Thursday, 17 April 2014

Shannon Hale - Book of a Thousand Days

Book of a Thousand Days
Shannon Hale

This is told from an interesting perspective of a diary. Even though you know someone must be writing it, and you assume it is Dashti each time, you sometimes think that someone else has taken over, because the events she is writing about are too overwhelming or odd.

The synopsis for this on Goodreads suggests that the conclusion is so romantic that no reader will be left dry-eyed. I was dry-eyed. I didn't connect with Dashti or Lady Saren enough. I felt quite empty after reading it really, and I didn't ever feel worry.

I felt frustrated that Dashti didn't make more of an effort to escape. She just waited until things were desperate. She'd rather stay in the tower than be exposed to men. She has a knife! Why doesn't she protect herself? Surely she has a song to escape? The songs were good, I did like those.

I also felt frustrated in the end of the evil warlord. Dashti was very brave, but damn she's stupid! She was doing what was noble. And right, I suppose. But damn! Why does she have to be so loyal to someone who doesn't deserve her help? I guess she is too good-hearted.

The remote tower is a stolen idea. It was stolen from a Grimm's fairy tale. There are so many adaptations of fairytales these days, and Hale does a lot of them (such as The Goose Girl). It makes me annoyed that no-one has any new creativity and has to resort to old stories instead of new ideas. Even some of my favourite authors are responsible for that sort of thing.

What can I take away from this story that I couldn't have gotten out of a regular book? What girls can relate to this story and dream of their own fairytale ending? What if they are all like Lady Saren? Why is she so stupid? Get a spine! Don't depend on loyalty to get you anywhere or magic to take a hand.

Sometimes I don't realise how much I didn't enjoy a book until after I have read it. This is one of those ones. It was a throw-away novel - keep your reading time for something else.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Ellen Wittlinger - Gracie's Girl

Gracie's Girl
Ellen Wittlinger

Bess is a new 6th grader. She's determined to appear different and make some cool new friends. Soon her perspective on what is important in life is going to change.

I think the relationships and development of characters is really genuine in this novel. Changing schools is a big burden, and kids do change. I would have gone with 11 being a bit young for developing boy-girl relationships, but what would I know? I completely understand Ethan and Bess' perspectives on it, and find it funny that their third friend is the one that makes a go of it.

What this novel really does is promote social responsibility. A soup kitchen, somewhere for people to sleep out of the rain and snow. I love that it's connected to a church, but that the church is not too churchy and preachy. I think that homelessness is more of a problem in the USA, but we certainly have our share of it here. If you have spare time, please do donate if you can.

I feel like Australian schools and parents are less pushy. In the plays I participated in, none of the stars or almost-stars were quite so Diva-y. And I was a stage manager, and it drove me nuts that people didn't  pay attention to things, and I knew their lines better than they did. I wish I had seen more of the play. I'm not familiar with Bye Bye Birdy - maybe it is really relevant to the themes of the book? I would hope so. Charity is a virtue, and everyone should try to work to it.

I have a feeling that this novel is not good enough to jump the country divide. Grade 6 for Australians is the final year of primary school, so it wouldn't make a difference what you looked like. Also, the majority of schools here have a school uniform. There are still uncool people, and bitchy girls, but that's in any school. I say test it out in a classroom (because it asks lots of important questions), and see how it goes.

I have enjoyed other novels by Wittlinger, but this one falls short of the mark for me. I don't think I'll reread it, but I will put it on the shelf, in case I discover a home that it really needs (or that really needs it).

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Anne Cassidy - Looking for JJ

Looking for JJ
Anne Cassidy

Alice Tully just wants to live a normal life, or appear to live one. After a tragedy 6 years ago, she is obsessed with researching Jennifer Jones in the papers. Soon history will catch up with her, and all hell will seem to break loose.

This isn't an easy book to read, or a comfortable concept. The blurb on the back is in fact a little misleading. But I can't explain it without wreaking the book. Let's just say there's a child, child killer involved, and I think that some of the judgements in the first place were wrong.

