Book Review: The Dry by Jane Harper

Title: The Dry

Author: Jane Harper

Page numbers: 352

Star rating: 5 stars out of 5

 

Fantastically written, utterly suspenseful, and worth every bit of the hype. I sped through this novel – I think it took me about 2 or 3 hours total. The secrets and lies within a small town is hardly a new trope, but the way that Jane Harper approaches it and the 2 mysteries at the centre of this incredible story is completely unique. My head swam with the possibilities of what could have happened to the Hadleys, and what could have happened to have kept Aaron Falk away from his home town for so long. The resolution to both these mysteries was stunning.

I’m a city girl at heart – I grew up in suburban Brisbane and have lived next to the ocean my entire life – but I feel like Jane Harper has completely captured the feel, the atmosphere, the very character of small town country Australia and what it’s like to be part of a tiny rural community. I also marvel at her ability to write something that was so suspenseful from the very first sentence. Would that I had one tenth of her talent. I cannot wait to read the next book in the Aaron Falk series and suggest you run to your local bookshop and buy this one immediately.

Book Review: The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton

Title: The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender

Author: Leslye Walton

Page Numbers: 301

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender is as the title promises – both strange and beautiful. Ava is the narrator, beginning with her grandmother’s birth and subsequent immigration with her parents and 3 siblings to the US at the turn of the century. What follows is a sorrowful tale where Ava’s grandmother and great aunts and uncle are all incredibly unlucky in both love and life, and Ava’s grandmother vows never to let love pierce her heart again.

Ava’s mother also learns the same lesson at a young age; a brief encounter with her young love results in the birth of twins. Strange, silent Henry, and Ava, a girl born with the feathered wings of a bird. Ava and her brother are kept separate from the outside world, sequestered in the family home on the hill, where Ava watches the world go by. Her story is one of isolation; her grandmother and her mother are both steadfast in their resolve to not let love in, lest it hurt too much, and so Ava and her brother grow up with attention but not so much in the way of affection. Her only friend is the neighbour’s daughter, who dares her to try to fly, in more ways than one. As the years pass, Ava grows close with the brother of her friend, and the three of them venture out into the world to participate in normal teenage events. It’s on one of these outings that Ava stumbles across a man who will change her life in horrible, unspeakable ways.

The story of Ava and her unusual family is beautifully told, using lyrical prose and gorgeous descriptions. The ending is left ambiguous; you’re uncertain as to the exact events, but left with a sense of hope, that perhaps her life will no longer be so sorrowful. Ava and her mother both learn lessons about love and the futility of holding on to things you shouldn’t for far too long. Overall, it’s a beautiful, magical tale that will stay with you long after you’ve finished

Book Review: Artemis by Andy Weir

Book title: Artemis

Author: Andy Weir

Page Numbers: 384

Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

I really enjoyed this one, but I wasn’t utterly blown away like I was with the Martian.

The world building was interesting and well done, although I would have liked it to have been expanded a bit more. I really enjoyed learning about how the first and only city on the Moon worked, and the unique culture that was developing as a result. I liked the idea that the Kenyans were responsible for the first city on the Moon because of their proximity to the equator – I just thought that the overall feel of the city could have been more African than American. Just as with the Martian, I found the science mostly fascinating – particularly the medical issues that people on the Moon face, such as having to return to Earth when pregnant, because fetuses can’t properly develop in the womb on the Moon (heh) or that you can’t move to the Moon before the age of 12, or it may permanently affect your growth and development. I wasn’t overly fond of all the welding stuff, and some of Jazz’s dialogue doesn’t really sound much like how women actually think or speak.

I did miss the humour and the wonderful characterisation from the last book though. Jazz just wasn’t as likeable as Mark Watney. Mark was utterly adorable, and every page sang with his personality and his wonderful sense of humour. Jazz was tough, mean, and kinda bitchy. Her sense of humour felt more… 12 year old boy. She didn’t seem to form relationships with people easily, and her methods of making a living were shady at best. I did enjoy Jazz’s email-based friendship with Kelvin, and her growing relationship with Svoboda. Her moral compass was shaky but generally seemed pointed in the right direction.

