so lovable that I wanted to adopt him as my little brother or something. I think his may be the first time I will use it but if there was any character that fits the word “adorkable”, it’s Dan. Even if his crush on Estelle kind of qualified as “insta-love”, at least on his side, it was still quite realistically done. Come on, don’t tell me you’ve never had a “crush at first sight” moment with someone! :P It’s not like Dan had diamond wedding rings for Estelle already. Major plus points on how Dan and Estelle’s relationship was developed — it was about ten parts awkward most of the time, but about a hundred parts cute and “aww” inducing.

The other characters surrounding Dan and Estelle were a hoot too. I loved Dan’s mom, in all her Radiohead singing glory (although I’m not really a fan of the band). I loved their friends and the guy who lived in the house behind Dan’s new house and the bully. But most especially, I loved the presence of Howard the dog. Dogs in stories always wins my heart.

Let me repeat what I first said about this book: Six Impossible Things is a cute, cute book. This is a perfect book to read when you want to relax and laugh and feel the feeling of wanting to hug a book when you get to the end. Because that is really what you’d end up wanting to do when you’re done with this. :)

Rating:

Other reviews:
Chachic’s Book Nook
Book Harbinger
Janicu’s Book Blog
The Crooked Shelf

One Book, Two Book, Three Book, Four…and Five

I still have about four books left on my backlog of reviews (more to add soon, I think), but because I do not want to bore you all with just those posts, let’s do a combo breaker and answer this meme I got from Chachic, Janice, Angie and Nomes. :)

I should be writing my novel but you know how I love procrastinating sometimes? Maybe next year I should be a NaNoRebel and write a year’s worth of blog posts (or something like that) for NaNoWriMo. Hm.

The Curse of the Wendigo by Rick Yancey     Hallowed by Cynthia Hand     The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler

1. Book I am currently reading:
The Curse of the Wendigo
by Rick Yancey. I was semi-bullied into reading this (haha, hi, Aaron and Tricia!), but if they did not do that, I probably would not have started reading this anytime soon. I really liked The Monstrumologist so jumping in to this one soon enough after reading that was actually a good idea because the characters were still fresh to me. So far this has been creepier than the first book, but also quite funny and sometimes heartwarming.

Also, Hallowed by Cynthia Hand (!!!). :) Got this from Netgalley and I’m reading it slow so I would get all the Tucker goodness. Seriously, if you ever read a paranormal romance novel ever again, pick Unearthly. It’s very, very good.

2. Last book I finished:
The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler. Thanks to Pinoy Book Tours for having this on hand and squeezing me in the tour. :D

Falling Together by Marisa de los Santos     Fury by Shirley Marr    Protection for Hire by Camy Tang

3. Next book I want to read:
Falling Together by Marisa de los Santos. I just got this my TBR, and it’s been calling out to me for a while. Hmm. Although I think I may have to read a classic novel to finish some challenges, but I really want something comforting amidst the novel writing stress. So let’s see. :)

4. Last book I bought:
Fury by Shirley Marr. My friend Katia went to Sydney last October and because we know Australian books are just awesome, I asked if she could get me a copy of this. And she found me one. :) Yay. As expected, it was expensive, but it’s not everyday I get to buy a book from Australia. :)

5. Last book I was given:
Protection for Hire by Camy Tang. Okay this one I got from Netgalley too, but since I am on the author’s street team (you should join it, too), I knew about this way back and was expecting to receive an ebook review for this. :) Plus, I got an email that Zondervan has auto-approved me as a reviewer in Netgalley. I’m not sure if everyone gets that, but it’s nice to get that email. :) I cannot wait to read Camy’s newest book.