Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Book Review: Island of Silence by Lisa McMann

Island of Silence (Unwanteds, #2)Island of Silence, book #2 of the Unwanteds, by Lisa McMann

Synopsis:
Second book in the phenomenal middle grade dystopian fantasy series, Unwanteds by New York Times bestselling author Lisa McMann.

THE UNWANTEDS Book Two: Island of Silence (from the book jacket)

The battle is over. The magical barrier between the dreary land of Quill and the fantastical world of Artimé is gone. Now residents of both places are free to mingle, but tensions are high. The artistic warriors of Artimé struggle to forgive those in Quill who condemned them to death, while the Quillens attempt to recover from the shock of Artime’s existence, the loss of their leader, and the total collapse of their safe, orderly world.

14-year-old Alex Stowe has recovered from his physical wounds since his death-defying role in Artime’s victory, but his confidence is shattered. He battles self-doubt after Artimé’s beloved mage, Mr. Today, makes a stunning request, which is further complicated by the mysterious arrival of two silent, orange-eyed teenagers.

Meanwhile in Quill, Aaron is devastated by his fall from grace and seething with anger toward his twin brother Alex. Spurred by rage, Aaron recruits a team of Restorers and devises a masterful plan of revenge that will return him to power…if no one gets in his way.

Bestselling author Lisa McMann delivers another trademark page-turner in this second book of The Unwanteds series, as Alex and Aaron's parallel stories ultimately come together for a shocking climax that will leave readers desperate for more.


Review:
The Unwanteds is a fun and imaginative series. I loved the first book and the second is a great sequel. However, it did feel like more of a transition book, like it was leading to something bigger in the next book. I did enjoy the characters, especially Alex and his friends, and how they developed. The writing and imagination in the book are, like the last one, compelling.

The pacing goes up and down, but the author did leave us on an exciting note, making us anxious to read the next installment. I'd highly recommend this series to middle grade audiences who like magic and adventure.

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Book Review: Paper Towns

Paper TownsPaper Towns by John Green

Summary:
Who is the real Margo?

Quentin Jacobsen has spent a lifetime loving the magnificently adventurous Margo Roth Spiegelman from afar. So when she cracks open a window and climbs into his life—dressed like a ninja and summoning him for an ingenious campaign of revenge—he follows. After their all-nighter ends, and a new day breaks, Q arrives at school to discover that Margo, always an enigma, has now become a mystery. But Q soon learns that there are clues—and they're for him. Urged down a disconnected path, the closer he gets, the less Q sees the girl he thought he knew...


Review:
I enjoy John Green's writing, the quirky characters that he creates tend to pull me in. I like how he takes ideas and explores them, and Paper Towns is no exception. He examines how we see each other, and what it takes to really know another person -- huge topics, and full of teenaged angst.

The actual story is good, and moves at various speeds. I found that I liked the main character, Quentin, and really wanted to see how things would work out for him and see if he would find the real Margot.

Overall, a good young adult read, especially for those who like quirky fiction.

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Book Review: The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir Who Got Trapped in an Ikea Wardrobe

The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir Who Got Trapped in an Ikea Wardrobe: A novelThe Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir Who Got Trapped in an Ikea Wardrobe: A novel by Romain Puértolas

Summary:
A charmingly exuberant comic debut from an exciting new literary voice,  and a “quirky, hilarious, elegantly written farce” (The Daily Telegraph), The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir Who Got Trapped in an Ikea Wardrobe is the globetrotting story of a trickster from rural India and his adventure of a lifetime. 

When the fakir—a professional con artist—arrives in Paris, he has just one goal: to get to Ikea. Armed with only a counterfeit hundred-euro note in the pocket of his silk trousers, he is confident that he has all he needs to thrive. But his plan goes horribly awry when he hides inside a wardrobe at the iconic Swedish retailer—the first in a series of accidents that will send him on a whirlwind tour across Europe.

Pursued across the continent by a swindled taxi driver dead set on revenge, our fakir soon finds unlikely friends—from movie stars to illegal immigrants—in even unlikelier places. And, much to his own surprise, his heart begins to open to those around him as he comes to understand the universal desire to seek a better life in an often dangerous world.

Channeling the manic energy of the Marx Brothers and the biting social commentary of Candide, Romain Puértolas has crafted an unforgettable comic romp around Europe that is propelled by laughter, love, and, ultimately, redemption. (Meatballs not included but highly recommended.)


Review:
This was a fun and easy to read story full of unlikely events that all come together in an interesting way. The fakir really did have an extraordinary journey, both physically and internally. It was great how these two journey's came together and the commentary attached to them. Puertolas does not shy away from politically charged topics, especially about refugees and immigration, poverty, and even the value of human life.

