Month: June 2017

Review: The Explorer

The Explorer
The Explorer by Katherine Rundell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What a gloriously wonderful book. The completely absorbing story of four children whose plane crashes in the Amazon jungle, they are utterly alone and learn to survive using common sense and good luck. The pace is great, the things that happen to the children all seem to fit with the situation even though they are completely fantastic. They decide to try to get home using a map they’ve found, strap a raft together using intuition and set off to try and escape their situation. The river carries them to meet The Explorer, a man with no name and a mysterious past. He is vastly irritated to have these children turn up in his space but ends up being their saviour.

The detail in the book is just wonderful, the food that they children survive on, tarantula eggs and other jungle treats! The sounds of the animals and birds are beautifully described. The writing just carries you away into the world of the Amazon. There are lots of wonderful moments. The children are perfectly described and The Explorer is so cleverly done, the lonely man with no need for the outside world an fighting to right the damage that has been done to the environment. I found myself highlighting lots of lovely passages. I found myself quite emotional at time the story quite moved me, the parting words of The Explorer as the children begin their journey back to civilisation are just gorgeous.
‘And all of you – do not forget that, lost out here, you were brave even in your sleep. Do not forget to take risks. Standing ovations await your bravery,’ Con swallowed. ‘But I’m afraid,’ she whispered. The Explorer nodded, scarred and dusty and matter-of-fact. ‘You are right to be afraid. Be brave anyway.’

Thanks to Netgalley and Bloomsbury for giving me access to this book. I’ll be buying multiple copies for school, the students who’ve loved survival stories like Hatchet will love this.

View all my reviews

Review: Six Four

Six Four
Six Four by Hideo Yokoyama
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Completely beguiled by the cool cover and the bright pink page edges, coupled with a very persuasive bookseller, I thought this was going to be great. Years ago I read a heap of Japanese crime novels and really enjoyed them, I liked that they were short, sharp, dark and fast moving. Not this one though.
I’ve dithered over the number of stars I’d give to this book, I finally walked away at page 452, I’d given up caring if Mikami’s daughter turned up, a story that I’d really enjoyed in the beginning, I’d lost interest in the main characters relationship with the other police, the press, the administrators, rather tragically it took me 452 pages to obtain this utter lack of interest. You spend the entirety of the book inside the main characters head, while he thinks his thinky thoughts, it is very wearing.

View all my reviews

Review: Enemy Camp

Enemy Camp
Enemy Camp by David Hill
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This isn’t the best of David Hill’s books. Even though the characters of Ewen, Barry and Clarry are engaging and read perfectly for kids of their generation and time, the action takes too long to get going. I have been using David Hill’s books with reluctant Year 11 students and wanted another one to add to the pile that I show them but I’m not convinced that they will love this one. The foundation of the book is very sound, the idea for the story, based on the fact that Japanese soldiers were interred at Featherston and there was a violent episode there, is great, it just took a bit long to happen. I really enjoyed reading about Clarry and his polio and Barry and his stutter, but after a while, it did all become a bit overdone. Certainly, it is an okay book, but I’ve read much much better books from the lovely David Hill.

View all my reviews

Review: Game Theory

Game Theory
Game Theory by Barry Jonsberg
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’m admitting right now that I am a Barry Jonsberg fan, I like the kids he writes about, they all have some fairly dramatic stuff happening in their lives that they need to overcome and they do that in an exciting way. This book has more of that flavour. Jamie is mathsy and logical and a fan of Game Theory, he applies this to his problem and goes for the win. The problem is that his sister has been kidnapped after his other sister, the flakey Summerlee has won a humongous amount of money on Lotto. The kidnapper is contacting Jamie and making him responsible for the safe delivery back of his sister. It is a clever ploy. Jamie uses whatever is at his disposal, from his only friend to Summerlee’s awful boyfriend. There is a whole heap of stuff going on all the time. There are a few tiny clunky moments but it is all forgivable as the exciting race to the finish keeps you turning pages trying to figure out who exactly the kidnapper is and trying to eliminate the red herrings. Great book for boys!

View all my reviews

Review: One of Us Is Lying

One of Us Is Lying
One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Thoroughly enjoyed this story. There is a real trend at the moment for books which have a group of teenagers and which tell the story from their multiple perspectives. This isn’t always my favourite way for a story to be told, but in this case it works really well. There are only four protagonists, they are each distinctive and they are all engaging.

5 teenagers get detention, within minutes one of them is dead. Of course, it turns out that all of the remaining four have a motive and all of them could have done it, there is motive, opportunity and intent, but they will tell you themselves that they didn’t do it. This is a really clever whodoneit, nicely complicated and super fast moving. I got terribly caught up in this story and was really surprised at the big reveal. The pace is just right and the tone is perfect. It is as good as any of the crime novels I’ve read this year and a really good read for a YA audience. I’m really excited about talking to my students about this novel. I’ll be buying multiple copies.

