“In my experience, the truly evil are few and good people, with the very best intentions, often make very bad decisions and get in way over their hea“In my experience, the truly evil are few and good people, with the very best intentions, often make very bad decisions and get in way over their heads before they know it. People drown, quietly before our eyes, all the time.” - (Ilsa J Bick in the Acknowledgements of Drowning Instinct)
I can never resist a compelling, unreliable narrator.
There are few literary techniques I find more engaging than a strong, distinct voice – especially one I’m not sure I can trust. And in sixteen-year-old Jenna Lord, Ilsa J Bick has created a razor sharp voice in a story that is anything but clear-cut.
Drowning Instinct puts the reader in the uncomfortable position of listening in on Jenna’s (very) unsettling story, as she dictates it onto a digital recorder for the detective waiting outside the door. She is, in her own words: ”..lucky, a liar, a good girl, a princess, a thief – and a killer.” And what she has to say is not easy to hear.
As Bick herself says, this is a difficult, risky book. It does not present predators and victims in a black and white fashion. There is a great deal of ambiguity and complex content – including, but not limited to: self-harm, alcoholism, sexual and physical abuse, grief, PTSD, suicide and (view spoiler)[ a relationship between a teacher and student. (hide spoiler)] However, what prevents this book from descending into the realm of manipulative tragedy porn is that it does not ask the reader to agree with the choices the characters make. But it does demand that the reader think about them, question them, examine the reasoning and motivations of these damaged people.
From the opening, Drowning Instinct is an intense novel. While the pieces of the story fall into place gradually, with Jenna alternately withholding and revealing information, the pacing never feels slow. Rather, the slightly ominous tone, the sensation that the plot is inexorably drawing towards a shocking conclusion, and the format in which Jenna relates events, keeps the story gripping.
Jenna is an intriguing narrator: intelligent, acerbic, obviously in pain. Her voice is extremely well-executed, balancing her tendency to keep the detective (and thus the reader) at arm’s length, with her raw vulnerability. She is not entirely a sympathetic character – and yet throughout the book all I wanted was for to be able to heal, to find relief. As the layers to her story are revealed, Jenna becomes clearer as a character and her actions are given greater context, which complicates the issue of judging her choices. In this respect, Bick has crafted not only a realistic, complex character – but also developed an interesting dynamic between Jenna and the reader.
There are some plot elements that I felt weakened the believability of the story overall – the biggest example being the dramatic changes in attitude of Jenna’s parents. The abrupt turn-arounds in behaviour are almost whip-lash inducing, and the justification provided feels flimsy. That said, I think it’s worth considering that these parts of the story reflect Jenna as a narrator, and that we are hearing what Jenna herself refers to as her “version” of the truth. Early in the novel, Jenna muses on what it means to tell to the truth – and her inability to provide a black and white story, given the circumstances in which hers unfolds.
This is not a perfect novel, nor is it an easy one. Bick takes a gamble in choosing to tell this particular story in such a conflicted, ambiguous manner. Yet, while Jenna reaches a conclusion at the end of the book – readers are left to form their own. And I believe that rather than trying to convince readers of a particular stance, this book is instead simply urging them to think. To hear a different perspective. But most of all, to understand what compels such broken people to go to such extreme measures to mitigate their pain – whether we support or condemn their actions. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Every so often a book comes along that I have an intense, visceral reaction to. ‘Stolen’ is definitely one of those books. I read it rapidly, entangle Every so often a book comes along that I have an intense, visceral reaction to. ‘Stolen’ is definitely one of those books. I read it rapidly, entangled in the narrative, and when I closed the book I felt like someone had just delivered a sound, steel-cap booted kick to my chest. I just sat there feeling winded, trying to come up with a word for exactly what I was experiencing. In the end, I’d say I felt bereft. Shaken, disturbed, yes, but also a strange yearning for something that I couldn’t quite put my finger on.
Written in the form of a letter from 16 year old Gemma to her captor, Ty, ‘Stolen’ is a powerful book, recounting Gemma’s experiences as she is taken from Bangkok airport to the Australian outback.
It is a testament to the skill of the author that as a reader you are compelled to run such a gamut of emotion, one that closely mirrors Gemma’s mental journey. Perhaps even to the point where you feel what Gemma feels as she, arguably and subject to your interpretation, develops Stockholm Syndrome. I found myself relating to and grieving for a person who committed a terrible act. Discovering empathy for a character who is deeply troubled and unstable. Treading the thin line between love and obsession. Sanity and insanity. Gentleness and evil.
The story takes you through panic and fear. Anger. Hurt. Confusion. Denial. Revulsion. Compassion. Manipulation. Trust. Attraction.
And then it flips all of that on its head and asks you to question everything you feel. Is it real? Or were you and the narrator manipulated? What is fitting justice for a criminal who’s strange and twisted logic you have almost come to understand? It is a complex, beautifully conceived novel that lingers long after the final page. I found myself thinking about the characters for days afterwards, and analysing my feelings about the ending.
I also need to mention how much I adored Lucy Christopher’s use of the setting, her portrayal of the danger and unique beauty of the outback. Almost a character in its own right, Christopher really captured the vastness of the landscape, while also heightening the claustrophobic sense of isolation of being, literally, in the middle of nowhere.
Of course, this won't be a story for everyone. It's troubling, challenging, but ultimately moving and thought provoking. A definite favourite. ...more
Expectations: I thought this would be an entertaining read. A consuming piece of escapism. I like historical fiction and I was really looking forwardExpectations: I thought this would be an entertaining read. A consuming piece of escapism. I like historical fiction and I was really looking forward to Godbersen’s take on the 1920s.