The first section of the book is from Alice Tully's perspective. Apart from her obsession with Jennifer Jones, and some strange character quirks, you would say she was an ordinary girl. This is the part where the author weaved her spell around me effortlessly, until she dropped a bomb.

Look, the second part didn't work for me. I was uncomfortable of the way JJ was treated from the beginning and her nativity. I guess she was only 10, and she didn't know much, but still! I totally understand her humiliation, and even some of her reactions. She's never been taught to control her feelings in a positive way. This is where the rapport you developed with Alice Tully spills over, and made it bearable. Unfortunately, I found that I wanted to skip through this section to find out what was happening in the present, and I had little interest in the ins and outs of who was going to be killed. I actually guessed incorrectly who would die.

Parts 3 and 4 were a great ending. I was made pretty sad by part 3, and part 4 gave me hope for the future. How can your past not catch up though?

If you want more information than what I've given you here, DO NOT GO TO WIKIPEDIA. You will spoil the whole suspense of the book for yourself. If you want some more hints or aren't sure this book is for you due to specific trigger warnings or something similar, email me! Just fix the address to a normal gmail address.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014


Rainbow Rowell

Cather is an identical twin. Her twin, Wren, has been waiting eagerly for college to start - she has a partying spirit. Cather on the other hand is slightly more neurotic, and just wants to hide in her dorm room between fiction writing classes. The question is, is the anxious Cather able to have a life and love like her sister?

Cather touched my heart. I worried about her, I worried with her, and hurt with her. Now I remember why I don't read books like these - I identify with the protagonist too much! I love the book, because it makes me feel, but then again, I hate it because I do feel!

I literally couldn't put this book down, I enjoyed it so much. I wanted to even read it at the dinner table, but I didn't. I finished it in two days, which for me at the moment is sort of a record. I'm surprised I got into it. Lately it's been I get a couple of pages into a novel and give up.

The romance! The betrayal! Arg! I always knew what was happening, but some things hit me like a rock anyway. Does anyone else already see the funny thing about the twins' names? I didn't even notice until it was pointed out in the text.

I see character development in Cather, but not really in the other characters. That's not to say that they are 2D character, rather they have been fleshed out, and from Cather's perspective, it's just the way things are. I loved Levi - I'd totally date that boy too! And the other characters who were sometimes a bit narky? Yeah, I could see why they were like that.

If your child is curious about going to college, this could be a good novel to point out the negatives of things (such as underage drinking and clubs), but also the positive things (sometimes your roommate turns out to be great!). I'd recommend for older teens, or even those already at college. It's such a good read, especially for aspiring young authors.

Another couple of minor things that added bonus points to my reading experience? Cather's father had a mental illness, and she was forever writing gay fic. I love variety!

I couldn't believe that someone had gotten away with writing novels that seemed like a complete rip off of Harry Potter. And then I googled it after finishing the novel and then found out that it's just a fictional novel that was created by Rowell. Some people say they'd love to read those books - inspired by Twilight perhaps? Not me anyway.

I would read Rowell's novels again. I received this novel free for a review - but I opted to receive it, and it was just as good as I say it is!

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Jodi Picoult & Samantha Van Leer - Between the Lines

Between the Lines
Jodi Picoult & Samantha Van Leer

Delilah has a fairy-tale that she reads, over and over and over. It has a happy ending, which is what she wants from her life. She falls in love with the main character, but will they be able to be together?

This was a strangely compulsive read. I think it was mainly curiosity on my part to see what solutions Delilah could come up with. I did like the spider. Poor spider.

I seriously could not imagine why someone would want to go into a book. And stay there. For the rest of the book's existence. WHY? WHY? WHY?

Ok yes, I get that Delilah is an outcast. But really, she could have tried harder. It's not just that she likes that book before she can see into it. There are plenty of other books with similar story lines of losing a father. Her mother does an awesome job of raising her! I'm irritated that she doesn't seem to know how lucky she is. I expect high schoolers to be self-centred, but really.