View all my reviews

Review: Hera Lindsay Bird

Hera Lindsay Bird
Hera Lindsay Bird by Hera Lindsay Bird
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Well, it has taken an age, but I’m done. I didn’t love this book, but I did think it was a deeply intimate, quirky and very personal book of poems. I know she is considered the bright young thing of New Zealand poetry right now, and I did really enjoy some of these immensely, but some of them were not my cup of poetry at all. I like that she makes me feel uncomfortable, I like that she takes risks. I want new voices in poetry and I like it that the book made the bestsellers lists, how often does it happen that poetry is on the top sellers lists, not very often.

View all my reviews

Review: Truly Madly Guilty

Truly Madly Guilty
Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It is hard not to like a book by Liane Moriarty, she has a charming way about her writing. You know you are in good hands. This book just took a bit long to get going for me to give it the extra star, I knew I was going to like it immediately but the meandering got a wee bit on top of me, once we got into the real deal of what happened ‘on the day of the barbecue’ I was hooked.

This is the story of a bunch of people who attended a back yard bbq at the home of the neighbours of one set of the friends. That afternoon something happened which changed forever the way that these people felt about each other and how they dealt with their lives. Along with the big event you get a very extensive backstory, which I really liked.

So read this book if you’ve enjoyed her other books, know that you’ll have an enjoyable experience. Her big fans though, they are still going to love this and call it a 5 star read, for me it was a firm 3, which isn’t a bad thing.

View all my reviews

Review: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Well, as it turns out, Eleanor really is completely fine, although how she manages to be fine is quite a story. Eleanor is odd, she is endearing, a woman of systems and very firm opinions on how everything should be. She works for an advertising agency doing the accounts, she has been there a long time, she eats the same food, sits in the same place at lunch, follows a rigid routine Suddenly it seems, Eleanor’s systems are being challenged, she is being made to feel that there might be other ways than hers which are worth considering.

As her story unfolds we discover that Eleanor’s childhood has coloured her life, that there are good reasons there are regular visits from social workers and why vodka is her comfort. I loved this book, I felt that Eleanor was a character who I’d never met and who I quickly became fond of. It races along and is really hard to put down. I found myself smiling at lots of Eleanor’s thoughts, I enjoyed her immensely.

Thanks so much to the publisher and Netgalley for giving me access to this marvellous book.

View all my reviews

Review: See You When I See You

See You When I See You
See You When I See You by Rose Lagercrantz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Dani is so cute and engaging. I really like these stories, they are warm and funny, the characters whimsical and yet realistic. In this book we see Dani beginning to become independent to question the things around her, she has anxieties about her dad’s new relationship, missing her best friend and making new friends with her classmates. I love the fact that Dani and Ella are so close, a little bit naughty and desperate to maintain their friendship. This story focusses on a school trip to the zoo where the two girls become separated from their school mates, there is also a side story about horse riding which I wasn’t so convinced with, but I get why it was there. As always the illustrations are stunning.

View all my reviews

Review: A Little Life

A Little Life
A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If I could give it 15 stars I would. People told me it was a devastating read. People warned me it would obsess me. People told me that they started it and couldn’t continue because it was so sad and grim. I knew all this and they are all right about the grim and the sad and the gritty etc etc but this book consumed me and challenged me and made me happy and then so so sad and I loved every moment of it. I had seen Hanya Yanagihara at the Auckland Writers and Readers Festival last year and I knew I wanted to read the book, she seemed so genuine and I trusted that she had written a brilliant book. I’m so pleased I wasn’t disappointed.

Jude. So damaged and alone. His suffering is hard to bear at times and yet, he is so kind and thoughtful and even though his life has been traumatic in so many extreme ways, he is one of the most admirable characters I’ve read. The entire friend group in this story is so beautifully handled, their quirks and eccentricities are perfect. Oh Willem! (I decided that Willem looked just like George Clooney) Harold and Julia felt like friends by the end. I loved Andy and his caring and bossy ways. Oh all of these people who have inhabited my life for two weeks, they have moved and shattered my emotions through the whole gamut.

I had a paper copy beside me and I listened to the audiobook. Sometimes I felt like I needed to read sections in the paper book because they were just so hard to listen to. I didn’t care that it was massive, I didn’t want it to end because I knew what was going to happen. The clues were all there, there was no other way to finish it. The other night I drove to a meeting and arrived with tears streaming down my face, I attended the meeting and drove home in the same state. In a word, this is gorgeous.

View all my reviews