Tuesday, 30 September 2014

James Snyder - Where All The Rivers Run

Where All the Rivers Run
James Snyder

Connelly is still in hospital, and faces being sent to a state mental hospital for the rest of her life if she doesn't start talking. Instead, a hopeful doctor sorts through her belongings and finds a letter that Connelly seems to have forgotten.

This final novel in the trilogy is one of hope, and yet despair. Connelly deserves something more from what she was given from age 6, but she must claw and fight her way for it.

It this novel, I felt like I lost touch with Connelly. I no longer knew what she was going on about, and I felt like the painting took her away into her own world. Perhaps that was the aim of the novel, or the aim of the author - you must be truly alone before you can get your way back into the light.

While I was thinking about this novel, I thought about the previous one again. And it occurred to me that none of the menfolk seem very bright. And Bobby and Roxie seem like what they have is dysfunctional. It's only in this novel that you begin to see some healthier relationships. Even then, no one seems to think of the consequences of their actions.

Connelly is always said to be very beautiful, and she attracts men to her. I wonder though, how pretty is she after all the drugs she went through? And Will, well, he might be a fool for loving her, but at least they have each other.

I really loved the scenic descriptions of the countryside. And the life on the Ranch. Cousin Liz has so much going for her! And a child doesn't hurt either.The thing with the illegal immegrants seemed backwards to me.

I wish I had looked more closely for where this novel was set. And also when. I don't know anything about the foster care system that failed Connelly. I would imagine that the Australian system might not be better. So many people fall through the cracks.

Monday, 29 September 2014

John Marsden - So Much to Tell You

So Much to Tell You
John Marsden

Marina has been scarred for life, in her interior and on her exterior. She doesn't talk, at all, any more. She shrinks into walls, and has spent a long time in hospital.

There's some really nice insights into the way teenagers feel in this novel. Marina wonders at one point why adults seem so confident. And she asks whether they have lessons after they graduate high school! I kinda wish we adults did get that. But it's all a matter of hard earned experience.

After one of the other novels I had read recently, this short look into family life is relatively beautiful. Marina's family is dysfunctional, and there's no remedy for that, but the other families' lives that she peers into are good.

I like Marina, and at no point did I feel frustrated by the way she was behaving. I understood that there were things going on that she didn't write about, and at the same time felt ok with that.

A boarding school always sounded good to me, because I thought it would be fun. I think that's the fault of Enid Blyton and her 'The Naughtiest Girl in School' series. This boarding school, from Marina's perspective, is both Heaven and Hell. After hating it there, she finds that it is helping her more than she knew.

I'd strongly recommend this novel for teenagers. Angsty, but resolute. Tortured, and yet satisfying. I first read it in high school, a little, unoffensive looking book that has so many feelings inside I'm surprised it can stay on the shelf.

I didn't know until I was looking for images of this book, that it was his debut novel. I think it's the first novel of his I read, but I could be wrong. The rest of his novels are just as unfinished as this one, with the exception of 'Tomorrow When the War Began'. By unfinished, I don't mean not well written. It's that it is up to the reader to work out what comes next.

I went looking for a PDF copy of the half-sequel, 'Take My Word for It', and instead found a fascinating interview/author biography of Marsden. And he has a school! He's the Principal of Candlebark, just north of Melbourne, Victoria. Just as his books promote independence and resilience in children and teens, his school does also.

Friday, 26 September 2014

Juliet Marillier - Dreamer's Pool

Dreamer's Pool
Juliet Marillier

Blackthorn and Grim are dying slowly, tortuously, in a dungeon of the foulest ruler of their lands. When Blackthorn is given an unexpected opportunity to change her situation, she finds herself being forced into a life-path she never expected to take.

With two highly flawed protagonists and a raw, gritty storyline, this new offering from Marillier is suited to the young adult and adult readers. It was a fresh breath of air in the other more childish novels I have been reading lately. Just what I wanted.

