Book Reviews 2013

These reviews are from the other wordpress account I used to run but have since shut down. I put too much into them to delete them permanently so they will be immortalised here.

New Girl by Paige Harbison

I suppose I should review my weekend reads in the order that I finished them. And if I’m doing that then this is the first book I have to write about.

I didn’t realise that I did not know the name of the main character in this book until they use it in the last line of the novel.

But that’s the whole point, she is the ‘new girl’, the unknown and invisible. Nobody sees her for who she really is because there is too much drama going around her and about her.

I like a good boarding school mystery novel and this book certainly doesn’t disappoint.

I do wonder, however, about some of the things that these supposed teens get up to. And if half of it is true-ish then I would never send a kid to boarding school.

Some of the ideas are a bit adult and so this book will be getting a senior fiction sticker.

I did learn one thing from reading all these books over the weekend – don’t leave your reviews until the end, do them as you finish each book.

Unravel Me by Tahereh Mafi

I was really disappointed when I first started reading this book.

I wondered why I had been waiting in hot anticipation for it. I even started to question why I had liked the first novel Shatter Me in first place.

I was only a few chapters in and was thinking to myself ‘Do I even care if I finish this book now?’ I had read the other novel so long ago, did I really want to read this one.

But I persevered, mostly because I like the male love interests. I haven’t decided if I am ‘Team Adam’ or ‘Team Warner’, and possibly I could be ‘Team Kenji’, but right now Warner is my favourite, especially as he now has a real name, Aaron.

The only thing that really gets me about this book is the love triangle mentioned above.

It seems to be a trend in YA fiction that if the main character is a girl then she is going to have two boys vying for her attention. She is going to love each of them equally and she is going to have to make a choice about which one to be with.

And when girls read this they think

‘How lucky is she. She has two boys fighting over her. I wish I was her.’

But consider if this same situation occurred in a novel with a boy as the main character. An there were two girls he was trying to decide between. No girl would read that book and like that main character. More likely they would think of him as a chauvinistic pig.

So why is it ok for a girl character to be caught in a love triangle? What kind of message is that going to send? It doesn’t happen like that in life, and I think that it sets up unrealistic expectations about how love and relationships work. The level of infatuation between characters is also a problem in terms of relationship expectations. I always find myself picking fights with the people I love after reading YA romance novels.

That being said, if it makes me feel that way it must at least be written well and tap into real human emotion.

These novels remind me a little of the Pittacus Lore series. They started out really well, and I was right into them, but as each new book has been published I feel they are getting worse. But I still read them. Luckily for Mafi, her books are centred around a female main character and I prefer reading about them. Mafi also centres her story around the relationships rather than an action packed plot so in the end her books are better.

But now, well, it is a good read, and I am invested in the characters.

So I will be reading the next one.

Only this time I will have much lower expectations.

The Society of S by Susan Hubbard

SPOILER ALERT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

STOP READING NOW IF YOU WANT A BIT OF MYSTERY AROUND THIS BOOK.

I was adding this book to my Goodreads profile last night and discovered that it is apparently the first in a series about ‘ethical vampires’. And I thought to my self

Der, it’s a vampire novel, of course it is part of a series.

If I’d known this book was about vampires I wouldn’t have started reading it right before bed. As it was I had to stay up for a few extra hours more than I normally would so that I could finish it and not be scared anymore. I don’t want you to think that I am a wuss, because when you read this book you will find that it is not particularly scary, it’s just that I was reading it at night and I was home alone and I’d left all the doors open. So I just j=kind of freaked myself out a little bit.

But that’s enough about me, what about the book?

For a vampire novel I don’t think it is well titled and I don’t think the blurb on the back is very true to what the book is all about. However, both were quite effective in enticing me to read the book, so when I did finally realise it was about vampires (one-third to half-way through) I was already so engrossed in the story that I went against my

I’m never reading another teen vampire novel again

Mantra, and finished it anyway. I probably won’t be reading the other books in the series.

