Christine Bongers’ new novel develops the plot device of an intruder, not into a mystery or suspense narrative, but to a coming-of-age story. Fourteen year old Kat is about to be intruded upon by people and situations she does not want. Her life has been on hold since the death of her mother but grief is a finite excuse. Kat needs to move on, find friends, take risks and most importantly trust again. The catalyst of a stranger in her bedroom is just the fright she needs to stop the navel gazing and start living.
If only Kat’s progression could be easy. She fights the introduction of a protector – a drooling loveable dog called Hercules. She resists the overtures of the re-establishment of a relationship from her mother’s best friend, Edie, and she manages to halt the progress of a possible romance with a new boy across the park, Al. Kat’s selfishness, her deep grief, her sense of betrayal from both her father and Edie are still fresh wounds. These flaws are balanced with Kat’s snarky humour, her burgeoning understanding about how insular she has allowed herself to become, and her growing sense that it’s not always about her.
I love the gritty realism that defines this author’s writing. Chris doesn’t shy away from dog drools and farts. Kat screams when unhinged, yells thoughtlessly, and acts like an angry teenager who believes the world is against her. It’s both maddening and totally understandable. The other characters in the book are depicted through Kat’s eyes, so we slowly come to see their true qualities as Kat does. Jimmy, dad, musician, absent father turned desperate dad, trying to give Kat the space she needs, but quickly running out of patience. Al, dog lover, science geek with his own story to share, who tells Kat a few home truths she’s not ready to hear. And the enigmatic Edie, whose unusual habits start to make sense as pieces of Kat’s life puzzle fall into place.
Intruder is smart and funny, with authentic characters and poignant moments of insight and affection. Highly recommended.
We all know by now that Jonsberg writes well. But what he also does well is write across age groups and genres. His foray into dystopian fiction is a great addition to the growing Australian collection. Not that it feels all that Australian to be honest.
What is does feel though, is controlled and tense. Pandora is our view into this new world. But she recognises that her memories and her understanding aren’t necessarily reliable. She is curious by nature and suspicious by experience, and the reader learns more about The School and the rules as she does.
It’s best to read this novel without prior knowledge and go along for the ride. It’s a turbulent one and the ending is explosive. Fortunately number two is out later this year. I spoke to the man himself at the cbca conference, and he was reluctant to share any spoilers.
So if you are looking for an exciting narrative, full of mystery and suspense, as well as great writing and well developed characters, this could be the one for you.
I have posted about wanting to read this book before. And now I have. Read it I mean. So here’s my review. It goes without saying that I loved it.
The scope of this series has always been ambitious and fantastical. The change in tone from book one to book two illustrated the author’s intent to keep the series moving forward, re-creating it, developing it, turning it into something even more.
‘Dreams of Gods and Monsters’ continues this intent. There is more humour here (thank goodness for Zuzana & Mik), but also more grief and more heartache (aaw Ziri).
But there’s also more motivation, more detail about the worlds and their connection. There’s more strangeness and wonder and so much more love.
I am breathless with awe. I am singing its praises and celebrating its promise of life.
Loved it. If you have not read books one and two, get onto that right now. So you will be ready when number hits our shelves in April.
Review was originally posted at Goodreads. I love this cover, but I bet we (Australians) end up with this one>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
In preparation for 2014, I created this presentation on Haiku deck.
All good things must come to an end. And so over 2013, readers have seen a number of very popular dystopian series publish their final books. Some of these concluding novels have been applauded, while others have been described as disappointing. It must be a difficult thing to bring all the plot threads together in a way that satisfies all readers (I was never happy with who Katniss ends up with in Mockingjay).
I am going to run through some of my favourite series of the past three years with links to the concluding books on Goodreads for you to see how well they are doing. I will start with Across the Universe by Beth Revis, who was the first to publish the third book, way back in January 2013.
The three books are :
Across the Universe (my review from 2011)
A Million Stars (my quick review posted at Goodreads that didn’t make it to this blog)
Shades of Earth ( a must-read for me these summer holidays – can’t believe I haven’t read it yet! Wish this was our cover.)
