Posts Tagged ‘Book review’

Book Club Pick: June 2017

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Book Details:

Title: Illuminae

Author: Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

Series: The Illuminae Files series

Country: United States of America

Publisher: Alfred A. Knoff

First Published: 2015

Pages: 599

Publisher’s Description:

This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do. This afternoon, her planet was invaded.

The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to fight their way onto one of the evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.

But their problems are just getting started. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results; the fleet’s AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady hacks into a tangled web of data to find the truth, it’s clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: the ex-boyfriend she swore she’d never speak to again!

BRIEFING NOTE: Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents—including emails, schematics, military files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more—Illuminae is the first book in a heart-stopping, high-octane trilogy about lives interrupted, the price of truth, and the courage of everyday heroes.

Review:

The novel is set in the year 2575 and focuses on seventeen-year-old Kady Grant and her ex-boyfriend Ezra Mason.

Kady and Ezra are two high school students living on Kerenza. After their plant is attacked the two teens make it out aboard two rescue ships. Kady is onboard the Hypatia and Ezra on the Alexander.

The stakes are high – the Lincoln, an enemy warship is in hot pursuit; the AI on the Hypatia appears to be controlling the ship; the crew onboard the Copernicus are infected by a virus and have launched escape pods towards the Alexander.

At 599 pages Illuminae may appear as a big book. This may intimidate some reluctant readers, but just as one should not judge a book by its cover, one should not judge it by its size.

The novel is written in found footage or epistolary style, in that it is made up of a collection of classified documents that have been retrieved by hacking. This includes emails, transcripts, reports, classified files, instant chat messages, diagrams and artwork. Many of the pages have only have a few words and there are a few blank pages, so it is quite quick to read once you get use to the style.

It is a very visual book.

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There is a lot of violence present in the novel but it is not overly graphic. Coarse language in the ‘documents’ has been blocked out with black, although it possible to guess the swear words by the size of the black and the context in which it appears.

The sequel Gemina was released in October 2016 and the third book Obsidio is due out early next year.

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Brad Pitt’s production company Plan B Entertainment, announced in November 2015 that they had secured the film rights.

I saw Amie Kaufman, co-author of the Illuminae, recently at All Day YA at the Sydney Writers’ Festival. Click here to read my recap on the event.

Links:

Amie Kaufman

Amie Kaufman Official Website

Amie Kaufman on Facebook

Amie Kaufman on Twitter

Amie Kaufman on Instagram

Jay Kristoff

Jay Kristoff Official Website

Jay Kristoff on Facebook

Jay Kristoff on Twitter

Jay Kristoff on Instagram

 

Source: I borrowed this book from my public library.

Book Club Pick: May 2017

BugsWhitiHereaka

Book Details:

Title: Bugs

Author: Whiti Hereaka

Series: Stand alone novel

Country: New Zealand

Publisher: Huia Publishers

First Published: 2013

Pages: 242

Publisher’s Description:

Meets Bugs: smart, sarcastic, sixteen and stuck in a small town without a driver’s licence.

Bugs has been best mates with Jez forever; they’re always been Jez and Bugs, Bugs and Jez. That is until Stone Cold, the new girl arrives in town. The year was already going to be a challenge without adding spoilt, bitchy Stone Cold to the mix. Why would anyone want to be mates with her?

But things are never as they seem on the surface – not the picture-perfect postcard views of Taupo, not the drama-queen antics of Stone Cold, not the quiet brooding of Jez. Not even Bugs.

Now, as the future closes in, each will struggle with expectations: either trying to live up to them or trying to live them down.

Review:

The central character and narrator is Bugs, a sixteen-year-old Māori girl that has aspirations to study law at university.

Bugs’ best friend is Jez. Both are children of solo mothers. Bugs’ mother is hard working and works double shifts as a cleaner at a hotel to provide a better life for Bugs. Jez’s mother on the other hand can be neglectful and has had a succession of dead-end boyfriends, including some who have been abusive to Jez.

It has always been just Bugs and Jez that is until Charmaine arrives in town. Jez quickly takes a shine to Charmaine and Bugs becomes her friend by default. Although if it wasn’t for Jez Bugs wouldn’t want anything to do with Charmaine, whom she nicknames Stone Cold. She thinks of her as spoilt and does not like how Charmaine does not appreciate how privileged she is.

