Reviews: Unfinished Novels Released to Book Crossing #1

I have a series of novels that I have never finished reading and in some cases, couldn’t face reading at all. In the interests of freeing up space on my bookshelves, and letting other people have a chance to read them, I have released these novels on Book Crossing.

The Second Coming: A Love Story
Scott Pinsker

I received this book for review, but the cover, the story, the everything put me off reading. It has been sitting on my shelf to be read for at least 3 years, so it is time for it to go.

 

NIGHT PEOPLE, Book 1 – Things We Lost in the Night: A Memoir of Love and Music in the 60s with Stark Naked and the Car Thieves (Volume 1)
Larry J Dunlap

I received this book for review, but the cover put me off reading. Then when I attempted to read it, I couldn’t get through the dry text of the first chapter. It has been sitting on my shelf to be read for at least 2 years, so it is time for it to go.

 

Delivering the Phantom Moon
Niro Raine

I received this book for review. When I attempted to read it several times, I couldn’t get through the first chapter due to a number of factors. The character names seemed forced, the humour was just odd and I didn’t love the text formatting (funny how the small things can add up). It has been sitting on my shelf to be read for at least 2 years, so it is time for it to go.

 

 

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Review: Barbara Bourland – I’ll Eat when I’m Dead

I’ll Eat when I’m Dead
Barbara Bourland

Cat’s boss has died in a locked storeroom with a huge slab of ribbon next to her. Deemed to have stemmed from an eating disorder, it was just a heart attack. That locked door prompts a investigation by a cop looking for promotion, and bam! Cat is suckered in to doing her own research.

This was like eating a really bad, stale peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I chewed my way patiently through the first 1/4 of the book, sitting through honestly a quite boring backstory and the party lives of Cat, Bess and some random other person they went to school with. Then, I got some tasty jelly, where we got into the crux of the investigations into the murder and a bit of development of a on-again off-again relationship between Cat and the detective. AND THEN, someone forgot to put the peanut butter in. The next 1/4 was simply Cat and Bess being swaddled around with Cat hating the experience and Bess being pretty happy about it. Then there’s another bit of bread of nothing even really happening until the end. I didn’t care about Cat or Bess enough for it to matter at that point.

Maybe part of the problem with this novel was this promised to be a bit of an expose on the women’s fashion industry which promotes thin women that buy expensive clothes. Instead, I found a main character that professed to follow these views, then failed to follow any of them. Sure, the magazine promotes American made fashion, then promotes ecologically and ethically sound wares, but to an extent it is all lip service.

A story of socialites that could have potentially had their comeuppance. If you’re doing lines of cocaine, smoking pot on a regular basis and having a flirting affair with heroin, I can’t feel that sorry for you. I appreciated that Cat insisted on using condoms when having wild, random sex, and was pretty vocal about the fact, but it couldn’t redeem the novel.

What’s with the title? They don’t have a problem with eating as far as I can see, there is a different Problem with a capital P. In fact, I recently stated my opinion on a new YA novel that I think has the same title, which promises to be much more exciting. Honestly, when this one came in the mail, I thought it was that book and got excited. That was enough for me to start reading it anyway, and I shouldn’t have wasted my time.

Women’s fiction with a hint of crime? I think it was sold to me as a bit more attractive than that, otherwise I never would have touched it in the first place. Don’t waste your time on this one. 2 stars because I finished it in the hopes of it improving.

Hachette Australia | 16th May 2017 | AU$29.99 | paperback

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Review: Henry Marsh – Admissions

Admissions
Henry Marsh

Dr. Henry Marsh was a Political Studies student before wagging college for a year. Eventually, he ended up studying medicine and becoming a celebrated neurosurgeon. This novel is a memoir of his experiences in remote hospitals in places such as Nepal and Pakistan, where he offers his services as surgeon and teacher to those in need.