The novel raised a few questions for me:

Like a vampires really real? And is there this whole other side to society that I have no idea about (I doubt it).

And how is the main character only 13?

Authors need to think more carefully about the age that they make their characters, especially if they are putting them in romantic relationships.

Next edited by Keith Gray

This was an ok book.

It is supposed to help teens understand why people die and what may happen after death.

Apparently authors think that when teens die they hang around looking out for the people they love.

My favourite short stories in this book were the ones that didn’t have a teen as one of the main characters.

I really like Green Fields and Can’t You Sleep.

The first is about what heaven/nirvana/the afterlife looks and feels like (and how it may be different for all people) and the second is about our digital footprint, what we might leave behind in cyberspace.

I thought this book would be much deeper, that it might enlighten me in some way.

It didn’t.

It is possible though that that is because I am older than the audience this book is aimed at and already have my own ideas about what happens after death.

It was a good premise, I just think it was executed poorly.

The Terrible Thing that Happened to Barnaby Brocket by John Boyne

I like reading John Boyne’s stories for children.

He has a very witty, matter-of-fact writing style.

It makes some things in his novels that are horrendous seem much simpler, and not nearly as bad as they are.

This is the story of a boy who defies the laws of gravity.

Really it is a story about prejudice and discrimination.

What gets me about this book though is that Boyne seems to know Sydney (and I like to read books about places I know because understanding the cultural references makes me feel superior) but then he does odd things with the naming of places or the animals that makes it seem like he doesn’t know Sydney at all.

In his bio at the beginning of the novel it says he is from Ireland, and he does have an Irish sounding name but he writes like he has lived in Sydney.

But on page 72 he writes that Barnaby’s dog is chasing a squirrel in the backyard. And we don’t have any squirrels, unless he means possums. And then on 145-146 he talks about travelling to Broken Hill from Sydney in a weekend. Is he kidding? And suggests that The Mornington Peninsula is in New South Wales (it’s in Victoria). It is just a little bit intriguing.

The only other question I have is

How does Barnaby keep getting people to buy him airplane tickets?

Hysteria by Megan Miranda

Here is another book that you shouldn’t judge by its cover.

I’ve stuck a ‘horror’ genre sticker on it, and that does fit but it is also so much more than a horror story.

Based on how the cover looks I purposely didn’t start this book at night time. But then I thought I might not read it at all. I didn’t have time in the day because I was so busy at work. But I am glad I did find the time (in the day) to read it, otherwise it would have been a terrible loss for me, because it is awesome!

It is another American kid from the beach goes to cold boarding school in Connenicuit. Kind of like New Girl, but also completely different at the same time. I read this one because I wanted to see how a different author would deal with the same subject matter.

This novel is more mysterious, scarier and more focused on the suspense than New Girl which was much more relationship driven.

At the start of chapter 13 (unlucky) I had to read the end of the last chapter to check if everything was going to turn out alright, because things were looking pretty bad.

It did, so I could keep reading.

A bit of a psychological thriller, this one.

And a very good read.

A Waste of Good Paper by Sean Taylor

This was an easy and predictable read (for the most part). It is about a boy in a behavioural school and how he deals with some issues in his life.

Even though it is about him and is told from his perspective you can tell a teacher wrote it. Yes, it may be a teacher who has experience with working with kids like this, but it is a teacher’s voice that shines through nonetheless.

This was the third book I read over the long weekend.

I took it home because I knew I would need something easy and relatively light hearted to read among the other heart wrenching teen novels I had chosen.

And this book delivered.

The style, font, and even layout of this text make it pretty interesting.

Even though it takes diary form it doesn’t feel like the usual ‘he said this, then I did that’ read.

It is a very small window into the character’s life. It doesn’t try to span numerous years, rather it takes the snapshot approach and if we the reader need to know something then the character may elaborate on it. But there is not much from the past and we definitely don’t get to see what is going to happen in the future.