Overall, the book was well-written and interesting, but I feel like it was lacking something vital that would have made it a 5 star read.

Book Review: Lost Boy by Christina Henry

Title: Lost Boy

Author: Christina Henry

Page Numbers: 318

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I loved reading this story. It ties in so well with J M Barrie’s classic kids lit masterpiece. The idea of Peter Pan as a cruel, malevolent being – a true sociopath, really – was fascinating, as was the gradual realisation of the identity of the narrator, and his horrible fate. I was hooked (heh heh) from the very first sentence.

The Neverland island setting was at once magical and malign. Fantastic beings and creepy monsters mixed with pirates, sandy beaches, lagoons, and hollowed out trees to create a landscape that is both familiar and alien. The characters were also brilliantly rendered. I adored the narrator, and how he regained his humanity through his brotherly love of 5 year old Charlie and strong, steadfast Sal. The plot was cleverly done and well executed, and my heart broke for them all at the end.

After the glorious retelling of Alice and now this story, I will definitely read anything Christina Henry writes.

The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler

Title: The Book of Speculation

Author: Erika Swyler

Page number: 339 pages

Rating: 4 stars out of 5

The Book of Speculation is beautifully told, and everything magical realism should be. At its heart is a travelling carnival from 18th century America, the quirky group of performers who make up it’s ‘family’, and the carnival book lead performer Peabody writes along the way.

300 years later, an antique book dealer stumbles across Peabody’s tome and sends it to Simon Watson, librarian, who is related to the carnival’s Wild Boy/Seer and Mermaid. What follows its a sad, beautiful tale involving a curse and a long line of women who die on the exact same day, in the exact same way.

I enjoyed the dual timelines and the juxtaposition between Simon’s modern way of thinking and Amos/the Wild Boy’s coming of age. Their attempts to look after the women they love while trying to do the right thing were admirable. I also loved the subtle fantasy and the nods to Russian mythology. The insight into travelling carnivals and the unique gifts possessed by the people who worked in them was fascinating, although it felt like a rather dark and exclusive world to live in.

The Red Queen – Obernewtyn Cronicles Book 7

Title: The Red Queen (Obernewtyn Chronicles)

Author: Isobelle Carmody

Page numbers: 1120 pages

Rating: 5 stars out of 5

I have waited 16 years for the conclusion to this amazing story, and it did not disappoint. This is the series that got me on to epic fantasy – without Obernewtyn, I’d probably be a very different reader today. I have loved Elspeth, Rushton, Dameon and Matthew particularly since that first book when I was 14, and to finally come to the end of all of their stories is both heartbreaking and .. well, actually, just heartbreaking really. I haven’t cried so much while reading a book in years.

I’m not even sure if you could call it a happy ending. All of the plot threads that Isobelle had been weaving for decades came to neat ends, but there is still so much that she could have explained. There’s so much left up to our imaginations. And there’s a huge message throughout the entire saga that people should definitely heed. If you’ve been put off by the years of silence from the author, don’t be. It’s finally finished. Start at the beginning, you won’t regret it.

Book Review: Waking Gods by Sylvain Neuvel

Title: Waking Gods

Author: Sylvain Neuvel

Page numbers: 336

Rating: 5 stars out of stars

A remarkable sequel in truly fantastic series. I adored the second just as much as the first. From the get go, I was utterly absorbed. There is something special about the way Sylvain Neuvel writes, and about the way he creates and develops his characters. I fell in love with all of them, particularly Rose, Vincent, and Kara, and they more than live up to the expectations I’d had for them after the first book ended.

