Book Reviews 2012

So these are some of the books I read and reviewed as part of my job in 2012 and that were posted on the blogger website.

 

10 Futures by Michael Pryor

I think that this might be the best book I have read so far this year.

It was just so funny and clever and a little bit scary at the same time. I mean you are laughing because some of the scenarios seem so absurd, but you are also laughing in order to stave off the fear that the world might actually turn out like that. It really capture what I think is the best form of science fiction – something close to what we have to make it realistic, but different enough to make us worry. It is disturbingly prophetic.

The book is about two friends, Sam and Tara, and places them in different futures ranging from 2100 to 2020. They face different challenges in each setting. And it isn’t all doom and gloom, some is utopic and seems to be a future we could all enjoy.

I think the most amazing thing about the book is the insight you get into the characters. Even though they are slightly different in each scenario you get a sense of their friendship every story and, personally, I really came to like them as characters.

I think the thing I dislike most about the book is when each story ends. Many end mid crisis and I would have liked to know what happens next. Though I guess I could use my imagination.

And I suppose that is the whole point – the future is what you make it.

 

Black Spring by Alison Croggon

I am going to start this by saying that I have never read Wuthering Heights. I have tried numerous times to get through it, but I just can’t.

I don’t like Heathcliff and Catherine just annoys me. It is a mean book and I only ever tried to read it because I thought I should. Not because I wanted to.

I picked up Black Spring because I like Alison Croggon. She writes great fantasy novels and has not written anything in a while, so I was really excited to see this book.

Then I turned it over and on the back it says it is “inspired by the gothic classic Wuthering Heights”.

I almost put it down there and then.

But I am glad I read it.

It was well written and interesting and had the fantasy bent that I was looking for.

However, I don’t know that ‘inspired by’ is the right term.

It is Wuthering Heights.

Which is good for me, because now I feel like I have read it and I am not going to have to try and read the classic one ever again.

 

Creepy and Maud by Dianna Touchell

Well here is another book that I have not finished. I have read to about half way through.

I guess you may be starting to think I never finish any of the books I read. Well that is not true, I just don’t finish the ones I don’t like.

and this time I think I was misled by one of those review quotes they put on books to entice you to read them.

This one said it was a “brilliantly written, dazzling dark Y.A debut.”

The problem with Creepy and Maud is that is just creepy. I am interested to know what happens at the end, but not interested enough to actually finish reading the book.

The action is very slow, and I don’t think there are enough chapters from Maud’s point of view.

Another problem is that I don’t actually like either of the characters.

I like the voice of Maud, but as a character she grosses me out. She has a condition where she pulls out her hair when she is stressed. And it is so well described that I have to skip over those bits as it gives me the creeps.

The boy is worse as he is telling most of the story and I don’t really like his voice. He is just plain odd.

And you can tell that there is just something sinister lurking underneath and while I think I have figured it out, I don’t care enough about it to actually read on to find out if I’m right.

So if you do end up reading this book can you let me know what does end up happening at the end?

 

Cryer’s Cross by Lisa McMann

Was it predictable and passé or was it intriguing and new? Today that is THE question.

About half way through this horror/thriller I had figured out what was going on.

The links between the what and the why are tenuous at best. And the maniacal kidnapper – well you have to read it to believe it.

But does predictability make a book bad? Did I stop reading because the events were so laughable? No I did not.

Because it is a thriller. It has all the right elements. It is enjoyable and intriguing, I wanted to find out the truth. And it is young adult fiction, and I didn’t really want it to be some Hannibal type serial killer that would keep me awake at night.

I also liked that the love story had a very Bella/Jacob feel, without the vampires and werewolves, but with other supernatural elements. A lot more believable which is nice.

I think the other thing that is good about this book is that it also highlights how a mental illness is not always a bad thing.

So read it, and enjoy. Just don’t expect too much of it.

And don’t laugh too hard when you find out who the perpetrator is.

 

Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger

I don’t know what to make of this book.

It was very interesting and very well written, but I don’t think I really like it.

Mostly because I did not like the ending. I kind of wish it hadn’t turned out the way it did. That bit was predictable and a bit of a let down.

I guess I just feel like it could have been more than it was.

It was nice to read about London, having been there this year, and to think to myself ‘oh I know where that is’.

