Book Club Pick: June 2020

Artemis-Fowl-Cover

Title: Artemis Fowl

Author: Eoin Colfer

Series: Book #1

Country: Ireland

Publisher: Viking Press

First Published: 2001

Pages: 288

Publisher Description:

Twelve-year-old criminal mastermind Artemis Fowl has discovered a world below ground of armed and dangerous–and extremely high-tech–fairies. He kidnaps one of them, Holly Short, and holds her for ransom in an effort to restore his family’s fortune. But he may have underestimated the fairies’ powers. Is he about to trigger a cross-species war?

Review:

Artemis Fowl: The Movie will drop on the Disney+ streaming service on June 12th, so now is the perfect time to take a look at the first book in the eight book fantasy series.

The story follows the adventures of Artemis Fowl, a 12-year-old old criminal mastermind, who kidnaps Holly Short, an elf and captain of LEPRecon (Lower Elements Police Reconnaissance force) for a ransom of fairy gold.

Although Artemis is the protagonist of the novel, he is no hero – he is an antihero. He is not a villain in the traditional sense, but is far from being good – it is difficult to justify his actions at times.

The novel has a third-person narrative, and switches from following the human characters to following the magical creatures.

Artemis Fowl is often shelved in the children’s fiction, although it is probably more suitable as middle grade novel due to its action and violence.

 

 

Links:

Eoin Colfer Official Website

Eoin Colfer on Twitter

Eoin Colfer on Instagram

Eoin Colfer on Facebook

Eoin Colfer on YouTube

 

I borrowed this audio book from my public library.

Book Club Pick: May 2020

The-Cemetery-Boys

Title: The Cemetery Boys

Author: Heather Brewer (Z Brewer)

Series: Stand alone novel

Country: United States of America

Publisher: HarperTeen

First Published: 2015

Pages: 288 pages

Publisher Description:

When Stephen’s dad says they’re moving. Stephen knows it’s pointless to argue. They’re broke from paying Mom’s hospital bills, and now the only option left is to live with Stephen’s grandmother in Spencer, a backward small town that’s like something out of The Twilight Zone. Stephen’s summer starts looking up when he befriends punk girl Cara and her charismatic twin brother, Devon. Only, as the summer presses on and harmless nights hanging out in the cemetery take a darker turn, Stephen starts to suspect that Devon is less a friend than a leader. And he might be leading them to a very sinister end…

Review:

Welcome-Spencer

Seventeen-year-old Stephen and his father move from Denver, Colorado to his father’s small hometown of Spencer, Michigan (population 814) to live with his grandmother. Stephen’s mother had been committed to a mental health facility in Denver and his father was struggling to pay their bills hence their move to Spencer.

Shortly after arriving in town Stephen meets mysterious twins Cara and Devon.

As you can expect Stephen is instantly attracted to Cara the punk girl who ‘definitely didn’t look like a farmer’s daughter.’

Stephen is also drawn to Cara’s charismatic but creepy twin brother Devon, who befriends him and invites him to hang out a cemetery at night, which Devon and his friends call the Playground.

Stephen later learns of an urban legend that all the bad things that have happened in Spencer’s history can be attributed to these dark winged creatures. Very Stephen King-esque! Do Devon and his friends really believe this legend?

Cemetery-Boys-Cover-2

Another version of The Cemetery Boys

I do have to warn that the novel’s depiction of mental illness tends to play into  problematic stereotypes, so some readers may take issue with this.

Brewer does a good job of writing Stephen’s first-person-narrative. Some reviewers have not appreciated his sarcastic, sullen, selfish voice – but I found it refreshing and real, maybe reflecting my own former inner teen self.

The novel has a nostalgic, small-town American horror movie vibe to it. Don’t expect major character development, there is the twist at the end that experienced mystery readers will probably pick.

Links:

Z Brewer Official Website

Z Brewer on Twitter

Z Brewer on Instagram

Z Brewer on YouTube

 

I borrowed this book from my public library.

Book Club Pick: April 2020

On-The-Come-Up

Title: On the Come Up

Author: Angie Thomas

Series: Stand alone novel

Country: United States of America

Publisher: Walker Books

First Published: 2019

Pages: 464 pages

Publisher Description:

Sixteen-year-old Bri wants to be one of the greatest rappers of all time. It’s hard to get your come up, through, when you’re labeled “trouble” at school and your fridge at home is empty after your mom loses her job. But Bri’s success is all that stands between her family and homelessness, so she doesn’t just want to make it – she has to.
Even if it means becoming exactly what the public expects her to be.

Review:

Sixteen-year-old Brianna ‘Bri’ Jackson attends a public arts school and is an inspiring rapper. Her father Lawless, an underground rapper, was shot dead by a rival gang when she was a child. Bri is raised by her mother Jay, a recovering drug addict who has been clean for eight years. Jay is behind with the rent and struggling to put food on the table.

Bri is also supported by Aunt Pooh, a gang member and drug dealer, and her older brother Trey, the college-educated golden boy of family, who despite his education is unable to find a good job.

