ARC Review – ‘Call It What You Want’ by Brigid Kemmerer

Title: Call It What You Want
Author: Brigid Kemmerer
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Word/Page Count: 384 pages (paperback)
Publication Details: by Bloomsbury Australia on July 1st, 2019
RRP: $16.99 AUD (paperback)

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Blurb from Goodreads:

When his dad is caught embezzling funds from half the town, Rob goes from popular lacrosse player to social pariah. Even worse, his father’s failed suicide attempt leaves Rob and his mother responsible for his care.

Everyone thinks of Maegan as a typical overachiever, but she has a secret of her own after the pressure got to her last year. And when her sister comes home from college pregnant, keeping it from her parents might be more than she can handle.

When Rob and Maegan are paired together for a calculus project, they’re both reluctant to let anyone through the walls they’ve built. But when Maegan learns of Rob’s plan to fix the damage caused by his father, it could ruin more than their fragile new friendship…

This captivating, heartfelt novel asks the question: Is it okay to do something wrong for the right reasons?

I adored Brigid Kemmerer’s YA fantasy novel, A Curse So Dark and Lonely, so I was happy to receive an early copy of her new contemporary for review. I had a bit of anxiety hoping that I would enjoy this genre from her as much as I had with fantasy, but that concern turned out to be completely unwarranted, this was a fabulous read!

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ARC Review & Blog Tour – ‘All That Impossible Space’ by Anna Morgan

Title: All That Impossible Space
Author: Anna Morgan
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Word/Page Count: 288 pages (paperback)
Publication Details: by Hachette Australia on June 25th, 2019
RRP: $19.99 AUD (paperback)

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Blurb from Goodreads:

Amelia Westlake meets My Favorite Murder in this debut from a terrific new voice in Australian YA. Combines a realistic story about high school drama and toxic friendship with true crime – the endlessly fascinating Somerton Man or Taman Shud mystery.

15-year-old Lara Laylor feels like supporting character in her own life. She’s Ashley’s best friend, she’s Hannah’s sister-she’s never just Lara.

When new history teacher Mr. Grant gives her an unusual assignment: investigating the mystery of the Somerton Man. Found dead in on an Adelaide beach in 1948, a half-smoked cigarette still in his mouth and the labels cut out of his clothes, the Somerton Man has intrigued people for years. Was he a spy? A criminal? Year 10 has plenty of mysteries of its own: boys, drama queen friends, and enigmatic new students. When they seem just as unsolvable as a 60-year-old cold case, Lara finds herself spending more and more time on the assignment. But Mr Grant himself may be the biggest mystery of all…

Interspersed with fictionalised snapshots of the Somerton Man investigation, All That Impossible Space is a coming of age novel exploring toxic friendships and the balance of power between teacher and student, perfect for fans of Cath Crowley and Fiona Wood.

My personal measure of a book’s quality is whether a) I read it in one sitting, or b) if it compelled me to stay up ridiculously late to finish reading it. All That Impossible Space achieved BOTH. I wouldn’t have started it at 9pm at night if I had any idea it would keep me up past midnight, but I have no regrets!

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ARC Review – ‘Keep This To Yourself’ by Tom Ryan

Title: Keep This To Yourself
Author: Tom Ryan
Genre: Young Adult, Thriller
Publication Date: May 21st, 2019
Word/Page Count: 320 pages (hardcover)

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Blurb from Goodreads:

It’s been a year since the Catalog Killer terrorized the sleepy seaside town of Camera Cove, killing four people before disappearing without a trace.

Like everyone else in town, eighteen-year-old Mac Bell is trying to put that horrible summer behind him—easier said than done since Mac’s best friend Connor was the murderer’s final victim. But when he finds a cryptic message from Connor, he’s drawn back into the search for the killer—who might not have been a random drifter after all. Now nobody—friends, neighbors, or even the sexy stranger with his own connection to the case—is beyond suspicion. Sensing that someone is following his every move, Mac struggles to come to terms with his true feelings towards Connor while scrambling to uncover the truth.

I had such a good time reading this! I found it really engaging and raced through it, completely hooked by the twists and turns, and legitimately shocked and impressed by the end. YA mysteries can be hit-and-miss, but I thought this was very satisfying and tightly plotted.

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Book Review – ‘Watch Us Rise’ by Renee Watson & Ellen Hagan

Title: Watch Us Rise
Authors: Renee Watson, Ellen Hagan
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Word/Page Count: 368 pages (paperback)
Publication Details: by Bloomsbury Australia on March 4th, 2019
RRP: $15.99 AUD

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

Jasmine and Chelsea are sick of the way women are treated even at their progressive NYC high school, so they decide to start a Women’s Rights Club. They post everything online—poems, essays, videos of Chelsea performing her poetry, and Jasmine’s response to the racial macroaggressions she experiences—and soon they go viral. But with such positive support, the club is also targeted by online trolls. When things escalate, the principal shuts the club down. Jasmine and Chelsea will risk everything for their voices—and those of other young women—to be heard.

