McIntosh’s debut novel, Soft Apocalypse, is a bit of a different take on the apocalyptic genre – rather than one event being the tipping point that puMcIntosh’s debut novel, Soft Apocalypse, is a bit of a different take on the apocalyptic genre – rather than one event being the tipping point that pushes the world into full melt-down, it’s a thirteen year ride through a gradually deteriorating world.
Soft Apocalypse is told through the perspective of Jasper – who at the beginning of the novel is living with his nomadic ‘tribe’, homeless due to rocketing unemployment that has made their skills and education obsolete. On first impression I didn’t particularly like nor dislike Jasper – he didn’t seem to have any real passion or personality, and I was cautious as to how I would feel after spending a whole book with him. However, as the story progressed, I found myself liking him more and more, despite the fact that he spends a lot of time obsessing about finding true love, which sounds a little odd for an apocalyptic novel, but worked quite well for me.
The story also revolves around Jasper’s group of friends, who initially form his tribe, and later remain close through the ups and downs of the story as the world gradually falls more and more apart. I found most of the characters either likeable and could understand why they did certain things – even if at times Jasper’s never-ending quest for true love was a little irritating, when the world is falling apart in stages, there would be times when the survival adrenalin stops pumping and hormones and the need to be with someone are leading emotions.
For those who like to know all the details of why, when and how the apocalypse occurs, Soft Apocalypse may be a little disappointing. McIntosh limits the story to the characters and what they themselves know through media or personal experience – there are quite a few tantalising hints at what is happening outside the group’s immediate experiences, but I preferred the lack of info-dumping – it fit the plot much better. The parts that are revealed I found infinitely fascinating, the splintering of law and order into different factions with their own agendas, bio-terrorism and engineered viruses were all new ideas to me and were convincingly presented in their implementation, if not in the science.
The action ebbs and flows throughout the story, and perhaps the only real disappointment was the large time jumps where something major had obviously happened to change the fortunes of the characters, but the details fall into the gaps between.
Although I enjoyed the whole of Soft Apocalypse, it was the last third or so that really hooked me in, not surprisingly it’s where the stakes are raised and the action really picks up, and again, it was fitting for this novel.
As the second McIntosh novel that I’ve read, the comparison between his debut and his most recent novel, Love Minus Eighty is easy for me to make – McIntosh obviously aims to make his characters, and their relationships the driver of his novels, and has a knack for tantalising science fiction which poses new ideas without going into great detail of the execution – which is actually MY kind of science-fiction read....more
As I read the first pages of The Book Thief, I was confused. Everyone and their dog has loved this book, and yet I’m trying to figure out what the helAs I read the first pages of The Book Thief, I was confused. Everyone and their dog has loved this book, and yet I’m trying to figure out what the hell is going on and the prose is waaaaaaayyyy too purple for my tastes. But I persevere, I keep reading because either I’m missing something terribly obvious or I’m going to lose my faith in all my book loving friends. Before I know it, I’m completely sucked in and only stop reading for other compulsory life activities.
Normally, when I have trouble getting started with a book, even if I end up loving it, I’ll deduct a star or half as penance. But you know what? Fuck it, this book redeemed itself rather quickly and then had the audacity to make me want to cry. (Not actually cry because my reading heart is made of stone, but WANT to cry). So five stars it is.
Narrated by Death, The Book Thief is the story of Leisel Meminger, who finds herself living with a foster family just outside of Munich, after her mother puts her in foster care, and her younger brother dies. It didn’t take very long for Leisel, and her foster parents Hans and Rosa, to find a place in my heart – whether good or bad, almost all of the characters, and especially the main characters of The Book Thief are larger than life. I loved both Leisel and her best friend Rudy, her foster father Hans, but most tellingly, the seemingly abrasive Rosa Hubermann who really does have a heart of gold (albeit a well-hidden one), and on and on – Zusak invests a lot in his characters and it was so easy to imagine them in my mind.
The most telling thing, however, is that I loved this book despite two things that would normally irritate me:
- Death tends to go off on one a little bit – the colours, the way of speaking, at times it was beautiful and poetic, at other times I thought perhaps he’d been partaking in an afternoon tipple.
- The story is not linear – Death occasionally jumps back and forth, and he’s a terrible one for dropping hints, or even outright telling part of the story before Leisel’s story has arrived at that point.
