Book Review: Wild Awake by Hilary T. Smith

Wild Awake

Title: Wild Awake
Author: Hilary T. Smith
Genre: Contemporary, Realistic Fiction, Young Adult, Music, Romance, 
Publisher: Hardie Grant Egmont
Publication Date: October 1st, 2013
Pages: 375
Rating: 4.5 stars

Synopsis (from goodreads):
Things you earnestly believe will happen while your parents are away:

1. You will remember to water the azaleas.
2. You will take detailed, accurate messages.
3. You will call your older brother, Denny, if even the slightest thing goes wrong.
4. You and your best friend/bandmate Lukas will win Battle of the Bands.
5. Amid the thrill of victory, Lukas will finally realize you are the girl of his dreams.

Things that actually happen:

1. A stranger calls who says he knew your sister.
2. He says he has her stuff.
3. What stuff? Her stuff.
4. You tell him your parents won’t be able to—
5. Sukey died five years ago; can’t he—
6. You pick up a pen.
7. You scribble down the address.
8. You get on your bike and go.
9. Things . . . get a little crazy after that.*
*also, you fall in love, but not with Lukas.

Both exhilarating and wrenching, Hilary T. Smith’s debut novel captures the messy glory of being alive, as seventeen-year-old Kiri Byrd discovers love, loss, chaos, and murder woven into a summer of music, madness, piercing heartbreak, and intoxicating joy

My Review:

Kiri Byrd is the daughter parents can depend on. To water plants, to practice her piano and not to get into any trouble. And Kiri is fine playing the role because she’s convinced that her perfection is the only way to keep her family together after her older sister, Sukey, died in an accident a few years ago. But a strange phone call one night when her parents are away on a cruise leads to Kiri questioning everything she believes to be true.

“It’s amazing how quickly the things you thought would make you happy seem small once you stumble on something true.” 

This book is both beautiful and bizarre. Kiri is in the midst of discovering things about Sukey, her parents and herself that she never even considered. It’s an emotional story with Kiri falling apart. Her sister may not have been the role model Kiri had on a pedestal and her parents dismissal of all thing Sukey may not have been the most healthy thing to do. Kiri is locked in a world where she lives in denial. Watering the azaleas and perfecting complicated piano pieces is the way she is holding things together. But when she finds out there’s more to Sukey’s death than she ever considered, Kiri is thrown – especially considering her brother and parents knew the truth all along. Kiri tries to hold on to the perfect life she’s living whilst at the same time starts to resent it. She’s beautiful in her confusion and reading her was a pleasure. Her awkwardness regarding love and sex was endearing to read and her passion – albeit slightly fanatical – for music was a joy.

And then there’s Skunk. Have you ever heard a more attractive name for the hero of a story? Probably not. Skunk is one of those characters that I adored from the first time Kiri met him.
“He’s huge. Hagridesque. A bulldozer crossed with a  gorilla.”

Romantic, right? His relationship with Kiri is one based on friendship first and contrasts perfectly with the relationship Kiri has with bandmate Lukas. Both boys couldn’t be more different and they do a great job of representing Kiri’s perfect past and confused present.

I loved the writing in this novel. If I were to underline my favourite lines most of the book would be marked. Kiri’s spiral downwards was oddly wonderful to read – one of those things that feel like they should be entirely uncomfortable were written in a way that made me want to read more and anticipate how Kiri would react to the next bombshell in her life. Her relationships with everyone are declining and it’s awkward yet enticing.

The ending wasn’t quite what I was expecting but I felt it was perfectly fitting for both the plot and the characters. I wasn’t expecting to like this book as much as I did – the recreational drug use on page 1 nearly turned me off but this is so much more than a teenage stoner story. It’s an emotional and lovely debut novel with amazingly flawed characters and some beautiful prose. I adored this book and will definitely be looking out for more books by Hilary T. Smith.

Favourite Quotes:

“His smile is a jar full of fireflies”

“The wired feeling that started when I left my house has grown into a thrumming, crackling, electrical field. I want to kiss Lukas. I want to dance down the street. There’s a reason people get drunk after funerals, and I suddenly know what it is: the flip side of sadness is a dark, devouring joy, a life that demands to be fed.”

“I want to kiss you,” I say, “but I seem to be holding this cat.”
Skunk lifts his hand and touches it to the side of my face. His fingers are warm from carrying the hot skillet to the table. He regards me very seriously, and for a moment I wonder if he’s about to tell me we should Focus on Bicycle Repair. Instead he just looks at me for a very long time.
“You’re beautiful,” says Skunk, “and completely batshit.” 

Thanks to Hardie Grant Egmont for the review copy.

Purchase the novel from:

Amazon | Booktopia | Book Depository | Book World

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Literary-ly Inspired: Lola’s create your own pavlova + Piece of Cake by Kate Forster

When I saw that strawberries and blueberries were on special at the grocery store the other day, I got an overwhelming urge to make my own Lola style pavlova from Kate Forster’s Piece of Cake. 

