Category Archives: book reviews

The “Gone” Series by Michael Grant

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I’m stuck into the Gone series by Michael Grant. I sucked down the first two, Gone and Hunger, and am now into Lies — all in a couple weeks, which is quite unlike me. I usually plod through a book at night before going to sleep. The stories are useful to learn how this author does a few things:

– writing horror for a young audience; these are listed as YA because the characters are all 15 and younger, but if I were a 12-14 y.o., I’d be having nightmares. I think I’d prefer more explicit sex to the blood and gore and emotional cruelty that happens in this story. Then again, maybe that is the catharsis that is needed — since much of it is about cruel bullying, and I mean cruel to the extent of outright murder.

– transition a series from book to book; I’ve been thinking about this since I’m writing a series — how do you do this so the reader who doesn’t start at the beginning isn’t at a disadvantage to understand the characters and the dependence on events from earlier books

– a cast of characters — introducing without overwhelming, letting them develop over time, introducing new ones along the way in a closed environment

Anyway, if you are into Stephen King (Under The Dome), Marvel’s Avengers, Animal Farm or Lord Of the Flies, this series is worth a look.

Book Review: The Word Exchange

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[also posted on Goodreads]

The Word Exchange – Alena Graedon

I picked this novel up at the library and decided to read it based on the back blurb. I’ve been working on a project about a dystopian story of a world without words, so I wanted to see how someone else handled this topic. The answer: very differently. But still, enjoyable themes. Plus I learned something as a writer from this book that I can apply to my own revisions from this author’s first novel, things I didn’t care for.

There are some really deep layers in this story, from philosophy of language, how important it is to we humans, to the impact of technology, our tools, on our ability to be human. Graedon exposes the risks involved when we don’t think clearly about those risks and what could go wrong.

I enjoyed the characters and dealing with occupations we don’t think about – lexicographers and dictionary publishing. Be honest now. When is the last time, if ever, you thought about who does this work?

The possibility that the really bad things that happen in this fictional world would/could really happen is probably at the low end, but there are already impacts of our technologies that we are experiencing: reduced emphasis on hand-writing, reduced reliance on memory, and poor spelling. These are forms of aphasia – damaged language centres – so maybe she is on to something and we are sleep walking into a major shift in our use of language. We may be communicating worldwide and with more frequency than in the past but are we really doing it well and clearly?

A good effort.

Review: DUST – Patricia Cornwell

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Well, it’s been a couple weeks since I finished this, so I’m trying to recall. I know it was a pretty quick read. It has all the standard characters. I can even now imagine the scenes, so it’s stuck with me. I wouldn’t rate it one of her best. In fact, in discussion with another Cornwell reader, he said he has the impression she calls it in now. I would tend to agree.

**spoiler alert**

Continue reading Review: DUST – Patricia Cornwell

Review: Gone Girl

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Gillian Flynn’s book, Gone Girl, is one of those books you can’t put down. In Australia we would call it ‘moreish’. (Not sure if that’s spelled right, but you get what I mean.) It started out as something I would read before going to sleep at night. But then I got sucked in. Finished in a marathon read yesterday, between the coffee shop and later at home.

I have a friend who is a psychologist who had seen the film, but not read the book. Me vice versa. We started discussing the book on Sunday on the way to a Christmas break-up party, me reacting to unreliable narrator Nick (I seem to be getting a lot of those lately), and poor missing wife Amy writing in her diary. Maureen was doing her best not to give away the oft-identified ‘twist’. We left it at that because she couldn’t talk much about it without spilling the beans. I went home after the party and picked up the book again.

OMG! (I wrote in an email to Maureen) — blah blah (spoiler)! Over the next day, I sent her a few more OMG! emails, to which she told me she laughed each time. Then last night, I sent a final email with this: the ending was unsatisfying. And this: “It did keep me reading. It wasn’t putdownable. But is that really enough? I don’t think it is.”

I don’t intend to put anything about the plot here because if you haven’t read it or seen the movie, I don’t want to spoil it for you. But the question I ask myself as a reader and a writer is: if you give the reader a good ride, but you don’t end with something of equal quality, have you done your job?

I like the way this book is written. Amy is introduced through her diary. I’m using diary entries in my current work in progress. Shawna is writing in the journal Max gave her (from On A Life’s Edge). I like diaries. They are (usually) a way to get into the honest, bare, private thoughts of the character. So I liked to see the technique used in Gone Girl. She also uses what I call ‘zebra POV’, changing the POV character at each chapter, both in first person, the story told by both Nick and Amy. I think that keeps things neat and easily followed by the reader and is also a technique I used in OALE. I’m not quite sure what I’ll do with the sequel, but I do think it worked in my first book and in GG.

GG’s chapters end with pull-through situations or lines, which is one of the reasons I kept reading, couldn’t put it down. I also love the natural dialog in GG. For those of you who know the characters and the twist, I hope you agree. Probably a bit too literally real for some purists — too many ums, ahs, etc. But I think the characterisation is excellent. There was also just enough narrative description to keep things moving and yet give a sense of place. I guess I’d sum this up by saying the necessary ‘cues’ were all there.

This book moves right along because of all these literary techniques. I think they are done well. I just wish she had come up with a different ending. So in that aspect, she hasn’t done her job well enough for me.

Rating: 3.5 stars. Maybe a good beach read.

Book Review: Illywhacker by Peter Carey

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I liked it. As a reader, the story is pure fun. As a writer, it is a lesson in foreshadowing, the unreliable narrator, and using the fantastical to keep a reader guessing what bizarreness will come next. Even the title begs this book to be read, just to find out what an ‘illywhacker’ is. (He does define it and the story is about that.)

Carey published Illywhacker in 1985, an award winner, a book you can get your teeth into, with multiple layers of study of the human condition. It is an illustration of crazy Australiana – regional towns, major cities, country folk, working with what is at hand and things they can make. The characters are wonderfully crafted so that by the end, you will know Leah, George, Mr. Lo, and Emma who lives in a cage. Herbert Badgery tells us, from his point of view, who these people are and were to him, as they changed, as their relationships developed and sometimes withered away, some surviving for his entire life, if we can believe him. He was a car salesman after all.

This story is about cages – metaphorical and actual, the ones we choose, the ones we don’t, and the ones we don’t realise we are in. This book is just as relevant today, to think about, as it was thirty years ago.

Highly recommend.

Book Review: The Gray and Guilty Sea

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The Gray and Guilty Sea: An Oregon Coast Mystery (Garrison Gage, #1)The Gray and Guilty Sea: An Oregon Coast Mystery by Scott William Carter

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I liked this. Garrison Gage, former NY private investigator, finds himself caught up in a mystery around a dead girl washed up on the beach near his house. The town is full of interesting seedy suspicious characters to choose from. The police chief isn’t sure there has been a murder. Gage is.

This is the first in a series. I look forward to reading the next.

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