Sunday, 22 March 2015

Book Review: Among the Hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Among the Hidden (Shadow Children, #1)Among the Hidden (Shadow Children #1) by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Summary:
SHADOW CHILDREN Luke has never been to school. He's never had a birthday party, or gone to a friend's house for an overnight. In fact, Luke has never had a friend.

Luke is one of the shadow children, a third child forbidden by the Population Police. He's lived his entire life in hiding, and now, with a new housing development replacing the woods next to his family's farm, he is no longer even allowed to go outside.

Then, one day Luke sees a girl's face in the window of a house where he knows two other children already live. Finally, he's met a shadow child like himself. Jen is willing to risk everything to come out of the shadows -- does Luke dare to become involved in her dangerous plan? Can he afford "not" to?


Review:
This is the first in an intriguing series that takes place in a dystopian future where it is illegal to have more than two children. The third children are called shadow children, and they and their families are at risk of being punished with death if they are found out.

This is an excellent start to this series. I really felt for Luke, the main character, as he was placed in moral dilemmas. His fear and frustration and confusion were palpable as he tried to figure out his life and the risks he could take without hurting his family.

I also like how the author is clearly setting up something bigger, as well as touching on interesting subjects such as power and control, food security, class structure, propaganda, and freedom.

The book is also quite short and fast paced, which will appeal to even reluctant readers, both boys and girls. I think the age range is pretty broad too, though some of the content could be scary; for example, just the idea that shadow children would be put to death by the government.

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Thursday, 19 March 2015

Book Review: Missing You by Harlan Coben

Missing YouMissing You by Harlan Coben


Summary:
It's a profile, like all the others on the online dating site. But as NYPD Detective Kat Donovan focuses on the accompanying picture, she feels her whole world explode, as emotions she’s ignored for decades come crashing down on her. Staring back at her is her ex-fiancé Jeff, the man who shattered her heart—and who she hasn’t seen in 18 years.

Kat feels a spark, wondering if this might be the moment when past tragedies recede and a new world opens up to her. But when she reaches out to the man in the profile, her reawakened hope quickly darkens into suspicion and then terror as an unspeakable conspiracy comes to light, in which monsters prey upon the most vulnerable.

As the body count mounts and Kat's hope for a second chance with Jeff grows more and more elusive, she is consumed by an investigation that challenges her feelings about everyone she ever loved—her former fiancé, her mother, and even her father, whose cruel murder so long ago has never been fully explained. With lives on the line, including her own, Kat must venture deeper into the darkness than she ever has before, and discover if she has the strength to survive what she finds there.


Review:
This is the first Harlan Coben novel I've read and I understand that he is wildly popular. However, I was disappointed in this book.

I did like the main character, Kat, and I enjoyed the mystery of the book. But there were a great many characters and subplots in the book as well. I could see how they all eventually came together and I do enjoy that in a novel. Still, Missing You took a long time to really get going. It felt like the first half of the book was spent setting up the various plots and subplots, and introducing characters, to the point where I would have put it down if it hadn't been for the author's reputation.

The second half of the book moved way more quickly and was way more suspenseful.

Overall, there was something disjointed about the book. It had a good premise, but the descriptions were repetitive and it was hard to get in to.

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Book Review: In The Woods by Tana French

In the Woods (Dublin Murder Squad, #1)In the Woods Dublin Murder Squad #1) by Tana French

Summary:
Dublin 1984 dusk, three children vanish in the woods. One, Rob Ryan, grips a tree trunk in terror, unable to recall any detail of previous hours. Twenty years later, the detective on the Dublin Murder Squad keeps his past a secret. But when a girl 12 is killed in the same woods, Rob and Detective Cassie Maddox — partner and best pal - investigate present and past.


Review:
I really wanted to like this book -- the premise sounded great -- the idea of two murders somehow connected but years apart. And the writing was really good, full of rich description and beautiful phrasing. The author obviously did lots of research and made interesting characters.

Despite all of this, I found this book hard to get into, and by half way through, I stopped caring about the characters. It was disappointing. I kept reading because I really wanted to see how the whole situation was resolved.

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.