Review: Fool Me Once

Fool Me Once
Fool Me Once by Harlan Coben
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Two people I know had read this recently, so I thought I’d give it a go on eAudio. Great decision. It is pacey and there are lots of things to think about while you are involved in the story, political comment, lots of tricky IT surveillance toys, guns and scary guys. I like this about Harlan Coben books, there is the standard whodunit along with lots of interesting stuff happening on the periphery.

This is the story of Mia, whose sister and husband have both been murdered. That is terrible luck. The next thing you know Mia’s murdered husband shows up on a nanny cam in the lounge and that is just not possible ….. Mia is cool, she is a highly trained military person and can hold her own in battle. It is a layered story and I really enjoyed it. The reader, January LaVoy, is totally awesome. I’ll look for more of her readings.

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Review: No Wind of Blame

No Wind of Blame
No Wind of Blame by Georgette Heyer
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

While I didn’t love this as much as the last Heyer that I read, I did find it engaging and the characters were impossibly silly but with lots of sparkly dialogue. I love Hemingway’s snarky comments, you feel like you are in on the jokes but the characters in the book are too thick to get them. I loved Vicky’s flakey personas and Ermentrude was a proper piece of work. Nice twist in the romantic workings of the story but this story didn’t reach the dizzying heights of the previous one that I read.

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Review: Holding Up the Universe

Holding Up the Universe
Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It’s been a while since I had a 5 star read, one that makes you stay up really late to get it finished in a big breathless rush to the end. This book officially ended my reading slump. And here is my true confession, I’ve never read All The Bright Places, I tried twice, but it came out at a time where I just couldn’t read a book about suicide. Now though, I’m going to give myself a bit more Jennifer Niven, if it is even half as good as this one it will be great.

In this gorgeous story we have Libby, the largest girl in America, who famously had to be lifted out of her house by a crane because she couldn’t get out any other way. She has been in therapy for a while now, has lost a lot of weight, but she is still really large. Libby is one of the best people you could have in a book, she is feisty and snarky and all the things I like in a girl character. Then there is Jack, who has something I know a bit about going on with him, he has ‘face blindness’ or prosopagnosia, a member of my family has this and I know it is hard to deal with. Jack can’t even recognise his family or his girlfriend and has heaps of coping strategies to manage his life, a life which is fairly messy anyway. So, these two are in high school, Libby finally starting after a life of being unable to go there, and Jack who behaves badly to make up for not knowing what is going on half the time. You can guess what happens, but it is the lovely way they are drawn to each other. How they look after each other and how they become important to each other that I really liked. This is a nice book about nice people and I’m totally fine with that. It is abook about tolerance and love and the fact that physical appearance is a terrible indicator of what someone is like.

I think you should hand this book to the people who loved Jandy Nelson and John Green and E Lockhart and Rainbow Rowell. A gem for everyone in high school. I do get why some people are not going to be fans of this, and I don’t even care because this is good reading. This is what teenagers want to read and I shall be buying a bunch of copies and thrusing them about willy nilly.

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Review: All the Birds in the Sky

All the Birds in the Sky
All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Oh I wanted to love this, and I really did until about 3/4 through, then I was hoping it would just get on and be done. I love the concept of a good nature witch versus a tech manipulator geek. All kinds of things I love there, but it just got limpy towards the end. The writing is so deliciously lush and one of those books where you need to read every word on the page, no skimming, and it took me ages to get it read because I was so deeply involved in it …. until I wasn’t. It is one of those books which fits into both YA and adult, yet another thing I like, and I’m sure that loads of people will really like it, but for me it has to be a three star.

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Review: The Vegetarian

The Vegetarian
The Vegetarian by Han Kang
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

So very fascinating and unusual, I’m undecided whether this was brilliant or ordinary, it is certainly metaphysical and explores ground that I’ve never read before. I don’t know whether I’ve ever read a book set in South Korea and I really enjoyed reading about the family dynamics, the culture and the societal attitudes, particularly those of husbands and wives.
One night a woman has a dream, a nasty violent dream and from that point on she realises that she cannot eat meat any longer. Meat seems to be an important part of life in her family and her husband is embarrassed at her decision. You get her story firstly from her husband, a man who I found it hard to like, from her sister’s husband, also strange and also from her sister. All of these people are concerned about her and as she becomes thinner and begins wasting away, they react in different ways. Her mental illness is increasingly difficult to deal with for everyone in her family, but she feels a compulsion to become one with the dirt and the forest.
All very different, very strange and nothing like anything I’ve read before. I did really like this novel and the writing is quite fabulous at times, but it is not one for everyone.

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Review: The Road to Winter

The Road to Winter
The Road to Winter by Mark Smith
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I dithered between four and five stars for this and landed on 5, yes I would read this again, pretty sure I’d enjoy it just as much next time too. I’ll even read the next one when it comes out, that is something, I’m bad at series reading.

In a grim future Australia, where the seas have risen and then a virus has swept through, killed millions and pretty much wiped out the population – especially the women, life is very tough and lonely for 16 year old Finn. His family are all gone but left him well prepared, he has a great cache of supplies but is in constant danger of being attacked. He has a dog for company, I always love the dog characters and this one is no exception. Finn has made a life for himself, hunting rabbits, fishing, surfing and eking out an existence on what he can find when his routine is totally disrupted by the arrival of a group of ‘Wildings’ who are tracking a girl. This injured and vulnerable girl is Rose, and she needs Finn’s help, she is stroppy and damaged and Finn is overwhelmed but kind to her. She is searching for her sister and Finn is unable to resist helping her to find her.

What I loved so much about this book was the fact that it is not only a really well written dystopia, but that has much to say about current Australian politics. Rose and her sister are Siley’s, slang for asylum seekers, originally from Afghanistan, they are treated as slaves on farms and in factories as a way of solving the asylum seeker problem. Mark Smith makes his politics clear on this topic but not in any kind of preachy way, but in a humanitarian way which makes you think. It is interesting to see these issues tackled in this way, often there are bright red pointy arrows to an authors politics but in this case it is way more subtle.

If I was looking for a book to share with students in a class setting I think this would definitely be one I’d consider. It is full of contemporary issues, would enable lots of really good class discussion. I also really appreciated the format of the book and even though it is not a long book it really does look like an adult novel. That is a rare thing, in fact when I bought it I didn’t realise that it was a YA novel, and it needn’t be, this is a book for everyone. Text publishing are doing such great work in this field, I’m full of admiration for them.

I think it will appeal to the same audience who liked Station Eleven, The Passage etc and it will be a book I’ll throw at reluctant seniors who need something grown up but short. It is gritty and wonderful. Bring me the second one soon please.

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