Friday, May 4, 2012

Review: Holier Than Thou

Author: Laura Buzo
Release Date: May 1st 2012
Publisher: Allen and Unwin
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Fishpond | Booktopia | The Nile
Holly Yarkov has a boyfriend who is a gift from the universe. She has a job that fulfils her even as it wears her down. She has a dangerously appealing co-worker, who literally plays with fire. And she has a layer of steel around her heart that is beginning to tarnish. 

Just as she is reaching for a future she can't quite see, Holly finds her present invaded by the past, by memories of her father's death and of her once best friend, the boy-who-never-was.

Grief and longing run like veins of quicksilver through this beautiful novel, at once gloriously funny and achingly sad.

Having fallen in love with Laura's debut novel, Good Oil,  I've been eagerly anticipating word on another book (or sequel!!!). So when I first heard of Holier Than Thou, I was bouncing. in. delight. And I'm so excited to say, Laura once again does NOT disappoint! While our main character, Holly Yarkov, is a 24 year old social worker, Holier Than Thou can easily slip into the older YA market, while still firmly securing a spot amongst New Adult titles. I think older teens can relate to Holly because she's still trying to find where she fits into the vast jigsaw of life. She clings onto the past, onto the familiar, in fear of losing it. She's afraid of change, afraid of becoming something outside of her own firm idea of who she thinks she should be. But no matter how strong her grip, she can't keep things in perfect alignment. I think that's something we can all relate to, all struggle with at some point in our lives. It's hard to look at Holly and not find a part of yourself staring back at you. Whether it's her empathy, her humour, her strength or in the people and relationships she's encountered. Laura Buzo excels at crafting an amazingly flawed, lovable, believable protagonist.

Each turn of the page is a beautiful thing to witness, because the changes in Holly are so distinct as she evolves. She's growing up and so is everyone else around her. Her once inseparable group of High School friends are becoming increasingly more difficult to bring together, each branching off into a new direction. New jobs, new friends, new schedules. I think everyone over high school age can relate to that, and all those nearing that life-changing moment, fear it. As the past rears it's head, we see how the tragic death of Holly's father has shaped her into woman she is today and how the boy from her teens - who never was, who might have been, who could have been, who just disappeared from her life and never returned - still plays heavily on her mind and heart. Each thread of Holly's life is weaved, snipped and retied with such a caring hand, it's impossible to remain untouched by her journey.

More often that not, what I see explored in the books I read is the beginning of love, all bright and sparkly with new-couple shine. Holly's been with Tim for a few years now and some of that shine has faded. It's still strong with love and affection, but their life is settling into a monotony. They're not always as open with one another, nor are they sharing the same deep and exciting conversations. You see how it weighs on Holly, how it subconsciously pushes her to pay more attention to other areas in her life. Or other people. Nick. Funny, inspiring, charming Nick. Her constant companion at work, who understands the daily demands and emotional impact of their job. Nick, who may not be perfect, with his own messed up life hiding behind closed doors. Nick, who Holly is realising she'd be lost without. I loved how their relationship was so easy - the banter, the affection, how they knew what to say and when. You grow to suspect that Nick has feelings for her, but she's either oblivious or just not willing to acknowledge them at first. What they have is a strong friendship and it was both beautiful and heartbreaking to see potential for something more, given everything that stands between them. Realisations are made, as are choices, some frustratingly stupid, others more admirable, but each I felt to be a true reflection of the characters.

Holier Than Thou is a messy web of beautiful chaos. It's life. Perfect in it's ability to frustrate the hell out of you, make you smile, make you cry and twist your heart in pain and pleasure. Life is a constant state of motion, nobody has a 'happily ever after' because tomorrow is never certain, only in it's promise of eternal change. That's why I love how Laura ends this book. Was I left shaking my head in denial? Yes. Was I left frantically checking to see if my copy was missing pages? YES. But it felt real, it left me wondering. There is never a final dot point in life, not until you die, and I thought this was demonstrated really well. Even if I do still feel an ache in my heart, a desperate need to know MORE.

Holier Than Thou is a hilarious, poignant, inspiring snapshot of life, written by a rising Australian talent that everyone ought to clear a space for in their bookshelves!

4.5/5 Golden Apples!

Two infinitely more AMAZING reviews that go into further depth:
Vegan YA Nerds
Alpha Reader

33 comments:

  1. Great review, Brodie! I admit I haven't heard of the author OR this book so thanks for putting it on my radar . . . it sounds like a fun read!

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    1. Ohh Erin!! She's Aussie! And you're Aussie! It's a match made in heaven, yes? :D Seriously, you must check out this and Good Oil, both are SO good and have that delightful Aussie feel to them!

