Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Julie Anne Peters - Lies My Girlfriend Told Me

Lies My Girlfriend Told Me
Julie Anne Peters

Swanee has unexpectedly died. She leaves behind her more than her girlfriend, Alix, thinks. When text messages keep coming in that say 'I love you', Alix has to get to the bottom of it, even if it could cause more hurt than she thought imaginable.

I remember being in love the same way - where you want to buy the person you are interested in everything. An engagement ring is going a bit far though! And Swanee, I really don't understand you. And the thing is, no one will anyone else. And it's not even her fault. She frustrated me.

Liana, oh Liana. I felt most sorry for her out of all of this. If there is someone who is the real victim, it's her. Alix at least got some truths from Swanee! At least in the end, things work out a bit better for them, even if it's just as complicated as everything else.

There's more here than just lies that people tell. I mean, there are so many lies here that they get mixed up - and that adds interest to the storyline. But there's also deeper issues, like Alix and Ethan's strained relationship, and her relationship with her parents. It builds a character that isn't just focused on being gay or being in a relationship.

In line with that, there is the complex relationship Alix has with Swanee's family, particularly Joss. Joss and her parents all have their own issues with drugs and alcohol, but Peters doesn't make an attempt to deal with that - too much going on elsewhere. I'm not blaming for it though, and Joss did provide a hard counterpoint.

Is this Peter's best work? No. Is it one of her best? Hmm, jury is still out. But it's her last novel she's said she would publish (although I'm still hoping she will finish Girl2Girl), and so I treasure it for that.

Friday, 29 August 2014

Cornelia Funke - Inkheart

Inkheart
Cornelia Funke

Meggie and her father never stay anywhere long. It's not until a mysterious figure visits in the night that Meggie begins to understand why her father never reads aloud to her. It's all about one book 'Inkheart'.

Meggie sometimes seems like just a vehicle for the novel to move forward. She starts out naive, gets a little brighter and braver, but in all she's just a young girl who wants her parents by her side.

This novel is filled with betrayals, and cowardice, and all things good in a fantasy novel. Just like the novel that is contained within it. It's sort of a story-within-a-story, but you never get the full text of Inkheart.

This also is a movie - and for once I saw the movie before the book. I don't really remember much about it, but it might be worth a look. I feel like the movie also contained parts of the second novel (and for some reason had a dragon in it??) Anyone remember this better than me?

I listened to this novel, and man it was a long one. So long, in fact, I took a break between listening to the first couple of disks, then another couple, and finally took a very long break when I got near the end.

The problem with this novel, and listening to it I suppose, was that it felt like it was dragging on. It had multiple climaxes that all felt equally important, and so the final confrontation seemed less important. There had been so many near-death experiences before that point, that I couldn't even feel too upset if anyone died.

I was nagged to read this novel for a long time, and I have at least two copies on my physical shelves. It still didn't take preference over anything else though. A good novel, but not an amazing one. You need really determination to get through it.

I can't believe there are two more books in the trilogy. I can't see myself rushing out to read them, or have them read to me. I think if there had been something more appealing at my library, I would have traded to that soon into this novel. My other two audiobooks I picked up in that set were also failures though, so this was the best of a bad lot.

The writing is flawless, the characters engaging - it just is too long to be a good teenage fiction book.

Monday, 25 August 2014

K.A. Barker - The Book of Days

The Book of Days
K.A. Barker

Tuesday is 16, but she doesn't remember any of her life so far. She's been forgotten for 10 years, and the person who comes to find her isn't all she expected. Not that she could expect much, since she can't remember anything of what she is.

Tuesday, in her own silly way, is endearing. It's fascinating to imagine what a person with no memories would be like. At the same time, her stubborness is really frustrating. Why can't she take advice for once? Even once the reader knows who she is, we aren't any more enlightened to her stupidity.

There are so many unnecessary deaths and destructions. Indeed, with the very limited little bit of landscape and people that we see, it feels like the whole world is destroyed. I didn't see one piece of kindness outside Tuesday and her friends, and her friends weren't even really her friends until near the end.

I would have loved to have seen more of Madam Marisol. It felt like she had an even bigger part to play. Although her dream-tea makes the narrative move forward,  I could see other ways in which the author had done it.

I didn't really see the ending coming. Well, some of it I did, with death and all. But the rest? Well, it made sense, but also, it was a little confusing with the forgetting and all. There were many questions left unanswered for me. And in a way, I hope there is another book. I found that I wanted Tuesday to do more. I don't care about promises! Look at the heap the world is in! It's not going to change by itself!

This novel is said to be something entirely new in the world of fantasy, but for me, it wasn't exactly. I could see similarities with a number of other novels I have read. For instance, Garth Nix's 'Mister Monday' rang all kinds of bells, including the ship, and of course, the days of the week. For some reason, Jasper Fford's novels also came to mind. And some... hmm, other novels in the steam-punk genre.

