One of Us is Lying, Book Review – Karen M. McManus

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This book was a real surprise for me!

When I first started reading it, to be blunt, I thought it was trash. The characters were all really stereotypical and the plot seemed basic. I continued reading so I could discuss it with my book club and not much changed.

It took a while but by the time I finished the second part I was hooked! The transformation of all the characters and their relationships with each other was super interesting. I was completely invested in the mystery! It was a really entertaining read!

While I was reading the book I thought for some reason that at the end one of the main four characters was going to be revealed as a murderer and that one of their storylines was lying (as per the title). I’m so glad I was wrong because, in my opinion, it would ruin the entire story. I got really attached to the characters by the end and for one of them to end up as the murderer would’ve felt wrong. The way it ended was great and it was unexpected without being unbelievable.

I think my favourite part of this book is how fast-paced it is. There is always something new happening whether it be something between the characters or a new reveal in the murder case. At the same time though, it didn’t feel at all rushed.

Honestly, I’m just amazed at how I began the book thinking it was absolutely terrible and ended up marvelling at how well the author pulled it off! A good quick read to get hooked on.

3 stars. Read with Teens Monthly Book Club

The Giver, Book Review – Lois Lowry

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I’ve got mixed feelings about this book.

It started off as a really good dystopian society. All of the rules and such that governed the community were bizarre and spine-chilling. The ‘introduction’ lasted what felt like half the book where nothing was really happening but it was just world building. This wasn’t too bad though because there was a lot of detail to develop and it was really interesting.

However, despite all of the little details, all of the information about this ‘world’ was really shallow and left me with a thousand questions. I feel like this may have been intentional but at the same time I would’ve liked to know a bit more. Perhaps my biggest question is, scientifically how do all these people not have memories or see colour or any of that stuff?? The brain-washed civilisation is one thing but the not seeing colour really got me – I just wanted an explanation. The whole concept of ‘sameness’ was fascinating and repeatedly mentioned but never expanded upon. I’m assuming (hoping) at least some of these questions will be answered in the rest of the series but as a book on its own I thought The Giver was lacking.

In terms of the plot of the book, not much happened until literally the last two chapters. The entire story was developing the background until the second last chapter when suddenly there’s some confusing action.

The last chapter absolutely baffled me. It made no sense. (spoiler) Jonas suddenly leaves early because Gabriel is going to be released. Okay. But then the rest of the book is just him running away to… where? Jonas doesn’t know. The reader doesn’t know. I have no idea!! and then it abruptly ends on some vague mention of is it just an echo? I’m so confused. Like I said before, I’m assuming the rest of the series would make sense of all this but even as a book with a sequel, it feels incomplete.

Overall, as a description of a dystopian society, it was really fascinating to read and I was hooked, waiting for something to happen. The only problem is that, when something finally did happen, I didn’t understand it. So, certainly, not a waste of time reading but I’m not entirely motivated to continue the series. My lack of comprehension goes hand in hand with a lack of investment.

3 stars. – Read with Teens Monthly Book Club

Star Trek, Book Review – Alan Dean Foster

Really loved this!

I’m a big fan of watching sci-fi movies, including really bad ones, to pass the time. For some reason though I’d never watched Star Trek or Star Wars which are like THE sci-fi films. Anyway, I recently watched the new Star Trek trilogy with Chris Pine and I really loved it! My grandparents have always been massive fans of Star Trek so I started watching the original series to my Grandma’s absolute delight. In short – I’m loving it! The production is hilariously terrible.

Because of this development, my Grandma sat me down and went through their entire Star Trek cabinet with me (cause we’re a family of nerds). Amongst all of her old VHS of the seasons and what not was this book so I was like done deal, I’ll read that.

It is exactly like the movie! I’ve always been wary of reading books based on a movie rather than the other way around but this has changed my perception of that. It was just like re-watching the movie in written form with a bunch of extras. Plus, it was written really well. Now that I’ve read this I’ll probably go back and watch the movie (again) because it provides so many little things that you wouldn’t quite pick up on in a movie.

4 stars.

Eleanor & Park, Book Review – Rainbow Rowell

This book was enjoyable but it kinda let me down.