I honestly expected more juicy stories and less reflection, but perhaps that was a hallmark of this being his second novel – perhaps they were all exhausted by his first novel, ‘Do No Harm’. For me then, there was too much memoir and reflection on aging rather than substance about the joys and upsets of being a neuroscientist. I can accept a certain level of introspection, but I’m not certain what regular readers would pull from this novel.

Although I enjoyed the scientific discussion because I’m a scientist and know something about the brain’s morphology, it would have been very useful to have diagrams of what the incisions and brain areas looked like. Nothing too gastly, I’m certain it would be difficult to get permissions to print images of patients, but just dry diagrams could have been useful.

The brief discussions about how Henry could apply his knowledge to neuroscience about how personality probably does [not] exist after death could not save the novel for me. Neither could the discussions on his renovation project in his retirement. Additionally, I wasn’t actually sure what family he had left, which made me wonder at his sanity! Also, he is obsessed with getting dementia which derails a lot of the chapters.

If you are looking for more ways of living mindfully, shaped by what others dying has done so far (The Five Invitations) or are looking for a provocative discussion of the implications of a ‘Good Death’ (The Easy Way Out), this is not the novel for you. It wasn’t really the novel for me, but others might enjoy it. Thankfully it is non-fiction, so I don’t have to assign a star rating to something I didn’t particularly enjoy.

Hachette Australia | 16th May 2017 | AU$32.99 | paperback

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Review: Bren MacDibble – How to Bee

How to Bee
Bren MacDibble

The bees have been killed and now only the bravest children pollinate the fruit trees by hand. It’s hard work, and only a select few are chosen. Peony’s mother thinks that the way forward is in the city, Peony knows that her place is with the other Bees.

In a future fiction, it’s possible this is going to become common place. Bees are dying out, and despite things such as the somewhat ill informed flower planting schemes by ?cereal? companies, unless we pick up our game with killing bees with pesticides and so forth. A world without fruit would be pretty miserable.

I liked the ending a lot. I liked the whole novel, but truely, the ending was fantastic. I loved how Peony stuck to her beliefs and her family. That girl knows what is important! It’s something that more people in the world could afford to learn…

I’m not going to suggest that this is a YA novel. There’s just not enough depth for that, and it’s not a reread so that’s why it’s not getting 5 stars from me. But it carries a very important message, it improves the current knowledge of young people. I could see it as an early highschool novel, and I’d love it a lot more than some other ‘Australian classics’ they stick teenagers with.

Allen & Unwin | 26th April 2017 | AU$16.99 | paperback

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Review: Ezekiel Boone – Skitter

Skitter
Ezekiel Boone

Spiders have taken over the world. Hatching secretly from Peru and other hot spots, they have infected people until their bodies are pulled apart by the spiders hatching inside them. LA is a gonner, and India and China are suffering. No mention of Australia though, so maybe that is just fine.

This was a disappointment of a book. Not only was I frustrated by the constantly changing perspectives that only built a tiny picture of what was happening, the ending was not an ending. Oh my goodness. I’ve just realised that this was the second book. So that means I can expect a third book, so I should just accept the ending. Well, I can tell you reading the first novel probably wouldn’t have made any difference to my non-enjoyment of this one.

It could have been more creepy. But honestly, thanks to the changing perspectives, I never got attached enough to anyone to actually care whether they lived or died. Maybe if a kid that was being protected died? Many people find spiders creepy, but I’m not one of them. Ok, I don’t like big hairy shapes just dropping down on me randomly, but I can remove them ok from the house.

The story build slowly, I was excited to have any sort of breakthrough on control, but the focus on the US kinda wrecked it for me. People speaking Japanese and losing things in translation is fine, but you couldn’t work that out better? You’re going to use the magical Spanish Protocol, and it’s not even going to work? Idiots…

I’ll give it 2 stars because it was not particularly fabulous. I’m not interested in reading the next, or the previous book. I can’t think of who is going to love it right now, but I guess it’s ok to fill in time. Just don’t have high expectations.