Reality: Honestly, I struggled with the writing in this book. The idea was fine, I just don’t feel like it was executed as well as it could have been. I frequently found myself stumbling over awkward turns of phrase and clunky descriptions, to the point where I would stop reading to think, “Wait, what?” and have to re-read sentences and paragraphs. For this reason I didn’t ever feel absorbed by the story, just kind of detached. I eventually started turning the corners of pages down to mark some of the more heavy-handed prose so I could re-read them later and practice editing.
I can’t say that I felt connected to any of the characters in this story. I didn’t like or dislike them. I simply didn’t care about them.
Further, I don’t rate this as historical fiction. There was so much potential in the setting and the period, but I just found the story fell flat and the depiction of New York in the Roaring 20s lacked the authenticity I was looking for. For me, the strongest part of the book was the opening, before the actions moves to the city.
I know this book has a lot of fans, but I just have to say it just wasn’t for me. ...more
Some books shout from the page, strident and bold, demanding to be heard.
Other books whisper in your ear. Almost as if to say: ‘Come closer.3.5 stars
Some books shout from the page, strident and bold, demanding to be heard.
Other books whisper in your ear. Almost as if to say: ‘Come closer. I have something to tell you.’ So you lean in, sink into the words, and let yourself be submerged.
Alaska is one of the latter. It is a quiet, seemingly simple story, with great emotional depth beneath the plot. The prose is spare, yet somehow heavy – every sentence feels deliberate and significant, each word carefully chosen, rich with meaning. There is something almost dream-like about the experience of reading this book – the lyrical flow, the delicate handling of the dialogue, the beauty of the language.
While the lack of capitalisation, the short paragraphs and the shifts from past to present initially take some getting used to, they feel fitting for the unfolding of Mia’s story.
Travelling from Australia to Alaska in the wake of her mother’s hospitalisation, Mia discovers love and beauty – in people and her surroundings – and must ultimately decide whether to follow her heart, whatever direction it may lead her in.
The subjects of alcoholism, depression, romantic and familial love – and the way Mia perceives these – are explored honestly without being heavy handed or melodramatic. In particular, the passages that deal with mental illness feel achingly real and insightful. While yet a young woman beginning to figure out her way into the future and experiencing all the accompanying uncertainty, it is here that Mia shows her depth of understanding and empathy.
I loved how the aspect of distance was explored in Mia’s relationships, both geographically and emotionally, and what it means to be close to someone. Or to discover that someone may not be exactly who or what we believe (or want) them to be. The bonds between Mia and her mother and sister, from childhood to the present, were a little bit heartbreaking in their realism.
Alaska is a gentle story of a girl’s self-discovery through connection with her surroundings and finding something to believe in. It's a moving portrayal of courage and what it means to love. Absolutely beautiful.
(I also have to mention the cover. It is stunning - I keep picking it up and tilting it in the light. Perfect for the story within.) ...more
This gorgeous little novel caught me totally unaware.
I shouldn’t have been surprised – it was written by Cath Crowely, after all, and my love of herThis gorgeous little novel caught me totally unaware.
I shouldn’t have been surprised – it was written by Cath Crowely, after all, and my love of her lyrical style was firmly sealed with Graffiti Moon – but this book basically crept up on me, tapped me on the shoulder and whispered, “Excuse me, but I’ll be hijacking your emotions now.”
The themes Crowley deals with are not exactly groundbreaking – friendship, self-esteem, grief, first love, acceptance, change – but they are intensely relatable and touching through the dual perspectives of Charlie and Rose. The wanting these two characters had for something different in their lives was palpable in the prose: Rose’s ambition for a future different to her parents’, Charlie’s longing to become visible. Crowley writes the accompanying feelings of uncertainty, hope, awkwardness and frustration with authenticity. Charlie’s struggle for connection in particular was achingly familiar and beautifully articulated.
‘Chasing Charlie Duskin’ also deals honestly with familial relationships, particularly between parents and children. The dynamic between Charlie and her father was complex, and in the case of Dave (Dave! Love him) and Mr Robbie, unsettling and a little heartbreaking. It’s this emotional realism that makes this book crawl under your skin and keeps the characters lingering with you.
This is a quietly told coming of age story – even the more dramatic plot points happen without accompanying fanfare or histrionics – that felt fitting to the setting. Crowley captures the sense of tightly knit community in a country town, and the beauty and boredom of the place are nicely juxtaposed.
Full of gorgeous phrases (my page flagging of quotes rapidly got out of control), Crowley’s writing is rich and evocative. However, I do feel that there is less restraint used here than in Graffiti Moon, which in my opinion, makes GF the better book.
This is a simple, moving story peopled with realistic characters. It’s sad, funny and ultimately optimistic. A wonderful book by an outstanding author. ...more
This book and I got on a plane together, and if it hadn’t been for the fact that we were both trapped in a small space with little else to do, we mighThis book and I got on a plane together, and if it hadn’t been for the fact that we were both trapped in a small space with little else to do, we might have parted ways early on.
I didn’t step smoothly into the first few chapters of Birthmarked. My reading experience sort of tripped, stumbled, almost face-planted. At first the writing seemed quite dense and strangely... formal? I had some difficulty getting my head into the world – possibly due to some pre-conceived ideas I had about the book, which turned out to be pretty far off the mark.
Then I picked myself up, dusted myself off, and eventually, I found myself breaking into a page-turning sprint (okay, maybe more of a jog, to be honest). (And I’m not sure that metaphor really works, but you know what I mean..)
