Saturday, November 9, 2013

Chocolate Cake with Hitler by Emma Craigie

Chocolate Cake with Hitler
Emma Craigie
2010, Short Books, Pine Street

Fictional account of Helga Goebbels' final days in the bunker with Nazi leader Adolf Hitler.  The basis of the story is factual, but this is a work of faction.

This was a very interesting book, but I felt it was let down by the writing style.  I know it is written from the point of view of a twelve year old, but I thought the voice used was too young ... twelve year olds are much more mature than the author portrays, especially, I imagine, those brought up in war time.  Nevertheless, it is a heart breaking tale, and a quick, easy read.

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Friday, November 1, 2013

Virulent: The Release by Shelbi Wescott

Virulent: The Release
Shelbi Wescott
2013, kindle ebook, Amazon

Lucy and her family are due to go on holidays when a terrifying virus tears through her community. She becomes separated from them and must find her way back home while the world falls down around her.

This was an ok epidemic novel for teenagers.  I personally found the writing to be a little immature for me.  I prefer epidemic stories to be more about the virus, but this one was based around human survival. And it's part one of a trilogy.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Dark Highways by Megat Ishak

Dark Highways
Megat Ishak
2013, Fixi Novo, Malaysia

A collection of short stories set in Malaysia - I picked this up at a Borders on my recent trip to KL.  The main themes of these stories are horror, magic, violence, and betrayal.

I quite enjoyed reading these stories as an insight to Malay culture.  My favourite stories were 'Mr. Bolero', about two professional killers and set in the near future; and 'Cloud Sparkle', which is a horror story about killer clouds!

Overall I found the theme of betrayal, specifically female lover betrayal, to become a little tiresome but it's just a part of the collection.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

14 by Peter Clines

Peter Clines narrated by Ray Porter
2012, Amazon Audible
12 hours, 34 minutes

Nate moves in to a new apartment with extremely low rent.  Soon, strange things begin to happen, and as Nate investigates the reasons why, he becomes entwined in a mystery with long-reaching consequences.

This is the first audiobook I listened to on my Kindle.  It is an amazing story, I love the way it builds slowly and you become enthralled with the mystery.  I also enjoyed the mixture of hard sci-fi, horror and pop culture.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Summerland by Michael Chabon

Michael Chabon
2002, HarperCollins, London

American fairytale of Ethan Feld, an 11-year-old baseball player, who is recruited by a group of mythical creatures to complete a quest to save the multiverse.  He meets werefolk, giants, faeries, sasquatch, and goblins along the way.

This is an enjoyable fantasy for young people and adults.  It has a few dark themes, but is still appropriate for children.  It feels like the author has added every mythical creature he could think of!  There are a lot of baseball references in the book, which I didn't understand; it does not distract from the story.  As well as being a work of fantasy, there are sci-fi elements to the story, such as multiple universes, physics, and a rather cute Saab-Zeppelin.

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Monday, August 12, 2013

Battle Royale by Koushun Takami

Battle Royale
Koushun Takami
1999, 2003, 2009, Haikasoru, San Francisco

A group of junior high students from an alternate reality of Japan are taken to an island where they are fitted with exploding collars and told they must kill each other until there is one survivor remaining.

I saw the movie and wanted to read the book.  This is like Hunger Games only better.  Bloody and violent and a hell of a lot of fun.  It may have been improved by a more in depth look at the dystopian aspects of this alternate reality, but then again, that may have distracted from the premise of the book.  As a stand alone, straight-out blood bath novel, it works.

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Great Gatsby
F. Scott Fitzgerald
1922, 2013, Kindle e-book
no isbn

After being wowed by the recent Luhrmann film based on this novel, I thought I'd get a copy.  And I was not disappointed!  Set in 1920s New York, a mysterious and rich young man named Gatsby throws massive parties nearly every night.  He befriends his neighbour, a bonds salesman, but not everything is as it seems.

I found the movie to be quite emotive, and the book was too.  I knew nothing of the story before I saw the movie - it has themes relevant to today (interracial marriage vs. gay marriage).  It is beautifully crafted, I love the words and turns of phrase.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner

Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner
2005, 2006, Penguin, London

An economist and a journalist look at the economics of everyday life.  From asking questions about real estate agents incentives, to the effect of specific baby names on a child's future potential.

This was a very interesting, if sometimes uncomfortable (the parts on the abortion-crime link), read.  It is data analysis for the morbidly curious.  The only disappointment is that the book portion ends about two-thirds of the way in and the rest is bonus material.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Murder in the Dark: A Phryne Fisher Mystery by Kerry Greenwood

Murder in the Dark: A Phryne Fisher Mystery
Kerry Greenwood
2006, Allen & Unwin, Crows Nest

Phryne Fisher is a well-to-do amateur detective from 1920s Australia.  In this tale she is invited to an intense multi-day party to celebrate the end of 1928.  She is threatened to not attend, which makes her want to even more.  At the party, people start disappearing and the threats continue.