I empathized strongly with Blackthorn, although others might find her prickly personality off putting. Her life circumstances seem quite unique, but only in that she is not afraid of stating her opinion (or dying by it). Her role as the healer of the town reminded me of the Owlflight novels by Mercedes Lackey, and the empathetic healer in that.

The ending came as a surprise. Why did no-one ever consider the number of people in each pool incident? The build up of information, if you weren't familiar with storytale endings, would lead the reader onwards. There's also some coy links with her other novels, including the Sevenwaters series (one of the first reviews I ever wrote - be gentle!).

I loved that there was more than one climax. Although we all wondered about the Prince's happiness, it was good to see Blackthorn still defending others and taking her own path. And Grim defending others at the same time as protecting Blackthorn (which he has decided is his goal in life).

I wish I knew more about Grim. In fact, I'm pretty sure everyone will want to know about Grim, whether they are a character in the same book, or someone reading it! He's such a dark persona, and although his perspective is provided intermittently, it's not really clear what is going on inside his head.

I read the first part of this book, and really regretted having to put it down. When I got a couple of free hours, I polished it off and was devastated that I had finished it so quickly. Thank goodness there are two more books planned in this series. I don't know what they will cover, as surely nothing more can happen in this tiny community?!? I look forward to reading them soon, as Marillier often has a good publishing schedule going on.

I was provided this book in return for a honest review. I would have bought the book regardless of whether it had been provided, because I love this author's works on their own standing. It will be released to the general public in Australia on 1st October 2014.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Allayne Webster - Paper Planes

Paper Planes
Allayne Webster

NIko is a normal young boy with a loving family and home. But suddenly, he finds himself in the middle of a war zone, and he must make his way through it to safety  with or without his family.

I wasn’t expecting anything when I picked up ‘Paper Planes’. To my surprise, it was the narrative of a young boy, threatened by war in Bosnia. Again, I’m not good with history, but this the real thing. In the back of the novel, you will find a note from Jarko.

The reader feels just as lost, and alone as Niko does, as the world falls apart. From such a normal beginning, things deteriorate. Niko just wants to go to school, but instead he’s trapped inside, with his family – until his sister and brother are forced to serve.

This novel also points out, albeit subtly, that there are no differences between people of different religions. Niko prays, but is afraid his father will find out. And his best friend is Muslim. Niko doesn’t understand why religion should play a role in who die or lives. In fact, it seems like dull chance whether they will survive.

This novel brings a face to the refugees that come to Australia. They aren’t responsible for their situation (as Niko finds, as he fears he is), and they have so few options. It hurts me to see that the Red Cross and the UN can’t do more.

I think the blurb on the back ‘Can Niko find the courage to face his worst fear?’ isn’t very accurate. He’s not facing hi worst fear – it’s just that he finds himself where he can’t get away from any of the war. I also vaguely expected that this novel would be a dystopian, in line with the other novels Scholastic had sent me in the package – imagine my surprise!

This novel, in my opinion, should be nominated for late primary school / early secondary school reading. I think it would be difficult to get onto the curriculum, but at the same time, it would be so valuable as a resource. It’s more accessible than ‘The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas’.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

James Snyder - Into the Abyss

Into the Abyss
James Snyder

Connelly’s life has taken a turn for the better. For once, she is wanted (despite ending up in a bad place once again to get there), and her foster parents seem great. But slowly, slowly, everything falls apart again, and she is left on the streets.

This middle novel in the series (The Beautiful-Ugly Trilogy)
stomps on your heart in the same way the first one tore it. It was painful to read, and yet just as painful to put it down, not knowing what would happen next.

Those brief moments when Connelly feels like she has a family you want to celebrate with her, but also understand her reservedness. Her inability to keep things together after that however, is kinda annoying. She says she knows how to say no, how to just observe, but she can’t help spoiling what she has.

I find it hard to reconcile Connelly dropping drugs so quickly with the rate at which she moved into them. She's into some hard things, it's easy for her to go deeper in than to come out. Yet when she has a change of scenery, she feels those changes strongly enough that they take the joy or ignorant bliss of drugs from her.

