Tuesday, 27 December 2011

The Book Thief - Markus Zusak (2006)

I bought this when I was stuck at the mall and needed something to do. The title was familiar and it was cheap. It's written by an Australian, despite the Germany/WW2 premise. It won twelve awards and was listed on the New York Times bestseller list for a good while.

It was really hard to stop reading this, I love how Death narrates the story and chooses a little girl as one of his favourite stories to tell. He talks about how much he hates his job and longs for a holiday, but there is no one to replace him. He uses distractions as holidays, and takes note of the colour of the sky when he takes people. Liesel is used as one such distraction. One who loses much, but is still hungry for life.

Liesel is sent away to live with foster parents, but her brother dies on the train trip. She and her mother leave him beside the train tracks to be buried, where Liesel steals her first book - The Gravediggers Handbook - despite being unable to read.
She is haunted with nightmares of her mother abandoning her and her brother dying. Her foster father Hans stays up with her and teaches her how to read. Her father struggles with his painting business. He lost clients when he painted over slurs on Jewish homes and is known as a Jew-lover. Her mother takes in washing to make ends meet. At a book burning Liesel salvages another book, but realises the mayor's wife - who she takes in washing for- saw her steal it. The next time she collects the washing the mayor's wife allows her to read in her library.

In WW1 Hans life was saved by another man and he promised his family he would help them anytime they needed. But that man was Jewish, and his son Max asks of him to keep him hidden in their basement.
During the air raids, Max goes up to see light. When times get tough, the washing stops, Liesel steals books from the mayor's wife in revenge. Hans is whipped on the street for giving bread to a Jew and Max leaves in fear of discovery. Hans is conscripted and given the job of taking bodies of the street. He returns home safe and the air raids continue. Liesel is writing the story of her life into a book down in the basement. One day, the sirens for the air raid do not go off soon enough and everyone on the street is killed. Liesel is the only one left alive

Thursday, 22 December 2011

My Sister's Keeper - Jodi Picoult (2004)

I love this book, so I couldn't resist reading it again. It just sits on my bookshelf begging for me it read it again.   I know lots of people who aren't Picoult fans, but everyone's different and I love her books, especially the compelling subjects she always chooses to write about.

An easy five stars. It's heartbreaking, and as per usual of Picoult novels, it presents an impossible choice. One daughter is dying of kidney failure and the other refuses to donate her compatible kidney. 

Anna was genetically engineered to save her sister, Kate. Kate is currently dying of kidney failure as a result of her leukaemia treatment. Anna does not want to donate her kidney, and finds a lawyer called Campbell to help her sue for medical emancipation. This tears the family apart. Their mother, Sara cannot believe that Anna is choosing to end her sister's life. Anna moves out to the fire station with her father to get some thinking space. A court case ensues, and Anna reveals that Kate asked her to help her kill herself and that is why she won't donate her kidney. Anna's lawyer is awarded medical power of attorney for Anna. In the car ride home, Anna is killed but Campbell chooses to give Anna's kidney to Kate. Six years on, the family stil feels the loss of Anna, but Kate has been in remission ever since the transplant

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Prom Nights From Hell - Meg Cabot, Kim Harrison, Michele Jaffe, Stephenie Meyer & Lauren Myracle (2007)

I bought this book from an op shop because it was fifty cents and I like Meg Cabot. At first thought the pricing was a mistake because surely they could get more money for something with Stephenie Meyer's name attatched, however after reading the book I can see why it was so low.

This book contains five short stories, all about supernatural events happening at a prom. None of the stories were particularly compelling, they were all quite predictable and were nothing I hadn't heard of before. The exception being Madison Avery and the Dim Reaper by Kim Harrison. This story was probably the best idea of the five, however it didn't really have a resolution in the end and I think it would have been better as a full length novel.

The Exterminator's Daughter - Meg Cabot
Mary tries to kill Dracula's son the day before prom but fails. While doing this she meets Adam, a guy from her school who she's never really noticed before, they fall in love and defeat the vampire at the prom together.

The Corsage - Lauren Myracle
In an attempt to try to get Will to ask her to prom, Frankie takes him to a psychic who gives her a corsage that will grant her three wishes. Frankie then wishes that the boy she loves would ask her to prom so Will then climbs a water tower to spray paint the question on it and falls to his death. On the night of the prom she wishes for him to be alive again and his corpse comes to her house, she then uses her last wish to make him dead again.