Watch Us Rise has two protagonists who narrate in alternating chapters – there’s Jasmine, a plus-size black girl who is an actress and writer, and her best friend Chelsea, who is an average-size Caucasian girl that writes poetry. Their other two best friends are Nadine, a Japanese Lebanese singer, and Isaac, a Puerto Rican artist.

First of all, massive props to this book for its commitment to diversity and representation, because this is more true to life than books that focus on predominantly white casts. I also really appreciate its dedication to female friendship and the way that Jasmine and Chelsea constantly support and raise each other up throughout the story. Sometimes this would be a set-up for them to have a falling out, followed by a period of bitterness before the reconciliation, but thankfully Watch Us Rise was more interested in the girls being there for each other, which was fantastic. Plus it was great to see Isaac as a feminist ally instead of excluding boys from the narrative altogether, and that he had interactions with both the main girls, instead of just his crush, which made the friendship dynamics more real and lived-in.

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ARC Review – ‘All The Invisible Things’ by Orlagh Collins

Title: All The Invisible Things
Author: Orlagh Collins
Genre: YA, Contemporary
Publication Details: by Bloomsbury Australia on 7th March, 2019
Word/Page Count: 320 pages (paperback)
Synopsis: (from Goodreads)

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A warm, witty, important story about being a young woman today, and what it’s like to find a real connection amid all the noise. Perfect for fans of Holly Bourne and Laura Steven’s The Exact Opposite of Okay.

Vetty’s family is moving back to London, and all she can think about is seeing Pez again. They were inseparable when they were small – roaming the city in the long summers, sharing everything. But everyone’s telling her it’ll be different now. After all, a boy and a girl can’t really be friends without feelings getting in the way, can they?

Vetty thinks differently … until Pez tells her she’s ‘not like other girls’. But what does that even mean? Is it a good thing or not? Suddenly she’s wondering whether she wants him to see her like the others – like the ultra-glamorous March, who’s worked some sort of spell on Pez, or the girls in the videos that Pez has hidden on his laptop.

How can she measure up to them? And who says that’s what a girl is supposed to be like anyway?

I really appreciate the themes running through this novel and I think it’s going to resonate with a lot of readers because of the focus on being true to oneself, finding out who you are to begin with, navigating the complex maze of teenage relationships as well as forging new friendships and trying to maintain old ones. These are universal experiences and Vetty’s journey is very relatable as a result, even if you haven’t faced exactly the same set of circumstances.

From the blurb, I made the assumption that the central romance would focus on Vetty and Pez, and I’m so glad that it wasn’t as cliche and obvious as that! Instead Vetty explores a relationship with one of Pez’s friends plus develops a crush on another girl in their group, which throws a spanner in the works! I feel like this is going to be such an important book for bisexual teens in real life because Vetty’s insecurity over her ‘greedy heart’, fretting over whether her peers can tell and agonizing over how to come out (including an aborted attempt with a well-meaning lesbian aunt who inadvertently stifles Vetty) will offer a lot of validation and comfort.

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ARC Review – ‘A Danger To Herself And Others’ by Alyssa Sheinmel

Title: A Danger To Herself And Others
Author: Alyssa Sheinmel
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Mental Health
Publication Details: by Hachette Australia on 12th February, 2019
Word/Page Count: 352 pages (paperback)
Synopsis: (from Goodreads)

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Only when she’s locked away does the truth begin to escape… 

Four walls. One window. No way to escape. Hannah knows there’s been a mistake. She didn’t need to be institutionalized. What happened to her roommate at her summer program was an accident. As soon as the doctors and judge figure out that she isn’t a danger to herself or others, she can go home to start her senior year. In the meantime, she is going to use her persuasive skills to get the staff on her side.

Then Lucy arrives. Lucy has her own baggage. And she may be the only person who can get Hannah to confront the dangerous games and secrets that landed her in confinement in the first place.

Well, this didn’t last long on my February TBR, I ended up devouring this overnight in one sitting! I had a feeling from the blurb that this book would feature an unreliable narrator and it looked like a suspenseful read – boy, did it deliver! I found myself so engrossed in the drama and intrigue that I couldn’t put it down until I reached the end!

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Book Review – ‘What You Hide’ by Natalie D Richards

Title: What You Hide
Author: Natalie D Richards
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Thriller
Date of Publication: 4th December, 2018
Word/Page Count: 384 pages (paperback)
Synopsis: (from Goodreads)

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A new pulse-pounding romantic thriller from the author of We All Fall Down and Six Months Later

Spencer volunteers at the library. Sure, it’s community service, but he likes his work. Especially if it means getting to see Mallory.

Mallory spends a lot of time keeping her head down. When you’re sixteen and homeless, nothing matters more than being anonymous. But Spencer’s charm makes her want to be noticed.