Translated, this basically means that the book grew on me and I found it got stronger the further I read. I wasn’t completely sure for the first third or so, but I did end up enjoying this book, particularly once the action shifted locations (view spoiler)[from outside the wall to within the Enclave. (hide spoiler)]
In terms of the world, I liked the concept of the post climate change environment and the “unlake”. O’Brien conveyed the oppressiveness of not only the way the world was governed and the enforced “advancing” of babies, but also the heat, and the harshness of the drought-stricken landscape. At times, despite the fact that the story is set in the future, parts of the world felt archaic, which was interesting when juxtaposed with occasional references to technology like computers and surveillance systems and cinema-like screens.
While I wouldn’t say that this is an action driven book in the style of say, The Hunger Games, neither is it as languid as I found Matched. The plot is still sufficiently engaging and gains momentum as Gaia sets about code-cracking and performing some stealth midwifery and generally running afoul of the powers that be (view spoiler)[and.. er.. wearing a crepe on her face... (hide spoiler)].
I thought that the premise, while not without its own problems and flaws, at least required less suspension of belief and logic than some other dystopias. However, I didn’t find the level of evil or creepiness from the antagonists that I was expecting.
Side note: I’ve seen some other reviewers reference The Handmaid’s Tale and point to some similarities between the two – but I have to say that I’m not sure I would make the comparison. Aside from the colour-coding of clothing, the two are far too different to me to place them side by side.
I think I will read Prized – if only because the ending of Birthmarked was very open and I’d be interested to see what direction Caragh O’Brien takes Gaia’s story. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
2.5 stars. (This book was a solid 2 star read for me, until the final third, when I found the story became much more engaging.)
This is a difficult rev2.5 stars. (This book was a solid 2 star read for me, until the final third, when I found the story became much more engaging.)
This is a difficult review to write (and a difficult rating to give), because I wanted to love this book. So badly.
I think I went into this novel expecting some kind of awesome hybrid of ‘Tomorrow When the War Began’ and ‘How I Live Now’ – and perhaps I was basing this assumption entirely on the striking cover, which I love. Unfortunately, despite the captivating synopsis, ‘Days Like This’ fell somewhat short of my expectations.
Let me just say straight up that I really liked the premise of this novel. Stewart had an intriguing environmental set up for her dystopian Australia, and an interesting concept in the walled enclave of Sydney’s elite. Throw into the mix some genuinely creepy and disturbing ideas about aging, survival, reproduction and the value of beauty, and there was so much potential for this story to be completely compelling.
The reality was that, for me, it didn’t really deliver on any of the great ideas put forward. The set up and organisation of the future Sydney felt paper-thin and I just didn’t buy it. I’m willing to suspend belief in a lot of cases, but I couldn’t make myself here. As I read, I found myself distracted by some heavy-handed messages incorporated in the prose, and questioning the world building rather than being immersed in it. In addition, some plot points felt too convenient, too simple, to be truly believable. For example, (view spoiler)[the hacking of the computer system - It did move the story along, but it felt all too easy for such a tightly policed and restricted world. (hide spoiler)]
The prose was not particularly to my taste as it had a curiously wooden feel, which felt… distancing, rather than compelling. Even though the story deals with some heavy subject matter, there is a kind of sterility to the writing. Parts of the dialogue seemed strangely forced and stilted as well. I found myself chortling when a teenaged boy used the expression “for heaven’s sake”, which I don’t think was the intended reaction. Many of the interactions seemed like question and answer type scenarios to get chunks of information across to the reader, rather than opportunities to develop the characters and delve into their motivations.
The characterisation itself took more of a ‘telling’ approach, rather than showing - even the supposedly sinister Blacktroopers (terrible name) felt oddly like caricatures of “evil”. Further, at one point Lily, the protagonist, makes the observation of a male character being not only cute, but strong and capable. If this is purely a physical description – fine – but if it was intended to convey aspects of his personality, it didn’t really work, tossed in only a couple of pages and lines of dialogue after he is first introduced. In fact, if anyone in the story embodied the idea of being strong and capable, it was Ingie. That girl was a trooper! More successful was the portrayal Pym and Megan, whose warped personalities were distasteful from the outset.
Lily herself was a serviceable enough main character, but I didn’t feel particularly invested in her, despite her problems being serious and the stakes high. The antagonising and aggressive Sal was a much more interesting character than Lily, in my opinion.
As mentioned at the outset, I feel like the latter part of the book was the strongest. The tsunami scenes (I’m not spoiling here, you know this happens from the prologue) were intense and graphic, and felt much tighter than some of the earlier dramatic events. From Stewart’s description it was easy to visualise the walls of water sweeping into Sydney Harbour, the terror and devastation in its wake. I found myself caught up in the story at this point, whereas earlier I was pushing myself through it.
I’m ambivalent about the ending. I feel like I should have cared much more, like the impact should have been more forceful, that I was feeling what the characters were feeling. I can’t say that I did. It seemed a bit, “this happened” and “then this happened” and “then this person said..” and meanwhile I was thinking ’who is that person again? So while I was happy enough with the resolution, I was disappointed that I didn’t care about it more, and I wasn’t really a fan of the “moral of the story” type vibe to the conclusion.
I was excited about this book, and I’m sorry that I can’t rate it higher than I have. Even though the ideas and concepts were brilliant, I didn’t particularly care for the style in which they were executed. I have to say that this one missed the mark for me. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Taking place in a Melbourne museum with monetary woes, A Pocketful of Eyes is a twisty mystery that involves animal trivia, taxidermy, a tige3.5 stars
Taking place in a Melbourne museum with monetary woes, A Pocketful of Eyes is a twisty mystery that involves animal trivia, taxidermy, a tiger and a cute boy called Toby. (And that’s enough cheesy alliteration from me).