The novel is set in Taupo, New Zealand. I grew up in Taupo and this is the first novel I have read set in the small town I grew up in. I felt a strong connection to it. The author named the street my parents have two businesses on, the geothermal area behind my primary school was referenced, I had eaten in the airplane above the McDonald’s playground and I had walked many of the same streets the characters walked.

This coming-of-age story tackles the issues of Māori achievement in the education system, cultural identity, domestic violence, alcohol and drug use, and doing what or going against what society expects of you.

A word of warning the novel features strong language and sexual references (nothing explicit).

Links:

Whiti Hereaka Official Blog

Whiti Hereaka on Facebook

Whiti Hereaka on Twitter

 

Source: I borrowed this book from my public library.

Book Club Pick: April 2017

ThirteenReasonsWhy

Book Details:

Title: Thirteen reasons why

Author: Jay Asher

Series: Stand alone novel

Country: United States of America

Publisher: Penguin Group

First Published: 2008

Pages: 288

Publisher’s Description:

Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a strange package with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers several cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker – his classmate and crush – who committed suicide two weeks earlier. Hannah’s voice tells him that there are thirteen reasons why she decide to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he’ll find out why.

Clay spends the night crisscrossing his town with Hannah as his guide. He becomes a firsthand witness to Hannah’s pain, and he follows her recorded words throughout town, what he discovers changes his life forever.

Review:

Thirteen Reasons Why (stylised as Th1rteen R3eason Why) follows shy high school teenager Clay Jensen.

Clay has received a box of with seven cassette tapes. Upon listening to them he learns that they were recorded by Hannah Baker, his classmate, workmate at the local cinema, and his crush, who recently committed suicide.

Hannah instructs the listener that there are thirteen reasons as to why she decided to take her own life – and if they received these tapes their ‘name will pop up’.

Clay is the ninth person to receive the tapes and when he is finished he must mail them on. The novel opens with Clay posting the tapes and then cuts back to the day before, one hour after school, when Clay opens that box that will change his outlook on life.

The rest of the novel follows Clay as he travels around his small town with a Walkman and a map Hannah left with starred locations, as he listens to her final words.

The novel has a dual narrative with transcripts of Hannah’s tape recordings italicised amongst Clay’s first person narrative.

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It reads very much like a thriller with the reader learning about Hannah’s pain along with Clay. There is the suspense that one has to listen to the tapes and send them to the next person otherwise all tapes will be released publicly.

As well tackling the tough issue of teen suicide the novel addresses rape, bullying, gossip, peer pressure, underage drinking, and survivor’s guilt.

On the Thirteen Reasons Why website readers can listen to Hannah’s tapes.

In 2016, a 10th Anniversary Edition entitled Th1rteen R3asons Why: A Novel was released. It featured a new introduction by Asher, the novel’s original ending, reproductions from Asher’s notebook that he used while writing, deleted moments, the synopsis he sent to publishers and a reading guide.

In 2011, Universal Studios purchased the rights to the novel with the intention to develop it into feature film starring Selena Gomez as Hannah. In 2015 it was announced that Netflix was developing the novel as a series with Gomez serving as an executive producer.

The series 13 Reasons Why went onto Netflix on March 31.

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Links:

Jay Asher Official Blog

Jay Asher on Facebook

Jay Asher on Twitter

Jay Asher on Instagram

 

ThirteenReasonsWhy.com

Thirteen Reasons Why on Facebook

 

Source: I borrowed this book from my public library.

Book Club Pick: March 2017

nicknorah

Book Details:

Title: Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist

Author: Rachel Cohn & David Levithan

Series: Stand alone novel

Country: United States of America

Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf

First Published: 2006

Pages: 183

Publisher’s Description:

Nick’s just seen the girl who dumped him walk in with a new guy. What else can he do but ask the strange girl next to him to be his new girlfriend for the next five minute?

Norah would do anything to avoid conversation with the not not-friend girl who dumped Nick . . . and to get over the Evil Ex whom Norah never really dumped. What else can she do but answer Nick’s question by making out with him?

With one electric, unexpected kiss, the five-minute couple of Nick and Norah set off on an unchartered adventure called the “first date” that will turn into an infinite night of falling in and out (and in and out, and maybe in and out) of love. Theirs is a first date of music, laughter, heartache, confusion, passion, taxi driver wisdom, and a jacket named Salvatore. And of course a killer soundtrack.

As Nick and Norah wander through the middle-of-the-night mystic maze of Manhattan, they share the kind of night you want to never end, where every minute counts and every moment flickers between love and disaster.