Even though it is quite a long book I think I would have liked there to be more.

The explanation of the secret was swift and perfunctory.

Like I said I don’t really know what to make of it.

I would recommend it to others, but I don’t think it has made me want to read her other book.

 

Into that Forest by Louis Nowra

I read this book yesterday.

It is another one of those books that are based on true events in Australian history like the novel Girl Like Me.

I don’t really like Australian history. It’s kind of boring.

This book was not boring.

It was in fact very interesting. It’s the whole thing of children being raised by animals. Made cooler by the fact that these girls are living with Tasmanian Tigers.

A good little read if you have an afternoon to fill.

 

Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare

You know when you have to read a book, not because you want to, but for external reasons, for a class or assignment or whatever.

Those are the worst times of reading. You force yourself on even though you don’t like it. Or you skim passages only to have to go back and reread them because you know you will be asked a question about it later.

That is what it was like reading Julius Caesar, in fact that is what it is like reading all Shakespeare’s works.

Drama is meant to be performed, to be viewed, and maybe even enjoyed in that form. But to read it, to sit down and read a script, is just torture. In your head there are no different voices for each character, no facial expression or body language to give clue as to the meaning of the speech. Just your monotonous voice, droning on and on. And Shakespeare doesn’t even give you any stage directions to add a bit of excitement.

I get the play, though more because I have some basic understanding of Roman history, that and I have seen the movie Cleopatra. But did I enjoy reading it? Not really.

If you ask me Antony is just a little upstart who causes all the problems and if they had killed him instead of Caesar things might have turned out better.

 

Love Notes from Vinegar House by Karen Tayleur

This is an easy and an interesting read, though not as scary as I thought it was going to be.

I picked it up because I wanted to read a ghost story and something a little bit mysterious. And while it is a ghost story, and a little bit mysterious, it didn’t keep me awake at night.

Love notes is a story about a girl who has to spend the holidays at her grandmother’s house. There is a boy love interest, a nasty cousin and a mysterious set of noises from the attic.

It could have been much scarier. If I was writing it the handyman would have been a lot sinister and the housekeeper would have had a deep dark secret.

As it was, I did enjoy reading it. Something to lose myself in over the long weekend.

What it has done though is whetted my appetite for horror and mystery – I am now thinking I should read The Woman in Black before I watch the movie. I have a feeling I won’t be sleeping after that one though…

 

Metro Winds by Isobelle Carmody

This is a book of short stories.

The short stories are set in our world, but not.

They contain fantastical elements that are sort of fantasy genre.

On the back cover it says that “in these stories, anything is possible.”

But I will never find out.

I don’t know why I bother picking up Carmody’s works for older teens. I can never get into them. I feel like I should be reading her books, that I should in fact like them because fantasy is a genre I enjoy and she apparently is ‘the queen’ of fantasy.

But I don’t like them. And I don’t end up reading them. With the exception of The Red Wind, which I both enjoyed and wanted to read more of. Perhaps this was because it was a children’s book, or because it had pictures, or because the little animal characters were so cute (though I don’t really like reading animal stories either). I just don’t know. But I didn’t finish reading it.

Of the stories I did read, I liked The Dove Game best. Though it could have been better. It had such an interesting concept. Sure I didn’t want it to go all midday movie, but I didn’t want it to be so abstract either.

Oh well.

 

Mist by Kathryn James

The fact that I had forgotten that I had read this book should tell you a little something about its quality.

Granted I went overseas after I read it so my head was filled with London and Paris and Rome, so unfortunately a plot about the faerie land just didn’t stick in my mind.

It’s an ok book. The plot is fairly fast paced but predictable.

You don’t really like any of the main characters though.

And it does the thing I hate most in fantasy which is blend the real and fantasy worlds.

If I wanted to read about the real world I would choose to read realistic fiction, but I don’t.

The reason I picked this book up is because the blurb sounded awesome. I thought it was going to be another horror/thriller like the ones I had been reading last term.

I guess what this reading experience has taught/reinforced for me is:

DON’T JUDGE A BOOK BY ITS COVER!

 

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

This used to be my favourite Jane Austen novel.

It is fun and frivolous and nobody gets hurt.

It is also a hilarious parody of some of the gothic fiction that was being published during Austen’s time.