I had seen the TV series of this, but this is my first read of the books.  I really enjoyed it, Phryne is a great character, she is so powerful and confident.  Th
e storytelling really evokes the feel of 1920s Australia (albeit, the upper-class side).

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Saturday, May 18, 2013

Zodiac by Robert Graysmith

Robert Graysmith
1986, 2007, Penguin, London

Non-fiction account of a serial killer from 1960s and 1970s San Fransisco and then taunted the police with letters.

The writing style was dull and hard to wade through, but the story interesting.  It's hard to believe that a criminal like this could get away uncaptured.

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Monday, April 8, 2013

PartnerShip by Anne McCaffrey and Margaret Ball

Anne McCaffrey and Margaret Ball
1992, Baen Publishing, Riverdale

Sequel to The Ship Who Sang, this is set in the same universe but with different characters.  Nancia is a Brainship - human-brain controlled spaceship (those humans who would not have survived much beyond birth)  - on her first mission out of Laboratory School.  She is to transport high-family young people to their first assignments and overhears some of their horrifying plans.

I really like this universe - imagine being a space ship!  The characters are really three-dimensional and I enjoyed the exploration of their motivations.  There could have been a little more science for my taste, but it was a good entry in the soft science fiction genre.

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Thursday, February 28, 2013

A Series of Unfortunate Events: Book the Second: The Reptile Room by Lemony Snicket

A Series of Unfortunate Events: Book the Second: The Reptile Room
Lemony Snicket
1999, HarperCollins, New York

The second instalment of the Series of Unfortunate Events.  The Baudelaire orphans go to live with their herpetologist uncle, but the evil Count Olaf is still after their fortune.

Some of the literary devices which made the first book so awesome get a little repetitive in this one, but I am not the target audience, so perhaps children would be more forgiving. 

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Pox by Richard Reinking

Richard Reinking
2011, Amazon Kindle

 A group of terrorists infect themselves with a strain of the small pox virus and then go on to spread it in four major cities of America.

This was a quick read - a solid medical thriller.  I am fascinated by the small pox virus and I thought this was a fairly credible telling of how it could be potentially used as a bioterrorist attack and how the virus would react in modern society.  Yes it was full of clich├ęs but heck, that makes it easier to read and sometimes I'm after something a little silly.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Under the Garden by Graham Greene

Under the Garden
Graham Greene
1957, 1995, Penguin 60s, London

A short story by Graham Greene published as a Penguin 60s.  A man named Wilditch learns he is dying and returns to his childhood home to revisit a dream he had as a boy.

This was a well crafted short story.  It had a mellow feel to it, a feeling of that faraway dreamland of childhood, where reality merges with fiction.  I'm not sure if it was supposed to be an allegory with the biblical holy trinity, but it sometimes seemed as though it was. 

Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown

The Da Vinci Code
Dan Brown
2003, Corgi, London

Robert Langdon is a historian specialising in religious iconography.  When the curator of the Louvre is murdered, Langdon gets dragged into a mystery involving a secret society and the search for the holy grail.

I am an admitted book snob, so when I came to read this, I didn't have high expectations.  It was a nice surprise - I actually enjoyed it!  Sure, towards the middle/end, it did get a little slow and repetitive, but overall it was a solid story.

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Thursday, January 24, 2013

Gon: Volume One by Masashi Tanaka

Gon: Volume One
Masashi Tanaka
1992, 2011, Kodansha Comics, New York

This is a manga story of the very last dinosaur on Earth, a cute little guy named Gon.  It is a wholly illustrated story, without words, so following in the tradition I shall also do my review without words.





Monday, January 7, 2013

Moral Disorder by Margaret Atwood

Moral Disorder
Margaret Atwood
2006, 2007, Seal Books, Canada

This book tells the story of one woman's life, and of those intertwined with it.  The main theme I got out of the book was that of ageing - of growing up and then growing old.

It has been a long time since I read a 'proper' literature book for adults, I was amazed at how much I missed it!  Atwood is simply fantastic.  She has a way of writing emotionally without being brash.  My favourite part of the book was the section set on the farm; reading about the animals made me smile.

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Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The Interpretation of Murder by Jed Rubenfeld

The Interpretation of Murder
Jed Rubenfeld
2006, Headline, London

Factional novel of murder in New York at the time Freud was visiting and psychoanalysis was an emerging science.  A young socialite is found murdered in her apartment and then another rich young girl is attacked in her own home.

This was an interesting enough read but I found the writing style to be inconsistent to the point of irritation.  The voice switches between first person and third person without warning, and sometimes we see the main narrator from the third person, but for no apparent reason.  Some of the sentence structure is also a little awkward at times.  And the rants on Shakespeare are tedious.

I did enjoy the book though - I don't read 522 pages of a book I'm not enjoying.  Perhaps a heavier handed editor would have made this an amazing book instead of an ok one.  There's no reason why it couldn't have been written entirely in the third person.

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