Do I regret using my time to read this novel? Not in any way. I did enjoy it while I was reading it, and teens will no doubt love this novel. Highly recommended for lovers of Garth Nix.

This copy was sent to me for review, but my opinions as always are my own and are not influenced in any way.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Araminta Star Matthews & Stan Swanson - Return of the Loving Dead

Horror Highschool - Return of the Loving Dead
Araminta Star Matthews & Stan Swanson

Amber thinks she has the best life. She's going to be top of her class, she has a fantastic loving boyfriend, and everything is right in the world. Unfortunately for her, there is an untreated zombie on the loose, and she's going to lose her life as she knows it.

This is an interesting turn on the zombie theme that seems to be getting out of control (zombie apocalypse survival team anyone?). It's a slightly different idea, to have zombification as a curable disease to some extent, rather than people running around and randomly killing each other.

I couldn't understand how Amber knew that she'd want to look after Zach for the rest of his life. His ears were falling off for goodness sake! Amber seems like a bit of an idiot to me. True love is a bit hard to detect (or at least, I think so with my current experiences), and she's committing to a life time of expensive medications and making sure he doesn't eat brains.

I agreed that the holding facilities were just cruel. They should have just killed them. I'm sure it's hard to kill someone who's been zombified, but at the same time, are they really much more than a potato? I would think I would put plans in place to kill me off if I ever became a zombie!

I would have liked to hear more science about the zombies and the treatments. How do the treatments work? How did they come up with them? What's with the new genetic testing? Why can't they detect whether someone is infected earlier and do something about it? I guess this is a teenage fiction novel, so I can't expect too much of it.

Worth reading if you like the genre, if not, give it a miss as there's other novels to be read where to protagonist isn't quite so stupid and naive. Perhaps the second novel in the series will be more enlightening, but we'll see.

Friday, 25 July 2014

Ellen Wittlinger - The Long Night of Leo and Bree

The Long Night of Leo and Bree
Ellen Wittlinger 

It's been 4 years since Leo's sister was killed by her boyfriend. Leo is still haunted by the sight, and his mother is out of her mind. Bree leads a boring life in comparison, but when she heads out to a bar, and finds herself lost, confronted by Leo and threatened with murder.

The back of this novel is very misleading. This is not romance. It's a horrible night for them both, but it has the potential to lead to positive things. I'm not sure exactly what though.

I felt along with the characters, I felt Bree's terror and Leo's confusion. I found myself being disturbed by what was happening, and not wanting to put the novel down for fear of something happening while I wasn't looking!

At the same time, I couldn't feel the same connection with both characters. Leo has so much depth, while Bree seems like a simple rich girl. I guess that's her role, but surely Wittlinger could have picked a better antagonist? Or at least make me feel some sympathy for her. If I had thought it would make Leo feel better, I would have told him to kill her.

I purchased this novel because I've enjoyed Wittlinger's novels in the past. It has nothing on Parrotfish, but is really much better than Hard Love. That's not to say it's perfect though, or anything other than a quick, worth-reading-once, novel. Don't bother buying it unless you're determined to collect everything from this author, just borrow it from the library to make up your mind yourself. I'd recommend this for mature teenage readers.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Brian Caswell - Double Exposure

Double Exposure
Brain Caswell

Cain and Chris are two very different people. One is an artist, the other feels he's just average. Cain is living under the thumb of his domineering parents while Chris has his own artist pad. When they both follow their jobs to romance, it's difficult to say what will happen next.

This is another Brian Caswell novel I picked up at the same time as 'Cruisin''. Of the two, I enjoyed this one more, even if the ending left me feeling a little confused. Ok, amend that. A LOT confused.

You can feel everything happening, Caswell has captured the immediacy of everything in beautiful descriptions that don't feel forced or unnatural.

Caswell's character building was so strong that I couldn't decide which of the boys was my favourite. Even with the narrative jumping around a bit, which I usually abhor, it was great. This is an example of it working well to get insight into the psyche of the chacaters.

The ending was so confused! If I had time, I would certainly read it again to work out what the hell was going on. I didn't understand how the friend couldn't notice, or didn't say anything! And that the girls never suspected anything.

With it's twists and turns, it is sort of still just another young adult love story. I enjoyed that it had some deeper themes (prostitution, stalking and the like), but overall, it was nothing outstanding apart from the descriptions and ending. Well worth reading, however make sure you leave time to read it twice! Or just pay a lot of attention as you read through the novel...

Friday, 18 July 2014

Maria Farrer - Broken Strings

Broken Strings 
Maria Farrer

Jess has a desire to play classical violin beyond everything else in her life. Focused on her goal, she is blind to other things that are happening around her until her bid for a scholarship fails. Drawn in by a grandmother she's never met, she has another chance to make it with violin.

At times, I found this novel too painful to put down. It seemed like one thing after another turned out incorrectly. Jess just couldn't help getting into trouble! It doesn't help that her grandmother is very out of touch with children, and always has been.