Review:

Nick O’Leary, the straight bass player in queercore punk band, is playing at a club in downtown Manhattan when he spots his ex-girlfriend Tris with a new guy. So he asks a random girl dressed in an oversize flannel sitting nearby to be his five minute girlfriend. The random girl, Norah Silverberg, surprises him by kissing him.

Little does Nick know that Norah and Tris attend the same school, and they are not on friendly terms.

This five minute date turns into an late night adventure around New York City, which includes a Subway ride, visits to a Russian eatery, a Korean grocery store and an encounter with a Playboy Bunny bouncer.

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Map of Manhattan in the front of book

It is the first collaboration novel from Rachel Cohn and David Levithan. Cohn writes the chapters from Noah’s perspective and Levithan writes the chapters from Nick’s point of view.

Cohn and Levithan went on to co-write Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List (2007), Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares (2010), The Twelve Days of Dash and Lily (2016). Further collaborations are in the works.

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A word of warning this book does feature quite a lot of coarse language and sexual references.

A feature film was released it 2008 directed by Peter Sollett and starring Michael Cera and Kat Dennings as Nick and Norah.

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

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 borrowed this book from my public library.

Book Club Pick: February 2017

the_maze_runner_cover

Book Details:

Title: The Maze Runner

Author: James Dashner

Series: Maze Runner series

Country: United States of America

Publisher: Delcorte Press

First Published: 2009

Pages: 371

Publisher’s Description:

When the doors of the lift crank open, the only thing Thomas can remember is his first name. But he’s not alone. He’s surrounded by boys who welcome him to the Glade, an encampment at the centre of a bizarre and terrible maze.

Like Thomas, the Gladers don’t know why or how they came to be there, or what’s happened to the world outside. All they know is that every morning when the walls slide back, they will risk everything to find out.

Review:

The Maze Runner is the first novel in a series set in a dark post-apocalyptic world.

Our central character is sixteen-year-old Thomas. When he wakes inside an metal elevator car, he has no memory of how he got there or who he is, except for his name.

Thomas learns that he is part of community of around 50 teenage boys known as the ‘Gladers’. The boys live in an artificially created environment that is managed by an unseen and unknown group simply known as the Creators, that communicate through deliveries via the elevator car.

The ultimate goal of the community is to solve a maze built beyond huge grey stone walls that are over a hundred feet high. Each night the entrance to the maze closes protecting the boys from the Grievers, a horrific monster that is a mix of metal and flesh that can bite, sting and kill.

Each boy in the community has his own role that he does in order to keep the society functioning. The Runners run through the maze mapping it out. A position Thomas feels himself drawn to.

Everything changes on Thomas’ second day when a mysterious girl, Teresa, arrives in the elevator car. The Gladers were not expecting another delivery for another month – the pattern in the Glade. Teresa is the first girl to arrive and she will be the last delivery – no more Gladers, food or supplies.

Thomas also feels that he has connection to her. Teresa and Thomas are somehow connected to the mystery of the Glade. Will they be able to work with the other boys and help everyone escape the maze?

The novel is written in third person, but the narrative strongly favours Thomas’ point of view.

The Maze Runner is followed by The Scorch Trials (2010) and The Death Cure (2011), and two prequel novels The Kill Order (2012) and The Fever Code (2016).

A feature film was released in 2014, directed by Wes Ball and starring Dylan O’Brien, Kaya Scodelario, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Will Poulter, and Patricia Clarkson.

The Maze Runner series will be popular with readers of dystopian fiction.

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Links:

James Dashner Official Website

James Dashner on Facebook

James Dashner on Twitter

James Dashner on Instagram

 

 Source: I borrowed a copy of this book from my public library

Book Club Pick: January 2017

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

Book Details:

Title: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

Author: Sherman Alexie

Illustrator: Ellen Forney

Series: Stand alone novel

Country: United States of America

Publisher: Little, Brown and Company

First Published: 2007

Pages: 230

Publisher’s Description:

Junior is a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian reservation. Born with a variety of medical problems, he is picked on by everyone but his best friend. Determined to receive a good education, Junior leaves the rez to attend an all-white school in the neighboring farm town where the only other Indian is the school mascot. Despite being condemned as a traitor to his people and enduring great tragedies, Junior attacks life with wit and humor and discovers a strength inside of himself that he never knew existed.

Inspired by his own experiences growing up, award-wining author Sherman Alexie chronicles the contemporary adolescence of one unlucky boy trying to rise above the life everyone expects him to live.