But you do get the feeling that it is going to be ok.

Every Thing Left Unsaid by Jessica David

It would be better to call this book “Do not read this book without tissues, you will be a blubbering mess by the end” but the author, and publisher, have decided that that is one of the ‘every things left unsaid’.

I knew what I was in for though.

Knew that there would not be a happy ending.

And that’s not even a spoiler because it says it on the back of the book.

But it still made me sad.

And made me wonder about life and why some things happen and some things don’t.

I wish it had turned out better.

And not like real life.

Flip by Martyn Bedford

This book took a long time to get interesting.

I think that’s because the main character takes a while to sort out the situation in his head. But once he does and then starts figuring out what to do it sucks you right in.

I couldn’t out it down by the time I got half way through. I just really wanted to see where it was going.

I read it because it sounded a bit like David Levithan’s Every Day, and I wanted to see how someone else would treat the whole ‘body swap’ subject matter.

I found both these books interesting because only one person in the swap knows it is happening. Totally different from a Freaky Friday situation where they both know and try to fix it.

This book is interesting because it is less fantasy and more sciency.

There is a ‘rational’ explanation for why the swap occurs.

I don’t know if I would have made the same choice as the main character though.

I won’t go into it in case you’re going to read it, but if your do (read it that is) come talk to me about it when you are done.

The odd thing about this book, or at least the thing I found odd, was that, being set in England it uses a lot of English slang. Words like ‘blag’. What does that mean anyway? I could figure out the general gist of them because of how they were used in the sentence but I think it really dates/sets the book. If you’re American or Australian then you kind of feel on the outside. The good thing though, because it’s not American, is that they write mUm not mOm. It’s nice reading that.

 

Girl, Stolen by April Henry

Despite my blog about the fact that I was going to have a busy weekend and not going to be able to read a thing it has turned out that the start of my week has been much busier and while I was actually able to read things over the weekend I have not been able to review them until now.

This novel is the first I read, and I had been reading it during the week too.

I was a bit worried about reading a kidnapping story of a disabled person. I didn’t want it to be too ‘Hallmark’ channel, and luckily it wasn’t. I also didn’t want it to be like another hostage book I had to read for school After the First Death by Robert Cormier either, that book scarred me for life, but it wasn’t like that either.

There are some tense moments in this book, I guess they are inescapable in a kidnapping story, but at some points I did wonder whether it was all going to turn out alright at the end.

The end few chapters did have a few surprises for me too and made what I thought would be a predictable ending a little more exciting.

Surface Tension by Meg McKinlay

This is a really interesting and easy read.

I picked it up because, along with my foray into American girl going to boarding school genre, I am also into mystery stories surrounding large bodies of water genre. Like A Song in the Dark, except that that story never really mentioned the water that was so teasingly portrayed on the front cover.

This book is about water. A dam, in fact.

There’s a bit of mystery and a bit of relationship development. And a satisfying conclusion that ties up all the loose ends.

It’s something to take your mind off vampires and dystopic societies. Read it for a break from the fantasy norm that seems to be taking over YA fiction.

The Selection by Keira Cass

I LOVED this book.

There has been heaps of stuff on the internet about it, how the author and publisher have been trying to get good reviews for it. And then when I went on Goodreads and saw how many bad reviews it had I could understand why.

I don’t know why people are saying bad things about it.

Its not high literature but it doesn’t claim to be either.

One review I read described it as

Dystopic world meets The Bachelor

And it is.

And I like it.

It has the best romance plot I have read in a while.

I love the characters.

I want to be the main character America.

Just read it.

It is awesome!

Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi

This is classic fantasy at its best.
Except that it’s not strictly fantasy and it was only published last year.

What makes it classic fantasy esque are the characters, and journey centred plot.
It’s a sort of Romeo and Juliet situation.
And it’s set in a dystopic future human society.

