Posts Tagged ‘book recommendation’

Book Club Pick: April 2018

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Book Details:

Title: Breathing Underwater

Author: Alex Flinn

Series: Sequel – Diva (2006)

Country: United States of America

Publisher: HarperCollins

First Published: 2001

Pages: 263

Publisher Description:

To his friends, popular and handsome sixteen-year-old Nick Andreas has led a charmed life. But the guys in Nick’s anger management class know differently. So does his ex-girlfriend Caitlin. Now it looks like the only person who doesn’t realize just how from perfect Nick’s life has become is Nick himself.

Review:

Sixteen-year-old Miami high school honour student Nick Andreas is in court following an assault on his former girlfriend Caitlin McCourt.

The judge grants a request for restraining order and orders Nick to attend six months counselling, classes on family violence and dealing with anger. She also orders Nick to keep a journal writing five hundred words each week detailing what happened between him and Caitlin from the first time he saw her until his day in court.

The novel follows Nick in present day as he attends a family violence class, returns to school where he ostracised by fellow students, and his home life with his father. It is also interspersed with Nick’s journal entries about his past relationship with Caitlin.

It is interesting that the novel is written as a first person narrative from the perpetrator’s point-of-view rather than the victim.

Nick’s own father is abusive both physically and psychologically. In this the novel is addressing the idea about the idea of circle of domestic violence. Nick is a victim of his father’s abuse, and while at times Flinn offers a sympathetic portrayal of Nick it is clear that he is responsible for his own actions.

It also explores of how difficult it can be to leave an abusive and controlling relationship. Although Caitlin does eventually remove herself from the situation and seek help.

A tragic event leads Nick to understand and accept his behaviour and make attempts to seriously seek help to change.

There are a few moments that don’t ring quite true. For example, the interaction between Judge Lehman and Nick is cliche.

This was Flinn’s debut novel. She has gone onto write many other realistic fiction novels, but she is probably better known for her modern fairytale retellings, including Beastly (2007, ‘Beauty and the Beast’), A Kiss in Time (2009, ‘Sleeping Beauty’), and Towering (2012, ‘Rapunzel’).

Click here to read my review on Cloaked, a mash up / modern retelling of The Frog Prince, The Elves and the ShoemakerThe Six SwansThe Golden BirdThe Valiant TailorThe Salad, and The Fisherman and His Wife.

In 2006 Flinn released a sequel Diva, which followed Caitlin as she puts her relationship with Nick behind her.

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Links:

Alex Flinn Official Website

Alex Flinn on Twitter

Alex Flinn on Facebook

 

Source: I borrowed this book from my public library.

Book Club Pick: February 2018

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Book Details:

Title: Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment

Author: James Patterson

Series: Maximum Ride series (Book #1)

Country: United States of America

Publisher: Little, Brown and Company – Hachette Book Group

First Published: 2005

Pages: 432 (hardback); 448 (paperback)

Publisher’s Description:

Her full name is Maximum Ride. And the girl can fly.

Max’s Missions:

  • Protect the rest of her gang – Fang, Iggy, Nudge, the Gasman, and Angel – from a pack of half-wolf, half-humans with a taste for flying humans.
  • Rescue Angel from a crew of wack-job kidnappers.
  • Infiltrate a secret facility to track down her friends’ missing parents.
  • Get revenge on the one person she thought she could trust.
  • Discover the best chocolate chip cookie in New York City.
  • Save the whole world, for crying out loud.

Not necessarily in that order, of course.

Review:

The novel follows six children – Max, Fang, Iggy, Nudge, the Gassman and Angel, who have escaped a facility known as ‘The School’. It is here that genetic experiments were performed on the children. They were injected with avian DNA (98% human; 2% bird), meaning that each child has wings and is able to fly.

The group is being hunted by the Erasers, a group of half human / wolf mutants from The School. When the youngest Angel (age 6) is captured the rest of the group must save her.

14 year-old Max is the leader of the group and novel is written from her point-of-view. The novel uses a third person perspective when the Max is not present.

The chapters are very short (2-5 pages) making it an easy read. The short chapters also give the narrative a fast-paced, action-packed feel.

While there is a lot action there is very little character development, and the ending leaves a lot of unanswered questions to be explored over the series.