So in the end, I loved The Book Thief - so much that I also bought the movie tie-in enhanced Kindle version and the audiobook so I could read for every possible second. Its great historical fiction with fantastic characters, a unique narrator and although a little unconventional in approach, it’s definitely memorable....more
Down From the Mountain is yet another 2015 book that had me captivated, but yet strangely unmoved. Reading it was like what I imagine watching a car cDown From the Mountain is yet another 2015 book that had me captivated, but yet strangely unmoved. Reading it was like what I imagine watching a car crash in slow motion would be like – I felt disconnected from the people that were involved, but compelled to keep going, even though at times I’d developed a case of couldn’t’-give-a-fuck-itis.
Eva, at fourteen, has lived for the majority of her life in the compound of the Righteous Path. Led by Ezekiel, with only one other grown male and a bevy of women and small children, they live an isolated life, dominated by prayer and punishment for those who break the increasingly strict rules. It’s only when she is temporarily allowed to leave the confines of the compound when she shows an unexpected flair for jewellery making that she really starts to question how the Righteous Path members really live.
I can completely imagine that some readers would get rather frustrated with Eva – she retreats back to the safety of the commune at every moment, and at times I felt frustrated with her too, but when I stopped to think about it, it was logical. She’s been brainwashed – and the normal human reaction in any uncomfortable or scary situation is to fall back on the familiar, and apart from some patchy early memories, the commune is all she has ever known.
What made Down from the Mountain so addictive to read however, is knowing there’s a crunch time coming, and although it’s obvious quite early on what it is going to be, I was so curious to see how it would play out and Fixmer definitely drew me into the climax of the story.
The reason I felt rather disconnected from the book, however, was the characters. Eva was strong and brave, going against everything she had been taught, knowing the consequences would be dire, and yet I never really felt like I knew her very well. She bonds with one of the other ‘mothers’, Rachel, and yet I never really got to know Rachel, or any other secondary character either. And guys, there is no romance – although for everyone that assumes there is romance just because it’s a contemporary YA novel, this is why we should never assume – because there isn’t one.
Finally, Down from the Mountain ends rather abruptly, and it felt a little awkward to me – everything is a little too neat, despite all the trauma that Eva has been through, and it was just over too quickly for my liking.
Down from the Mountain was an interesting read – there is a lot to think about in terms of the way that human beings can be convinced by others to believe in something, even if it is illogical. An interesting premise that just didn’t quite hook me in....more
Even if the publisher hadn’t made the comparison, it’s easy to see that Finding Jake is along the same lines as several other books told from the persEven if the publisher hadn’t made the comparison, it’s easy to see that Finding Jake is along the same lines as several other books told from the perspective of a parent whose child is accused of committing a crime, such as Lionel Shriver’s We Need to Talk About Kevin. And it was my love for We Need to Talk About Kevin as a novel that particularly drew me to Finding Jake.
The perspective is a little different in that it is told from the view of Jake’s stay at home father, Simon. His wife, a high powered lawyer, works long hours, whilst Simon, who is a professional writer, cares for Jake and their younger daughter, Laney. Told in alternating chapters between present day and different times in Jake’s childhood, Reardon takes an intricate look at childhood, parental influence, and how Simon deals with his discomfort at being the sole father in their neighbourhood who stays at home.
As well as his own insecurities about himself, Simon is also rather insecure about his children – Jake is more of a solitary child, and it’s obvious that Simon sees himself in Jake, which in turn is very confrontational for him after the shooting. Did his actions and decisions as a father make Jake a loner, did he not have the right influence over his choice of friends and social interactions, and how can his outgoing daughter Laney, have turned out so differently? I did like that the story flashed between past and present, and that Reardon spent a lot of time in building Jake’s childhood, and although there’s never anything that particularly stands out as a warning sign, it’s Simon’s insights and ideas that pushed me into indecision. Did Jake do the terrible things he is accused of? Did Simon’s choices isolate him and stifle his social interactions? It’s all very thought provoking and kept me reading as I was rather desperate to find out whether Jake was guilty or not.
The other angle that I found particularly interesting was the role of the media and the way that social media influences the reactions of the general public to the shooting – Jake is immediately vilified as being violent and socially inept based on some very innocuous videos he has uploaded, and the print and television media immediately jump all over the Connolly family, before Jake is even found. Finding Jake isn’t a particularly original plot, but it does bring some interesting perspectives and ideas to the table. It’s thought-provoking, intense and at times incredibly moving and although quite similar to another book, it’s definitely a worthwhile read....more
If you ask me what my favourite movie is, I will immediately answer ‘Love, Actually’. I’ve seen it at least a dozen times, and it always leaves me feeIf you ask me what my favourite movie is, I will immediately answer ‘Love, Actually’. I’ve seen it at least a dozen times, and it always leaves me feeling warm and fuzzy. So saying that We Are All Made of Stars left me feeling that way, when it’s a book about a woman who works in a hospice, writing final letters for her dying patients whilst her marriage falls apart, sounds a little strange, as they don’t seem that similar.
