The Week: 25th June – 1st July

Australian Parliament on Saturday afternoon.

Winter Evening Light Eucalyptus Tree Gum Tree Sonya Oksana Heaney 28th June 2018 Canberra Australia Nature

Winter Sky Sunset 2 Canberra Australia Sonya Heaney 28th June 2018 Nature

Winter in Canberra

Yesterday we finally made it to the National Gallery for the Cartier exhibition. I’ll do a post about it next week, but – WOW. This wasn’t just random stuff; it was Kate Middleton’s wedding tiara, and some of the Queen’s favourite jewellery, and Grace Kelly’s tiara, and Elizabeth Taylor’s necklace, and tiaras belonging to Queen Victoria’s daughters, and a clock belonging to a US president…

Followed up with lunch at Canberra’s oldest Italian restaurant – good start to the weekend.

My review of Someone to Care (Westcott family #4) by Mary Balogh

To China

Chinese Embassy Australia Canberra

The next trademark drama.

Cockybot cockygate trademark for Secret Garden

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

To All the Boys I_ve Loved Before by Jenny Han Movie Tie-In Cover

What is this?!

Hidden Truths (My One-Night Stand #3) by Giovanna Reaves

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To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

Yound adult author Jenny Han’s book To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before has been made into a movie, and the trailer is out now.

Here’s the blurb for the book:

What if all the crushes you ever had found out how you felt about them… all at once? 

Sixteen-year-old Lara Jean Song keeps her love letters in a hatbox her mother gave her. They aren’t love letters that anyone else wrote for her; these are ones she’s written. One for every boy she’s ever loved—five in all. When she writes, she pours out her heart and soul and says all the things she would never say in real life, because her letters are for her eyes only. Until the day her secret letters are mailed, and suddenly, Lara Jean’s love life goes from imaginary to out of control.

And here’s the trailer:

The Week: 18th – 24th June

Winter Sunshine Blue Sky Sonya Heaney 19th June 2018 Eucalyptus Tree Gum Tree Canberra Australia Australian Capital Territory Nature

Winter sunshine in Canberra.

And at the cemetery near the New South Wales/Australian Capital Territory state border on Friday afternoon.

And Lake Burley Griffin on Saturday afternoon.

R.I.P. Errol Pickford

Errol Pickford as Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet © Leslie Spatt Royal Ballet Royal Opera House

Happy Birthday to an Icon

Oksana_Chusovitina_(vault)_04-2011

My review of Heartbeat by Elizabeth Scott

My review of The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith

Beyond my limit!

How much more ridiculous can it get?

Cockygate apllication to trademark the word BIG cockybot

Beyond my limit!

A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller

We all know that many a book cover in historical fiction has questionable historical accuracy, but the cover designer has gone too far this time!

A Mad, Wicked Folly is supposed to be set in 1909 – the Edwardian era. This canary-coloured prom dress, the long, flowing hair… I’ve heard this is a wonderful book, so the author definitely deserved better.

Is it because it’s young adult fiction? Do they assume younger readers are too stupid to pick up a book unless it looks like every other prom princess cover on the market?

Here is a fashion plate from the *real* year 1909 for comparison:

August 1909 Fashion Edwardian era.

Readers are the world’s smartest, most knowledgeable people! Stop treating us like idiots!

Heartbeat by Elizabeth Scott

Heartbeat by Elizabeth Scott

Does life go on when your heart is broken?

Since her mother’s sudden death, Emma has existed in a fog of grief, unable to let go, unable to move forward—because her mother is, in a way, still there. She’s being kept alive on machines for the sake of the baby growing inside her.

Estranged from her stepfather and letting go of things that no longer seem important—grades, crushes, college plans—Emma has only her best friend to remind her to breathe. Until she meets a boy with a bad reputation who sparks something in her—Caleb Harrison, whose anger and loss might just match Emma’s own. Feeling her own heart beat again wakes Emma from the grief that has grayed her existence. Is there hope for life after death—and maybe, for love?

Heartbeat by Elizabeth Scott

Several weeks ago I was thinking about the confronting and downright disturbing book Living Dead Girl, a book I read years ago and still remember vividly, and got to wondering what Elizabeth Scott had written since. Her books deal with topics not all young adult fiction would, and I think they could qualify as general fiction as much as YA.

And so I looked the author up, learnt about a few terrible things that’d happened to her since I last checked in, and then discovered that Heartbeat (2014) was the last book she wrote. After the poor reaction to the early review copies, Scott bought her way out of her contract with her publisher, and I thought: how could it possibly be that bad?

And so I knew I had to read it. The problem? Australians can’t buy her books on Kindle, which meant I had to order a paperback and wait weeks.

When my copy finally arrived I read it in one sitting, and – honestly? I feel anger at some of the reviewers intent on tearing the book to shreds.