A film adaptation was released in 2016.

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Links:

James Patterson Official Website

James Patterson on Facebook

James Patterson on Twitter

James Patterson on Instagram

 

Source: I borrowed this book from my public library.

Book Club Pick: January 2018

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Book Details:

Title: American Street

Author: Ibi Zoboi

Series: Stand alone novel

Country: United States of America

Publisher: Balzar + Bray, imprint of HarperCollins Publishers

First Published: 2017

Pages: 324

Publisher’s Description:

On the corner of American Street and Joy Road, Fabiola Toussaint thought she would finally find une belle vie – a good life.

But after they leave Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Fabiola’s mother is detained by U.S. immigration, leaving Fabiola to navigate her loud American cousins, Chantal, Donna, and Princess; the grittiness of Detroit’s west side; a new school; and a surprising romance, all on her own.

Just as she finds her footing in this strange new world, a dangerous proposition presents itself, and Fabiola soon realizes that freedom comes at a cost. Trapped at the crossroads of an impossible choice, will she pay the price for the American dream.

In her stunning debut, Pushcart-nominated author Ibi Zoboi draws on her own experiences as a young Haitian immigrant, infusing this lyrical exploration of America with magical realism and Vodou culture. Unflinching yet filled with joy, American Street is an evocative and powerful coming-of-age story.

Review:

The novel, which is narrated by sixteen-year-old Fabiola Toussaint opens with her arriving in New York with her mother. They are immigrating to the United States Fabiola’s birthplace from Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

Fabiola’s mother is detained by immigration at the airport and Fabiola has to travel onto Detroit by herself. There she meets her Aunt Jo and her three cousins Chantal (Chant), Primadonna (Donna) and Princess (Pri).

Later Fabiola learns that they plan to deport her mother back to Haiti. She meets Detective Shawna Stevens from the Grosse Pointe Park Police Department who offers to help release her mother into the States if she helps with a police investigation.

American Street follows Fabiola’s journey in Detroit as she adjusts to life in America with a new school, new friends, and a new romance.

Although the novel is set in present day it is based on Zoboi’s own experiences as a Haitian immigrant in Bushwich, Brooklyn in the 1980s.

Links:

Ibi Zoboi Official Website

Ibi Zoboi on Facebook

Ibi Zoboi on Twitter

Ibi Zoboi on Instagram

 

Source: I borrowed this book from my public library.

Book Club Pick: December 2017

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Book Details:

Title: What Light

Author: Jay Asher

Series: Stand alone novel

Country: United States of America

Publisher: Razorbill, imprint of Penguin Random House

First Published: 2016

Pages: 251

Publisher’s Description:

Sierra’s family runs a Christmas tree farm in Oregon. It’s bucolic setting for a girl to grow up in, except for every year, they back up and move to California to set up there Christmas tree lot for the season. So Sierra lives two lives: her life in Oregon and her life at Christmas. And always leaving one always means missing the other.

Until this particular Christmas, when Sierra meets Caleb, and one life eclipses the other. By reputation, Caleb is not your perfect guy: years ago, he made an enormous mistake and has been paying for it ever since. Sierra sees beyond Caleb’s past and becomes determined to help him find forgiveness and, maybe, redemption. But as disapproval, misconceptions, and suspicions swirl around them, Caleb and Sierra can’t help but wonder if love really is enough to overcome every obstacle…

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Review:

Jay Asher’s holiday romance What Light is a light read (pun intended) for the festive season.

The novel is narrated by Oregon teenager Sierra, whose family own a Christmas tree farm. Every year since she was a baby her family have shifted south to a California town from Thanksgiving until after Christmas to sell their Christmas trees.

Sierra has to leave behind her Oregon friends Rachel and Elizabeth. But for one month of the year she gets to see her holiday friend Heather.

Business is struggling and Sierra has overheard her parents discussing this being their last season in California.

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Sierra meets Caleb, a cute messy-haired boy with perfect dimples. Caleb has a dark past, which causes Sierra’s parents concern. They are also worried about Sierra being heartbroken when they have to return to Oregon.

Despite the rumours surrounding Caleb, Sierra is drawn to him and sees the good in him.

Similar to Asher’s successful Thirteen Reasons Why, the novel touches on how one moment can change a family and the effect that resulting rumours and gossip can have. What Light is a more optimistic story though.