The first book begins with child Rose falling into a massive hole and landing in the palm of a truly enormous hand. The second book begins in a similar fashion – with a child, only this child has waking nightmares that come true. After a brief glimpse into her life that does nothing to tell us about who she truly is, we’re back with the Unnamed Man, one of the most complex characters in the whole book. The interviews from his point of view are fascinating, and I really enjoyed the mystery that surrounded him. The pace picks up from there, with the aliens who built the Themis robot sending more to Earth, and the series of events that occurs as a result of our heroes actions in the first novel is nothing short of terrifying. My heart raced and ached for the loss and devastation they felt along the way.

I love the unique formats these books take as well. From the more traditional prose style to the formal interview and the brief snippets of dialogue, the story is extrapolated from bits and bobs and told so many different ways and from so many view points. It never feels disjointed, but rather adds to the overall realism of the story. Which just goes to show the talent and thought that’s gone into these books.

Sylvain Neuvel has quickly become a must read author for me. Do yourself a favour and read them, and I’ll know he’ll become one for you, too.

Book Review: How to Stop Time by Matt Haig

Title: How to Stop Time

Author: Matt Haig

Page Number: 325

Rating: 5 stars out of 5

On the back of How to Stop Time, Jeanette Winterson is quoted as saying ‘Matt Haig uses words like a tin opener. We are the tin’. Never has a blurb sprouted more truth than that. Matt Haig’s beautiful book grabbed me by the heart.

In How to Stop Time, Tom Hazard lives a lonely, long existence. Every 8 years, he must give up the life he’s built and move on. He can’t fall in love, he can’t put down roots, and he can’t leave any evidence of his existence. This is because he’s 439 years old, and he’s aging so slowly, he only appears to be 40.

In essence, this story is about what it means to be human. About what shapes us, what helps us become who we are. It’s also about the things we’re willing to do to survive – even if we’re not really sure who we are anymore, or if we like it. There are some beautiful messages here, cleverly interwoven with history and famous characters that make reading it a joy. While most of it is sad, there is magic here, and hope. This is definitely a book worth savouring.

Book Review: The Gospel of Loki by Joanne M. Harris

Title: The Gospel of Loki

Author: Joanne M. Harris

Page numbers: 302

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I really enjoyed the Gospel of Loki. I’m not sure exactly what I was expecting when I started this book – I loved Joanne M. Harris’ Chocolat books, but I guess I thought the prose would be similar in nature, with a kind of dreamy, mystical feel.

This book was nothing like that.

Basically, it was a first-person retelling of Norse mythology, revolving around Loki and his point of view. Therefore, we only see what Loki was present for, or what had been told to him by Odin or the other gods. The prose is rather matter-of-fact, despite the fantastic nature of the events that occur, and the story stays true to the original mythology. Joanne M. Harris doesn’t really stray at all from those original stories you may already be familiar with, so don’t expect any artistic liberty to be taken.

I’ve always had a fascination with Norse mythology and the Vikings in particular, so this book was right up my alley. I loved each adventure and felt angry at the way Loki was treated by the Aesir, despite the fact that he was often the instigator. He was definitely likeable, and I really enjoyed his voice.

Book review: The Colour of White by Jaclyn Moriarty

Title: The Colour of White

Author: Jaclyn Moriarty

Page numbers: 375 pages

Rating: 5 stars out of 5

I’ve had this book sitting on my shelf for years, and after seeing so many amazing reviews for it, decided it was time to give it a go myself. This is book 1 of 3, and I can’t wait to find out how the story progresses.

I’ve previously read ‘I Have a Bed Made of Buttermilk Pancakes’ by Jaclyn Moriarty, and I have to say that all the elements I loved about that book were there in this one. The humour, the whimsy, the strangeness. The pure fun.

I loved the colour present in both worlds – through Madeline’s clothing, her friendships, her mother, and her teachers, and in Elliot’s crazy world where colours were physical beings that could evoke moods or even kill. It was magical, it was odd, and it was full of personality.

In essence, it’s a book about growing up and developing a sense of self. The story is told in two parts, one in each world, and while the letters that Elliot and Madeleine write each other link them, so do the similarities between the two of them.

Finally, I have to say that I just love odd stories like this. I’d like to form a group for people who adored this story – I’m sure we’d all get along famously.