      Thanks! <3

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  2. Oh, wow, this book sounds completely fabulous! Although the protagonist does seem pretty old for a YA book, I could definitely see how it could be a YA novel. I love how realistic and beautiful this book sounds. Brodie, you seriously have an amazing talent with stringing words together in a gorgeous way! You make me want to pick this book up now! Thank you for the fabulous review, Brodie!

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    1. I didn't even realise her age at first, I knew she was a little older than High School age before going into it, but she has a really easy-to-relate to YA voice. There is a fair amount of swearing though, if that turns some YA readers off.

      Aww, I hope you do get to read this! Thank you! :)

      Delete
  3. ADHFAJFDKAG.
    BRODIE.

    "Holier Than Thou is a messy web of beautiful chaos. It's life."

    Sarah.
    Speechless.

    Anything that inspires you to such heights of gorgeous writing yourself must be EXTRAORDINARY. LKDHHDGA! WHAT SOPHIA SAID! "Brodie, you seriously have an amazing talent with stringing words together in a gorgeous way!"

    Seriously, you've broken my ability to think and speak, so I'm just going to copy paste everyone else's smarts :P

    I'm sick of syaing 'amazing' review. I want new words! EXCITING ONES! Ummm... RESPLENDANT review. I know, I know, so so SOOO wrong, but I'm going with it :P

    You KIOLL

    ...

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    1. Err... I think it was meant to be 'YOU KILL MY BRAIN'.. but the slightly terrifying note that comment ended on just WORKS somehow :P

      Delete
    2. *snort* That sentence is not even anything special! I think you just like buttering me up so I'll leave you a plate of cookies on the window sill when you come stalk me at night :P

      BUT thank you, I wuv you <3

      KIOLL. I LOVE IT. Even if it WAS slightly terrifying when I first read it :P I don't know it's meaning, exactly. How does it differ from the original kill?

      Delete
    3. Well, it's KILL, with extra ooooooooooooooo. You know?

      AND OH MY GOODNESS THAT SENTENCE WAS *TOO* SPECIAL. I shall broadcast it to the WOOOOOOOORLD. Oh, would you look at that? I JUST DID! *CACKLE*

      And I PROMISE I'll never butter you up. I'm not *THAT* cruel. We've already discussed. It'll be oil or margarine or melted vegan chocolate *nods*

      uh... that sounds unintentionally kinky... umm... >___<

      Delete
    4. I thought it might have some extra special meaning or maybe some variety of fish.

      VENGEANCE IS SWEET *best Severus Snape impression* Just you wait, Psychotic Sidekick of mine, just you wait >:]

      Melted vegan chocolate! It's... um... I... well... well who cares, vegans are kinky anyway :P

      Delete
    5. B-b-but... you're my favorite evil overlord! I am eternally loyal! Your revenging scares me! O___O

      THIS

      Delete
    6. .............................

      *heart is melting a little*

      STOP THAT. With the manpulation and the sad little Peaon eyes, I won't fall for it!

      All good minions need to be tested periodically. It's one thing to pledge loyalty, an entirely different thing to SHOW it. *plots*

      Delete
    7. *hides behind peaons*

      But I'm *NOT* a peaon. *I'M* a psychotic sidekick. There's a difference.

      Can I ply your kind, forgiving nature with choculence biscuits and ADORABLE peaons?

      Delete
    8. Whose idea was it to breed Peaons? I need minions who I have no emotional attachment to. Those damn adorable monsters have wormed their way into my heart!!

      .... *mouth is drooling at mention of choculence* *giggles threaten at the image of squeeful peaon* FINE, DAMNIT. I forgive you.

      Delete
    9. I just had an idea... vegan chocolate covered peaons... *eyes glaze over*

      mmm...

      You see, the good thing about Peaons is that for every one you squish, ten more'll pop up. Don't worry XD

      Delete
  4. Brodie!!! Such a beautiful review of a fantastic book. You're right about Nick, he was so charming and I agree with your summation that this book is a real representation of life.

    Thanks SO much for the wonderful comment on my review and for linking to it <3

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    1. NICK!!!! GAH. Guh. Buh. AUIDFHSJFKVLS.

      ..........

      That about sums up my thoughts with things there haha. Your review was BRILLIANT, linking for the world to see was the least I could do :)

      Delete
  5. Okay, wow! This book sounds AMAZING. Why haven't I heard of it until now?
    Thanks for yet another incredible review, you've definitely made me desperate to read this book.

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    1. Sadly, some Aussie books don't get as much attention overseas! I'm glad to have put this on your radar, I hope you have the chance to read it sometime!

      I do know that Laura's debut novel, GOOD OIL, is being released in the US soon under a different title, "Love and Other Perishable Items" if you're interested. Fingers crossed this will be too!

      Thank you for your lovely comment!

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    2. Yeah, I saw that book when I was searching for Holier Than Thou on Amazon. I didn't even look to see what it was about, so thanks for letting me know!