There are racial tensions at her school. There is an incident where two security officers throw Bri to the ground assuming she is a drug dealer. Bri puts her frustration and anger about the injustice black students face into a rap song, which goes viral.

Bri wins a rap battle at a local hip-hop venue. Will this be her breakout moment and her chance to score her a recording contract?

On the Come Up, is set in Garden Heights, the same predominantly black and poor neigbourhood as Thomas’ debut novel The Hate U Give. It is not a sequel, but takes places following the events of The Hate U Give.

Thomas herself was rapper as teenage and when I read Bri’s raps I could her voice clearly. I usually dislike when authors write lyrics into novels, but Thomas nails it.

On the Come Up is a compelling coming-of-age story about young black woman finding her voice.

 

Click here to read my review of Thomas’ debut novel The Hate U Give.

 

Links:

Angie Thomas Official Website

Angie Thomas on Twitter

Angie Thomas on Instagram

Angie Thomas on Facebook

 

I borrowed this book from my public library.

Book Club Pick: March 2020

Dear-Evan-Hansen-The-Novel

Title: Dear Evan Hansen

Author: Val Emmich with Steven Levenson, Benj Pasek, and Justin Paul

Series: Stand alone novel

Country: United States of America

Publisher: Penguin Books

First Published: 2018

Pages: 358

Publisher Description:

When high school senior Evan Hansen is accidentally pulled into a family’s grief over the loss of their son, all he has to do is stick to a lie he never told, that the notoriously troubled Connor Murphy was his secret best friend.

Suddenly, Evan isn’t invisible anymore. And Connor’s parents have taken him in like he was their own, desperate to know more about their enigmatic son. Evan knows that what he’s doing can’t be right – but he’s helping people, how wrong can it be?

Dear Evan Hansen is a funny, profound and utterly compelling story of fitting in and growing up, for anyone who’s ever felt like an outsider.

Review:

Broadway musical adaptations of novels are not uncommon, but with Dear Evan Hansen: The Novel it is the other way around. It is a stage-to-page adaptation of the 2015 Off-Broadway and 2016 Broadway hit musical that was nominated for nine Tony Awards, winning six, including Best Musical and Best Score.

Anxious high school senior Evan Hansen’s therapist Dr. Sherman has encouraged Evan to write a letter to himself each day to reframe his thinking to show how good his day will be.

Connor Murphy, finds one of these Dear Evan Hansen letters. A few days later Connor takes him own life and his parents Larry and Cynthia find the letter believing it to be a suicide note addressed to Evan.

Evan lets Larry and Cynthia believe that he and Connor are secretly friends. He soon finds himself caught up in a web of lies as he has to produce fake emails to show their friendship.

The novel is told first-person by Evan with some posthumous narration by Connor.

Dear Evan Hansen is a musical that is on my wish list. I would be interested to know what those who have seen the show think of the book!

 

Links:

Val Emmich Official Website

Val Emmich on Twitter

Val Emmich on Instagram

Val Emmich on YouTube

 

Official Website for Dear Evan Hansen | The Musical

 

I borrowed this book from my public library.

Book Club Pick: February 2020

Between Us

Title: Between Us

Author: Clare Atkins

Series: Stand alone novel

Country: Australia

Publisher: Black Inc

First Published: 2018

Pages: 275

Publisher Description:

Ana is an Iranian asylum seeker who is only allowed out of detention to attend school. There she meets Jono, who is dealing with his own problems: his mum has walked out, his sister has gone away to uni and he’s been left alone with his Vietnamese father, Kenny.

Kenny is trying to work out the rules his new job as a guard at the Wickham Point Detention Centre. He tells Ana she should look out for Jono at school but soon regrets this decision: who is she really? What is her story? Is she a genuine refugee or a queue jumper? As Ana and Jono grow closer, Kenny spirals into mistrust and suspicion…

 

Review:

Ana (Anahita) is a fifteen-year-old Iranian asylum seeker who attends high school in Darwin, Australia. At the end of each school days she returns to Wickham Point Detention Centre, where she is being held with her three-year-old brother and pregnant mother.

At school Ana meets Jono, a sixteen-year-old half Australian, half Vietnamese boy, whose father Kenny is a guard at the detention centre. Kenny born in Vietnam, was sponsored out to Australia by his older sister, who was one of the first Vietnamese refugees to settle in Australia.

Jono is struggling to find his place in the world after his mother walked out, his girlfriend dumped him, and his sister left for university. The relationship with his father strained.

Atkins similar to Jono had an Australian mother and a Vietnamese father, so grew up living between two cultures.

The novel is told from the points of view of Ana, Jono and Kenny, each alternating chapters as narrator. Jono’s opening chapters are written in verse, often with one word per line, until he meets Ana. Kenny’s adult voice added a fresh perspective to what would otherwise have been a girl-boy narration.

Between Us is an insightful and complex exploration of the refugee situation in Australia.

 

Links:

Clare Atkins Official Website

 

 

I borrowed this book from my public library.