The whole fairytale was a neat idea. I did want to know what happened, and how things would work out. But being told not to fight? Forcing yourself not to? Putting braces on a dragon? Some of that was just sad, in a funny kind of way.

I liked the ideas behind this book, but in practice I'm not sure it entirely worked for me. What about other novels? What if they all have characters stuck? Does Delilah want to go on a quest to rescue other book characters? 

This was an exceedingly easy read. I'm not sure I get enough tones from Picoult to say whether this is an accurate measure of her work, but I hope for more collaborations - surely they will be just as strangely compelling.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Ann Brashares - Girls in Pants: The Third Summer of the Sisterhood

Girls in Pants: The Third Summer of the Sisterhood
Ann Brashares

4 girls were united by birth dates in September. 2 summers ago, they found the pair of travelling pants that would change their summer. This is the last summer they have together before college.

Thank goodness this was a talking book or I never would have gotten through it. That's not to say it was a good book, or that the reader was fabulous though. 

The reader failed in my mind. I often couldn't remember which of the four girls were speaking. The boys could have been a bit more male sounding too. This lead to complications when I couldn't remember which girl wanted to do what. B and Carmen were easy to keep track of because that were in unique situations. But the other two? I can barely remember their names now. Tibby and uh, someone else?

This is a novel aimed at teenage girls. Specifically probably younger teenage girls in America. I can't see anyone but a naive girl enjoying it. It's all about first love, veiled thinly with concerns about going to college. 

I can see this book not going down well with some parents. There are some almost sex scenes, sex is alluded to, and two opposite sex characters go swimming together in their underwear. Not to mention a childbirth scene. 

I can't remember the statistics of people being queer, by I thought it was something like 1/7. So where are the queer people I. This novel? One of the four girls could have been gay. Younger gay people need the opperyniruvti read about queer people just like themselves, those that have friends. A gripe I have with other queer books is that the main character is almost always lonely. Some have to be well adjusted with friends! I think authors are missing the minority that could make their novel a cult book. 

The Pants don't seem to feature prominently. I don't think any if them actually rely on The Pants. They just use them as an excuse to not lie. How hard is it really?

I remember reading the first book in this series in high school after a girly friend raved about it. I'm pretty sure I enjoyed it at that point, being able to ignore the often repetitive dialogue. Perhaps I'd better reread it and see if I can rescue this series in my mind.

Friday, 21 March 2014

Jessica Queller - Pretty is What Changes

Pretty is What Changes
Jessica Queller

Jessica has just received the news that she has a breast cancer gene that gives her an 80%+ chance of getting cancer. It's given to her in the baldest way possible, yet it will change her life radically.

I've got a vested interest in reading this novel. It's part fiction, part fact, and it hits close to home. I have a family history of reproductive cancers, and I've often considered whether I'll need a mastectomy. 

Somehow I feel like her case was sort of divinely touched. She didn't have any huge problems with her reconstruction or anything else. It makes it a bit different that this is in the USA. I'd almost guarantee that Australian women, and women in other countries don't have access to the same resources. 

I found it interesting that a writer would find then to write something like this. I certainly wish I had time! Writing is her thing and she uses it to promote awareness for this cancer, which is great.

I picked up this novel off of the super reduced stack at uni. The partner bought it for me, figuring I'd start it and not necessarily finish it. Or maybe he thought it was a present for my mother. Anyway I settled down to read it, and he couldn't believe I was taking the time to do it. Sometimes I like an easy to read fiction book! His argument was that the writer was some sort of person he'd read about or something. I don't follow movies or anything so I had no idea. I'm evaluating the movie purely on what I read. 

Jessica spins the tale convincingly. I felt the changes in the protagonist and at times it was painful to read. I didn't necessarily empathise - I'd chop off my breasts in an instant if I knew I would reduce my chances of cancer. But then I'm not partner shopping either. 

The title of the book was really well applicable to the contents. It's not that she feels ugly afterwards, she's got fantastic new breasts! But it's rooted in what her mother thought of her, so it's deeper than the reader would think. 

