Review: Ernest Cline – Ready Player One

Ready Player One
Ernest Cline

Wade Watts has been hunting the ultimate prize in Oasis for almost as long as he has been alive. With little to live for in the real world, the VR world of Oasis, even if he can’t leave the home planet of School, is his proper place to be alive. With an excellent mastery of Lore, Watts has a chance to take the prize – but what will it cost him?

What doesn’t make sense to me is why he didn’t just live in his van the whole time. Why bother venturing out? Because honestly, the breakdown of the Stacks really didn’t seem to bother him much.

This is like an updated version of Gillian Rubenstein’s that has been made relevant to the takeover of VR technology. Or a different version of Game Runner where it is actually enjoyable! I assume that this kind of novel has taken control because of The Maze Runner‘s success (movie franchise and all). It has the potential to appeal to both young men and women, and that makes it an excellent YA novel. Good work Cline!

Actually, just looking at it makes me want to read it again. Good work Penguin #blinddatewithabook because I loved my blind date! See a cute picture of the wrapping on my Instagram. Penguin even express posted this to me so it would get here in time for Valentine’s day. Thanks Team!

 

Review: Will Boast – Daphne

Daphne
Will Boast

Daphne was a normal enough child but when she hit puberty she started to have odd paralysis fits. After being tagged for the morgue, Daphne’s life was sure to change – her paralysis fits were brought on by strong emotions, her own or anyone else’s nearby. Repetition is the only way she can survive, yet is that really a life?

Arg! I was left without real knowledge for whether this condition was a real life one, or just one that the author thought would be interesting to explore. The potential ‘science’ behind the disorder was explored to an extent but again, there was nothing concrete about it. At least novels with Selective Mutism give support resources, as do any novels detailing mental illnesses.

The author seemed to be going for symbolism, such as Biscuit and the man-blob. I felt confused though, and distracted from the rest of the story. It really didn’t fit in. The man-blob had his own part to play, but honestly the inevitable death of Biscuit (I promise this isn’t a spoiler, it’s obvious once you read about him) did nothing for me. I’d never formed an attachment to him, and Daphne didn’t seem to either (because she can’t possibly get attached to anything). Oh! And poor Hidalgo! Really author? That was just cruel and unnecessary.

I was utterly unsatisfied by the ending. I didn’t see how she could possibly survive for that long! Patterns and repitition are excellent… but they can only take you so far. Perhaps some actual counselling rather that going to a Doctor who would rather put you through tests to see your limits? Imagine what a marriage breakdown could do or the death of Brook or her mother. I wouldn’t have blamed her for her ways out.

I started this novel eagerly, giving it 4 stars out of the gate because of the interesting premise of Daphne’s disorder. Then, it downgraded to 3 stars when I realised that the writing style was not going to perk up and it was going to continue to be a hybrid stream-of-consciousness. Finally, the ending did me in and put it down to 2 stars, as did the lack of resources on the condition. Don’t waste you time on it.

Allen & Unwin | 21st February 2018 | AU$27.99 | paperback

Review: Anna Day – The Fandom

The Fandom
Anna Day

Violet thinks that she is a Shrinking Violet and that there is nothing special about her. When she is catapulted into her favorite novel as the heroine and she is the only person who can get them home, Violet must stop shrinking and grow some balls (the author’s terminology, not mine)!

Nope, I didn’t buy the Violet – Alice connection. I really did feel that Alice was an ass. Seriously, 17 year old girl suddenly deciding that she’d like to stay in a violent fantasy world that has to eventually collapse? Idiot… I wanted more Katie time! Damn she was good. Way more an exciting character than Alice (and more deserving too).

I wonder how many shared dreams/comas there are in real life? It’s an interesting concept. I certainly dream pretty vividly, so it is possible. Perhaps out-of-body experiences? I have a non-fiction novel by a neuroscience on my shelf at the moment that perhaps will explore this idea more.

As the novel progressed, I found myself more and more confused. How exactly did this cross-over work? I’m not sure whether this is a spoiler or not, but you very quickly work out the double worlds at play. Sadly, I didn’t find that it created any suspense – the potential beeping of the hospital machines or anything else.

I really enjoyed this novel due to its fast pace, but I don’t think it is a reread for me. As other reviewers have noted, you get told the ending at the very beginning. I also always figured that they would come out ok at the end, and thus the ending wasn’t as exciting as it could be. 4 stars from me.

Chicken House / Scholastic | March 2018 | AU$16.99 | paperback

Review: Mary Watson – The Wren Hunt

The Wren Hunt
Mary Watson

Wren is chased once a year for her name. This year, she pledges, is the year she will no longer be frightened, and the year she will no longer be caught. Instead, the leader takes a slice of her hair, claiming the literal kill for himself. But there are other plans afoot – does Wren have a different destiny to fulfill?

It took me a while to get into this novel. The start was very slow, despite a chase scene. But the lead up to the chase scene destroyed the anticipation. The rest of the novel wasn’t as predictable though (except the love interest). Oh! Twist! I did not see that coming. This novel stands alone quite nicely, but I can tell it has been set up for a sequel. What will Wren do next? What does it all mean?