Book Club Pick: January 2020

Alex in Wonderland

Title: Alex in Wonderland

Author: Simon James Green

Series: Stand alone novel

Country: United Kingdom

Publisher: Scholastic

First Published: 2019

Pages: 400 pages

Publisher Description:

Socially awkward Alex is used to disappointment, and this summer is looking to be his sorriest yet.

When he unexpectedly lands a job at Wonderland, a run-down amusement arcade, he starts making new friends. It looks like his bad luck is about to change.

But in Wonderland nothing is quite what it seems.

And in life and love, sometimes you have to make your own luck.

Review:

Awkwardly shy sixteen-year-old Alex’s only two friends Will and Alice, who are now dating, have abandoned him for the summer.

Kendra, Alex’s dad’s girlfriend (who he views as a wicked stepmother) bullies him into finding a job for the summer. After an accident at Wonderland, a run-down waterfront amusement park, Alex secures a summer job there. Wonderland owner Maggie gives Alex a job on the condition he doesn’t sue her over his accident.

Despite giving the appearance that she hates teenagers Maggie has a soft spot for Alex.

At Wonderland Alex’s co-workers are a weird bunch of teenage misfits. He is befriended by Efia and Ben. Alex develops a crush on Ben, unfortunately he has a girlfriend Bella, who to make matters worse in lovely and definitely hard to hate.

There is also another potential suitor in the form of Caleb aka Lemon Boy, a young hunky lemonade seller, who saves Alex from drowning after he falls off the pier dressed in a pink flamingo costume – another awkward Alex moment – there are plenty.

Wonderland is in financial trouble, so Alex, Efia and Ben set out to revamp and save the amusement park.

When mysterious and threatening notes begin to appear our Scooby-Doo gang set out to investigate. I worked out who was behind the notes and other threatening incidents before the reveal, but didn’t mind as the mystery is only a sub-plot in the story.

 

Links:

Simon James Green Official Website

Simon James Green on Twitter

Simon James Green on Instagram

 

Source: I borrowed this book from my public library.

Book Club Pick: December 2019

DashAndLily

Title: Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares

Author: David Levithan & Rachel Cohn

Series: Dash and Lily series (Book #1)

Country: United States of America

Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers

First Published: 2010

Pages: 309

Publisher Description:

At the urge of her lucky-in-love brother, sixteen-year-old Lily has left a red notebook full of dares on her favourite bookshop shelf, waiting for just the right guy to come along and accept. Curious, snarky Dash isn’t one to back down from a challenge – and the Book of Dares is the perfect distraction he’s been looking for.

As they send each other on a scavenger hunt across Manhattan, they’re falling for each other on paper. But finding out if their real selves share their on-page chemistry could be the biggest dare yet…

Review:

I have always wanted to read this in the lead-up to the festive season and I recently saw a good quality second-hand copy for $1 so I snapped it up.

It’s Christmas time in New York City and Dash is an orphan for the holidays. He has told each of his divorced parents that he staying with the other, allowing them to be out of town, and for him to be alone at Christmas. Not that Dash likes Christmas he loathes it.

Saks

Saks Fifth Avenue, Christmas 2012

Dash enjoys his alone time browsing the shelves of his favourite bookstore, The Strand. It is there that he finds a red moleskin notebook among the J.D. Salinger books with the words ‘do you dare’ on the cover.

The notebook sends Dash on a scavenger hunt through the bookstore, which includes a dare to ask for a copy of Fat Hoochie Prom Queen from the counter.

Sixteen-year-old idealistic Christmas-loving Lily has put the scavenger hunt together with her older brother Langston and his boyfriend Benny to help her find a boy. The question though is Dash that boy? – it is clear Dash and Lily are polar opposites.

Dash follows the instructions and the two characters converse using the notebook. Levithan writes Dash’s perspective and Cohn writes Lily’s, alternating chapters.

The book features many Christmas traditions and New York locations including a visit to Macy’s Santa Claus, Madame Tussauds Wax Museum, and FAO Schwarz.

A sequel The Twelve Days of Dash & Lily was released in 2016.

Netflix announced it October an eight episode adaptation starring Austin Abrams as Dash and Midori Francis as Lily. The show will be adapted by Joe Tracz (who adapted A Series of Unfortunate Events for Netflix). The series is expected to screen in 2020.

If you are looking for more holiday reads please check out my past Christmas themed book reviews – Born Scared by Kevin Brooks, What Light by Jay Asher and Let it Snow by Maureen Johnson, John Green & Lauren Myracle

 

Click here to read my review of David Levithan & Rachel Cohn’s first collaboration, Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist

Click here to read my review of David Levithan’s solo novel Boy Meets Boy

Click here to read my review of David Levithan’s solo novel Two Boys Kissing 

Click here to read my review of David Levithan’s collaboration with John Green, Will Grayson, Will Grayson

 

Links:

David Levithan Official Website

David Levithan on Facebook

David Levithan on Twitter

 

Rachel Cohn Official Website

Rachel Cohn on Facebook

Rachel Cohn on Twitter

Rachel Cohn on Instagram

 

Source: I purchased a copy of this book.