Bee is working a summer job in the department of taxidermy at the Museum of Natural History, trying to avoid thinking about the fact that her boyfriend may prefer her best friend, and ignore her handsome new colleague, when the body of her mentor and supervisor and turns up in the one of the museum exhibits. Equipped with a childhood spent reading Sherlock Holmes, Trixie Belden and Nancy Drew novels, a whip-smart intellect and a willing sidekick, Bee puts her powers of deduction to work, investigating the mysterious circumstances of the apparent suicide.
To put it simply, this book is fun. Really fun. Wilkinson weaves a together a detective story with plenty of turns and red herrings, bizarre factoids galore and a dash of swoon.
Bee is refreshing character – she’s smart and tenacious and follows her instincts – but she’s also a teenager who doesn’t quite know how to handle her floundering friendship or the fact that her D&D playing Mum is dating a Celestial Badger. She’s confident in her work and knows how to skin a koala, but she’s not quite sure what to make of Toby and his wealth of knowledge about mating rituals of the animal kingdom. I loved the collision of her focused, analytical side with the uncertainties in her personal life and her feelings for a certain glasses-wearing uni student.
And speaking of Toby, I ended up with a bit of a crush on him myself. He’s intelligent, a little cheeky, a walking Wikipedia of random facts with penchant for making out in some very interesting places. He’s humour and hotness in equal measure (and honestly, the hedgehog card and the Adelie penguin story were pretty much my undoing).
The relationship between Bee and her Mother was well done. It’s realistic and not perfect and involves two very different personalities - but it’s not angsty or clichéd. The scenes between Bee and her Mother, while often funny, always seemed genuine and true to their situation.
In the interests of keeping this review spoiler free, I’ll limit my comments on the plot, other than to say that it was well-crafted and tight. I’ll admit that I went into this booking thinking I’d have the mystery sorted early on in the piece – but I was happily proven wrong and kept on my toes up until the reveal.
The big bonus factor for me though – nerd that I am – was all the trivia liberally sprinkled throughout the story. Odd facts about the history and process of taxidermy, scientific theory, literary references, mating habits.. They give the story a quirk factor that I particularly enjoyed.
A Pocketful of Eyes is light without being fluffy - it’s not a book that packs huge emotional impact - but it has a lot of heart and was I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.
(Also, ten points for the cover: it has quite a pop and it’s also completely relevant. Love!)
Fury is a book that lingers. It leaves a trail of questions in the wake of its final pages, and I have to say that this was one of my favourite thingsFury is a book that lingers. It leaves a trail of questions in the wake of its final pages, and I have to say that this was one of my favourite things about it, the fact that the characters and their story stayed with me after the last words.
In Eliza Boans, Shirley Marr has created a narrator that alternately holds the reader at arms length, then draws them close. There is an unsteadiness to the relationship we build with Eliza as her narrative unfolds, uncertain whether or not to trust her. She says it upfront, on the first page: she is a murderer. And yet there is much more to it than that. She can be repugnant at times, sympathetic at others. She is reprehensible, fierce, loyal, and somehow always seems to have part herself turned away from the reader. And this is what made her story so gripping for me, this need to try to see her completely, to form the whole picture as Marr gradually provides the pieces.
Eliza, leading what initially appears to be her merry band of uber-bitches, pulls us into her home of East Rivermoor. This community feels gated and shut off in more than just the literal sense. This is not a typical Australian suburb, rather it has an kind of alternate-reality feel, almost Burtonesque with its brightly coloured houses and unsettling apparent tranquillity. Once I’d checked my expectations at the door, I found myself enjoying this strange, vaguely sinister world. It provides a vivid backdrop for the unfolding of the dark, twisted plot.
With the exception of Eliza’s admission on the opening page, we are dropped into her story blind, to experience events as she chooses to reveal them, filtered through her perspective. Yet there is a creeping sense of foreboding from the very start. There are flickers of foreshadowing that can’t quite be pinned down, that add to the darkening atmosphere of the story as the lines between right and wrong, good and bad, blur into various shades of grey.
In a similar way, Marr’s characters become more nuanced and dimensional as the story progresses. What appears to be a high school power struggle between the vain, the venomous and the vapid soon becomes much more complex as the characters interact and their history, actions and motivations are revealed.
While I enjoyed the characterisations and the way the girls were developed beyond mere Mean Girl cardboard cut outs, I did initially find the dialogue a little jarring, which distracted me from totally settling into the story. This diminished somewhat as the plot progressed, and by the second half I was totally immersed and engaged in their story.
Fury does not hand over answers on a platter, or tie up the ending with tidy explanations and a bow. However, it is a book that is all the more impactful for the questions it provokes, and the way it leaves the reader thinking about the characters and debating the conclusions we have reached. Writing this, I’m still wondering about my interpretation of the ending, thinking back through the pages to the hints and clues along the way, particularly in relation to one of the main characters. [spoilers removed]
Intelligent and twisted, Fury was a grower for me, once I had settled into the world and the style of the writing. An engaging and thought-provoking read. ...more
If you’ve read Across the Universe, you’ll be familiar with its intense and chilling first chapter – a powerful piece of writing that opened this YA sci-fi trilogy with a bang. While I enjoyed Across the Universe, for me, that claustrophobic induction into Amy’s point of view was its highest point. That said, I wanted to see where Revis was going to take the story next. Having left her characters and the Godspeed in something of a lurch, and with some glaring questions to be addressed, I was invested enough to pick up A Million Suns for the answers.
