Book Review: The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson

The Impossible Knife of Memory

Title: The Impossible Knife of Memory
Author: Laurie Halse Anderson
Genre: Realistic Fiction, Contemporary, Romance
Publisher: Text Publishing
Publication Date: January 2014
Pages: 304
Rating: 5 stars

Synopsis (from goodreads):
For the past five years Hayley Kincain and her father, Andy, have been on the road, never staying long in one place as he struggles to escape the demons that have tortured him since his return from Iraq.

Now they are back in town where he grew up so Hayley can go to a proper school. Perhaps, for the first time, Hayley can have a normal life, put aside her own painful memories, even have a relationship with Finn, the hot guy who obviously likes her but is hiding secrets of his own.

Will being back home help Andy’s PTSD, or will his terrible memories drag him to the edge of hell, and drugs push him over?

My Review:

Hayley has been helping her dad, Andy, fight the demons inside his head for years. But when things start to get even worse, Andy moves them both back to the town he grew up in to give Hayley some kind of a normal life. Preferring to be on the road than stuck in public school, Hayley tries to make the most of it for her dad’s sake but things get more difficult when people from their past and the nightmares Andy face become unavoidable. And then there’s Finn – a boy who won’t let Hayley ignore him – pushes himself into her life. 

I’ve never read a Laurie Halse Anderson novel before and I’m so glad that I got the opportunity to read The Impossible Knife of Memory. It’s a beautiful story about a teenage girl with a lot of responsibility trying to keep her small family together. She has a lot of love for her dad but she’s also scared. Scared of what might happen to him and scared for herself when the past gets a hold of him and she can’t bring him back. Hayley is a great character. She’s tough because she has needed to be and isn’t an easy person for others to get to know. It makes a lovely contrast with the effervescent Finn who calls Hayley out on her prickly nature and brings out the best in her. Together they are one of my favourite fictional couples because they both have their own problems with neither one of them being perfect however they do make each other stronger. The development of their relationship throughout the book is a strength. I loved getting to see them interact as strangers then something more and finally seeing them support each other as a couple when life gets tough. 

This is a book about relationships and in addition to the romance between Hayley and Finn, there is also the father/daughter dynamic between Hayley and Andy. It’s a hard relationship because whilst as a reader it is evident that there is a lot of love on both sides, it’s also a relationship that is dangerous and destructive for both of them. Hayley is doing all she can but it’s not enough and both she and Andy know it. Dispersed throughout Hayley’s narrative are memories from Andy’s time as a soldier. There may only be short and few however they show where Andy’s head is. I really felt for Hayley – she’s trying to do so much and this part of the novel is heartbreaking. 

The Impossible Knife of Memory is a beautifully written book. I loved how the authors described memories and situations. The relationships are heartbreaking yet there is hope and I think that’s what makes this book so emotionally draining. There is so much love and yet there is the knowledge that it might not be enough. The supporting characters being drama, distraction but ultimately help the story and Hayley along. It’s only six weeks into the year but I have no doubt that come December this book will still be among my favourites for 2014.  

 

 

 

Thanks to Text Publishing for the review copy.

Purchase the novel from:

Amazon | Booktopia | Book Depository | BookWorld

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Book Review: How They Met (and Other Stories) by David Levithan

How They Met, and Other Stories

Title: How They Met (and Other Stories)
Author: David Levithan
Genre: Realistic Fiction, Contemporary, Romance, Short Stories
Publisher: Text Publishing
Publication Date: January 2014
Pages: 256
Rating: 3.5  stars

Synopsis (from goodreads):
Eighteen stories, all about love, and about all kinds of love.

From the aching for the one you pine for, to standing up and speaking up for the one you love, to pure joy and happiness, these love stories run the gamut of that emotion that at some point has turned every one of us inside out and upside down.

What is love?

With this original story collection David Levithan proves that love is a varied, complicated, addictive, wonderful thing.

My Review: 

As David Levithan says in his introduction, How They Met (and other stories) is a book of stories about love rather than love stories. Each of the eighteen short stories gives a look into different types of love and relationships. With stories about the first sparks of attraction to tales of heartbreak and parental disapproval – this anthology covers a whole range of emotions and situations.

