Posts Tagged ‘Book review’

Book Club Pick: October 2017

TheFaultInOurStarsCover

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

WordsInDeepBlue

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.

Book Club Pick: August 2017

Eleanor&Park

Book Details:

Title: Eleanor & Park

Author: Rainbow Rowell

Series: Stand alone novel

Country: United States of America

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

First Published: 2013

Pages: 328

Publisher’s Description:

eleanor…Red hair, wrong clothes. Standing behind him until he turns his head. Lying beside him until he wakes up. Making everyone else seem drabber and flatter and never good enough…Eleanor.

park…He knows she’ll love a song before he plays it for her. He laughs at her jokes before she ever gets to the punch line. There’s a place on his chest, just below his throat, that makes her want to keep promises…Park.

Set across the course of one school year, this is the story of two star-crossed sixteen-year-olds – smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try.

Review:

Eleanor & Park was the debut young adult novel by Rainbow Rowell. It take place in Omaha, Nebraska in 1986. It is a love story between two sixteen-year-olds, Eleanor and Park.

Eleanor has crazy red hair and a strange fashion sense. Park is half-Korean (his parents met when his father was stationed in Seoul) and has an interest in punk and New Wave music.

They first meet when Park begrudgingly allows Eleanor to sit next to him on the school bus. At first they do not speak or even look at each other. Park notices that Eleanor is discretely reading his comics over his shoulder. At first he waits giving her time to read before he turns the page. Eventually he brings her own comics and later mix tapes.

Both feel alienated at home. Eleanor has an alcoholic abusive stepfather and Park has distant relationship with his father, who he feels is tough on him for not being masculine enough.

The story is written from a third person narrative with a dual perspective. The reader sees the the world from both Eleanor and Park’s perspectives.

The novel has received some criticism of its stereotypical portrayal of Korean-American culture but otherwise it is an intelligent and witty look at first love.

Links:

Rainbow Rowell Official Website

Rainbow Rowell on Facebook

Rainbow Rowell on Twitter

Rainbow Rowell on Instagram

Rainbow Rowell on Tumblr

 

Source: I borrowed this book from my public library.

Book Club Pick: July 2017

the-sidekicks

Book Details:

Title: The Sidekicks

Author: Will Kostakis

Series: Stand alone novel

Country: Australia

Publisher: Penguin Random House Australia

First Published: 2016

Pages: 256

Publisher’s Description:

The Swimmer. The Rebel. The Nerd.

All Ryan, Harley and Miles had in common was Isaac. They lived different lives, had different interests and kept different secrets. But they shared the same best friend. They were his sidekicks. And now that Isaac’s gone, what does that make them?

Review:

Sixteen-year-old Isaac Roberts has died unexpectedly. His three Sydney Catholic boys school friends Ryan, Harley and Miles are left behind to process their grief and figure out who they are, and where they fit without Isaac. Together the three boys are not friends, they only shared a best friend.

The novel is written in three sections with Ryan (the Swimmer), Harley (The Rebel), and Miles (The Nerd) each giving their perspective on life with and without Isaac. Kostakis gives each boy a label and then breaks down that label showing that there is much more to them than a label.

Each sections reads like a separate novella but together the three pieces make up a novel about grief and Australian male teenage identity.

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Seventeen-year-old Ryan Patrick Thomas, the swimmer, is up first. He is an Olympic hopeful and his mother is a teacher at the school. He has a secret boyfriend Todd, who he meet at Model UN. Ryan is conflicted with his sexuality and is struggling to come out.

The next part of the novel is narrated by Scott Harley, a boarder at the school. Harley does not have the best relationship with his parents and is struggling with feelings of abandonment after his mother returns to the States. This may explain his connection to Isaac’s mother, who he helps come to terms with losing her son.

The final part of the novel is told from the perspective of Miles Cooper, who from Ryan’s narrative we learnt shared a dark secret with Isaac. As Miles has written, directed and produced a short film starring Isaac, his narrative is written in film script format.

I saw Will Kostakis, in May at All Day YA at the Sydney Writers’ Festival. Click here to read my recap on the event.

Links:

Will Kostakis Official Website

Will Kostakis on Facebook

Will Kostakis on Twitter

Will Kostakis on Instagram

 

Source: I borrowed this book from my public library.

Book Club Pick: June 2017

IlluminaeCover

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.

Gemina

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.

13reasonswhy

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.