Posts Tagged ‘Book review’

Book Club Pick: September 2020

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Title: When We Were Lost

Author: Kevin Wignall

Series: Stand alone novel

Country: United States of America

Publisher: Jimmy Patterson Books / Little, Brown and Company

First Published: 2019

Pages: 306

Publisher Description:

A plane crash.
A savage jungle.
Hope hope of rescue.
How long would you survive?

A gripping white-knuckle thriller set in the unknown depths of the Amazon jungle, When We Were Lost explores the razor-thin line between life and death, and what it really means to be alive.

Review:

A group of high school students are on their way to Costa Rica for a two-week school sponsored environmental field trip, when their plane crashes in a remote dense jungle. The plane is torn in half – nineteen students in the tail-end of the plane survive.

Together the group must now survive in a hostile jungle environment, that includes animals, reptiles, insects, the heat, lack of food – and each other.

The novel is written in third person, but the narrative focuses on the point-of-view of seventeen-year-old Tom Colloway. Tom has been orphaned since he was nine and feels like an outsider.

Many reviewers have drawn parallels to Lord of the Flies and Lost. Although other than a plane crash and the characters being young there isn’t a huge number of parallels really.

It is an action packed adventure with enough gripping twists and turns to keep the reader hooked but unfortunately the story lacks any strong character development, and the ending feels a little rushed and flat.

Links:

Kevin Wignall Official Website

Kevin Wignall on Instagram

 

I borrowed this book from my public library.

Book Club Pick: August 2020

blackflamingo

Title: The Black Flamingo

Author: Dean Atta

Series: Stand alone novel

Country: Great Britain

Publisher: Hodder Children’s Book

First Published: 2019

Pages: 360

Publisher Description:

This is Michael’s story.

Join him as he discovers the world, with tiny eyelashes. Travel from school to college, where he discovers his flock and comes to terms with his identity as a mixed-race gay teen. At university, take a seat in the audience and watch him find his wings as a drag artist, The Black Flamingo.

A bold story about discovering that only YOU get the privilege of choosing who you are. There is power in embracing your uniqueness. What’s your story?

Review:

Michael is a young biracial British man of Greek Cypriot and Jamaican descent. He feels like he is caught between many identities: black and white, masculine and feminine, straight and gay. He feels that he is not “Greek enough”, not “Black enough” or “queer enough.”

The novel begins with Michael aged six and we follow him on his journey from childhood through to university.

When Michael goes to university he joins the Drag Society and creates his drag persona The Black Flamingo. In finding his voice Michael becomes more confident and accepting in who he is.

The novel is told in verse, which makes it an easy ready. It also features beautiful black and white illustrations by Anshika Khullar.

Links:

Dean Atta on Twitter

Dean Atta on Instagram

Dean Atta on Facebook

Dean Atta on YouTube

 

I borrowed this book from my public library.

Book Club Pick: July 2020

A-Monster-Calls

Title: A Monster Calls

Author: Patrick Ness. From an original idea by Siobhan Dowd

Series: Stand alone novel

Country: Great Britain

Publisher: Walker Books

First Published: 2011

Pages: 237

Publisher Description:

Conor has the same dream every night, ever since his mother first fell ill, ever since she started the treatments that don’t quite seem to be working. But tonight is different. Tonight, when he wakes, there’s a visitor at his window. It’s ancient, elemental, a force of nature. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor.

It wants the truth.

Review:

Last month the Old Vic made their 2018 production A Monster Calls available for a week on their YouTube channel. After watching it I borrowed the book from my library.

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Matthew Tennyson as Conor in A Monster Calls, The Old Vic. Photo: Manuel Harlan

Siobhan Dowd initially conceived the idea of a young boy coming to terms with his mother’s illness while diagnosed with breast cancer. It would have been Dowd’s fifth book but she passed away 21 August 2007 before writing the story. Her publisher Walker Books approached Patrick Ness to write the novel.

A Monster Calls follows thirteen-year-old Conor O’Malley, who is struggling to cope with the diagnosis of his mother’s cancer.

Conor is also facing other challenges. He is being bullied at school, has a distant father living in the United States with a new family, and a strained relationship with his Grandmother who has come to help look after Conor’s mum.

He has been having nightmares. At seven minutes past midnight Conor awakes to a voice calling him from outside his bedroom window. There is a monster that has taken form from the branches and leaves as a yew tree.

The monster tells Conor that he will tell him three stories, and then Conor must tell his story.

A Monster Calls is a poignant exploration of terminal illness, grief and truth.