Another series I started, but never finished is The Chemical Gardens trilogy by Lauren de Stefano. The three books are:
Wither (my review on Goodreads. This one had my favourite of the three covers)
Fever (my even shorter review that explains why I never finished the series)
Sever (which I never bought. It came out in February 2013)
On the other hand, I had high expectations for the conclusion to Delirium by Lauren Oliver and am glad to report it didn’t disappoint. The third one came out in March 2013. My reviews at Goodreads are so short, they aren’t worth linking. But there are lots of other people who raved about all three books. One amazing thing about this series is all the short stories that Oliver wrote in between the novels. They serve a couple of purposes – they keep people interested and they offer glimpses into secondary characters which enrich the world building and the series. The three books are:
Requiem (third book came out in March 2013)
It was a long wait then from March to October, when the next lot of concluding books were published.
For me the most consistently enjoyable trilogy is the Legend series by Marie Lu. Admittedly, I haven’t yet read the final books of the next three I plan to include, but so far, based on what I have seen, I think this will stay true. Lu got it all right – the characters remain noble and committed to their cause; the narrative stays within the bounds of authenticity, and the climax and subsequent conclusion are better than just satisfactory. The three books are:
Legend (my review from 2011 on this blog)
Prodigy (one of the few books where I gave more stars to book 2 than book 1)
Champion (lots of reviews on Goodreads where it’s averaging 4 and a half stars out of 5, and it only came out on November 5 2013)
Divergent was the surprise hit when it was first published in 2011. The film version reaches our screens next year. Veronica Roth followed up with Insurgent and finally we have Alliegant. Apparently, there is a lot of disappointment about the final book. The word ‘boring’ is being bandied about, and I don’t think there’s anything worse for a book to be called. The three books are:
Divergent (lots of reviews on Goodreads)
Insurgent (my own explanation of why I wasn’t totally won over)
Alliegant (am yet to read it. Soon hopefully)
The last three I want to mention don’t really fit into my original group. Their final books won’t be out till 2014, but they are really early 2014, so I am just going to ignore my own rules and list them as well.
Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi was followed by up Through the Ever Night and Into the Still Blue will come out in January 2014 (blue looks like the preferred colour of covers at the moment).
I first read Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi in November 2011, and maybe by that time I had my fill of dystopia, but actually I got sucked into this one too. I do hate the cover we have in the library, and thankfully there is a better option for newer readers. The second one, Unravel Me has got a great average score, but when I read my own review, I wonder if I will make an effort with number three, Ignite Me, which will be published in February 2014.
While I absolutely loved Daughter of Smoke and Bone, I found the second book, Days of Blood and Starlight both gruelling and depressing. But the writing is so luminescent, that I am sure I will have to read the third book, Dreams of Gods and Monsters. Plus those covers! So beautiful.
I think this is my longest blog post ever. Never again! It took three days. Back to just one book, one review.
I have loved all of A.S.King’s books so far: Please ignore Vera Deitz; Everybody sees the ants and Ask the passengers. Her latest one, Reality Boy is just as thought-provoking, just as raw, just as clever.
Here we have Gerald, 17 years old, struggling with a very difficult past – a mother who put the whole family on a reality TV show when he was just five; a psychopathic older sister who bullied and terrorised him, and a therapist who continues to tell him that he is not in the right place to get involved with a girl. How Gerald is holding it altogether is a mystery to readers. And yet he does. With humour and deep breathing, and by not getting close to anyone. The girl he is attracted to remains ‘checkout operator #1 girl’, long after he starts to talk to her, thereby allowing him the distance he needs to feel safe and in control.
Not that any of that lasts for long.
This is an intense study about a boy, and by extension the novel also explores some issues about contemporary life: that of celebrity status, that of living in a dysfunctional family, and the need to break free to figure out who you are. There’s a point where Gerald and Hannah kidnap themselves and send ransom notes to their family. Their demands are quite simple: ‘I don’t like the way you treat me. Please listen’.
This is great stuff. Read November 2nd 2013. A different review is posted over at Goodreads.