Fans of Thirteen Reasons Why are best not to compare the two novels as they maybe disappointed as What Light is quite bland in comparison. Remember it is a light holiday romance.

It has all the elements of the holiday season – Thanksgiving, a Christmas Parade, Christmas Eve Mass, cookies, candy cane stirred hot chocolates, Christmas sweaters, gift giving, charity, and visits to Santa at the mall.

This is a light read to get one in the mood for Christmas.

 

Click here to read by review of Let it Snow: Three Holiday Romances by John Green, Lauren Myracle, and Maureen Johnson.

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Links:

Jay Asher Official Blog

Jay Asher on Facebook

Jay Asher on Twitter

Jay Asher on Instagram

 

Source: I borrowed this book from my public library.

Book Club Pick: November 2017

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Book Details:

Title: Turtles All the Way Down

Author: John Green

Series: Stand alone novel

Country: United States of America

Publisher: Dutton Books, Penguin Random House

First Published: 2017

Pages: 286

Publisher’s Description:

Sixteen-year-old Aza never intended to pursue the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, but there’s a hundred-thousand-dollar reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate. So together they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Russell Pickett’s son, Davis.

Aza is trying. She is trying to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student and maybe even a good detective, while also living with the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts.

Review:

Turtles All the Way Down is John Green’s first YA novel since his bestseller The Fault in our Stars in 2012.

The novel is narrated by sixteen-year-old Indianapolis teenager Aza Holmes. Aza suffers from anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). She is supported by her high school Maths teacher mother, her therapist Dr. Karen Singh, and her sci-fi obsessed best friend Daisy Ramirez (who writes Star Wars fan fiction).

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As the novel opens the big news story in Aza’s town is the disappearance of Russell Pickett, a billionaire who went missing the night before police raided his home in connection with bribery and fraud charges. There is a $100,000 reward for information.

Daisy convinces Aza that they should investigate and get the reward. Aza knows Pickett’s eldest son Davis. In fifth and sixth grade the pair attended Camp Spero, a summer camp for grieving children. Aza had lost her father and Davis his mother.

Pickett was the absent father even when he was around. He planned to bequeath his estate to his pet Tuatara.

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Tuatara – native to New Zealand (shout out to my home country!)

While the novel pays some attention to the mystery of Russell Pickett’s disappearance the focus is on Aza’s mental health issues. John Green himself suffers from OCD. The term obsessive compulsive disorder is never used; rather Green explores the condition describing it from Aza’s prospective.

Turtles All the Way Down is an intelligent, sometimes witty, sometimes depressing, and sometimes hopeful exploration of the mental health problems that many young people today sadly struggle with.

Links:

John Green Official Website

John Green on Facebook

John Green on Twitter

John Green on Instagram

Vlogbrothers YouTube Channel (with brother Hank Green)

 

Source: I borrowed this book from my public library.

 

Click here for my review of John’s Green’s The Fault in Our Stars

Click here for my review of John Green’s Paper Towns

Click here for my review of John Green’s Let it Snow: Three Holiday Romances (with Maureen Johnson & Lauren Myracle)

Book Club Pick: October 2017

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Title: The Fault in Our Stars

Author: John Green

Series: Stand alone novel

Country: United States of America

Publisher: Dutton Books, Penguin Group

First Published: 2012

Pages: 313

Publisher’s Description:

Despite the tumour-shrinking medical miracle that has brought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten.

Insightful, bold, irreverant, and raw, The Fault in Our Stars brilliantly explores the funny, thrilling, and tragic business of being alive and in love.

Review:

John Green’s latest novel Turtles All The Way Down is due out this month. So for this month’s book club pick I selected his previous published novel The Fault in Our Stars.

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The narrator of The Fault in Our Stars is sixteen-year-old Hazel Grace Lancaster, who has lung cancer.

At her mother’s request Hazel attends a cancer support group for young adults in a local church. She only attends to please her mother. That is until she meets seventeen-year-old Augustus Waters, a cancer survivor whose osteosarcoma has caused him to lose his right leg.

Augustus is at the meeting to support his friend Isaac, who is mentally preparing himself for his upcoming surgery to have his remaining eye removed due to cancer.