I enjoyed the writing and the fairly fast paced story. The fakir was a very likable character, and even though he sometimes did unlikable things, I found myself rooting for him.

This book is almost parable like in its simplicity and is able to combine humour and serious topics to make its point effectively.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Book Review: The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick

The Silver Linings PlaybookThe Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick

Summary:
Meet Pat. Pat has a theory: his life is a movie produced by God. And his God-given mission is to become physically fit and emotionally literate, whereupon God will ensure a happy ending for him -- the return of his estranged wife Nikki. (It might not come as a surprise to learn that Pat has spent time in a mental health facility.) The problem is, Pat's now home, and everything feels off. No one will talk to him about Nikki; his beloved Philadelphia Eagles keep losing; he's being pursued by the deeply odd Tiffany; his new therapist seems to recommend adultery as a form of therapy. Plus, he's being hunted by Kenny G!

In this enchanting novel, Matthew Quick takes us inside Pat's mind, showing us the world from his distorted yet endearing perspective. As the award-winning novelist Justin Cronin put it: "Tender, soulful, hilarious, and true, The Silver Linings Playbook is a wonderful debut."


Review:
The funny thing about this book is that I loved the movie way more. That never happens, but there you go. The book was still good enough for me to read to the end and there were parts that I enjoyed, but I just didn't get into it the way I did the movie.

I think for me one of the problems is that I just don't like football all that much and football is a huge part of the book. And the book didn't have that same humourous, up front approach to mental illness that I appreciated in the movie. Unfortunately, I just didn't care about the main character all that much -- which is too bad because I wanted to.

I feel kind of bad comparing the book to the movie so much, but it is hard not to because my expectations were raised, having seen the movie first. This just wasn't the book for me.


Saturday, 24 January 2015

Book Review: The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden by Jonas Jonasson

The Girl Who Saved the King of SwedenThe Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden by Jonas Jonasson

Summary:
From the author of The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared comes a picaresque tale of how one person's actions can have far-reaching-even global-consequences On June 14, 2007, the king and the prime minister of Sweden went missing from a gala banquet at the royal castle. Later it was said that both had fallen ill, but the truth is different.

The real story starts much earlier, in 1961, with the birth of Nombeko Mayeki in a shack in Soweto. Nombeko was fated to grow up fast and die early in her poverty-stricken township, be it from drugs, alcohol, or just plain despair. But Nombeko takes a different path. She finds work as a housecleaner and eventually makes her way up to the position of chief advisor, at the helm of one of the world's most secret projects. Here is where the tale merges with then diverges from reality. South Africa developed six nuclear missiles in the 1980s, then voluntarily dismantled them in 1994.

This is the story of the seventh missile, the one that was never supposed to have existed. Nombeko Mayeki knows too much about it, and now she's on the run from both the South African justice system and the most terrifying secret service in the world. The fate of the planet now lies in Nombeko's hands. Jonasson introduces us to a cast of eccentrics: a nerve-damaged American Vietnam deserter, twin brothers who are officially only one person, three careless Chinese girls, an angry young woman, a potato-growing baroness, the Swedish king and the prime minister. Quirky and utterly unique, The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden is a charming and humorous account of one young woman's unlikely adventure.


Review:
I had so much fun reading this book -- and literally laughed out loud. I love how Jonasson tells stories, they are so unlikely and rambly, and there are different threads, but at the same time, everything comes together in the craziest of ways. He also peppers his stories with interesting observations of life and how people act and politics. He certainly doesn't shy away from big issues.

The characters are quirky and likable and the writing is engaging. I raced through this book, eager to see where all of the crazy scenarios would lead.

Friday, 23 January 2015

Book Review: Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children, #1)Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Summary:
 A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. A strange collection of very curious photographs.

It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive.

A spine-tingling fantasy illustrated with haunting vintage photography, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children will delight adults, teens, and anyone who relishes an adventure in the shadows.


Review:
I loved this book. The whole concept was fantastic, the idea of structuring a story around interesting vintage photographs is so unique. As much as I loved the story, I think I liked the photos just as much.

This was definitely a story that captured the imagination -- it made me want to dive right into Miss Peregrine's world and get to know the children living in her home.

This is a book filled with adventure and magic and good story telling. I can hardly wait to read the next one.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Book Review: Moab is My Washpot by Stephen Fry

Moab Is My WashpotMoab Is My Washpot by Stephen Fry

Summary:
A number one bestseller in Britain, Stephen Fry's astonishingly frank, funny, wise memoir is the book that his fans everywhere have been waiting for. Since his PBS television debut in the Blackadder series, the American profile of this multitalented writer, actor and comedian has grown steadily, especially in the wake of his title role in the film Wilde, which earned him a Golden Globe nomination, and his supporting role in A Civil Action.
       