The stories contained in How We Met feature a variety of types of relationships – from two boys falling in love to a girl being heartbroken when her girlfriend moves on and heterosexual couples and their love stories. With many of the stories, the gender of the narrator is a little ambiguous for the first few pages and I liked the vagueness. Whilst sexuality is a theme in these stories, the unclearness of the narrator made it appear that the issues faced and situations the characters are in a universal (for the most part) regardless of sexual orientation.

For me, the sum is greater than the parts. I enjoyed many of the stories but I think the strength lies in how they fit together as a compilation. The variety is fantastic and yet they all manage to come together and feel like they each belong in the same collection.

Favourite Stories: Starbucks Boy, The Number of People Who Meet on Airplanes, Princes, A Romantic Inclination. 

Favourite Quotes:

“Every two people cause and intersection.
Every person alters the world.” from Intersection

“Sallie and James had both life and the laws of physics working against them. You see, Sallie Brown and James Helprin were good friends.
Which adds a certain friction to our equation.” from A Romantic Inclination

“You have to believe there are kisses and laughs and risks worth taking”

 

Thanks to Text Publishing for the review copy.

Purchase the novel from:

Amazon | Booktopia | Book Depository | BookWorld

Book Review + Giveaway: Bird by Crystal Chan

bird

Today I get to share with you my review of Crystal Chan’s debut novel, Bird. This is a beautiful novel with a gorgeous cover – one of those covers that I like even more after finishing the book because it fits it so perfectly. Text Publishing has generously offered a copy to giveaway (open to Australian and New Zealand residents) so be sure to check out the bottom of this post on how to enter.

Title: BirdChan_Bird
Author: Crystal Chan
Genre: Realistic Fiction, Contemporary
Publisher: Text Publishing
Publication Date: 29th January 2014
Pages: 256
Rating: 5 stars

Synopsis (from goodreads):
Nothing matters. Only Bird matters. And he flew away.

Jewel never knew her brother Bird, but all her life she has lived in his shadow. Her parents blame Grandpa for the tragedy of their family’s past; they say that Grandpa attracted a malevolent spirit—a duppy—into their home. Grandpa hasn’t spoken a word since. Now Jewel is twelve, and she lives in a house full of secrets.

Jewel is sure that no one will ever love her like they loved Bird, until the night that she meets a mysterious boy in a tree.

Grandpa is convinced that the boy is a duppy, but Jewel knows that he is something more. And that maybe the time has come to break through the stagnant silence of the past.

Entrenched secrets, mysterious spirits, and an astonishing friendship weave together in this extraordinary and haunting debut.

My Review:

The day Jewel was born, her five-year old brother, Bird, tried to fly… but didn’t survive the fall. Her family has been broken ever since. Her grandfather has not spoken a word since that day and is a husk of the man he used to be. Her parents seem to barely notice her and Jewel is still living in the shadow of the brother she never even met. When Jewel meets John, the nephew of a neighbour, the secrets of the past and the things her family won’t talk about come to the surface and force everyone to face reality.

Bird, Crystal Chan’s debut novel, is a heartbreaking read. The main character, Jewel, is the perfect person to narrate this story. She has the bluntness of a child who is on the cusp of becoming a teenager. I found her style to be candid and heartfelt as well as completely believable. She’s hurt and feels alone despite having her family around her. I admired her tenacity and the passion she has for geology. Reading about Jewel’s memories of her relationship with her mother broke my heart and her interactions with her grandpa really made me feel for the young girl.

I loved reading about Jewel’s friendship with John. I don’t believe Jewel does anything half-hearted and her camaraderie with him was beautiful to read. The way the two bonded over their own secrets and problems was authentic and added another layer of realism to this novel. Their passion for astronomy and geology was contagious and the way they spoke about their fields was beautiful. I loved how Jewel described rocks and her eagerness to learn about the stars from John.

The culture of Jewel’s blended family ran strong throughout this novel. The food, music and spiritual beliefs of her father’s Jamaican ancestry and her mother’s Mexican heritage all add to make Jewel’s family different. With Bird’s death still haunting her family, Jewel struggles to make her parents listen to her and support her choices. She has to cope with being unique among the people of Iowa and trying to navigate what she believes. Her father’s strong belief in spirits (or “duppies”) cause Jewel to question certain things in her life and directly contrast her mother’s Catholic beliefs. The spirituality of Jewel’s grandfather and father really drew me in. I found myself questioning Jewel’s reality and eager to discover the existence of duppies at times.