Then sinister things start happening at the library. Mysterious symbols and terrifying warnings begin to appear, and management grows suspicious. Spencer and Mallory know a homeless teenager makes an easy target, and if they can’t find the real culprit soon, they could lose more than just their safe haven…

Well. This is awkward. I had a whole post planned about the issues of marketing a book correctly and outlining what this book SHOULD be promoted under, but when I went to link up to Goodreads, it appears that’s been updated! So, kudos to the publishing team for clarifying the synopsis and genre category for the public, it’s just unfortunate that my reading experience was rather different. I realize things are subject to change in the publication process, so I genuinely appreciate that the publisher obviously took feedback on board and made some changes because going in with a particular set of expectations and being met with something different is usually going to disappoint.

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Review – ‘The Bookworm & The Beast’ by Charlee James

Title: The Bookworm & The Beast
Author: Charlee James
Genre:  Contemporary Romance
Date of Publication: 4th December, 2017
Page Count: 172 pages (Kindle edition)
Synopsis: (from Goodreads)

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When quiet, bookish Izzy Simon accepts a two-week assignment as an assistant for an author of children’s books, it seems like the perfect way for her to make some much-needed extra money, but the grumpy author claims he doesn’t want or need her services. He might be as handsome as a storybook prince, but his prickly personality and resistance to all things Christmas are sure to make for a chilly holiday season.

Derek Croft never agreed to the cheery temp his staff arranges for him while they’re on vacation. Izzy is his polar opposite, but Derek soon realizes she could be the perfect solution to his interfering family…if he can get her to agree to pretend to be his live-in girlfriend. Before long Izzy’s sweet disposition and unflappable optimism has him decorating a tree and looking forward to late night hot cocoa, but he’s all too aware their time together can’t last.

I requested this out of the desire for a sweet Christmas read featuring a Beauty & The Beast retelling – it’s now nearly mid-February, which speaks volumes about how difficult I found it to get through this story. The blurb promised all my favorite tropes (fake relationship! forced proximity! grumpy-curmudgeon-with-a-heart-of-gold! bookish-nerd-falling-for-her-boss!), but unfortunately ‘The Bookworm and the Beast’ didn’t live up to expectations.

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Book Review – ‘Burn For You’ by J.T. Geissinger

Title: Burn For You
Author: J.T. Geissinger
Genre:  Contemporary Romance
Date of Publication: 17th October, 2017
Page Count: 348 pages (paperback)
Synopsis: (from Goodreads)

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The marriage is fake. But for a sassy chef and an arrogant billionaire, the sparks are real…

Jackson “The Beast” Boudreaux is rich, gorgeous, and unbelievably rude to the staff at Chef Bianca Hardwick’s New Orleans restaurant. Bianca would sooner douse herself in hot sauce than cook for Jackson again, but when he asks her to cater his fund-raiser, Bianca can’t refuse, knowing the cash will help pay her mother’s medical bills. Then Jackson makes another outrageous request: Marry me. The unconventional offer includes an enormous sum—money Bianca desperately needs, even if it does come with a contract—and a stunning ring.

The heir to a family bourbon dynasty, Jackson knows the rumors swirling around him. The truth is even darker. Still, he needs a wife to secure his inheritance, and free-spirited, sassy Bianca would play the part beautifully. Soon, though, their simple business deal evolves into an emotional intimacy he’s built walls to avoid.

As the passion heats up between them, Bianca and Jackson struggle to define which feelings are real and which are for show. Is falling for your fake fiancé the best happy ending…or a recipe for disaster?

I can’t recommend this book highly enough, it has everything I look for in a romance – a witty capable heroine, a dark brooding hero with a heart of gold, the marriage-of-convenience trope executed to perfection and slow-burn development from enemies-to-friends-to-lovers. AMAZING.

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Review – ‘Future Leaders of Nowhere’ by Emily O’Beirne

Title:  Future Leaders of Nowhere
Author: Emily O’Beirne
Genre:  Young Adult, Contemporary, LGBT+
Date of Publication: 15th March, 2017
Page Count: 270 pages (ebook)
Synopsis: (from Goodreads)

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“Finn’s solid. Not in body, but in being. She’s gravity and kindness and all those good things that anchor.”

“Willa’s confusing. Sometimes she’s this sweet, sensitive soul. Other times she’s like a flaming arrow you hope isn’t coming for you.”

Finn and Willa have been picked as team leaders in the future leader camp game. The usually confident Finn doesn’t know what’s throwing her more, the fact she’s leading a team of highly unenthusiastic overachievers or coming up against fierce, competitive Willa. And Willa doesn’t know which is harder, leaving her responsibilities behind to pursue her goals or opening up to someone.

Soon they both realise that the hardest thing of all is balancing their clashing ideals with their unexpected connection. And finding a way to win, of course.

In short: I loved this book. The main characters were endearing and easy to root for, the love story was gradually developed and their relationship had a solid foundation based on adorably nerdy interactions (no insta-love here!) and their conflicts felt grounded in their individual personalities and beliefs instead of contrived for drama. ALL THE YES.

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At length: This is everything I want in a YA novel!

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