It is then also her great defence of novels as a valid form of reading/literature. Would you believe that in her time people thought novels were trashy and that girls who read them must be air-headed?

While the heroine Catherine does not do much to dispel this myth early on in the novel, by the end she has shown us and herself how naivety can lead to folly. And that just because you are good does not mean everyone around you is good too.

No doubt, like me, you will be yelling at Catherine by the end of two or three chapters because you won’t be able to believe just how daft she is. Sometimes I wonder if she can even see the nose on her own face!

But you will like her. She is charming and lovely and very young. And so you can forgive her her youthful misunderstanding.

And yet, Northanger Abbey is no longer my favourite Austen novel.

I like to think it is because I have matured beyond Catherine’s years and can now appreciate the more subtle and serious aspects of my other favourite Austen novel.

Really it is probably because now I am old and Catherine is not.

 

One hundred candles by Mara Purnhagen

Sometimes I forget that I like reading. Often it is easier to sit in front of the TV and just veg, or read a magazine or newspaper. It’s light and it’s easy.

Last Thursday I decided to pick up this book. Actually I decided that I didn’t feel like doing my ‘real’ work and that I just wanted something fun and easy to do.

one hundred candles has been sitting on my desk for months, just waiting for me to get bored enough to read it.

And I am so glad I did. I finished it the day I picked it up.

It is a horror story, with mystery and romance.

It has characters I like and an ending that… I won’t spoil it for you.

It is not so scary that I couldn’t have read it at night, but it did send tingles down my spine every so often, enough to make me realise that I was happy to be reading it in the day.

If you don’t really love fantasy novels, but like realistic stories with a small supernatural twist then this one is for you.

 

Only ever always by Penni Russon

I feel pretty jipped by this book. All the reviews I have read, and even the blurb on the back, suggested that this was going to be an interesting dystopic parallel universe kind of text.

I can tell you it was not.

It was much more juvenile than I thought it was going to be. I wasn’t moved or inspired. Really I was just disappointed.

There was so much potential. Two girls, both dealing with loss, somehow connect between two similar but very different worlds.

Like I said – endless potential.

But nothing really happens.

My only respite is that it was a short book and did not take me very long to read.

 

Persuasion by Jane Austen

I told you all I was inspired to read a lot of Jane Austen while I was in Bath!

This is now my favourite Austen novel, yes even more than Pride and Prejudice!

And you know why that is?

It’s because Anne is so pleasant and unassuming. Like Elizabeth she has a horrid family, but, unluckily for her, she doesn’t have an awesome sister like Jane to rely on. It’s just her.

And, like Catherine in Northanger Abbey, in her youth Anne was foolish. But things didn’t work out at the for her like they do for Catherine.

Oh no. Poor old Anne is now an old maid at 27, sitting forlornly on the shelf.

Her cousin takes an interest in her, which would be a good match, she would be just like her beloved mother then.

But do we really know him?

And Captain Wentworth, the love of her youth, whom she threw away is back on the scene.

I think I love him even more than I love Darcy! And that is saying a lot!

Read it.

You might still be too young for it yet, but in time I think it will be your favourite Austen too!

 

Return to the Library of Doom Series by Michael Dahl

I can’t believe that I didn’t know that these books existed. And these are ones from the second series, so there are ten others I could read too!!

These books are a cross between a quick read and graphic novel, they are not very long and there are lots of images and graphics within the text to help explain the meaning.

They are short and funny, and well worth the five minutes they take to read.

Also they show how awesome and dangerous libraries can be, so watch out!!

Blood in the Library

This one I thought was a little odd, and The Eraser was drawn really scarily. I didn’t like how he looked and tried not to look at the pages he was on.

Dictionary of 1000 Rooms

The best thing about this one is because it is set in a dictionary there are so many puns and in almost each sentence there is one word for which there are numerous synonyms given.

Killer App

This one reminded me so much of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, but the Edgar Allen Poe tie in made me laugh out loud. I just love the literary humour.

 

Ruby Moonlight by Ali Cobby Eckermann

My grandmother is always telling me that I should read poetry.

In Year 12 my English teacher gave me a book of sonnets to try and get me hooked.

But I have never really been into it.