I loved the way the characters were developed. Even the 'servants' had attitudes and opinions, even if the grandmother tried to suppress them. It's hard to fit all of that into one novel, but Farrer manages it beautifully.

I didn't really understand Jess' reluctant teenager-ing. I mean, sure rebel, but you still play Classical violin! Who wouldn't want an excuse to wear nice clothes? Sure, not dresses (I can understand that, I never loved them much until recently myself), but a lovely pair of dress slacks would have done the job.

I wasn't satisfied with the way things ended up with Charlie. Sure, age gaps are a hard thing, but still! Jess never should have gotten involved with anyway, she is in such a mess herself, not to mention not having time for anything!

I had never heard of any of the musicians in the novel, so I'm still not sure if they are 'real people' or not. Probably not. But the music, oh, the music. Well worth listening to. I'd even go so far as to say listen to it while reading the novel! It's nice when the author can add atmosphere in this way, just with a mention of music.

I received this novel from Scholastic in return for an honest review. Personally, I would have purchased this novel anyway if I had seen it. I look forward to seeing more from this author.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Brain Caswell - Cruisin'

Cruisin'
Brian Caswell

Jules and Suzi are stuck on a cruise ship for the old and almost-deceased. While Jules is chasing after the pretty girl, and Suzi is putting up with him, they develop a friendship that is going to change their lives in unexpected ways.

This is a very light read, in the lines of many Judy Blume novels.
Jules says at the very beginning of the novel that it's likely to end up a love story. And in a perverse kind of way it is.

I liked Suzi, she was spunky, but had her own issues that meant that she wasn't just the boring side kick. I could have heard more from her perceptive to be honest.

I had trouble getting into this story. The drama felt manufactured, and the bullying seemed extreme. Jules felt like a push over! Adrian didn't seem so bad, but all of the characters were rather one dimensional much to my dismay.

It's a nice idea, going on a cruise. I've never been on one. I wish there had been more details of the places they visited so that I could have lived vicariously through them.

I picked it up for a literal song at the local library as they were going out of stock. I'd heard good things about Brian Caswell. It's not a reread for me, but it's worth it for younger teens who want to get into reading (particularly guys).

Friday, 11 July 2014

Ben Burgess - Wounded

Wounded
Ben Burgess Jr.

This is a review intended for readers of 18+ years

Samantha had an abusive childhood, and now she's working in a strip club where she abuses and torments men in return. Not content with that, she is set on her mission to turn as many straight, or almost straight, women gay.

I didn't love the sex scenes in this book. I always struggle with either unrealistic portrayals or an excess of cussing words. At least in this case, it was almost all lesbian sex scenes, which although they weren't respectful, they were thought out.

I found the prose a bit disconcerting at times. I just couldn't get into it! Sometimes there are too many descriptions of people's emotions in a 'telling' rather than 'showing' way. Somewhere this was very apparent was in the fight scenes, as well as some of the conversations.

The storyline in this novel was a strong one. Samantha is so wounded and broken it seems like she'll never fix it. She makes so many stupid mistakes, culminating in a life changing one, and she doesn't seem to learn unless other people point out the facts for her. She is willfully ignorant, and although I can't like her, I appreciate a protagonist who is different for once.

I find it interesting that although Samantha says that she has no family except her 'girls',  she has the entire gay community and also a sense of solidarity in being a coloured woman. In the scene in which she gets into a fight, she is backed up by both these.

That all being said, I did enjoy this novel! It was another break from my usual novels and it provided a welcome distraction. The storyline alone should pull you in, and perhaps could make it a reread for some people who resonate more soundly with the novel.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Juliet Marillier - The Caller

The Caller
Juliet Marillier

Neryn still has another guardian to meet before she can undertake her task as a Caller. Little does she know that magic has been weakening under the Tyrant's rule, and it may be more difficult than she imagines. When it comes to the final battle, will she be able to succeed against the other forces moving against her?

The Caller is everything I wanted from Marillier. Action packed, strong friendship ties, and a bit of drama that doesn't allow you to hope that the main characters will turn out ok.

I liked that we heard more from Flint's perspective in this novel. Something from the other rebels would have been good too (such as Tali), but this lack meant that you felt like you were truly in Neryn's shoes.

Hint, don't read the back of this novel's cover, or any summaries online. I accidentally read one, and then spent the whole book wondering when the thing was going to happen. It didn't, and I didn't feel cheated, I just wished I could have appreciated the bits more.

The conclusion isn't surprising. Or rather it is, but then you realise you should have guessed from all the pointers in the beginning. You feel satisfied, but not too satisfied. And there's still some tension lurking right to the very end. 

I'm sort of sad that I didn't feel enough connection to any of the secondary characters to be sad when they died. There was one exception, but I can't tell you about that, obviously.
I'd love to know what happens next. Who will be king? Who will be the regents?