I can see why Heartbeat is a difficult read. It takes place not long after Emma’s mother died suddenly, in the weeks after Emma’s stepfather decided to keep her mother’s body alive artificially in order to save the baby she was carrying, without Emma even getting a say in the decision.

This is a book about anger, and it’s an anger that barely leaves Emma from the first page to the last. Her mother is gone – but not. She has to see her body, changing as death takes over, in the hospital every day, while a baby grows inside it. She has to live with a man who seems obsessed with this potential baby, and nothing else.

I can see that some readers struggled with the main character, but I also think she was realistic. I think that many teenagers – hell, many people in general – would have reacted exactly the same way Emma did.

I thought the troubles between Emma and Dan, her stepfather, were handled so well. It’s messy and they fight, and they both react to the death in totally different ways, but underneath it all – and by the end – you can see that they’re finding a way back to each other.

The love interest in the background, Caleb, has his own awful, awful issues, and I like that Scott holds back on making everything perfect for everyone by the end. Nothing of hers I’ve read has had a totally happy ending, and it’s brave and realistic.

Mostly, and apart from the book itself, I’m sad that a book that I’ll still be thinking about well into the future was the one that made an author think she needed to end her career.

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith

Who would have guessed that four minutes could change everything?

Today should be one of the worst days of seventeen-year-old Hadley Sullivan’s life. Having missed her flight, she’s stuck at JFK airport and late to her father’s second wedding, which is taking place in London and involves a soon-to-be stepmother Hadley’s never even met. Then she meets the perfect boy in the airport’s cramped waiting area. His name is Oliver, he’s British, and he’s sitting in her row.

A long night on the plane passes in the blink of an eye, and Hadley and Oliver lose track of each other in the airport chaos upon arrival. Can fate intervene to bring them together once more?

Quirks of timing play out in this romantic and cinematic novel about family connections, second chances, and first loves. Set over a twenty-four-hour-period, Hadley and Oliver’s story will make you believe that true love finds you when you’re least expecting it.

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith

As with every young adult book ever written, The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight has such wildly varying reviews it was impossible to know whether I’d like it or not. Turns out I liked it more than I expected.

Much of this book’s appeal to me was that I, too, in my later teens, caught an international flight to London on my own and ended up hanging out with a young English guy on the way. Unlike this story, I severely doubt it was true love – in fact I can’t even remember the guy’s name. However, it was a setup for a story that I wanted to read.

The book is – unusually – written in third person present tense, which was a little odd at first, but once I got used to it, it worked well for the story. As the entire thing happens over only one day, the immediacy of the tone worked.

A book billed as a teen romance with an English guy, starring an American heroine, is likely to be a little clichéd, and this is something I worried about going in. However – for the most part – I found the British language and the descriptions pretty accurate, with a few exceptions (e.g. I lived in London for years, and nobody walked around saying everything was ‘grand’.) But more on that later.

The book’s heroine is travelling to London for her father’s wedding. A couple of years earlier he travelled to Oxford on a poetry fellowship, met another woman, and abandoned his wife and daughter to stay in England.

Much of the story deals with the reconciliation between father and daughter. I think the father’s character was written better than any other in the story – but this is a bit of a problem. The guy is made out to be so sympathetic, and the author is obviously determined to manipulate us into feeling sorry for him.

It worked: I loved the guy. And I don’t think that was fair, considering what he did to ruin other people’s lives. Sometimes, I think, an author has a responsibility to not characterise the “bad guy” so we love him (new adult authors, I’m looking at you!).

So: to the Britain-versus-America theme.

Firstly, let me say that I think the language barriers were handled well. I generally can’t stand those ‘isn’t it cute how Brits speak differently!’ scenes, but in this book the author managed to portray the differences without falling into that trap. I also think that, as we saw the story from the American heroine’s perspective, she could be forgiven for some of her clichéd assumptions, especially as she learnt as she went on.

On the other hand:

London isn’t the jolly little fantasy land of mid-twentieth century children’s shows. It isn’t Mary Poppins. In Paddington you’re more likely to find speciality shops with Arabic writing on the signs than a vintage little chippy on every corner, and Westminster is crowded, multicultural, bustling, and chaotic on a quiet day; not quaint.

Talking to a stranger (hell, even making eye contact with a stranger!) in London is considered a huge social no-no, but here we have dear old brolly-toting ladies pottering about the Tube, helping our heroine out.

And no, most people in the world don’t shove wedding cake in each other’s faces!

I think it’s always easier to find faults and discuss those than to talk about what you loved, and I think I’ve done this here!

I will say two things: Jennifer E. Smith surprised me with her writing, and I definitely intend to seek more of it out.

And: never rely on Goodreads reviews to pick young adult reads. They’re as drama-filled as the books!