I didn’t think I was actually going to like it. I found the opening chapters a bit confusing and I don’t really like the cover. But the story is just so good. I didn’t really love the twist at the end either but I suppose that had to leave it open to a sequel somehow.

Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol

I don’t know if I like the graphic novel form.
That’s not anything against this book, which was actually very good. It’s more about my own reading habits and my visual illiteracy perhaps.

I feel like I rush through graphic novels, and by doing so I am missing out on some of the story.
I only really look for the text within the graphic, I don’t really take in the background or the facial expressions or the other visual detail.

I also think that I rush because the images are often in black and white. So for me, it is just like reading text. There is no colour or other unique feature that makes the images stand out to me as something to read.

I feel like knocking this book over in less than an hour is not a good thing.
I feel like it deserved a longer read.

Anyway,

Anya’s Ghost is the story of a an immigrant female teenager trying to fit in at school who discovers a ghost.
Everything seems to be going well to begin with, but as with all horror stories, the supernatural element begins to take over.
I like this story because it has just the right amount of mystery and scariness. And it all happens to an ordinary girl.

It would make a good related text for belonging, or perhaps conflicting perspectives or distinctively visual.

But I probably won’t be reading another graphic novel for a while.

The Way We Fall by Megan Crewe

After all that I am really disappointed with how this story ended.
I realise with a plague book you can’t really go on to write about how things go after, but the way this ended wasn’t right either.

I really want to say what happened but I won’t because I don’t want to spoil it for people. Just don’t read the chapter entitled December 23, it’s not worth it.

I liked this book a lot.
I feel like I am saying that every book I read this year has been my favourite so far, but it’s true. All the books I have been reading lately have something different to offer and have been really fantastic reads in their own right and in their own genre.

I liked it because I really liked the main character. I felt like she acted the way I would act. She wasn’t being a hero and she was barely doing what needed to be done, but she was doing something.

There were a few things in the book that I thought were unnecessary, but I can see how they were used to shape this main character.
And while it is YA fiction it is also so much better than YA fiction. There is romance but its on the periphery, it doesn’t drive the main character as it does in so many of these other novels. What drives her is her sense of self, her sense of wanting to be a good and better person.

And now I really feel like reading The Plague, but the new Tahereh Mafi book Unravel Me, sequel to Shatter Me, has just arrived so I know what I will be reading this weekend.

Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

So I finished this book.
Once I’d got into it I just really couldn’t put it down.

And it wasn’t exactly how I had predicted.

What I liked about this book is that it wasn’t all vampires like all Young Adult fantasy fiction seems to be. Instead it is supernatural in a different way. It’s not a completely new idea and now that I think about it, it is even a lot like I am Number Four, but it is really hard to start your own new genre.

Like all YA books it is a love story. And I really liked that part of it too. But sometimes I have trouble when I read these type of books. I get too emotionally involved and it often makes me feel sad when things start going wrong in the relationships. This probably wouldn’t be a problem for most people but it starts to colour my own emotions and make me feel sad when I am not reading the book too. YA fiction just taps into e emotions so well I can’t help but feel the way the characters feel. I guess I just have to remember it is fiction, that it’s not me, and that it is unlikely that anything supernatural is going to affect my relationships.

And even though I don’t like that it wasn’t an all encompassing story in one book, I really shouldn’t have been surprised, it is fantasy fiction after all. And if we’ve learnt anything from fantasy writers it’s that

why say what you mean in one book when you can say it in six or seven?

And I will read the others because I really like the characters, and the world these authors have created.

But I just don’t know how they are going to turn it into a movie. A Year 11 student told me that the movie is a combination of this book and the second in the series, so now I need to read that one as well. I went to buy it on the weekend but Dymocks was sold out. I will have to look this weekend, or maybe I might go late night shopping on Thursday, that’s how much I want to read it.

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