And answer she does. A couple of issues are addressed immediately, within the first chapter. It’s not quite as compelling as the opening of Across the Universe – Revis takes a more subtle approach this time around – but she effectively sets the tone for the rest of the novel. Tense, unsettling and ominous.
Amy and Elder are beset by problems. Elder’s position as leader of Godspeed’s now Phydus-free population is precarious. The truth about Godspeed’s engine is revealed. Amy is trying to process being assaulted, her extremely conflicted feelings toward Elder (given his admission of responsibility for her unfreezing) and the prejudice levelled against her by the ship-born residents. Amid all this – mysterious clues have been left for Amy to follow, and a decision with life-altering consequences hangs in the balance.
Revis writes good old fashioned, Professor Plum in the conservatory with the lead-pipe type mystery, and the hunt for and solving of clues is one of the main driving forces of the plot. Occasionally I found Amy seemed to work things out a little too quickly and conveniently, eliminate the red herrings a little too easily. I also saw one of the major twists coming some time before its big reveal. That said, the mystery plotline works well – and I enjoyed the fact that Amy has agency and motivation as a character in her own right, independent of the minor romantic subplot.
While I’m on the subject of romance; Revis uses restraint here and it really works. If I’m not 100% on board with the manner in which Amy’s feelings eventually crystallised (not saying which way, mind you), I appreciated the realistic issues that complicated her thought process and impeded the exploration of their feelings. There’s also an interesting discussion about choice, which makes a refreshing change from the smorgasbord of “unexplainable compulsion” YA romances. I wouldn’t say that chemistry is Revis’ strongest point as a writer (or at least, it hasn’t been so yet), as the “romantic” moments can feel somewhat forced and wooden.
However, in A Million Suns, I did feel that Amy and Elder really came into their own individually as developed, complex characters. I sympathised with them more throughout this novel, and felt I knew them better as fully realised characters. This is the novel in which both must confront their personal demons and make choices of profound moral and ethical significance. By throwing these teenagers into such complicated scenarios, with both personal and ship-wide ramifications, Revis highlights their respective strengths and weaknesses, and the emotional effects of shouldering such great responsibility. This is particularly true in Elder’s case – by placing his assumed role of leadership up against the reignited free-will of the population – she creates a compelling conflict that highlights his characterisation and, ultimately, his growth.
This social and political unrest was, in my opinion, the most engaging aspect of A Million Suns. Revis doesn’t shy away from posing difficult questions, and by doing this, she creates an atmosphere of extreme tension in an already claustrophobia-inducing setting. While not precisely a Marie Antoinette-esque, “Let them eat cake”-style propaganda-skewering, Elder’s decisions and position are the subject of much discord and discussion. And Revis is not black and white about the situation. Rather, she presents a range of valid arguments and opinions. The disorder is not only compelling, it’s understandable and thought-provoking.
This is a solid instalment in the trilogy that avoids middle book sag. The plot here feels vital (even if the mystery formula is not exactly fresh) as opposed to filler. I feel it’s a stronger book than its predecessor (apart from that spectacular opening scene of Across of the Universe, perhaps) and effectively ups the ante for Shades of Earth.
****** Thunderbirds er, TrinRey are go!
Obligatory readalong book shot:
Also, the lovely and talented Trinity has created this helpful visual aid:
After being left with decidedly lukewarm feelings for Delirium, I was both surprised and pleased to find that I enjoyed reading the sequel.
While the After being left with decidedly lukewarm feelings for Delirium, I was both surprised and pleased to find that I enjoyed reading the sequel.
While the majority of my issues with the premise remain unchanged, I found them less of a hindrance to my reading experience this time around. Oliver’s dystopian alternate history is still riddled with weaknesses and questionable logic, yet with the focus shifted to action, rather than exposition, it’s much easier to just roll with this world as Oliver presents it.
In Pandemonium, Lena relates two timelines in parallel. The narrative alternates between the time immediately after her escape from Portland (picking up immediately after the ending of Delirium), and some time several months in the future. The former thread serves to provide context and justification for the character growth Lena undergoes, while the latter gives the plot forward momentum and presents a new set of complications and conflicts.
In terms of stakes and tension, Pandemonium is a stronger book than Delirium. The pacing is, for the most part, brisk and engrossing, and the dual timelines are complementary. They transition smoothly and logically rather than slowing the story down, which is a potential risk with a structure that moves backward and forward so much.
Lena herself is a much more engaging character in Pandemonium. Her growth is interesting and believable in the circumstances presented, and her shift from somewhat passive to dynamic made her, in my opinion, a more compelling narrator. There’s a harder edge to the Lena of the future, yet her core characterisation fortunately remains consistent, as I would have found it hard to swallow a complete personality makeover for the purposes of the sequel. To Oliver’s credit, she has crafted a strong, realistic emotional arc for Lena.
Similarly, Lena’s relationships with new characters in Pandemonium (particularly Raven) felt nuanced and interesting. The friendships, if they can be called such, that Lena forms in the Wilds were believably complicated. Where this element left me cold, however, were Lena’s interactions with Julian Fineman. Here, it felt choreographed to me, requiring more suspension of belief. And that cliffhanger was… not really a cliffhanger for me. I’d been in expectation of that moment so the impact was not particularly devastating or shocking. It seemed like Oliver’s puppet strings were too visible here, that her manoeuvring of events was obvious and slightly clumsy.