Hachette Australia | 1 May 2017| AU$16.99 | paperback

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Review: Maude Julien – The Only Girl in the World

The Only Girl in the World
Maude Julien

Maude’s mother was chosen when she was six years old to give birth to blonde Maude and train Maude as superior being – at Maude’s father’s request. Maude is forced to endure torture in the basement, sitting in the dark for hours with rats running past her feet, and to spend hours practicing the piano and accordion.

I actually expected this novel to be darker than what it was. Reading the blurb made me think that Maude was inexplicably (physically) tortured in horrific ways. That’s not to say she wasn’t – but it was more psychological torture, which to an extent can be much harder to recover from. This is a success story though, as Maude has gone on to be a ‘doctor of the mind’ and assists other victims of trauma and abuse.

I was right there with Maude from the very beginning, and the prose was written in such a way that it wasn’t dry or stilted. In fact, if you didn’t tell someone it was a memoir, I’m pretty sure they would just think it was some horrific form of fiction. There is a climax of sorts, which fits in with a fiction novel, but the outcomes of the novel were much more real. I don’t think I am expressing myself adequately here, but trust me, it is written flawlessly.

As this is a memoir I’m not giving it any stars. But it is a fantastic memoir that I recommend highly. It’s a unique survivorship novel of what cults can do to children, but how the resilience of children can create positive outcomes.

Text Publishing | 1st May 2017 | AU$32.99 | Paperback

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Review: Eva Hornung – The Last Garden

The Last Garden
Eva Hornung

The isolated community of Wahrheit is awaiting the return of the Messiah, with Pastor Helfgott at the helm. Then Benedict’s father shoots himself and murders Benedict’s mother just as Benedict returns home. What follows is the communion of the boy growing to a man under the watchful eyes of the animals that he shares a home with.

 

Normally the ‘literature’ style of writing might have put me off – it’s filled with beautiful prose that waxes lyrically about the lines between Man and God. Don’t expect it to ‘end’ in a conclusive manner, instead the reader is left to wonder what good can change in the world.

The characters are individual, and despite having somewhat unpronounceable place names for me to remember, I managed to keep them in my mind while I wrote this review! What can one say about a novel such as this? The scenery, the bloody but tactfully innocent chicken deaths, all of it added to a novel as a whole that was compelling to read.

I’m not sure what drew me into this novel, but once I was in there I was intrigued, much as I was when reading Eva’s other novel, Dog Boy. I didn’t want to be drawn in. I just wanted to read a page or so to decide whether it was for me, but by the time I had done that, it was too late.

I don’t feel compelled to read it again, but I do feel compelled to share the novel with other people, namely other adults! I’d love to hear other people’s opinions on this novel. So I’ll be giving this 4 stars, and hoping that someone else will want to add to the discussion!

Text Publishing | 1st May 2017 | AU $29.99 | Paperback

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Review: Leonie Howie & Adele Robertson – Island Nurses

Island Nurses
Leonie Howie & Adele Robertson

Leonie and Adele worked as the primary health care providers on remote Great Barrier Island before any of the mod-cons were available such as phones and consistent electricity. Only 100km from the mainland, the government didn’t realise the isolation and trials for the nurses in this wild place and so these stories are how the nurses could negotiate the realities of isolated life.

While the stories were quite entertaining and there was plenty of variety, something about the tone of the novel made it feel slightly awkward to read. Ah yes. Is it in present tense? My literature interpretation is a bit rusty. Anyway, I’m sure it was written in this manner to give a sense of presence and urgency to the life situations, however it just made it awkward for me to read.

What I appreciated was the wide range of situations that were covered in the novel. The other recent nursing novel I read, Aussie Midwives, focussed on the experiences of different midwives, so this had an entirely different content to it. Less internal thoughts, more events!