I am not a very fast reader but I ended up reading this in just two days which is really quick for me. Mainly because a) I have a lot of free time at the moment and b) it was an easy read.

Which brings me to my first thing: this book was incredibly cliche. However, I wasn’t expecting anything more. As a cheesy teen love story it was entertaining enough to keep me picking it up again and again. However, a love story is literally all the book is; there is barely even a side plot. Yes I know, it is literally called Eleanor & Park but those two are the entire book. Nothing else happens besides their romance. There were so many other characters that felt like cardboard cut outs that could’ve had great potential – Tina and Steve would’ve been interesting to develop more, for example.

Despite the basic plot being cliche, certain aspects of the book were really unique which I loved. There was a really diverse, although underdeveloped, cast of characters which was refreshing. I rarely read love stories so I don’t exactly have much reference but I was expecting a John-Green-esque romance going in and this was not that so I was pleasantly suprised.

Pretty much, there wasn’t much wrong in the book that stopped me from liking it. It was a good story. Except for one thing that annoyed me to no end:

The whining!! Both Eleanor and Park are insecure and teenagers and different to everyone else and while I get that it was part of their characters and what they bonded over, it got so damn repetitive at times. There’s only so many times I can read about Eleanor almost ruining their relationship because she doubts Park’s feelings for her before I want to rip out the page and tell her to get over herself (That amount of times is one. There was significantly more than that.) There was a stage in the middle of the story, around when she first started meeting his parents, that bored me to death. It seemed the only plot point was ‘~problems~ because they both think they’re not good enough for each other and then they magically make up, then repeat’. Once was more than enough.

Also, around this same time in the book, Eleanor kept bringing up Park and Tina’s grade-six relationship and was really angry at Park about it which I thought was completely irrational and it lasted in the book for way too long.

Once the plot moved on from that annoying point, though, it got really interesting. When Eleanor and Mindy (Park’s mum) started developing a relationship, Park started wearing makeup, and Ritchie was revealed as the villain instead of Tina, the book was really interesting because more things were happening than just Eleanor and Park’s infatuation with each other.

It may sound like I’m bagging this book but I did really enjoy it and would recommend to anyone just as a quick easy read that you don’t need to think too hard about.

3 stars.

The Girl with a Pearl Earring, Book Review – Tracy Chevalier

Absolutely in love with this book! I just finished reading it and loved it the whole way through.

The time/setting is a genre I love reading but haven’t in ages. Plus normally when I read old-timey European books the protagonist is male so this was really refreshing!

The way all the characters were developed, from Frans and Vermeer and all the children of the Oude Langendijk household, and especially Griet, was so interestingly complex. I don’t have the words to articulate it but I was gripped with each and every character.

The entire story was incredible, there wasn’t a single moment where I thought it was slow or uninteresting. The plot was rich and enthralling.

Although I’m too tired to find the words to describe why, this book has become one of my new favourites.

5 stars.

The Messenger, Book Review – Markus Zusak

My opinion on this book is pretty much what Ed thinks of himself – just alright.

I haven’t read The Book Theif yet although that is the reason I picked up this book. At first, I was shocked to find out that this was an Aussie story – which became quite evident with the repetition of meat pies and lamingtons being eaten. Also, because The Book Theif is such a classic, I kinda assumed that Markus Zusak’s style of writing would be way more formal than it is. So at the start, everything was a bit off just because it was not at all like I was expecting.

Once I got used to the style of writing and all that, the story was enjoyable enough. It took a while to get interesting but once Ed really started solving the cards I really liked the plot. The major downfall of this book, I think, is that personally I didn’t like Ed’s narrator voice, or him as a character. I get that the whole point of him was that he was ‘ordinary’/kind of a downbeat but, with the whole book being his monologue, I wasn’t a fan. Sidenote: the obsessing over Audrey did not help his cause at all.

The actual plot itself was my favourite thing. It was a touch confusing at times but I once I got into it, reading about all these snippets of other people’s lives was really interesting.