I’m divided on the writing. Oliver’s style is descriptive and emotional – rich with imagery and lyrical phrases. However, I can’t help but think some restraint here might have strengthened the prose. Repeated eye colour descriptions begin to feel sickly and overblown after the first few times. I think Oliver has a real skill in communicating complex emotion, yet some of the descriptive passages -particularly where romance is concerned – lost some potency through their being overwritten. Granted, that’s a matter of personal taste, and it won’t draw the same criticism from everyone.
I am interested to see how Oliver will conclude the trilogy, and given that Pandemonium was a better reading experience for me than Delirium, I’m feeling optimistic about the final book.
* * * * * Why is Lena's disembodied head glaring at me from within some plants? Why?...more
Matched is a quiet, nicely written book that just never completely came alive for me. The very fact that I just used the word ‘nice’ to describe it isMatched is a quiet, nicely written book that just never completely came alive for me. The very fact that I just used the word ‘nice’ to describe it is probably telling. It’s not a strong word and I can’t say that this book evoked any particularly strong emotions while I was reading it.
While I appreciate that the focus here was more on introspection as opposed to action, and that Condie does present some thought provoking scenarios and ideas, I simply didn’t connect with this book. While there is a certain bleak and claustrophobic atmosphere to the way the tightly ordered world is written, I wanted Cassia’s voice to be stronger, for her story to hold me on the page more firmly. As it was, I felt somewhat detached from both Cassia and her situation. In addition, the pacing is quite sedate – and though this feels fitting for the world Cassia lives in – I did find the story somewhat drawn out and my interest waned at times.
Xander and Ky were likeable enough characters, but were not precisely compelling. I felt as if reasons for their potential as a “match” for Cassia were put forward, but for me neither of them elicited anything more than lukewarm feelings. I cared about them - I just didn’t feel a huge emotional investment in either of them. I hope that the future instalments in the trilogy breathe a little more life into these characters, particularly Ky and his background. Having said all of that, I did like the fact that the relationships didn’t veer off completely into angsty love triangle territory. Condie’s touch here was light and leaves the door open for further development down the track.
I liked the concept of Matched and Condie’s writing was smooth, however I struggled to feel engaged and was distracted by its ongoing... blandness. This was disappointing as I feel there was potential here for a powerful, solid story with more emotional punch, higher stakes and more philosophical depth. Didn’t mind it. Just didn’t love it. ...more
There is nothing saccharine about Mim Dodd’s life. She’s nine days away from “The summer holiday is nearly over.
This is not how it’s supposed to be.”
There is nothing saccharine about Mim Dodd’s life. She’s nine days away from seventeen, has two brothers in remand, and lives in a dead suburb with a Mother she is desperate to be nothing like. Mim wants to be anywhere else, and she’s got a set of rules to live by to make it happen.
It only takes one day, one package, and Mim’s life is about to change forever.
All I Ever Wanted’ is a powerful and beautiful book; a stunning work of lyrical prose spiked with grit. Much like it’s protagonist, Mim, the story is tough and touching, a brutally honest slice of life on the other side of the tracks. (Mim is definitely one of my all time favourite MC's, I wish I could put a copy of this book into the hands of everyone who has had their fill of insipid, one-note heroines.)
Vikki Wakefield certainly has a way with imagery in her writing – there is something very visual about the spare, apt phrases used throughout the novel. With simple lines, Wakefield captures images and characters perfectly, and Mim’s world comes to life on the pages. (This is another book I was compulsively page flagging, trying to mark all of the amazing lines.)
Incredibly atmospheric, you can feel the heat rising off the ground, hear Mim’s thongs slapping the concrete, feel the sweat and dust and dirt. It’s vivid and familiar: the dodgy suburb, the lethargy of summer, the clearly drawn characters.
The chapters read like a line of dominos falling over, each flowing into the next, gathering strength as the stakes are raised. As the plot gathers urgency, Mim develops as a character, forced to confront each of her staunch rules. We witness the shifts in her perception of her family, her home, and her life, and her gradual acceptance of the person she really is.
In contrast to Mim’s rules, All I Ever Wanted does not deal in black and white portrayals of life. People and their actions are shown in all their shades of grey, flaws and moral ambiguity. The rougher side to life is not glossed over here, but nor is it used deliberately to shock. And while Mim’s life is no walk in the park, and her neighbourhood is less than picture perfect, the story is also hopeful, and strangely beautiful in its realism and heart.
This is a striking debut, full of lingering, gorgeous, compelling writing.
Reading it feels like a small and vivid piece of the real world has been captured on paper. Highly memorable and moving - I loved it.
If you have not yet read the brilliant Finding Cassie Crazy by Jacyln Moriarty, please do yourself a favour, stop reading this pitiful attempt at a reIf you have not yet read the brilliant Finding Cassie Crazy by Jacyln Moriarty, please do yourself a favour, stop reading this pitiful attempt at a review, and go track down a copy. Okay? Seriously, do it.
If you’ve decided not to immediately take my advice and you’re still hanging around this page, alright, I’ll try to make it worth your while.
So, here goes.
Five Reasons to Read Finding Cassie Crazy (you really don’t need all five, any one of these will do, but whatever, I’m feeling verbose and generous right now..):
1.It’s Jacyln Moriarty! - One of my all time favourite writers, I can’t even begin to do justice to Moriarty’s way with words. Sure, I believe that writing is a skill that can be honed and taught, but I’m also positive that there are people out there who simply have a talent for bringing stories to life and a gift for expression. Jaclyn Moriarty is just such a writer. She writes laugh out loud dialogue, tight, surprising plots, characters that live and breathe on the pages. Her novels blend the realistic with the whimsical (I’d say quirky, but I really dislike the word quirky) and come out completely compelling, funny and moving. This is the sort of writing that grabs hold of you and doesn’t let go, and I can honestly say I have never met a Jacyln Moriarty book I didn’t love.