I think Bird is one of the most beautiful written novels I’ve read. The voice of Jewel was a pleasure to read and I adored where Crystal Chan took me on this journey. The characters are all flawed and that adds to their appeal. The story and Jewel’s candid narration was both heart breaking and moving. I adored this book and highly recommend it.

 

Thanks to Text Publishing for the review copy.

Purchase the novel from:

Amazon | Booktopia | Book Depository | BookWorld

Author Crystal Chan

Author Crystal Chan

Giveaway!

Thanks to Text Publishing

I have

1 print edition of Bird by Crystal Chan to giveaway

**Open to  Australian and New Zealand Residents only**

Please leave a comment on this post to enter and then

CLICK HERE TO ENTER

Entries Close February 6th, 2014

Drawn via random.org

Check out other stops on the Bird Blog Tour!

Tuesday 28th January
Extract on Gobblefunked

Wednesday 29th
Review by Mandy and Guest Post by Crystal Chan on veganYAnerds

Friday 31st
Review by Bec at First Impressions

Saturday 01st February
12 Curly Questions on Kids’ Book Review

Sunday 02nd
Review by Kelly at Diva Booknerd

Monday 03rd
Review by Melanie at YA Midnight Reads

Tuesday 04th
Review by Naomi at inkcrush

Wednesday 05th
Review and Q&A with Danielle at ALPHAReader

Book Review: Zac and Mia by A.J. Betts

Zac and Mia

Title: Zac & Mia
Author: A.J. Betts
Genre: Realistic Fiction, Contemporary, Cancer, Romance
Publisher: Text Publishing
Publication Date: July 2013
Pages: 272
Rating: 4.5 stars

Synopsis (from goodreads):
The last person Zac expects in the room next door is a girl like Mia, angry and feisty with questionable taste in music. In the real world, he wouldn’t—couldn’t—be friends with her. In hospital different rules apply, and what begins as a knock on the wall leads to a note—then a friendship neither of them sees coming.

You need courage to be in hospital; different courage to be back in the real world. In one of these worlds Zac needs Mia. And in the other Mia needs Zac. Or maybe they both need each other, always.

My Review:

Zac and Mia is a book told by the perspectives of two very different teenagers. Zac is a seventeen year old active farm boy suffering myeloid leukaemia and now stuck in confinement after a bone marrow transplant. With only his supportive (yet at times a little overbearing) mother, nurses and the Internet for company, Zac is intrigued by the new admission to the hospital room next to his. Mia isn’t quite as okay with her diagnosis as Zac. She’s angry and in denial. Her prognosis is the best of anyone in the ward but all she can see how the cancer in her leg is taking her former life away from her.

I liked how Betts broke up this book – the first part is entirely told from Zac’s point of view, the last solely Mia, and the middle section alternating perspectives per chapter. The way it was told kept me rather anxiously reading on to make sure the characters were okay. Zac is someone I instantly enjoyed reading about. He’s smart and funny – his bone marrow’s alter ego, Helga! – but also incredibly logical. His fixation with maths and statistics showed that he knew his odds but was trying to be the one who beat them. Mia was harder to like – she’s pricky and snarky but from reading her side of things you can see that it’s just a cover for how scared she is. The relationship between them was a joy to read. They are unlikely friends but their shared experiences give them a bond that few can possibly understand. I love the interactions between them – from Mia obnoxiously blasting Lady Gaga to Zac’s knowledge of the ridiculous ways people have died. This book despite the serious nature of cancer did leave me grinning at times.

Their personal situations as well as their medical conditions contrasted nicely – Zac with the super supportive friends and family who all knew the ins and outs of what he was facing opposed to Mia who didn’t even let her friends know. Zac considered Mia to be the luckiest person on the ward but she was the one acting as if she was the only person facing a death sentence. Zac has the family who are all there for each other and there maybe teasing on the farm but when it comes down to it they would do anything for one another. Mia isn’t quite so lucky as her mother was a teenager when she had her and neither one seems to know how they should treat the other. These differences contrasted nicely and really showed off how differently people behave when facing a similar beast.