There’d also be a classic pavlova with a selection of toppings for the customers to create their own perfect desserts.

“They’ll get little bowls of crumbled peppermint crisp, summer berries, passionfruit pulp, little chocolate chips – milk, white and dark – and then, finally, salted toffee shards.”

 

I think the beauty with this dessert is that it’s as easy or as complicated as you want to make it. I choose to buy everything pre-made. The supermarket was out of merengue nests so I just bought mini meringues and put a handful in each bowl.

My initial ingredients:

I had:

  • Mini meringues
  • apple
  • bananas
  • kiwi fruit
  • passionfruit
  • Peppermint crisp bars
  • lemon curd (which I didn’t end up using)
  • strawberries
  • blueberries
  • chocolate (which I didn’t end up using either)
  • whipped cream (that I also didn’t end up using)

I chopped all the fruit and put in the meringue and peppermint crisp (which I’ve never had before but are very tasty) and thought it was sweet enough. I think that’s one of the benefits of getting to pick and choose what you want. I love pavlova type desserts with bananas in them. And the apple was my own addition cause I had some in the kitchen.

Ta-dah! My Lola inspired dessert.

It wasn’t until I was washing up after dinner that I realized that I forgot to include the salted caramel shards that I made (using this recipe). But I think that just gives me an excuse to make this again 😀

It may not be as pretty as a Lola creation but I like to think she’d be proud of me 😛

 

Book Review: The Originals by Cat Patrick

The Originals

Title: The Originals
Author: Cat Patrick
Genre: Science-Fiction, Contempoary, Romance, Young Adult
Publisher: Hardie Grant Egmont
Publication Date: May 2013
Pages: 298
Rating: 3.5 stars

Synopsis (from goodreads):
Ella, Betsey and I look like sisters: triplets, you might think.

But that’s not what we are at all.

We are clones in hiding. We split our lives and exist as one person in the outside world. And we’ve always been happy.

But now I’ve fallen in love … and that changes everything.

Because to let love in, I need to be allowed to be Me.

My Review:

Three girls, one life. For the past decade Lizzie, Betsey and Ella have been sharing the life of Elizabeth Best. One taking the morning shift, one the afternoon and the final girl being the one to take the evenings. But Lizzie is sick of having their mother control their every move. Each taking a third of the same life with none of them getting to live their own life at all. But this is the way things have been for years and their mother says it’s for their own protection – that no one can know they aren’t sisters but rather clones. When Lizzie falls in love with Sean she doesn’t want to share him with her sisters or be forced to “date” the boy their mother chose for them. So it’s time to find out just who they’re hiding from and what secrets their mother has been hiding from them…

The idea behind this book is brilliant. Ella, Betsey and Lizzie all sharing the one life and only being allowed to leave the house when their mother permits it. I’ve not read many books regarding clones and I loved how Cat Patrick approached the subject. I loved that the girls are the same and yet so completely different from each other.

Lizzie is a great narrator. She’s sweet and trying to navigate life the best way she knows how. A bit difficult when you only get a few hours each day outside. But somehow Lizzie manages to fit in with society and set herself aside from her sisters. Sean is adorable but a little too accepting and perfect to be entirely real. Betsey and Ella are fantastic at supporting Lizzie and showing how their circumstances effect all three girls. I would have loved to have read parts of this book from the sister’s perspectives but  even just with Lizzie’s thoughts this book is complete and interesting.

I loved how the characters grew throughout this book and how the plot developed as the girls learned more about where they came from and who they were. There’s a lot of mystery and tension as things get revealed and secrets come out. Sean was a great catalyst for the triplets searching for the truth and their own lives. I felt a little let down by the ending but the build up and characters more than made up for it.

I’ve not read a Cat Patrick book before but after reading the Originals and enjoying her writing style – I’ll be looking forward to reading her other books.

Purchase the novel from:

Amazon| Booktopia | Book Depository | BookWorld

Book Review: Piece of Cake by Kate Forster

Piece of Cake

Title: Piece of Cake (from the Smitten series)
Author: Kate Forster
Genre: Contemporary Romance, New Adult, Realistic, Fun
Publisher: Hardie Grant Egmont
Publication Date: August 2013
Pages: 235
Rating: 4 stars

Synopsis (from goodreads):
On the morning that Lola is due to fly to London, her dad’s in an accident. There’s no time to whinge about ruined plans – Lola has to just unpack her bags and act like an adult by taking over her dad’s cafe.

Finding a new chef and working seven days a week is not the gap year Lola had in mind. But then she meets Sam, a hot backpacker and cook extraordinaire with a tragic secret past.

In a whirl of perfect pastries and delicate cupcakes, Lola and Sam start to realise that it’s not just the kitchen warming up. But can their romance handle the heat?

My Review:

Lola loves nothing more than dancing the night away and creating gorgeous cupcakes. But when her father is involved in a car accident she has to step up and take responsibility for her father’s business. Cafe Ambrosia is losing business to the new coffee stop up the road and Lola need help. Luckily one of the waitresses knows a brilliant English chef named Sam, who is currently backpacking his way around Australia and can drop everything to work in Lola’s father’s kitchen.