Would I recommend this novel for breast cancer survivors? Maybe. Not in Australia though perhaps. I would recommend it for those women thinking about being tested for BRCA mutations or preventative surgery. Any more insight you can have is good insight.

Monday, 17 March 2014

Alice Sebold - The Lovely Bones

The Lovely Bones
Alice Sebold

Susie Salmon is dead. Not only that, she was raped and murdered by a neighbour. Her father suspects who did it, but has no proof. The policeman who is investigating lets him slip through his fingers. Susie can't move on until she sees her family at peace.

I can't believe how much time Susie spends waiting for her family to move on. Wouldn't you get bored, after 8 years of looking and not participating? I guess that's part of her 'growing up'. I don't see why she can't grow up in the other world though. Who knows?

It's a nice idea of heaven, but I find it hard to believe that in the next heaven there will be the people Susie loved in life, including her dog. How could they all possibly fit, if every person just had two more people who cared for them? It would be an exponential growth of people wanting to share lives together! At least it is something.

This novel pinged gently on my own beliefs about the afterlife. Ruth is a neat character, but I often wonder whether her life in the future will get any easier, or what path she will continue to tread. I can't see her as a bartender for the rest of her life, paying for a flat so that she can walk the city in search of human touches.

Just like real life, things didn't turn out perfectly, particularly for the side characters. I was frustrated that Susie held on to Ray so tightly. Ray also held on - and I thought he could have moved on. I felt for the poor boy who was accused of killing animals, and Susie.

It's funny how such a touching and sensitive topic could be treated with such elegance that you feel compelled to keep reading. I found myself staying up late reading it. This is the second time I have read this novel, but the first reading was many years ago and I had forgotten how the story went. I can see it as a re-read when I want to feel deeply about something without really knowing way.

Friday, 7 March 2014

James Phelan - The Last Thirteen #11

The Last Thirteen #11
James Phelan

Sam is still racing to find the others in the Last Thirteen. Little does he know that he's already met some of them, and that some of them might already be in the hands of the enemy.

Sam comes face to face with Solaris again in this cliff-hanger. You know it's going to happen. I feel like none of these novels would be complete without a Solaris encounter.

It's an interesting concept that they can change the future by being aware of it. I've read a lot of books with interesting instances of time-travel/seeing the future, and what this can do to people, and this isn't particularly a new concept. It's treated well enough however.

I wonder also whether different people have the same dream, more often than just Sam, and his newly-rediscovered friend. I hope to see more of it in future books.

This novel fills out what they are actually looking for and adds an interesting touch of history. It's such a good thing they appear to have lots of money, because Sam has a serious case of jetting around the world! You'd think he's stick in one spot and get on with it.

I want to keep reading these! I'm not quite hooked, but this novel felt like it had more meat in it than the others, and I'd be really happy to see more of it happening.

Please excuse the image being out of place for my posts. It didn't like being taken on my phone, and then put in here. Hopefully these initial problems will be ironed out soon!

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Sarah Moon (ed.) - The Letter Q

The Letter Q
Sarah Mood (ed.)

This isn't a novel at all. It's a collection of letters by queer authors to their younger selves. The book was produced because every young person identifying as queer has a right to know that their situation of feel lost, alone or misunderstood isn't unique - there's someone out there that can understand. 

I enjoyed it because it had so many emanations with my teenage years, and it's always pleasing to read about other success stories. 

Another thing is that I often read short story collections to find new authors whose writing style agrees with me. Those are just letters, but the authors hint enough about themselves that I can tentatively pick ones that I'd buy books to try. 

I initially picked up this novel because one of my favourite authors, Julie Anne Peters, has a contribution in it. I'd also already encountered Erika Moen from her comic, DAR. 

I had fun trying to pick whether the writer was male or female in each case where it wasn't immediately obvious. A weird thing to do when the authors are all queer and any sexuality or gender could be presented. I didn't do this in a judgemental way, just in an interested way. 

If you're queer, you're questioning, you just want to understand more about what queer people go through, this could be a good novel for you to read.