2.Epistolary Awesomeness - This is a multi-viewpoint novel, largely narrated through correspondence as part of an inter high school letter writing project – round two of the tie-forging experiment implemented by Mr Botherit in Feeling Sorry For Celia. The (hilarious) letters of the main characters are interspersed with notice board announcements, journal entries, emails, transcripts, statutory declarations and summonses (Moriarty’s background as a lawyer is used to hysterical effect). I’m not always a fan of epistolary style books, but Finding Cassie Crazy nails it, to the point where I could not imagine this story being told any other way. It also makes this book somewhat difficult to put down. Every time I read it, I find myself saying, “just one more letter, then I’ll stop” and then I keep doing this until I find myself reading the entire book in one compulsive gulp.
3.High School High Jinks - Two Sydney high schools. One letter writing project. Six students. Pranks. Revenge schemes. Secret assignments. Shenanigans. Fist-pump moments. Swoons. I don’t recall my Year Ten experience (which was definitely more Brookfield than Ashbury) being this awesome, so I re-live it vicariously through this novel.
4.The Characters - I love them all. Okay, not (view spoiler)[ Matthew Dunlop. Obviously. (hide spoiler)]. Moriarty writes pitch-perfect, realistic and unique characters that each have a distinct voice. With varied backgrounds, layers and motivations, each member of the cast travels their own subtle arc throughout the plot, bringing something different to the culmination of the book where their individual journeys weave together. I’m a big fan of the way Moriarty writes the friendship between the girls. It’s real and heartfelt and lacks the angst and competitiveness that comes across in some YA novel friendships. You can tell that these girls just genuinely like each other, and I love that they fiercely defend each other in face of tragedy, change, jerk-ish boys..
Enough said. Are you still reading this? Go get this book. You can thank me / other Goodreads recommenders / your librarian / bookseller later.
About those three red stars preceding this review: it’s probably best to take them with a grain (or a handful) of salt.
Because while I eventually set About those three red stars preceding this review: it’s probably best to take them with a grain (or a handful) of salt.
Because while I eventually settled on 3 stars, I feel like I’m being simultaneously rather generous and also meanly tight-fisted. Which roughly translates to: there are things I enjoyed immensely about Shatter Me, and things that made me roll my eyes and groan, so my rating is a total cop-out.
At an unnamed point in the future, when the world appears to have gone to hell in a handbag (and doesn’t it always?), we meet Juliette alone in a cell. She hasn’t touched another person for 264 days. She is a prisoner of The Reestablishment (sinister totalitarian-type regime that has some fairly insane ideas about how the world should be run). She’s teetering on the edge of her sanity, living at some point in the middle of her past, reality and her imagination, when her jailers thrust a roommate into her cell. And the kicker? The crux of the whole story? Juliette is capable of inflicting pain, even killing, with her touch. The story escalates fairly rapidly, from the interruption of Juliette’s cell-bound musings by the arrival of her unexpected companion, to the ramifications of Juliette’s ability and the plans the Reestablishment have for her.
I’m not fond of labeling certain books “guilty pleasures”, as don’t believe in feeling guilty about reading, but I’ll go so far as say there was something indulgent about the experience of reading Shatter Me. It was entertaining, it was deliciously escapist – I ate it up in much the same manner that I did Divergent. However, if I delve too deeply beyond this shiny layer of good fun, I’d start poking enough holes in it that it might completely perforate my “like” for it.
I can’t review this book without mentioning the writing, as I’m almost certain that this is going to be a major sticking point for some readers. That Mafi seems to have a beautifully vivid imagination and an unusual artistry with her word-use, is clear. The prose of Shatter Me is riddled with metaphors and imagery. Heavy with it. Particularly during the first half of the book, Juliette/Mafi seem to speak in a language of lyrical descriptions, the literal and the symbolic pressed together into dramatic, graphic figures of speech.
But this is where it gets murky for me. I do love descriptive, lush writing. And there were certain lines and passages in Shatter Me that I appreciated for their evocative and unusual beauty. There are points where Mafi finds a striking way to express her characters’ actions and emotions, and Juliette’s stream of consciousness, that separates this book from it’s first person POV contemporaries.
But the writing in Shatter Me is so purple, its basically aubergine. There are lines that are so convoluted and thick with superfluous descriptors as to render them almost meaningless. Lines that sound pretty, but actually jerked me out of the story by forcing an abrupt “Excuse me, what?” into the flow of my reading because on occasion the metaphors simply don’t make sense. (Much like that run on sentence. Apologies).
Speaking of run-ons, Mafi frequently uses similar devices to communicate Juliette’s mental state – her panic, her indecision, her confusion. While this is occasionally effective, it can also be jarring, and it took me some time to settle into Juliette’s fractured, erratic and struck-through manner of thinking.
Shatter Me packs quite some steam, of the YA variety. There are almost more smouldering build-ups, electrifying contact (pun unintended – but rather apropos), gasping breaths and sexually charged scenes than you can shake a stick at. And while I liked the chemistry and interactions between Adam and Juliette, I can’t say I really bought their “history”. I’m not sure that the intention was achieved here, which seems to be setting up a backstory that essentially explains/excuses the apparent “instalove” development. This historical aspect of story simply didn’t feel real enough to me, or perhaps just a little too convenient.