The ending. I literally just finished this book 15 minutes before writing this review so it is all fresh. Spolier: In the end, it is revealed that the person sending Ed the cards is in fact, the author, Markus Zusak himself. This broke the fourth wall and was generally pretty confusing. The whole reason behind it, I think, is to teach the reader a lesson – the last couple chapters of the book really hone in on all the moral aspects. I was disappointed with this ending. When it got to the bit about the bank robber, I thought maybe he sent the cards and I was satisfied with how that ties the whole thing together. But then, it turns out it’s actually Zusak and it creates a kind of paradox with how he wrote the book and so on. Spoiler end. Overall, the ending didn’t ruin the book, just continued the trend of “well this might as well happen.”

Conclusion: I didn’t like Ed, I liked the plot, I didn’t like the ending – fin.

Update: this review perfectly articulates everything I felt about this book!

3 stars.

The Secret River, Book Review – Kate Grenville

 

This is a book I had to read for school and to me that’s probably all it will ever be.

I really didn’t enjoy it. The idea of the story sounds decent but I’ve never really been that into historical fiction like this (ironic since I love studying History). Right before reading this book my history class had just finished the unit on the Frontier Wars so I had a bunch of recent background knowledge going into this book. I thought the way it portrays Australian history was excellent. It was real and exposed the story of the past that no one talks about. However, as a fictional story, it was dull to me. My history class on this topic was so interesting! The book about the same thing never captured me.

Watching interviews of Kate Grenville in class has made me see that she’s very much a talented author. The style of writing in this book, though, was way too waffly for me. It was an English teacher’s dream come true. Excruciatingly long, vivid descriptions of the land and everything else. I can see that this was the tone Grenville was going for and in that sense, it worked great; I just found being forced to read it bored me due to the sheer length and detail she goes in to.
(Our assignment is to write a ‘Gap in the Text’, recreating her style of writing so that should be fun for me :/)

Another thing about this book was the timeline. I am a big fan of slice of life stories, books about a chapter of a character’s life that are in-depth for that particular period of time. The Secret River spans upwards of 15 years (I can’t remember exactly right now). Too much happens on a broad scale and nothing all that personal really occurs. Most of the events are about Thornhill’s Land. Intimate character issues are scarcely included besides Thornhill’s character arc which ultimately is about his pursuit of owning land. I think the whole thing is meant to be representative of Australia’s history which means a lot of the aspects of it remain general. I wish we got to go more in-depth about Sal’s personal struggle with leaving London behind or Dick’s detachment from his father or Blackwood’s Australian background. These storylines are just dot points under each character for my class notes whereas I’ve got pages on the symbolism about Will’s battle with the Indigenous – which I get it the main point of the story but it’s kind of all there is.

I admit, the fact that I read this for school certainly brings some negative bias to the table, and I certainly never would have picked it up on my own accord. That is most likely the main reason I didn’t enjoy it – simply because it’s not my kind of book.

Speaking of, I’d say my favourite part was the London chapter where we got read the story of Will growing up in lower class London. This chapter I enjoyed because it was all about each of the little moments in the characters’ lives. However, this section of the book was an entirely different story to what The Secret River is really about – The Frontier Wars.

This was a book that needed to be written and it was done so extremely well – just not the type for me.

2 stars.

About a Boy, Book Review – Nick Hornby

Nick Hornby is defintely one of my favourite authors. Which is ironic because I’m probably the exact opposite of the target demographic. All three of his books I’ve read are mainly focused on middle-aged male characters. Somehow though, I really enjoy reading them.

One of the great things about reading is that while you are in that book you get to live an entirely different life. So when I read this book, getting to live the entwined lives of both Will and Marcus were really fascinating.

Whenever I finish one of Hornby’s books I’m always left with the feeling that I really enjoyed it. When thinking back, though, I realise there’s nothing spectacular about his writing – at least that I’ve managed to notice. It’s just that the slice of life stories about the characters are so intriguing. They’re written in such a way that you become invested into their lives and how they change over the course of the story. In this book especially, and also his others, the way he builds up and develops a small yet decent ensemble of characters just completely makes the story. His books just seem like real life and all the connections between the characters are so interesting and so believable: nothing feels forced.