Living with Jackie Chan is beautifully written, with a very authentic portrayal of a teenage boy coming to grips with the harsh reality of his impulsive actions. Desperately keen to lose his ‘virgin status’, Josh sleeps with Ellie and of course, she gets pregnant. All of this occurs in a book called Jumping off Swings which I have never read, but I didn’t feel like I missed much by diving straight into this one. Although I would be interested in the end, because at the start of this one, Josh is barely holding himself together. His anger and hatred of himself is powerfully depicted. So, it must have ended on such a downer.
Josh cannot stand to stay in his home town after his irredeemable (in his eyes) behaviour, so he moves to his uncle’s apartment, (about 4 hours drive away) to finish his senior year in an attempt to get into College. It takes ages for Josh to really start to make peace with himself, and along the way, he meets a group of people who help him.
First and foremost is the Jackie Chan of the novel – Josh’s uncle Larry. I tell you, this man is awesome. He is so upbeat, so funny, and so gentle with Josh (who he calls Samurai Sam) that his role in the book in extremely significant. He never pushes too hard, but the one time he does, it results in Josh picking up karate again, and partnering the girl-next-door, Stella.
Although their friendship develops during karate, Stella has an extremely possessive boyfriend, and the tension this creates causes much of the angst of the narrative. If I was to have one little niggle, it would be that there are a number of Josh’s thoughts are repeated unnecessarily throughout the story, sometimes using the exact same words. It was really obvious, and it resulted in drawing me out of the story.
I was really satisfied with the ending. Positive and hopeful but not in a cloying or over sentimental way. It was realistic and I appreciate authors who don’t feel the need to sugar coat everything. I think some of you boys will like it.
Highly recommended. Read October 11th. A version of this review was originally posted at Goodreads.
I bought some new books. These are just a few of them. Hope you have been reading these holidays.
Every Breath is being touted as a new sexy thriller. Maybe that’s meant to draw young adults in, but I found it much more intelligent and witty than that. It uses references to Sherlock Holmes lore as a fun, irreverent way to establish the narrative as detective. I found the prologue also to be distracting and misleading, but once the story gets going, it’s exciting and fast-paced.
Rachel Watts and James Mycroft have lived two doors down from each other ever since Rachel’s family left their bankrupt farm. We are thrown in to this friendship four months in, and not slowed down by the details of how they became be friends. They just are, and we accept that. Mycroft is a genius with a damaged psyche and Rachel’s practical nature is the best thing for him.
When one of Mycroft’s friends is murdered, the pair stumble into solving the crime (although not so much with the stumble, but more because of the determination of a boy who has already seen too much death, and who needs to make order from chaos). Rachel is not sure what is the best way to go, and she oscillates between wanting to stay out of the mess, and wanting to learn more. The climax at the zoo has all the elements mystery lovers want: danger, an evil psychopath and sacrifice.
This is tense, exciting and quite humorous. The romance doesn’t overwhelm the mystery, but it’s there, for which I am grateful. These two truly care for each other. It’s grand. And on the last page, there is a blurb for the next instalment. Double grand!
A version of this review originally posted on Goodreads. Read Sept 13 2013.
Highly recommended to those of you who love a murder mystery.
I think it is interesting what Tamora Pierce has done here. She has taken us back two years before ‘Melting Stones’, and glimpsed Evvy when she was only 12 and first meets up with Luvo. I had forgotten about the book when I read this, so it might send some readers back to ‘Melting Stones’ to see Evvy’s development (and that is never a bad thing).
The evil Emperor in ‘Battle Magic’ is truly wicked. I sometimes felt in previous Pierce books that the main characters had a pretty easy time of getting out of trouble. But here, our little band of heroes really have to struggle to defeat him.
There are lots of deaths, mostly of characters that are quite minor, but readers are certainly shown how horrible war is, and how greedy people can be. Briar and Rosethorn are wonderful, and we meet a warrior called Prahan who is excellent, as is the God-King and of course, Luvo.
This is action-packed story, filled with insight and compassion. Many of us have been reading Pierce books for many years, and it’s good to see that she continues to write quality fantasy that depicts strong female characters, as well as a couple of my own personal soapboxes: LGTB characters treated as if they are just the same as other people. And ethnically diverse characters trying to overcome prejudice and stereotypes.
Review originally posted on Goodreads. Read September 19 2013