Hazel and Augustus strike up bond. Hazel accompanies Augustus to his place to watch V for Vendetta (2005), so Hazel can see her doppelgänger Natalie Portman. They also exchange their favourite books. Augustus gives Hazel The Price of Dawn based on his favourite video game and Hazel gives him An Imperial Infliction.

An Imperial Infliction by Peter Van Houten is a novel that follows a teenage girl Anna who has a rare blood cancer. Augustus is frustrated that the novel ends mid sentence without a satisfactory conclusion. This ending suggests that Anna got too sick to finish or passed away before completing the story.

Hazel has written many letters to Van Houten via his publisher but she has never received a response. Van Houten has not published since and the left the States for the Netherlands.

Augustus contacts Van Houten’s assistant and she puts them in touch with Van Houten and they correspond by email. Van Houten explains he can only answer Hazel’s questions in person.

Augustus uses his wish from the The Genie Foundation and surprises Hazel with a trip to Amsterdam to meet the reclusive author. The trip unfortunately does not go to plan.

The novel is witty and as one would expect from a novel about cancer it is heartbreaking.

The title of the novel is inspired by a line from William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, in which Cassius says to Brutus “The fault, dear Brutus is not in our stars, But in ourselves, that we are underlings.” (I, ii, 140-141). Similarly the title An Imperial Infliction comes from a poem by Emily Dickinson.

20th Century Fox optioned the rights to the novel upon its release and a film adaptation directed by Josh Boone, starring Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, Nat Wolff, Laura Dern and Willem Dafoe, was released in 2014.

Links:

John Green Official Website

John Green on Facebook

John Green on Twitter

John Green on Instagram

Vlogbrothers YouTube Channel (with brother Hank Green)

 

Source: I borrowed this book from my public library.

 

Click here for my review of John Green’s Paper Towns

Click here for my review of John Green’s Let it Snow: Three Holiday Romances (with Maureen Johnson & Lauren Myracle)

 

Book Club Pick: September 2017

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Title: Words in deep blue

Author: Cath Crowley

Series: Stand alone novel

Country: Australia

Publisher: Pan Macmillan Australia

First Published: 2016

Pages: 349

Publisher’s Description:

Second-hand bookshops are full of mysteries

This is a love story.

It’s the story of Howling Books, where readers write letters to strangers, to lovers, to poets.

It’s the story of Henry Jones and Rachel Sweetie. They were best friends once, before Rachel moved to the sea.

Now, she’s back, working at the bookstore, grieving for her brother Cal. She’s looking for the future in the books people love, and the words they leave behind.

Sometimes you need the poets

Review:

Eighteen-year-old Rachel Sweetie’s brother Cal tragically drowned in the ocean ten months ago and her life has spiralled out of control. Rachel lost her way and subsequently failed her final year at school, pushed friends and her boyfriend away.

She decides to get her life back on track and returns to Melbourne, after three years to where she grew up, to live with her aunt. Rachel takes a job at her former best friend Henry Jones’ family’s second-hand book store, Howling Books. Her job is to catalogue the bookstore’s Letter Library.

The Letter Library is a collection of books that are not for sale that are kept permanently in the store. Customers can write notes in the margins, underline favourite passages, and leave letters between the pages. The Letter Library was probably my favourite part of the book – do these actually exist?

Poor Henry is having dramas of his own. His on-again-off-again girlfriend Amy has dumped him ahead of a planned round-the-world trip and his mother would like to sell the bookstore, which is his home.

To be honest I didn’t really like the character of Henry. I found him to be a bit self-centered, self-absorbed etc.

My favourite character was George, Henry’s younger sister and I was actually more interested in her budding romance than Henry or Rachel’s.

Similar to Crowley’s novel Graffiti Moon, the narrative is told in first person – alternating between Rachel and Henry. It also includes letters found in the pages of the Letter Library.

Graffiti Moon was my book club pick for January 2015. Click here to read my review.

 

Links:

Cath Crowley Official Website

Cath Crowley on Twitter

Cath Crowley on Facebook

Cath Crowley on Tumblr

 

Source: I was given a free copy of this book at YA Day, Sydney Writers Festival 2017.

P.S. You can read about my experience at YA Day, Sydney Writers Festival 2017 here.