Things are changing everywhere and Lola isn’t sure if it’s all a good thing. With bills needing to be paid, secrets which have been buried for eighteen years finally coming to light and feelings for a boy she can’t have, Lola has to grow up – and quickly.

This is such a sweet story – and not just because of the sugar filled delicacies gracing the cover. Lola is fun and creative. Whilst she may not be passionate about working in the cafe, she’s brave and would do anything she could for her dad. I loved that she wasn’t afraid to ask for help when she needed it and isn’t too proud to take advice from others. Her passion for baking is infectious and had me craving some of her pavlova inspired desserts.

Sam is a gorgeous character too – body and soul. He’s hurting and come from London to Australia to grieve and try to find himself. I loved how he interacted with Lola and the other characters in this book as well as his well-meaning intentions – he’s not afraid to take the hard road when it’s necessary. His chemistry with Lola was a delight to read. The progression of their relationship – from meeting, to friends to possibly something more was paced beautifully. I liked seeing how things would develop and looked forward to reading their shared scenes.

Babcia, David, Jane and the other supporting characters do a great job of keeping the plot flowing and adding a sense of realism to Lola’s story. These are fun characters who have a life outside of the main character and it was great to see them embrace their lives and living each day to the fullest.

I was impressed with how the plot evolved over the novel. This is not a book with any crazy plot twists and unrealistic drama. Rather – its strength lies in the authenticity of the characters and their down-to-earth problems. Kate Forster does a great job at writing a beautiful story that feels like it’s happening to friends – rather than fictional characters.

Piece of Cake is a fun and sweet novel about a young woman finding her place in the world and perhaps a chance at love too. I’ve not read any other of the Smitten series but after enjoying Piece of Cake so much I know that I’ll be reading more of this series.

Purchase the novel from:

Amazon | Booktopia | Book Depository | BookWorld

Book Review: A Really Awesome Mess by Trish Cook and Brendan Halpin

A Really Awesome Mess

Title: A Really Awesome Mess
Author: Trish Cook and Brendan Halpin
Genre: Realistic Fiction, Contempoary, 
Publisher: Egmont USA
Publication Date: 23 July 2013 
Pages: 288
Rating: 3 stars

Synopsis (from goodreads):
A hint of Recovery Road, a sample of Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, and a cut of Juno. A Really Awesome Mess is a laugh-out-loud, gut-wrenching/heart-warming story of two teenagers struggling to find love and themselves.

Two teenagers. Two very bumpy roads taken that lead to Heartland Academy.
Justin was just having fun, but when his dad walked in on him with a girl in a very compromising position, Justin’s summer took a quick turn for the worse. His parents’ divorce put Justin on rocky mental ground, and after a handful of Tylenol lands him in the hospital, he has really hit rock bottom.

Emmy never felt like part of her family. She was adopted from China. Her parents and sister tower over her and look like they came out of a Ralph Lauren catalog– and Emmy definitely doesn’t. After a scandalous photo of Emmy leads to vicious rumors around school, she threatens the boy who started it all on Facebook.

Justin and Emmy arrive at Heartland Academy, a reform school that will force them to deal with their issues, damaged souls with little patience for authority. But along the way they will find a ragtag group of teens who are just as broken, stubborn, and full of sarcasm as themselves. In the end, they might even call each other friends.
A funny, sad, and remarkable story, A Really Awesome Mess is a journey of friendship and self-discovery that teen readers will surely sign up for.

My Review:

I’ve read a few books where teens are placed in facilities and they’re not meant to be there. They complain and moan and as you get into the novel you come to realize that they truly are not meant to be there. This is not the case with Emmy and Justin in A Really Awesome Mess. Oh – they gripe about being sent to Heartland Academy, and at the start it seems like they have a legitimate claim. But then, after spending a little time with them – it’s clear that they are both really awesome messes. Emmy has spent a lifetime feeling like an outsider. As an adopted daughter from China, she has always felt out-of-place in her tall blonde family. So she diets trying to feel like appearance wise, she fits in. And the may have the slightest anger management issues when she decides to get retribution on a classmate by vilifying and humiliating them online. Justin’s depressed and engages in some very risky behaviour trying to get attention from his parents.

This dual POV novel was great at capturing angst, anger and the all round bad and slightly defeated attitude of both Emmy and Justin. They’re feeling betrayed and their pain is evident when reading their stories. I enjoyed reading their stories. And the supporting characters? Amazing. I loved the great cast and their eccentricities.

But this book is a mess (possibly the mess referred to in the title) when it comes to the romance between Emmy and Justin. It just didn’t work for me. I can’t stand when authors think that just because they’re writing for YA audiences then there needs to be a love story. The relationship between these two felt superfluous and so very out of character for both.

A Really Awesome Mess was an enjoyable read with some issues but there were a few heart-warming moments as well.

Thanks to Egmont USA and Netgalley for the digital review copy.

Purchase the novel from:

Amazon | Book Depository