Fry has already given readers a taste of his tumultuous adolescence in his autobiographical first novel, The Liar, and now he reveals the equally tumultuous life that inspired it. Sent to boarding school at the age of seven, he survived beatings, misery, love affairs, carnal violation, expulsion, attempted suicide, criminal conviction and imprisonment to emerge, at the age of eighteen, ready to start over in a world in which he had always felt a stranger. One of very few Cambridge University graduates to have been imprisoned prior to his freshman year, Fry is a brilliantly idiosyncratic character who continues to attract controversy, empathy and real devotion.

 
Review:
I've always loved Stephen Fry's writing and acting and thoroughly enjoyed reading this account of his early life. It gives a real glimpse into the whole British school boy boarding school experience.

Fry uses words so well and knows how to tell a story. This autobiography is linear in that it goes through the events of his school life, but then he also goes off on tangents that reveal more about who Stephen Fry is and the kind of world that he grew up in. I love this kind of meandery story telling.

This is a well written memoir that I raced through because I could hardly put it down. I can hardly wait to read the next one.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Book Review: The Peculiar

The Peculiar (The Peculiar, #1)The Peculiar by Stefan Bachmann

 Don't get yourself noticed and you won't get yourself hanged.

In the faery slums of Bath, Bartholomew Kettle and his sister Hettie live by these words. Bartholomew and Hettie are changelings--Peculiars--and neither faeries nor humans want anything to do with them.

One day a mysterious lady in a plum-colored dress comes gliding down Old Crow Alley. Bartholomew watches her through his window. Who is she? What does she want? And when Bartholomew witnesses the lady whisking away, in a whirling ring of feathers, the boy who lives across the alley--Bartholomew forgets the rules and gets himself noticed.

First he's noticed by the lady in plum herself, then by something darkly magical and mysterious, by Jack Box and the Raggedy Man, by the powerful Mr. Lickerish . . . and by Arthur Jelliby, a young man trying to slip through the world unnoticed, too, and who, against all odds, offers Bartholomew friendship and a way to belong.

Part murder mystery, part gothic fantasy, part steampunk adventure, The Peculiar is Stefan Bachmann's riveting, inventive, and unforgettable debut novel.

 

I loved the world created by Bachmann, it is so rich, vivid, and imaginative. You could really feel how the faery and Victorian worlds came together in a clockworky, steampunky way. I also enjoyed the characters and the mystery surrounding them. Mr Jelliby was so much fun, and Bartholomew was so passionate.

However, I found the book dragged a bit and was slow to get into some of the action. There also seemed to be a lot of running around sometimes. There was enough intrigue and peril, though to keep the ready happy. There was a nice set up for book 2, which promises to be exciting.

Friday, 17 October 2014

Anyone Else Doing Nano?

Mid-October. Time to start getting nervous about what to write for Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month) this year.

This will be my sixth year. In fact, Prophecy, the novel I am currently editing in order to publish in next few months, originally started as a Nano novel several years ago.

My whole family now loves and participates in Nano. My husband is teaching high school creative writing and his whole class does Nano. I have several friends who also participate. It is a fun, supportive, inner editor squashing month for us.

But, this year, I don't have any idea of what to write. Nothing. Not even a character or a setting or a genre. I am hoping for inspiration to hit me in the next two weeks. Anytime now, I keep thinking, I'm open to ideas and suggestions. Maybe I'll dream up something good, overhear a conversation, or simply be struck by some great idea.

How about you guys? Anyone else doing Nano this year? Do you know what you're writing about you're writing? Have you got it all planned out? I'd love to connect with other Wrimos.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Book Review: Gone Girl

Gone GirlGone Girl by Gillian Flynn


On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne's fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick's clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn't doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife's head, but passages from Amy's diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media--as well as Amy's fiercely doting parents--the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he's definitely bitter--but is he really a killer?
As the cops close in, every couple in town is soon wondering how well they know the one that they love. With his twin sister, Margo, at his side, Nick stands by his innocence. Trouble is, if Nick didn't do it, where is that beautiful wife? And what was in that silvery gift box hidden in the back of her bedroom closet?


I could hardly put this book down. I loved all of the twists and turns, along with how warped and flawed the characters are. Flynn's writing is engaging and fast paced -- she did an amazing job of making the reader simultaneously love and hate the totally dysfunctional characters. Their psychoses were brought to life in an engaging and realistic way. And the ending, it was great. As I got closer to the end, I started to worry that it would spoil the book, but it didn't, it perfectly topped off a great mystery.