We Are All Made of Stars is one of those books – the kind that you go into with not huge expectations, and suddenly, somewhere along the way you find yourself thinking about it every moment that you aren’t reading it, and when you are reading it, you go back over certain passages again and again to squeeze out the maximum amount of emotion.
Although the synopsis only mentions Stella’s story, the book revolves around three main characters, Stella, Hugh and Hope and their individual but linked stories. Stella is struggling in her marriage to Vincent, injured in Afghanistan, Hugh is isolated and lonely but not able to admit it to himself, and Hope is a young woman with Cystic Fibrosis who spends her life hiding away from the world.
The writing is beautiful, full of profound moments and thoughts, but at the same time the characters feel like real people, and their relationships are awkward, fragile and they don’t always know what to do, or how to handle the situations they find themselves in. Coupled with the funny, heartbreaking, mysterious letters that separate the changes of perspective, I was completely hooked.
It’s been a long time since I was so emotionally invested in a book, and it’s definitely one I recommend to anyone that enjoys a good, moving story with characters that are very easy to care about....more
It’s been far too long since I read a zombie novel, and when I saw an article (which I forgot to bookmark as a reference, naturally) about some recentIt’s been far too long since I read a zombie novel, and when I saw an article (which I forgot to bookmark as a reference, naturally) about some recently released zombie books, Great Bitten caught my immediate attention for a couple of reasons:
1. It’s set the in UK – and as an Aussie with a British hubby, the sense of humour, slang and geography are pretty familiar to me. 2. The synopsis openly states that the main character isn’t likeable – and I love a good flawed character.
Journalist Warren isn’t a complete arsehole, but he certainly isn’t afraid to say exactly what he’s thinking, forms quick opinions on other people and when things to go to shit, he’s quick to put the needs of those closest to him first – and occasionally himself. If we are all completely honest with ourselves, and as much as we wouldn’t necessarily like to think it, this is how almost everyone would act during a zombie apocalypse.
Fielding explores some interesting ideas in Outbreak – having fast and slow zombies isn’t new, but it’s his presentation and explanation of the differences that makes Outbreak stand out. The zombies are of course scary, and the blood flows freely, but there’s also a fair amount of time spent on building tension, relationships and character building.
My only issue with Outbreak was a part of the storyline that felt a little too accelerated in terms of how quickly human society degenerated into trading favours for women. I’m not unrealistic enough to think that something like that COULDN’T happen, but it just felt like it happened too fast and was too coordinated. In saying that however, only part of the story is told, so perhaps my assumptions are incorrect.
The story moves along quite quickly, and although it doesn’t cover a large timespan, there’s enough variety to keep it interesting and it definitely sucked me in quickly and kept me glued to the pages. I’ll definitely be looking out for the sequel to this one. ...more
A small town, a body, a woman who is struggling to regain her feet after a traumatic event, a troubled teen and a seemingly perfect mother are the keyA small town, a body, a woman who is struggling to regain her feet after a traumatic event, a troubled teen and a seemingly perfect mother are the key ingredients of Where They Found Her, and have all the elements of a psychological-thriller-murder-mystery.
McCreight’s debut novel, Reconstructing Amelia, was a Goodreads Choice Nominee 2013 and was quite popular among many of my blogger friends, yet still sets unread on my bookshelf. So when I was given the opportunity to read her second novel, Where They Found Her, I was pretty eager to find out what all the hype was about.
Where They Found Her is told through three perspectives – Molly, local reporter and recently having suffered a life-altering trauma, Sandy who is the stereotypical struggling teenager with a plethora of family issues, and Barbara, wife of the head of the local police force and candidate for mother of the year. Whilst I enjoyed the perspective of Sandy, and didn’t have any particular issues with Molly (who, fortunately is the main narrator), I couldn’t stand Barbara – self-righteousness covering up huge insecurities isn’t the way to get me to feel empathy towards a character.
Sadly, I also guessed a large part of the mystery quite early on. And the bits that I didn’t guess, well by the time they were revealed, I didn’t really care that much anymore and therefore their impact was greatly diminished. And this is where reviewing mysteries is difficult, because there is a lot I want to talk about, but can’t because then I would spoilt it for the people who DON’T guess the mystery early on.
To McCreight’s credit, although I guessed the key parts of the plot far too early on, I was sucked into the story and was curious to see what happened. It’s an easy read, something that I could see myself reading on a long-haul flight or, as did happen, whilst waiting for a badly delayed train. In short, enough to keep my attention, but not to have me sweaty palmed and gripping the pages. ...more