I don’t really know why, they are shorter after all, but I think in many ways they are harder to read. In my mind poetry just doesn’t seem as worthy as other forms of literature. I too can write five lines down a page pressing enter in between instead of leaving them as the one sentence that they are.

I guess the only poetry I really like is that which tells a story. I can’t remember the correct term for it, something like poetic novel I think. Anyway, it is the type of writing that Steven Herrick does, and it is the type of writing that this book is.

Ruby Moonlight is based on a true story apparently, and tells the story of a young Aboriginal girl.

I thought it was a bit short. Not a lot happens, but a lot happens at the same time. I was left wanting more. Not that there are any holes in the story, you know what happens, but I felt I could have had more details, more meat.

On the back cover it says that it is set in South Australia but you can’t tell that from the poems, maybe if I had an understanding of country I might. I don’t know whether this is important or not.

It was really interesting to read, but as I said before I wanted more.

But maybe that is what my problem is with poetry. You only get a sense of things and not the whole story.

 

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

I forgot how upsetting this book is.

You know that it cannot turn out well, when does any story set in Nazi Germany turn out well? And yet there is always the hope that somehow history can be changed.

From the outset you know it is going to be grim because Death is the narrator, however, the whole spectrum of life is covered and there are funny, heart-warming moments as well.

The main character Leisel learns to read and it is her journey we follow.

She uses books to support herself during times of crisis and shows how a good story can bring people together.

But be warned, by the end tears will be rolling down your cheeks.

 

The Boy who grew into a Tree by Gary Crew and Ross Watkins

This is a very odd book.

I fear I say that about many of the books that I read, but this one truly is very odd.

It is small and square and made on beautiful paper.

From the outside it looks like it is going to be a picture book. In fact, that is what I thought it was until I opened it up. There are pictures, but not as many or as beautiful as I thought they would be.

The story is broken up into any sections, and though it seems fast paced and is short, it covers many years.

I think what has confused me most is the ending.

It is rather abrupt and I don’t know if I am supposed to be sad, or if I am being scolded, or really what the point is.

All in all, the book is too quick for its subject matter. Unless that is the point of it? Actually, now that I have written that sentence/thought down I think that may be the point of the whole thing.

God things take time, life takes time. Don’t let consumerism and greed and capitalism take what is good from you.

 

The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler

I really liked this book. I seem to be starting a lot of my reviews like that lately. The problem is, I really do like this book.

For me it is a bit of nostalgia. I know I am not really that old, and I don’t want to make myself sound like a geriatric by saying ‘I remember when…’, but I do remember lots of the things that this book talks about. Dial-up Internet, AOL. It is funny to think how far we have come technologically, but perhaps how we have stayed the same in terms of our core human nature at the same time. and perhaps that is the point of the book.

We are always going to be us, online or in the future, at our core.

In terms of the book itself, its owner put it pretty perfectly by describing it as ‘predictable.’ The characters were fine, I liked them, but they weren’t really inspiring. The plot was like any other teenage novel with love, relationship problems, parental issues and peer pressure.

But still I liked it.

Because it provides a new way of looking at social media – or perhaps an old one, made more palatable to the young audience.

BEWARE YOUR DIGITAL FOOTPRINT.

One question I did have at the end was why did the authors thank Mark Zuckerberg? Is it because they had too, is he so powerful that you can’t even write the word Facebook without paying him royalties? (in which case I don’t think I want to be a part of that and I am going to cancel my Facebook right now). Or is it because without Facebook this book and its concept wouldn’t exist? Either way I am not really sure, and I don’t think that Mark Zuckerberg has done anything so fantastic that he needs to be thanked.

 

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

These holidays I began to reread a few books for a Year 11 student I am tutoring.

And I am really glad I had to reread them because I forgot how much I liked them the first time.

I think that Margaret Atwood is almost my favourite author of all time. I like everything of hers that I have read. And The Handmaid’s tale is no exception.

A dystopic tale about life in the future, like all of Atwood’s work, The Handmaid’s tale looks at the roles of women in society. It will make you cross, it will intrigue you, and unfortunately (or maybe even on purpose) it will leave you wondering ‘what really happened’.

It is possibly a little old for some students, but I say the sooner you start reading Margaret Atwood the cleverer you will be (and I know that has not come out sounding very clever, but you get what I mean).

