Category Archives: Book Reviews

Be More Chill by Ned Vizzini – Book Review

Jeremy Heere is a loser. He keeps a list of all of the terrible things that people do to him, and is mortified when he finds out that all the other kids at school know about it. Plus he has a crush on Christine, and takes part in a school play to find a way to be close to her. And then he hears about the squib. A squib is a little electronic bug that you swallow, it makes its way into your brain and directs you to actions that allow you to reach your goal. Jeremy gets one and follows the instructions, although is hesitant to cut ties with his best friend, Michael. But technology is not perfect, and things start to go wrong.

Thank goodness this is not a technology. The idea of something inside your body making you do things – that is sci fi terror to me. But given that we our lives are now driven by technology such like smart phones and watches and the like, maybe this is a logical step? What this book really addresses is the world of teenagers and the want to not be an outsider. Some of us never minded being an outsider – people like Michael who have passions and don’t care what others think. But most of us want to be relatively ‘normal’ and will do things that we regret to be accepted.

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Just As Long As We’re Together by Judy Blume – Book Review

To many women of my generation (and the generation before, and I hope the generations below), Judy Blume was a beacon of light, the women who wrote books that let us know that what we felt was normal. She wrote about friendships and families and divorce and what we feel inside. And I recently learned that she was banned from many libraries because she wrote about things which were controversial – menstruation and masturbation and birth control and the like. I now not only love her as an author, but as a hero.

Stephanie is starting middle school and is fearful that her relationship with her best friend Rachel might change, especially as they are not in the same classes and there is a new girl, Alison, who she quickly becomes close to. In addition to this, things are happening at home, she’s becoming interested in boys, and her younger brother is having nightmares about nuclear war.

This is what Blume is all about. Through Stephanie, we see the fear to face the changes that are out of control in our lives, the rose-coloured glasses view of other people and the confusing emotions of teenagers (and, let’s face it, older folks too!). This isn’t my favourite Blume (as a Margaret growing up in a world with few Margarets of my own age, it would absolutely have to be Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret.) but it’s a good one!

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The Distant Echo by Val McDermid – Book Review

In early hours of a winter morning in the eighties, Alex Gilbey and his three mates are triggering home from a drunken night when they come across an almost dead young woman. Unable to save her, they instantly become the key suspects for the police (and many others in the community). The case is not solved, and twenty-five years later it is reopened as one of the first cases for the newly established cold case squad. How can you find the evidence and try to find a killer when that much time has passed?

This is not quite as gory as some of the other McDermid books, but has all the intrigue. If you like a good murder mystery with some top crime procedure type stuff, this is for you.

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All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr – Book Review

Marie-Laurie LeBlanc is taken by her father from their home in Paris to the small town of Saint-Malo, fleeing from the Nazis. He worked at the Museum of Natural History, and when he flees he is given one of four diamonds to protect. Three are copies, and one is the original – the “Sea of Flames”, a gem with a curse. Marie-Laurie is blind, and her loving father makes beautiful little models of the places they live so she can find her way around. Then, there is Werner Pfennig, a German orphan who has a talent for fixing radios and other electronics and is absorbed into the Hitler Youth. And Nazi Sergeant Major Reinhold von Rumpel, desperately searching for the Sea of Flames.

This is not your typical war story. It is beautiful and terrible and absolutely no wonder it has been critically acclaimed. It won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction, and topped the Dymocks list of the best 101 books as voted by “Dymocks Booklovers” – which I assume means customers? I loved it, with its very short chapters that dole out the story slowly. It broke my heart many times, but in that way that is a good pain.

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The 5th Wave vs The 5th Wave

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey – Book Review

So there has been an alien attack which has happened in four waves, devastating the world’s population. There are now few people left, and Cassie is one of them, but the aliens no look like people. She is fighting to stay alive, living on her wits. Should she try to find other survivors? Who can she trust?

As far as dystopian future stories are concerned, this is a good one. I like that it is an alien attack, and that no-one knows who to trust. Some parts seem overly familiar, perhaps because they are extremely similar to other books. But overall, it’s a fast, action-packed read and I enjoyed it.

 

The 5th Wave (2016) Film Review

Usually when a book is interpreted into a film, much has to be left behind or it will end up being a very long film – it usually captures the feel of the original text, but not the full thing. Yet somehow, this is an extremely close rendition of the book, and it is great. The book is written almost as a screenplay in that it is all action, so fast and it works so extremely well. It is very much a film for the youth – I can’t imagine it was very popular with many adults.

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Through the Zombie Glass By Gena Showalter (Book Review)

This is the second book in The White Rabbit Chronicles., which follow Alice Bell as she navigates her way through life in a world with zombies that most people can’t see. But she and a group of friends can not only see them, they can fight them. Not only that, there are a group who train and patrol and kill. But there are bad good guys too – an evil company who is manipulating things, including the zombies, for their own terrible ends. And to make things works, Alice is changing – she sees someone else when she looks in the mirror, and is starting to have a hunger for flesh…

I like these books. They are a really good, fun read, with some spicy moments (as you would expect from a book which is published by Harlequin Books). I mean, the characters all drive me somewhat nuts with their umming and ahing and not telling each other what they mean, or keeping secrets, or going against each other. But it all works out… onto part three!

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A Darker Domain by Val McDermid – Book Review

This is the second book in the series of the Karen Pirie series after The Distant Echo, and this confused me a little as, I must admit, I didn’t really remember Karen Pirie from The Distant Echo. But I like her and look forward to reading other books in this series – so, this is a cold case story following two plotlines. First, the disappearance of a miner during the 80s miner strikes – the man was believed to have become a scab, but now, many years later, it turns out he’d disappeared. Then there is the botched kidnapping of a millionaire’s daughter and grandson from around the same time. In the cash handover, the daughter was accidentally shot and killed and the grandson has never been found. Can Pirie solve these?

Of course. But how? I like the way the book jumps from character to character, from plot to plot, even when sometimes it took me a moment to catch up. Still, McDermid tells a good story, pacey and mostly plausible. But the key thing for me is that even when I think I’ve picked the twist or I know what happens next, I can still be surprised.

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