With this book, the fact that it was written with the alternating view points was awesome. It eliminated the need to have to listen to Will, who comes across as really entitled (rightfully so) for a good majority of the book. Adding the view point of Marcus, whose personality is pretty much the opposite of Will’s really balances the story out. The pairing of these two characters works perfectly; as the story progresses they each slowly become more like the other. There is a part of the book where they are really on the same page for a while – and then Will becomes like Marcus at the start, and Marcus like Will. The ending of the story has a real ‘life-lesson’ kind of feel to it, and it’s alluded to in the blurb even. Can Will teach Marcus how to grow up cool? And can Marcus help Will just to grow up? Pretty much the answer is just yes.

I can’t think of anything extraordinary that made me like this book: it’s just that I always walk away from Nick Hornby’s books really enjoying the time I spent reading them.

5 stars.

Catcher in the Rye, Book Review – October 2017

Honestly, I didn’t like this book all that much. I still think it’s a good book, I just didn’t enjoy it.

I suppose I can kind of see why it is a classic with it’s different way of writing but, as for the actual story, I didn’t really like it.

This suprises me as it has exactly the kind of stories I love to read; mainly character-based and nothing focused moreso on a character’s general life rather than some BIG! EXCITING! LIFE CHANGING! thing happening to them. For some reason though, it just didn’t work out for me.

I didn’t dislike the book but found that it was kind of boring. My preference for books with nothing too exciting going on only stretches so far and this was just too unexciting.

The main reason I believe I didn’t like this was because of the main character, Holden. He was an extremely well-written character, as do I believe all the characters to be. He was just plain annoying. I couldn’t stand to read about him because I just hated him. He is extremely pessimistic and pretentious. He has the ‘i’m superior to everybody else’ mindset that he hates ironically. Also, he judges people HARD. This was an important part of his personality and I fully believe that it should’ve been included as it was integral to the story. The thing I hated with it was, he called everybody and everything ‘phony’ and it just got on my nerves as someone who likes to think of themselves as a positive person.

A part of the story I really liked, though, and was really well-written was Holden’s relationships with people – specifically with his sister, Phoebe, and Stradlater, the guy in his dorm. The way these were written were the types of things I like; the thing about big! exciting! stories and such I mentioned before.

Another thing I find really interesting about this book is it’s lack of blurb. I don’t have much to say on that subject but it just suprised me upon picking it up to find that there was nothing to read about it before-hand. The only reason I did read it was because I recognised the name and knew it had a reputation for being a classic – it makes me question just how it became a classic before it had a reputation without a blurb.

Overall, this was a Good Book. It deserves to be a classic, I think. I just didn’t enjoy. 

To Kill a Mockingbird, Book Review – May 2017

I am supposed to read this book when I reach grade 12 in English. I decided to read it sooner because I wanted to experience reading it as just another book before school ‘ruined’ it as it often does with books.


This book was incredible.


I haven’t read many stories, if any, set in the time frame of this one and so have not read about such blatant racism, sexism and just all the old views/discriminations on life before. It was shocking and interesting.


The best part about this book was that it kept me engaged throughout the story and it wasn’t through action; it was through purely becoming so deeply invested in the characters’ lives and their stories that I couldn’t bare to not know more about them. Rarely does a book do that for me.


The entire story being in Scout’s P.O.V was one of the best parts of the book. Reading stories through the eyes of a child or young, ‘inexperienced’ character is often more eye-opening than being told from any other angle. You are still provided with the story yet not blatantly and you are merely watching it all happen and knowing what is going on and the deeper meanings behind them and yet not being able to do anything because you are seeing it in the eyes of Scout who doesn’t clearly see all of these things. It reminded me of Room and Past the Shallows.


Every single character was so in-depth and dynamic and all of their connections to each other and the community of Maycomb was so fascinating. Not only does it make you become invested in just the main character, or even every character but the entire life each character possess’ and their entire world. It’s been a while since a book kind of disconnected me from reality (in a good way) and I am so glad I got to experience it again.


Scout, Jem and Dills’ friendship; Jem, Scout and Atticus’; Jem and Scouts; Every family in Maycomb with each other; Atticus and Tom Robinsons’. Every single aspect of the stories characters and their relationships was astoundingly well-written and it provided for a phenomenal book to read.


If I were to continue writing I’m sure this review would go on forever and so I’m curious to see how my view of this book will change when I’ve re-read it and learnt about it in school with discussion with peers in year 12.