I felt Wren’s character was nicely defined, and her behaviour was very consistent despite the different environments she found herself in. Like her family, I also felt that she should have done more snooping, but for her own benefit.

I felt confusion about what had come before with the artist and her mother? And I also didn’t get any conclusions about some of Wren’s visions. I also would have liked some more information about her mother. Finally, I wanted to know more about why these archives were actually formed.

As you can see, this novel left me with a lot of questions. At the same time, it did conclude. For the terrible beginning I’m giving this three stars, but I would consider reading the next novel if there is one.

Bloomsbury | 1st March 2018 | AU$14.99 | paperback

Review: Sara Bernard – Goodbye, Perfect

Goodbye, Perfect
Sara Bernard

Eden can depend on Bonnie for being there and holding her up. But now Bonnie has run away with her boyfriend, and Eden doesn’t know which secrets she should be keeping. As Bonnie gets further and further away from Eden, Eden is forced further into her lies. Can Eden bring Bonnie home without betraying her trust?

I’m not sure how convinced by this novel I was. I wanted to get more of a sense about Eden’s background, but I appreciated that the author didn’t want to make a big deal out of it, because the whole novel was really about how far you would go to keep a secret. There were touches of romance between Eden and Connor, and attempts to explore the sometimes complicated nature of families, but most of the novel was focussed on Eden’s stubbornness. I never felt a real breakthrough in her personality, despite the softening she displayed later.

There could have been more action to keep my attention in the first part of the novel. I never felt like Eden was going to tell, so I didn’t feel much of a problem as Bonnie got further and further away from her home. I got to page 36 and commented to my partner that nothing seemed to have happened yet.

Something that you are told about frequently in foster care training, or as a psychiatric patient, is that you have to warn people that you can’t actually keep things a secret – if keeping the secret will harm them, or others, you are required to tell someone who can act to keep the person in question safe. Teenagers find this hard to understand, probably due to peer pressure & influence.

I felt pretty betrayed at the end honestly. I don’t know how I felt about the whole Jack-Bonnie situation either. I agree that he was in a position of power, and that he shouldn’t have abused that power. How could Bonnie be so naive? She seemed to have plenty of book-smarts, but no common sense. Not to mention the lack of responsibility of the school. Oh! And I wasn’t convinced that Jack was ‘grooming’ Bonnie. I agree that he probably didn’t feel the same star-struck love for her, but he might not have been a paedophile. Consent is a tricky thing – make sure you are both consenting ADULTS before doing anything…dodgy.

I’m giving this 4 stars.

Pan Macmillan | 13th February 2018 | AU$16.99 | paperback

Review: Angelo Surmelis – the dangerous art of blending in

the dangerous art of blending in
Angelo Surmelis

Evan has been trying to fit into society and his family his whole life. But with violence at home, and the knowledge that he kissed a boy in summer at Bible camp, Evan is probably never going to manage it. As his life goes from barely tolerable to horrific, Evan has to decide how he is going to shape his life from here.

I didn’t understand the obsession with money, except as a way of having more control over Evan. Evan’s father seemed like a sensible enough man, even if he was trapped by what the Greek community told him was normal.

Oh Gods. This novel ripped me apart. While reading it, I felt like my heart was going to break, and when I finished it, I felt like I needed a cuddle from my own partner to remind me that not all of the world is filled with idiots.

This novel powerfully tackles domestic abuse (from a female perpetrator, no less) and coming out as gay in a community that doesn’t understand it. It brought back memories of my own high school years, and the experiences I have heard from many other Queer people. I loved the authenticity of this novel, which came from it being written based on the experiences of the author. That a person had to go through that as a child, well, it brings me to tears.

How much actually happens in this novel? I spent a lot of the novel anticipating what Evan’s mother was going to do to him next, and not as much paying attention to the action. That anticipation and climax is what lets me give this novel 5 stars.

Penguin Random House | 12th February 2018 | AU$19.99 | paperback

Review: Shivaun Plozza – Tin Heart

Tin Heart
Shivaun Plozza

Marlowe has been lucky enough to get the new heart she needed, but blending in with a campaigning vegan mother and a costume wearing little brother is almost impossible. Not to mention having a little crush and ongoing feud with the boy next door… it’s a pity he’s a butcher! Who is she now that she has someone else’s heart?

Plozza’s debut novel, Frankie, was excellent, so I was looking forward to another novel from her. I was not disappointed by this one! Marlowe isn’t what you expect out of a YA/teenage protagonist, and that refreshed what could have otherwise been ‘just another teenage romance’. Marlowe is struggling with real issues, just like Frankie, and Plozza’s dialogue and scene setting lights the way for an engrossing story.

I always wonder if authors feel like writing a parallel/sequel hybrid novel of the supporting characters. I’m sure that there could have been a lot more explored following this novel with Zan/Kari as a protagonist. Then again, I think I’d just like to see more unlikely protagonists. I’d be interested to see this author’s take on a same-sex relationship.