The direction of the plot is not hugely surprising. Unlike Juliette, at no point did my jaw "fall on the floor". Yet, I did find the action sufficiently compelling, and the characters interesting enough to remain invested in the story. One of my stars is awarded because I found Shatter Me wholly absorbing while I was reading it.
This may sound strange, but the characterisation of Warner was a highlight for me. Here, I believe Mafi truly threw down (so to speak) and created a villain that was intriguingly complex; repulsive and yet oddly fascinating.
Writing this review hasn’t done much to solidify my opinion on the book – if anything – I feel more conflicted than when I started. However, while I had my personal irritations with parts of the story and the lack of restraint in terms of the writing, I won’t deny that Shatter Me did exactly what I wanted it to, which was to be entertaining. ...more
Okay, hypothetical scenario time. Let’s suppose I had the madness, the power ("You ever tried going mad without power? It's boring! No one listens toOkay, hypothetical scenario time. Let’s suppose I had the madness, the power ("You ever tried going mad without power? It's boring! No one listens to you!" - Russ Cargill), and the inclination to pit several recently published YA dystopian novels against each other in a brutal and bloody fight to the death a la The Hunger Games. (Please, just roll with my craziness).
Now let’s suppose one of these tributes novels is Legend. How, in my mind at least, does it fare in the arena?
Without a doubt, at the siren Legend comes sprinting off the plate at full speed and confidence. It takes out a couple of rivals at the kneecaps without even raising a sweat (*cough* Eve *cough* Delirium ) It gets into a vicious scuffle with Shatter Me and Divergent, mostly on account of their break-neck pacing and all having generous sponsors who give them shiny covers and plenty of hype. Legend holds it’s own admirably, makes a narrow escape. Gets it’s hands on a few weapons in the form of interesting characters and solid writing, so when Blood Red Road makes a surprise attack from out of nowhere, Legend puts up a decent fight.
However, lurking menacingly in the shadows are the Chaos Walking trilogy and Shipbreaker. These books are comparatively seasoned, superior fighters, and use stealth to their advantage. And ultimately, Legend is no match for the facepunch of awesome that is Monsters of Men.
Essentially, what I’m suggesting is that Legend is a strong competitor in the dystopian field, with some decent skills up it’s sleeve, but it’s not quite of the calibre of YA’s finest.
To start with, the good:
Legend is a fast-paced, action-based novel that makes for quick, immersive reading. Events are set in motion rapidly, gathering speed from the opening chapters, and if you’re willing to let go and enjoy it, it’s quite a ride. Lu doesn’t pull punches and she definitely had me shocked with one of her decisions towards the very end of the story. (view spoiler)[Although, arguably I should have seen it coming, with all the references to the likeness between John and Day. (hide spoiler)]
Lu’s worldbuilding is very visual – I found it easy to imagine the future LA she was describing: the squalor, the poverty, the land reclaimed by sea, the brutal military presence. The main characters themselves, teens Day and June, have good on-page chemistry and their dynamic is interesting, serving to complement, rather than hijack the plot. Likewise, I enjoyed many of the secondary characters (Metias, Tessa, Kaede).
So far, so good.
And now, the not so much:
While I found the world of Legend ‘visually’ interesting, the worldbuilding is factually thin. There’s not a whole lot explained or fleshed out, in terms of what has happened to bring the world (or the United States, at least) to this state. I didn’t fully grasp the backstory of the Republic, the Colonies, or the Patriots. Likewise, there’s some reference to the conquest of China, but the issue is only given a brief line. In fact, this was probably my largest problem with Legend – the ideas are good, the concepts interesting – but I wanted more. This is a slim book that barely scratches the surface of the world Lu is presenting. And unfortunately I felt that this carried across to other elements of the story, most notably in June’s case.
I can’t help but feel that it’s a fairly large risk on an author’s behalf to choose to write from the perspective of the allegedly most intelligent person. June’s logical thinking and attention to detail are certainly referenced in her narrative, but I didn’t buy her apparently prodigious intelligence. I could see what Lu was attempting, but I don’t totally agree that it was successful. It works a little better in Day’s case, translating to good instincts and street-smarts, but similarly, I wasn’t convinced that he was extraordinarily intelligent to the degree Legend purports.
The climax of the story requires a fair amount of suspension of belief, if not throwing it out the window altogether. While the events are easy to get caught up in, they are a little too convenient to be credible. Like an action movie sequence, there’s a lot of distracting noise and commotion, not a whole lot of logic.
At the end of the day, Legend is an entertaining book. It’s fun to read, particularly if you like fast paced books with a cinematic feel. I’ll be honest, I read most of it in one sitting and paid for it the next day when I had to get out of bed. That said, I don’t think it’s the most solid of dystopian novels out there. Beneath the glossy surface, there are definite weaknesses to the plot and the worldbuilding that don’t withstand tough scrutiny.
I’d give Legend a ranking of 5 out of 10 before I sent it into the arena to do battle.
Then I’d sit back and watch the carnage unfold like an Evil Book Dictator. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks is a sharp, thought-provoking book with depth and interesting things to saIntelligent, witty, funny.
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks is a sharp, thought-provoking book with depth and interesting things to say about feminism under the smooth prose.
While I thoroughly enjoyed Lockhart's tight, clever writing and the ingenuity of Frankie's hi-jinks, I just failed to connect with this book on an emotional level.
I enjoyed the secondary characters more than Frankie herself. Despite being able to relate to her on occasion and admiring her on others, I simply didn't feel much of an investment in her as a protagonist.
In summary: I met this book and liked it, but I didn't want to ride off into the sunset with it. ...more