Month: February 2017

Review: Lion

Lion by Saroo Brierley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The quest to know oneself and where we come from is something lots of people struggle with, but it must be particularly strong in children such as Saroo Brierly who have been adopted out of their home country and are being raised in a different culture in a far away land. I found it incredible that this guy was able to find his home, the chances seem so remote that he could find the exact place he left by accident when he was 5 years old. It was very long odds that he would be able to find his home using Google Maps and what he remembered of his journey. The reunion with his Indian family was so nice.
The story isn’t emotive really, which is surprising when you think of how incredibly emotional it must have been for all involved. I read this because the movie was getting such a lot of attention and I will go and see that to take a look at how the filmmakers have the story play out on the screen.

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Review: When Friendship Followed Me Home

When Friendship Followed Me Home
When Friendship Followed Me Home by Paul Griffin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It took me far too long to read this lovely book. I kept being distracted by other books along the way, it is a book that needs your uninterrupted attention because it is full of lots of feels and you need to get the full impact of them by devoting undistracted reading time to the story. While it is definitely sad, it is also definitely funny. There are lots of lovely touches – abandoned dog and an abandoned boy, a school librarian who is awesome, a sick girl who is fighting to stay well despite incredible odds, a mum who is gay as well as bereaved and a magician. That isn’t the lot by any stretch, the cast of characters is quite something, each of them loveable and quirky.

I think this would be a great read aloud to your class book. There is such a lot going on, but it is gently told and deals with really heavy subjects with a light touch.

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Review: How to Talk to Girls at Parties

How to Talk to Girls at Parties
How to Talk to Girls at Parties by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The art is amazing, the story is Neil Gaiman weird and the attitude is fun. This graphic novel, based on a short story is cool. It was recommended to me by one of my fave booksellers (at Paper Plus) and his comment was that he wished the school library at his school (my school) had had this book, and books like this, when he was there. The story of Enn and Vic’s big night out is totally crazy. They go to a party where the most gorgeous girl answers the door, turns out it isn’t the party they thought they were going to. I loved the conversations, they were typical Gaimanesque and fun. I think my guys at school will love it.

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Review: Bereft

Bereft by Chris Womersley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This novel has been on my tbr list for a really long time, when I finally got to reading it I did so without re-reading the blurb, I just launched into it. That was probably a really good thing as I had thought I’d had my fill of war survivor stories for a while, but this one was very different to those I’ve read this year. The setting of small Australian town and it’s surrounds was beautifully drawn by the author, I loved the descriptions of the shimmering heat and the suffering of the people of the town, their attitudes and how badly they suffered in the influenza outbreak after the war. Sergeant Quinn Walker has been absent for a really long time, he ran away after his sister was murdered when he was a kid, but something draws him back to his hometown when the war is over. He needs to try and make things right and to tell the truth about who really killed his beloved sister.

This book has a touch of mystical realism which I often find isn’t my cup of tea, but here it works well. The young girl he meets in the bush is a wonderful invention. Her air of magic is engaging and I found myself enjoying her part in the story a lot. On the surface this is a simple story, but the writing is gorgeous and lush and draws you into Quinn as his suspicious nature and his hurt are gradually soothed by Sadie and her skills. There are some great scenes in the book, scenes to make you smile as you are with Quinn dealing with his enormous losses. If you like Australian historical stories this is a great one.

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Review: Home

Home by Harlan Coben
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

At about quarter of the way into this book I thought I might be done with Myron and Win, but then I got completely engrossed in it. I really enjoyed the second half! The mystery is excellent and I kept trying to figure out the solution of the missing boy, I had all kinds of wild theories buzzing around in my brain as I tried to figure it out. Two boys were taken from their home when they were 6, they have been missing for 10 years when suddenly one is found after all that time searching. But, is he the real boy? What happened to the other one? There are so many loose ends. So many people could be implicated.

Clever and suspenseful, Harlan Coben is reliably good and the ride is always enjoyable.

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Review: The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen

The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen
The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen by Susin Nielsen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I thought Henry K. Larsen was one of the most engaging characters I’d met recently. He is a thinker, a keeper of secrets, a homelife that is challenging and a deeply troubled soul. But for all his troubles, he has a sense of humour, a taste for WWE and a tendency to gather unusual friends. Farley, who befriends Henry at his new school despite Henry’s best efforts, is just gorgeous!