The gang head is friendly than the average Joe on the street! If it’s true, the way New York is portrayed here, I never want to go there. Sure, Connelly isn’t very good at picking friends, but she doesn’t have much experience.

Something that disturbed me was the way that Snyer basically made every male in Connelly’s life a predator or a hindrance. In the end, even the question to find her brother was answered in this way. In fact, I’m not sure there are any wholly positive influences, apart from that art teacher a long time ago. The women are equally dysfunctional as the men, and it’s a hard, cruel world out there for everyone.

This is a gritty novel, even more so than the first one. The ending fits in with the beginning, and smoothly transitions into the next novel, so if you’ve got them, make sure you take them all with you to your reading spot.

Trigger warnings for drug use, rape, sexual content, suicide and swearing. Definitely a young adult novel, not teenage fiction.

I requested this trilogy directly from the author, and was lucky enough to receive all of them at once. I’m really glad I did, as these were really enjoyable, if emotionally difficult to read.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

James Dashner - The Maze Runner

James Dashner
The Maze Runner

Thomas wakes up with no memory to a place with it's own language, it's own hierarchy, and a puzzle that no one can work out.

The maze runner is really action packed and even a bit gruesome. The action particularly at the end reminds me of Lord of the Flies and Piggy's death. The amount of cruelty in this society. I wonder why they only used males, plus I wondered about the fact a little community could come out of it. Also there's the crude sexual humour that Teresa brings.

I don’t know how they would have made a screen version of this with the amount of violence. Also the Grievers sound horrific. That that said, this novel doesn’t have any character development at all, so I think its perfect for a movie and I can’t wait to see it. September 19th 2014 apparently is the release day for The Maze Runner.

I really didn’t get the thing of them being the smartest if they couldn't work it out! They were just going to wait and die! No change of anything over two years seems stupid.

It didn’t click for me the names of some if the characters. That is a nice touch on the novel, suggesting it’s actually a dystopian fantasy. That said, it is a very unique world. It takes what seems to be a really specific concept and plays with it to its conclusion.

You want to know more about Tommy and Teresa. Tommy being the main character works, but there really isn’t any explanations of telepathy or anything else strange, which I'm hoping for in the next novel.
 I was so frustrated when I was speeding towards the end, knew not enough had happened and flipped to the back cover, and low and behold, there was a sequel. NOOOOOOO! But this is a trilogy, which means there is so much more good reading for me.

I did actually really enjoy reading this and I was glad I was sent a review copy for free. It's one of the more decent novels that teenage boys will be interested in.

Friday, 5 September 2014

Garth Nix - Mister Monday

Mister Monday
Garth Nix

Arthur suffers from debilitating asthma that causes him to end up in hospital on a regular basis. On his first day at his new school, he suffers an asthma attack that kills him. Or would have killed him, had he not had the minute key from The House thrust upon him. Thrown into a new, exciting and utterly terrified world, Arthur needs to learn things fast - before all the people he loves get sick.

This series (The Keys to the Kingdom) was one of the best that I had read when I was younger. This first novel still holds that appeal for me. It's a new landscape, it's relatively unique as the concept of a 'magic house' goes, and Arthur is endearing in his naivety.

I do feel somewhat frustrated with Arthur. He should have cluded on on the days of the week thing already! It's no good sitting back. And plus, he's able to change time outside 'The House', so he should do that.

The frog is inspired! Heh, sharing frogs in throats. The Will does seem a bit sneaky though, and I don't like it all that much. I guess who at all likes Wills in general?

This is a plot driven novel. Arthur doesn't get any smarter or sneakier, but he does begin to understand how things work. But he's a bit of a blank slate - you can project yourself into him. The journey is the exciting part.

This novel is the one I compared The Book of Days to, but I guess this one is significantly older. And in addition, this is set in the modern world. It's just The House that is behind. I'm glad I've come back to reading these again though, as my girlfriend's brother is also reading them.

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

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.