Review:

As the title suggests The Diary of a Part-Time Indian is written in a first person episodic diary format. The novel follows fourteen-year-old Native American Arnold Spirit Jr., known as Junior, over his first year in high school.

Junior is growing up on a Spokane Indian Reservation near Wellpinit, Washington. He was born with Hydrocephalus (a medical condition in which there is an build-up of cerebrospinal fluid within the brain). As a result Junior is small for his age, suffers from seizures, has poor eyesight, a lisp and a stutter. The poor guy is picked on by practically everyone on the reservation – his only friend is Rowdy, who is abused at home.

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After receiving encouragement from one of his teachers Junior decides to leave the reservation and attend Reardon High School, an all-white school where the only other Indian ironically is the school’s mascot. The downside he looses his only friend Rowdy, who sees the move as a betrayal.

At his new school he befriends a bright student Gordy and develops a crush on Penelope, the most popular girl in school. Through his interactions with Gordy, Penelope and other students at the school Junior learns both more about their culture and his own.

Junior is an aspiring artist and the novel features 65 of his comic illustrations. These illustrations by artist Ellen Forney add humour and reveal more about how Junior sees the world.

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This is the debut young adult novel by Sherman Alexie, who had previously written for adults. The novel is semi-autobiographical and is inspired by events from Alexie’s own childhood.

The novel tackles some topical issues including race, poverty, alcoholism, eating disorders, violence, bullying and loss of a loved one. Due to its content and language the book has been challenged and banned in some schools.

 

Links:

Sherman Alexie Official Website

Sherman Alexie on Facebook

Sherman Alexie on Twitter

 

Ellen Forney Official Website

Ellen Forney on Facebook

Ellen Forney on Twitter

Ellen Forney on Instagram

 

Source: I borrowed a copy of this book from my public library

 

Book Club Pick: December 2016

Let it Snow

Book Details:

Title: Let it Snow

Author: Maureen Johnson, John Green, Lauren Myracle

Series: Stand alone compilation novel

Country: United States of America

Publisher: Penguin Books

First Published: 2008

Pages: 354

Publisher’s Description:

The worst blizzard for fifty years. Three wintry love stories. One magical night.

It’s Christmas Eve and Gracetown has been buried by snow. But the weather is more than just an inconvenience. When one girl unexpectedly steps off a stranded train, she sets off a series of life-changing events.

Soon fourteen pumped-up cheerleaders will descend on the local Waffle House, the Duke’s DVD night will be rudely interrupted for a Twister mission, and a lovesick barista will determine the fate of a single teacup pig . . .

As the three stories collide, strangers will cross paths and romance blossoms with heart-warming consequences.

Review:

It’s December and the festive season is upon us! As I live in New Zealand I have never experienced a White Christmas, so this month I selected a book set over the holiday season in the Northern Hemisphere. Let it Snow features three holiday romances by three authors – The Jubilee Express by Maureen Johnson, A Cheertastic Christmas Miracle by John Green, and The Patron Saint of Pigs by Lauren Myracle.

The three short stories are stand alone by they intertwine with each other with setting and characters appearing throughout all three stories.

A few characters from the previous story appear in the next story but it is not until the end until the all meet up.

In Maureen Johnson’s The Jubilee Express, sixteen-year-old Jubilee meets Stuart when her train breaks down during a snow storm in the town of Gracetown on Christmas Eve, the setting for all three stories. Stuart invites Jubilee back to his family home and tries to convince Jubilee that she needs a boyfriend who will treat her better.

John Green’s A Cheertastic Christmas Miracle follows Tobin and his friends Duke (a tomboy) and JP as they make their way through the snow with a game of Twister to meet 14 stranded cheerleaders at a Korean Waffle House.

The Patron Saint of Pigs by Lauren Myracle is about Addie, who has just broken up with her boyfriend and her search for a teacup piglet. This story finishes with the main characters of all three stories meeting up.

Wherever you are have a safe and happy holiday season!

Let it snow

 

Links:

Maureen Johnson

Maureen Johnson Official Website

Maureen Johnson on Facebook

Maureen Johnson on Twitter

Maureen Johnson on Instagram

John Green

John Green Official Website

John Green on Facebook

John Green on Twitter

John Green on Instagram

Vlogbrothers YouTube Channel (with brother Hank Green)

Lauren Myracle

Lauren Myracle Official Website

Lauren Myracle on Twitter

Lauren Myracle on Instagram

 

Source: I borrowed a copy of this book from my public library