      I still have a little while until it's released, but as soon as it does I'll be reading it. (:

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  6. ME SO EXCITED TO READ THIS BOOK!!!!! Hopefully I can read it soon and since it's written by an Aussie author, I DEFINITELY NEED TO READ IT!!!!!!!!!!

    And like Sarah said, I'm utterly speechless at your PERFECT review, Brodie!!! I love how you begin and end your review. It's PERFECT.

    SO SO SO GLAD YOU LOVED THIS BOOK, Brodie! <3

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    1. Eeeee, I'm so excited for you to read it too, Celine! Aussie authors are amazing, aren't they?! I feel so proud haha.

      Awww, you are a sweetheart. Thank you! <3

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  7. Great review, Brodie! Though.. I am a little confused as to what this book is actually about. Is it just a snapshot of the character's life from point A to point B? Or is there an actual story? It's not your review, I think it's the synopsis. I just don't understand what the story is about. However, your review has me intrigued! And you tend to like really good books! :)

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    1. Oh, sorry!! I really should have explained it better in my review. It's really difficult to explain this in a few sentences... it's narrated in both past and present, the past where we catch glimpses of what is emotionally affecting Holly in the present (her father's death and a boy named Liam who she was in love with). It's that kind of read where it's not so much a clear, definied plot like, "Boy finds he's a wizard. Battles noseless Dark Lord" it's so... beautifully tangled up! Of her finding who she is, dealing with things in her life that are beginning to crumble, with feelings for a coworker she knows she ought not to have, of... I'm really sucky at this explaining thing, huh? LOL.

      Maybe those other reviews I linked do I better job?

      Delete
  8. Oooh I've seen a lot of positive things about Good Oil, and I'm definitely intrigued by this one too! Curious about this ending that had you checking for a missing page! Great review, Brodie :).

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    1. LOVE LOVE LOVE GOOD OIL! Laura has definitely marked herself as a favourite author for me. The ending is very much open for interpretation :) Thanks, Liz!

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  9. OHMYGOD BRODIE THIS SOUNDS AMAZING. I think I will completely relate, I am totally at that point in my life that Holly is. I'm developing a penchant for older titles right now and this one sounds perfect' adult whilst still retaining the YA charm. The ending...oh that sounds like my kinda ending...I NEED IT BRODIE I NEED IT WHY HAVE YOU DONE THIS TO MEEE *slinks off to Amazon*
    The Cait Files

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  10. Okay, I'm back because Brodie, YOU CAN ONLY BUY THIS IN AUSTRALIA BRODIE I DON'T LIVE IN AUSTRALIA. *investigates international shipping costs and frowns in Brodie's general direction*

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    1. YES. "Adult YA while still retaining the YA charm" - yes, yes, yes. You should have written my review for me :P I think you might definitely LOVE this!

      GAH. Damnit, Amazon! I know you can order it on Fishpond with free shipping, but it's about $17 (AUS) =\

      Delete
  11. WHOAAA BRODIEE! You must've really liked this<3333 I don't usually read books with older/non-teen main characters,(except for that Crime Fiction phase) but hmmmm....I think I just might give this a go!! It seems EVERYONE LOVED Good Oil and now I'm really freaking fabulous reviews for this -I've come to the conclusion that Laura Buzo is a FANTASTIC writer! Eeeeeee! I can't wait to read this! LOVEEE your review Brodie :) Glad you enjoyed it so much!

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    1. Yay, my Shirley Compulsion is still working! *fist pump* Even though she's older, it still has that "YA charm" as Cait mentioned abouve in a comment.

      GOOD OIL WAS SO... GOOD! So you must sway your backside to a bookstore or library or ereader or SOMEWHERE and read one of her books!

      Thanks, Shirley!! <3

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  12. Brodie, my favorite blogger, I love love love this review! You always channel your enthusiasm and overall gushing into your reviews. ;) It's infectious actually. I'm about to finish uni next year..and I'm in that 'oh hell how do I fit in this big, big, big world' phase. So this might just be the perfect read for me. ;) Oh and you really got me with this: "Holier Than Thou is a messy web of beautiful chaos. It's life. Perfect in it's ability to frustrate the hell out of you, make you smile, make you cry and twist your heart in pain and pleasure." Awesome review!!

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    1. Awww, thank you, Precious! This review stressed me out because it was not working as I was hoping haha. This is SO that kind of right you'd want during the post-college stage, I really think you'd ejoy this. It'll make you laugh and smile and put an ache in your heart, I promise! :)

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  13. I wish there were more novels about 20 somethings rather than teenagers - this author writes so well, I have read her first novel and loved it - The Good Oil. Even though I am in my 40s the best novels seem to be wasted on young adults - YA authors do not seem to care about writing to formula.

    Penelope
    Website

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