The novel was also adapted into a 2016 film with Ness also writing the screenplay. The film was directed by J. A. Bayona (Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom) and starred Sigourney Weaver, Felicity Jones, Toby Kebbell, Lewis MacDougall, and Liam Neeson.

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Links:

Patrick Ness Official Website

Patrick Ness on Instagram

The Siobhan Dowd Trust

 

I borrowed this book from my public library.

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?

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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: 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: October 2019

I am Change

Title: I Am Change

Author: Suzy Zail

Series: Stand alone novel

Country: Australia

Publisher: Black Dog Books

First Published: 2019

Pages: 352

Publisher Description:

Lilian has learned to shrink herself to fit other people’s ideas of what a girl is.

In Lilian’s village a girl is not meant to be smarter than her brother. A girl is not meant to go to school or enjoy her body or decide who to marry. Especially if she is poor.

Inspired by the true accounts of young Uganda women, I Am Change is the tragic but empowering story of how a girl finds her voice and the strength to fight for change.

Review:

I am Change follows Lilian, a young woman from a rural village in Uganda, who dreams of writing stories and has ambitions of becoming a teacher.

Unfortunately for Lilian in her village young women are often pressured into marriages arranged by their parents. It is expected that the young woman’s focus will be producing sons and caring for her husband’s needs. Many young women do not complete their education as these arranged marriages will occur when they are a teenager.

I understand the importance of Own Voices literature so I had my reservations reading a novel about a young impoverished Uganda woman written by a white Australian former solicitor.

It is not my place to say whether it is Zail’s place to tell this story. It is clear that she has done her research and treats the subject matter with respect.

In 2015, Zail met Nakamya Lilian, a 29-year-old woman from Uganda, who was visiting Australia. She told Zail her story of growing up in an improvised rural village and her ambitions and struggles to get an education.

Zail flew to Uganda and interviewed thirty young girls, and their stories are the basis for the novel. One of those young women Namukasa Nusula Sarah read each draft and wrote the foreword for the book.

The novel tackles some strong issues around women’s rights, such as a patriarchal education system, female circumcision, arranged marriages, prostitution, sexual assault, and domestic violence.

Although I am Change is confronting and challenging at times it is optimistic and hopeful, and inspires and advocates for change.

 

Links:

Suzy Zail Official Website

Suzy Zail on Instagram

 

Source: I borrowed this book from my public library.

 

 

Book Club Pick: September 2019

LeahOnTheOffbeatCover

Title: Leah on the Offbeat

Author: Becky Albertalli

Series: Direct sequel to Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda

Country: United States of America

Publisher: Balzar & Bray

First Published: 2018

Pages: 368

Publisher Description:

When it comes to drumming, Leah Burke is usually right on the beat – but real life is a little harder to manage. She loves to draw but is too self-conscious to show it. And she hasn’t mustered the courage to tell her friends she’s bisexual, not even her openly gay BFF, Simon.

So Leah really doesn’t know what to do when her rock-solid friendship group starts to fracture. With prom and college on the horizon, tensions are running high, and its hard for Leah when the people she loves are fighting – especially when she realizes she might love one of them more than she ever intended…

Becky Albertalli returns to the world of her acclaimed debut novel, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, in this warm and humorous story of first love and senior-year angst.

Review:

We were first introduced to Leah Burke in Becky Albertalli’s 2015 debut novel Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda.

In this novel Simon takes a back seat as his best friend Leah narrates her senior year. Leah is not necessarily the most likeable protagonist. She can be very abrasive and judgemental. I actually found it refreshing to have a voice that is vulnerable and flawed – she is still figuring things out.

Leah identifies as bisexual, but she is only out to her mom – has been since middle school.

The story follows Leah as she develops a crush on one of her friends, as well as dealing with the usual pressures of senior year – prom, preparing for college, graduation and saying farewell to your high school friends.

It is positive to see a young bisexual woman who is comfortable with her own body and diverse POC representation.

There have been some criticisms of the novel. One criticism is that there were no hints to Leah’s sexuality in Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, as a result some readers have felt that the novel is more of a fan fiction of Albertalli’s earlier work. Some readers have also been critical Leah policed another character’s identity when she came out as ‘low key bi’, and did not apologise for this judgement.

Leah on the Offbeat is not as good as Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, and I don’t think it had a chance to live up to Simon vs. I think it would have worked better as its own story with a new set of characters – that being said it was nice to see Simon and Bram again.

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Click here to read my review of Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda

Click here to read my review of the film Love, Simon

Links:

Becky Albertalli Official Website

Becky Albertalli on Facebook

Becky Albertalli on Twitter

Becky Albertalli on Instagram

 

Source: I borrowed this book from my public library.