Even if you don’t read this book, try and read any Atwood you can.

 

The Innocents by Nette Hilton

Okay, so an admission first.

I started reading this book at the beginning of January. I took it home for the holidays, and then forgot it was on my bedside table.

There isn’t anything wrong with it, or at least I don’t think there is. I never got around to finishing it.

I picked up other things and now my reading headspace is completely off, it’s at 90 degree angles from where it was when I first started to want to read this.

I picked it up because it seemed to be in a similar vein to the novel, Girl Like Me. I was feeling all into historical drama and real crime. Now, though, I am not. At the moment my reading headspace is into mystery and horror and witticisms.

Maybe I will go back to this book, but I doubt it.

If I don’t read a book the whole way through the first time I don’t usually pick it up again.

 

The Rise of Nine by Pittacus Lore

I am kind of disappointed with this book. I feel like each book in this series is just getting worse and worse.

And yet I still read to the end.

The last chapter did turn it around a little, and I will read the next one, but that doesn’t really assuage my disappointment.

The thing that really gets me about these books is the appalling use of multiple perspectives.

Don’t get me wrong, I like books that show us different perspectives on the same subject like The Slap, but only when it is done well.

Changing font does not automatically mean a change in voice. It might be a good visual indicator of that, but you actually need to use a different writing style if you want me to believe that another character is speaking.

There is one font in this book that I cannot really attribute to any character even though I know it must belong to one of them.

Good action is not enough to make a good book.

Nor is good mystery.

A novel is more than just good ideas strung together in prose form.

You need to actually be able to write well too.

 

The Staring Owl by Luke Edwards

This book is very cute and very funny.

The pictures are absolutely adorable.

When reading almost every page I laughed out loud.

I think my favourite lines from the book are “You’d be amazed how many companies refuse to hire folk that won’t break eye contact and aren’t Homo Sapiens.”

It makes you think about owls in a whole new way.

And it will only take you five minutes to read.

 

The Year of the Gadfly by Jennifer Miller

I have decided that I am not going to finish this book. I have been slaving away at for a few months and feel like I am getting nowhere. In addition, every time I read it I end up feeling depressed and agitated because nothing ever happens.

I thought this book was going to be really interesting. It has a nifty premise – a girl moves to a new town and discovers her school has some creepy secret society and there are interesting things about the girl whose room she now lives in. But I don’t like any of the characters, none of them are nice, or that interesting, and because it takes so long to find out anything about them i really don’t end up caring.

Maybe I would be better off reading The Secret History by Donna Tartt. Then again, maybe I just don’t like the creepy high school psychological psychobabble genre.

So if you do borrow this and read it, can you please tell me what happens at the end?

 

Water by Geoff Havel

I was a bit shocked by how quickly things went wrong in this novel. Not three pages in and the main character has been kidnapped, and both her and I don’t know why.

This is cracking little mystery that blends science fiction and realistic fiction and mystery in one neat package.

If you don’t like science it doesn’t matter, as really at its core it is a survival story and right and wrong and building realtionships.

The blurb though is completely off. I thought I was picking a story about a small town with some deep dark secret, when really what I ended up reading was a conspiracy thriller.

Not that I didn’t enjoy it.

I guess it just proves the old adage ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover’.

 

“Who Could That Be at This Hour?” : All the Wrong Questions 1 by Lemony Snicket

I think my favourite thing about Lemony Snicket is the way he defines words on his own terms.

Yes his stories are interesting.

Yes they are mysterious and leave you wondering what will happen next.

Yes they are funny and entertaining.

But I never laugh more than when I read the words “which in this case means…”

The way the he uses language fascinates me and tickles my funny bone.

This new series seems as interesting as The Series of Unfortunate Events and, to my great relief, a little less sad for the main character. In TSUE I was always hoping for something nice to happen to the children but it just never did. And while it seems there will be some unhappy circumstances and misunderstood messages in this series, it seems like they will be fewer.

What is odd, to me at least, about this new series is that Snicket is the main character. He is writing about his thirteen year old self. I am not sure if I like it.

He is supposed to be mysterious, an unknown entity, separate from his stories. But I do think finding out more about him may be fun.

I guess my only fear is that I am becoming  a little too old for Snicket, however, whenever I read his wordplay I always put that fear aside.

 

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