Another novel I recently read,also concerns a heart transplant person (funnily enough). In Out of Heart, the heart recipient comes and sits in the lounge room of the donor family. The heart is known by science to carry memories and inclinations with it, and it of course holds a lot of sentimental value for organ donors.

Anything that promotes organ donation is a positive for me. Funnily enough, my partner’s boss at work needed a lung transplant, and his gift of life happened during an unexpected rain storm too. There were two false alarms (the lungs died in transport) before he finally got his lungs. A warning to all – be careful driving during unexpected weather, else you may give up your life by accident, although you might save other people by doing so.

Get your hands on this novel for yourself or your YA reader. 5 stars from me, it’s going straight to my re-read list. Now, if only I had time…

Penguin Random House | March 2018 | paperback

Review: Gregg Hurwitz – Last Chance

Last Chance
Gregg Hurwitz

Chance Rain has made it through the last gasp of their plan to kill the Queen and free their home town. Too bad that the aliens can simply replace her with another. With the impregnated kids ready to hatch the next generation of invaders, Chance might be able to stop it – but it will cost him his life.

I received this, and then I literally gobbled it up for 3-4 hours. I knew that it would be good, having loved The Rains so much. I love the amount of thought that has gone into this novel. The stages of the invasion, the stages of the invaders themselves. The action happened so fast sometimes that I couldn’t breathe.

Alex, you two-timing teenager. I know there is an actual phenomenon of there being more marriage proposals after major catastrophes, due to emotions running high. But at the same time, Alex, didn’t anyone teach you about the rules of dating? You don’t shag two people at the same time, let alone two brothers.  

I hate to think of what happens next though. A population filled with kids no older than 18? All over the world? I mean, a lot have died off, but even the smart ones haven’t necessarily survived. Not to mention – how are all the countries to be saved, when originally the spread was via lots of meteors landing? So many skills would be lost.

I actually had this discussion with a Professor last night. Despite what the media says, many countries are now having negative population growth. This, combined with an aging population that needs more care, means that despite robots potentially taking over the world there will be plenty of jobs left. Humans have creativity, which might be our savior.

Go get your hands on this novel. I think I would even reread it, that’s how attached I got to the characters. 5 stars.

Penguin Random House | 2nd January 2018 | AU$19.99 | paperback

Review: Samira Ahmed – love, hate & other filters

love, hate & other filters
Samira Ahmed

Maya hides behind a lens, capturing life going by her. With her strict Indian Muslim parents guiding (and watching) her every step, is there any way she will be able to follow her own passion?

Hmm, where to start with this novel. Maya had a unique viewpoint, but one that anyone could relate with. We all have friends that our parents hate, or hobbies that they don’t approve of, and of course bullying to contend with. I started empathizing with Maya so much that at one point of the novel I was really worried for her safety!

This reminded me strongly of the vegan warrior with the butcher living next door (again, I can’t remember the name of this…). Maya should never fall for a non-religious football jock… But she does, of course! I wanted her to get the things she wanted out of life, even if it seemed impossible

If you loved 10 Things I Hate About Me or When Michael Met Mina, you will likely also love this novel. This novel is a worthy addition to the fears that Muslim people face around the world when they are constantly, unfairly, being tagged with the title of ‘Terrorist’. If you would rather read slightly less non-fiction, but still with a Muslim protagonist, may I also suggest The Truth About Peacock Blue or A Different Kind of Daughter?

I’m giving this 4 stars. Not enough intrigue for 5 stars, but an enthralling one nevertheless.

Allen & Unwin | 24th January 2018 | AU$19.99 | paperback

Review: Anne Cassidy – NO VIRGIN

NO VIRGIN
Anne Cassidy

Stacey Woods has been emotionally raped by someone she trusted. She has also been physically raped by his brother. After the perpetrators try to write it off as ‘adult fun’ she knows that she needs to do something to prevent others being hurt. This novel is her story.

Most people will know Anne Cassidy from Looking for JJ, which I gave 4 stars. The second in the series, Finding Jennifer Jones, I gave 3 stars to. I feel like such a betrayer for not really loving all of the writing, and not loving NO VIRGIN either. I can’t believe that this has a second novel. Perhaps the fact is that Anne Cassidy’s writing style doesn’t agree with me, no matter how compelling a circumstance she puts her characters in.

Shouldn’t I have more respect and love for a character who decides to get off her butt (eventually) and do something about having been raped? Rape is still something where the statistics are woefully under-reported. What I hate is that it’s almost always men raping women, and very few cases of same sex, or female perpetrator abuse. This novel doesn’t fail there for me, it fails because I never connected with Stacey or her best friend and I always felt distanced from the situation. Distancing yourself from reality is often a response to rape, and this could have been a deliberate choice by the author, but for me, it just didn’t work.

I am sure this is the third time I have reviewed NO VIRGIN (WordPress seemed to eat the other two?!?). I now can’t remember nearly enough details to properly review the novel. However, what I do remember is that it felt unsatisfying and upsetting, but not in a redeeming manner. 3 stars because I finished it, but it will be leaving the house ASAP.

Allen & Unwin | 3rd January 2017 | AU$16.99 | paperback