I loved the way the big underlying secret was revealed one tiny detail at a time. Henry’s journal is a joy and a delight while being infinitely sad. This is a book about a horrific subject, it is about how people cope in different ways after terrible trauma and is is a book about the families of those left behind after a terrible incident. I can’t reveal the incident because it would ruin the story but Susan Nielsen is fast becoming one of the great voices in YA and I highly recommend that you get a copy of this for your school library and read it before you put it on the shelves, you will know the people you want to hand it to.

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Review: The Girl Before

The Girl Before
The Girl Before by J.P. Delaney
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a really fast read for me, it hummed along! You have two parallel stories, both from the point of view of a different young woman. One has lost a baby at full term in a terrible birth story that I found very moving, the other has been badly mentally damaged by being the victim of a home invasion. They both at different times live in a house which is austere, minimalistic and which demands a great deal of sacrifice by those who live there. You must pass a complicated test, take regular re-testing and allow architecture students access to the house. There is a mystery surrounding the house, rumours that there was a terrible accident involving the architect’s wife and that she died on the premises. The architect is an enigma, compellingly attractive but also complicated and apparently very available! The house has secrets, the architect has secrets, everyone is unreliable, nobody can be trusted.

If you analysed this from a feminist perspective this is a book about abuse in lots of forms, it is a book full of characters who should have known better, who behave badly and who are a bit pathetic. I had annoyances in how the author portrayed the women, I looked up to see if this was written by a man or a woman, turns out this is a pseudonym for a man, colour me unsurprised! No woman would have written these women this way. But when you are reading it and you suspend your disbelief and cynical eye, it is a really good read. It is pacy and compelling. The movie rights have been sold and I can understand why. I’d go and see it.

Thanks to Netgalley for offering me this book.

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Review: Learning to Swear in America

Learning to Swear in America
Learning to Swear in America by Katie Kennedy
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

There is a lot to like in this book. It is funny, that great snarky teenage humour I really like. It is clever, it doesn’t talk down to teenagers, the science is for real and the situations are only slightly far-fetched. Yuri, our hero, is a physics genius who has been uplifted from his normal academic life, he is a 17 year old prodigy, already with a PhD and working towards getting a Nobel prize. His skills are being harnessed to try to figure out a way of stopping a gigantic asteroid from hitting the earth and destroying much of coastal USA, the part where he is currently! But life in the USA is completely different from life at home and he has much to learn about the new ways and customs, he meets a girl, he gets to know her family, he has a heap of fun and dangerous experiences and learns a lot about life and about people, and also about girls. I think it will appeal to lots of students who want something a little deeper than the usual relationship fiction, it will work for lots of guys who want a hero who is a bit different, who isn’t all buff and cool.

My criticism really is that it is a tad too long. I felt that it lost a bit of momentum in the middle, in teen fiction you need to keep it moving along fast. It is good, it is a great fresh story, but I got a bit bogged down from the half way point.

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Review: The Bricks that Built the Houses

The Bricks that Built the Houses
The Bricks that Built the Houses by Kate Tempest
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Best book of the year so far! Harry, Becky, Pete and Leon. Their families, their lives and their world has been so good to be immersed in. I’ve read it slowly but in big chunks. It is a hard book to write about. There are drugs, lots of drugs and the stories of the people involved in that world. This book is really harsh but is also very hopeful, as I was reading it I kept thinking of all the people I wanted to read it so that I could talk about it with them. I felt that these characters had become dear to me and I wanted other people to share them with. I loved the language, the descriptions, the poetic way that some passages demand to be re-read and examined. This is the very best of contemporary writing.

This is a novel about a particular side of London, I could feel that Kate Tempest really understood the places she was writing about, the nightclubs, the rich guys snorting enormous quantities, sending the money straight up their noses. The people who supply the drugs and how risky it all is. But this is so much more than all that, this is a novel of fear, love, attraction, home and power. Looking forward to the next Kate Tempest novel and heading to YouTube to watch her perform.

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