I’ve seen people compare Zac and Mia to John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars – with both books dealing with teens and cancer but for me they both told very different stories. Zac and Mia showed off the darker side – with everything from hair loss to bowel movements being discussed. I liked that Betts showed the ugly side of things as it made it all a little more realistic for me. It felt well researched from both a medical standpoint as well as the personal side of cancer.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. It’s thoughtful and heartbreaking yet sincere and at times amusing. I highly recommend it.

 

Thanks to Text Publishing for the review copy.

Purchase the novel from:

Amazon | Booktopia | Book Depository | BookWorld

Book Review: Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan

Two Boys Kissing

Title: Two Boys Kissing
Author: David Levithan
Genre: Realistic Fiction, Contemporary, GLBT, Romance
Publisher: Text Publishing
Publication Date: August 2013
Pages: 208
Rating: 4.5 stars

Synopsis (from goodreads):
Seventeen-year-olds Craig and Harry are trying to set a new Guinness World Record for kissing.

Around them, Ryan and Avery are falling in love, Neil and Peter are falling out of love, and Cooper might be somewhere, but he is also, dangerously, nowhere.

Narrated, Greek-chorus style, by the generation of gay men lost to AIDS, this novel is a thematic companion to David Levithan’s groundbreakingBoy Meets Boy, which celebrates its tenth anniversary in 2013.

Two Boys Kissing is trademark Levithan: warm, sharp and real. It is also something new and completely extraordinary.

My Review:

This is the power of a kiss:
It does not have the power to kill you. But it has the power to bring you to life. 

Two Boys Kissing is the story of Harry, Craig, Ryan, Avery, Cooper, Neil and Peter. They may be teenagers from different towns and have different backgrounds but their sexuality connects them. Craig and Harry are trying to set the world record for the longest kiss to prove a point. Exes but still friends, there’s no one the other would trust more to spend thirty-two hours, twelve minutes and at least ten seconds kissing. Ryan and Avery are in the grasp of new love with all the secrets and surprises that go along with getting to know someone new. Cooper’s life is falling down around him with the line between reality and real life blurred. And Neil and Peter have been together for a year – things are no longer new but there is a lot about each other lurking behind the surface. These characters cover the entire dating spectrum and have so many differences – their familial situations, their cultural backgrounds, their relationship statuses – and yet are part of a network because of one thing. Their sexual preferences.

With the novel being narrated by a chorus of gay men who have been where the teens are now, made their mistakes and danced their dances, this book is a unique perspective into the lives of the next generation of gay men. The writing is beautiful – slightly pretentious but perfect for the setting. I loved reading this book and found quotes I wanted to remember on almost every page. I’ve been a fan of David Levithan’s books since I read Boy Meets Boy ten years ago and thought Two Boys Kissing managed to convey the same message of acceptance and sexuality despite being darker and more realistic than his novel from a decade ago.

There’s a certain cyclical nature to this book – with the harassment of people based in their sexuality spanning across the characters despite their other circumstances. But the highlight is the support that they receive – from friends, family and complete strangers who want equality. I found some of the lines to be fantastic in their hope of future equality – “Max is a marvel to us. He will never have to come out because he will never have been kept in.”

All of the action in this book happens over just a couple of days, covers seven main characters in just over two hundred pages and yet I felt close to these characters. There’s enough detail to feel like I knew these boys, had experienced their heartbreaks and knew where they were going to go in the future – and I think this can be attributed to the unique narration style. The pop culture references are artfully inserted throughout the book with enough detail to feel included (book spine poetry with books I’ve read!) yet ambiguous enough to keep from dating the novel.

The authors note at the end of the book was fascinating to read – the record Harry and Craig were attempting to break was inspired by a true story as were other facets of the novel.  I loved this book . It’s full of hope and optimism with beautiful writing whilst still not glossing over the more painful aspects in life. I definitely recommend it to readers of all ages who enjoy a good story.

Thanks to Text Publishing for the review copy.

Purchase the novel from:

Amazon | Booktopia | Book Depository | BookWorld