Something that still carries stigma and is rarely discussed is that many women suffer from miscarriages for no obvious reason. Both Leonie and Adele want to have children, but it will be hell for one of them. While perhaps not a key part of being a remote nurse, it is a fact of life that dealing with births is a regular occurrence, no matter how painful it might be at the time.

This was another memoir I found to be lacking in substance, but it was certainly more enjoyable than Admissions. This had a greater number of anecdotes that energised me and that I couldn’t wait to relate to others. Additionally, I have a nurse in my family who I knew would appreciate the novel so it won’t go to waste!

Allen & Unwin | 26th April 2017 | AU$29.99 | paperback

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Review: Amy Tintera – Avenged

Avenged
Amy Tintera

Em has rescued her sister Oliva from the torturous confines of Lera’s dungeons. A promise by Em’s husband Cas means that she trusts the Lerans won’t attack Runia while her family rebuilds – but there are more politics than anyone can presume to understand.

I wanted to reread Ruined before I read this sequel, but I just couldn’t hold out, the siren song of Avenged was too strong. Then I saw Ruined on the bookshelf at home and almost picked it up in a frenzy read, but I was sadly interrupted by dinner preparations.

In this novel, Em continues to be the underdog heroine who has to use her wits to survive because she is Useless – no Ruined magic to speak of, she is almost as bad as a human. Worse, since she is supposed to be Queen. After her sister Olivia suggests a diarchy so that Em can deal with the horrible humans, Em continues in her role, but she has to balance up the needs of her people with her own longing for the new King of Lera, her husband Cas.

Absolute power corrupts absolutely. I’m not sure Olivia had any feeling bones in her body before, but she certainly didn’t get any favours from being tortured. Olivia hates everyone, even her sister sometimes, and she’s a threat that will eventually need to be neutralised.

Aren gets a bit more airtime in this novel, and there’s a bit of romance for him too. What I liked was the way that romance complicated things, yet didn’t overwhelm the main fantasy storyline. It wasn’t just a means to an end, it actually changed the outcomes subtly. This also applied to Cas’ appearances in the text, both from Em’s POV and his own.

The first novel ended with a bang, and this one was no better! I felt so discouraged after finishing it, simply because I wanted to just keep reading. I should have prolonged the reading experience by reading more slowly, but the fast paced action just wouldn’t let me stop.

I’m giving this 5 stars. I can’t wait until the next novel comes out, and I can’t believe that it’s another whole year away. Perhaps I’ll have to read the other two novels by Tintera in the mean time (Reboot & Rebel).

Allen & Unwin | 26th April 2017 | AU$16.99 | paperback

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Review: JC Burke – The Things We Promise

The Things We Promise
JC Burke

During the height of the HIV and AIDs epidemic in the 1990s, Gemma is blissfully ignorant of any health issues that could be going on in her home town of Sydney. Her worst concerns are who she will hang out with school and what kind of hairdo she is going to have her brother Billy do for her formal.

I’ll be the first to say that a lot of the language in the novel is offensive. It’s particularly offensive to gay people, eg. “limp-wristed, pillow-biting, doughnut punching bum bandit”. Which, given the subject matter, I’m not surprised that it’s targeted so negatively. But I also appreciated the hard feelings and accuracy of that. It felt ‘real’.

The problem some reviewers had with this novel was that it was horrifically offensive to a variety of people. While I agree that it is, I also accept that this novel is an accurate snapshot of the early 90s, where this sort of language, beliefs and behaviour was common. If you are easily offended and can’t understand the setting of the novel (such as a slavery novel with ‘nigga’ in it), this novel is not for you.

It’s an interesting way of approaching the early years when very few people knew about HIV and how it was transmitted. It paints a picture of how miserable things really were from a personal perspective, not just a sheer number of people who were infected as a sterile statistic.

I’m giving this three stars. It took me a while to warm up to it, and despite eventually enjoying it, it seemed a little forced at times.

Allen & Unwin | 22nd February 2017 | AU $19.99 | Paperback

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