Madison Avery and the Dim Reaper - Kim Harrison
At the prom, Madison is dumped by her date and falls into the arms of a handsome stranger. When driving her home, he drives her off a cliff and stabs her. Madison then wakes up in the morgue with two white (good) reapers arguing over who was responsible for not saving her. Madison is like a ghost unless one of the reaper's amulets are close by so she steals one off the black (bad) reaper who killed her in the first place and who came back to take her somewhere. A white reaper is then assigned to be her guardian angel for a year as she poses as a human while they work out why she's so important.

Kiss and Tell - Michele Jaffe
Miranda has superpowers and works as a driver on her day off from boarding school. On the day of her prom she drives a girl named Sibby to somewhere where people are trying to harm her. Miranda helps Sibby escape and then takes her to the prom so they can hide. While there Miranda talks to her crush, Will, who really wanted to go to prom with her. The prom is then evacuated when the police announce a "bomb scare" and the policeman who is leading them is the one who is after Sibby. Miranda then knocks out the policemen and saves Sibby, she takes Sibby to her safehouse and then goes to breakfast with Will.

Hell on Earth - Stephenie Meyer
Gabe is drawn to a mysterious girl called Sheba at the prom. Sheba is a demon who is causing havoc at the prom and when Gabe sees her she can no longer manipulate the people at the prom. She realises that Gabe must be half angel and has no idea, he is drawn to situations where he can help and is unkowningly trying to save Sheba.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Trail Ride - Bonnie Bryant (2001)

I read this because I was going through my books and I remembered how much I loved this particular Saddle Club book as a six-year-old (I was obsessed, I may or may not own the entire series.) It took me about half an hour, being as it has 150 pages and 16pt font. When I did some research on this book, I found out that that author, Bonnie Bryant, had several ghost writers and wrote less than forty of the 101 books in the series.
Childhood ruined.

It is a children's book, and considering, I would recommend you give this to your ten-year-old daughter instead of caving and buying that pony she wants. It uses simple language and is very repetitive. Although by reading the series you will gain learn a lot about horses.

Lisa, Carole and Stevie are invited to their friend Kate's horse ranch. Stevie is not allowed to go as it conflicts with her cousin's wedding. Kate has lots of adventures planned and the girls downplay their fun in their emails to Stevie. Lisa, Carole and Kate go to a waterfall and go swimming with their horses. At the rehearsal dinner, Stevie finds horses and befriends the boy next door who owns them. Kate also takes the pair to an archaeological dig on the ranch, but ends the day very unwell and is bed-ridden.

Lisa and Carole ride their horses out to see a meteor shower, when Carole starts seizing. Lisa goes for help and finds poachers stealing the finds from the dig. They see her and chase her and her horse jumps over a cliff, and she is left for dead. At the wedding, Stevie ventures outside, and saves one of the horses lives by fashioning a makeshift torniquet. Lisa guides the horse on a narrow trail down the cliff and gets back to the ranch and saves Carole.Turns out, Carole and Kate contracted Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever from tick bites they got at the waterfall pool.

Froi of the Exiles - Melina Marchetta (2011)

I know that this book has taken me ages to read, and the fact that it is 600 pages has nothing to do with it, I just found it's very hard to get addicted to. You know when you're reading a book and the part you're reading is so exciting that you have to keep reading? That didn't happen at all in this book, the whole thing is kind of like a slow burn, it's interesting, just not enough to make me want to read more than a chapter a night.

I enjoyed the first book in this series Finnikin of the Rock more than I enjoyed this one. I found this one was too long and had too many stories going on for me to understand. It's really hard to remember who all the characters are, which provinces are good or bad, and work out who's perspective you're reading from all the time. My favourite character was probably Phaedra, she was the only character who was consistently both likeable and strong-willed for the entire novel. Although I like Melina Marchetta, I think she is better at writing teenage dramas like On the Jellicoe Road and Looking for Alibrandi.

This book focuses on Froi, the thief that Isaboe and Finnikin met in the last novel. It's been about three years since Lumatere's curse was lifted and Froi is now a trained and trusted member of the Queen's Guard and is sent into Charyn to kill the king with information from a Charyinite that Charyn is also cursed and no-one has had a child for eighteen years. While there he falls in love with the lastborn princess, Quintana, who is destined to bear the first child of Charyn with another lastborn male. We discover that Quintana was really the oracle's child, not Lirah of Serker's (the king's whore), however the king is still her father. The oracle was thrown into a gravina on the day she gave birth to Quintana along with who everyone thought was her child. Lirah also gave birth that day, to a boy, who she thought was thrown of the balcony with the oracle because the children had been switched. It turns out that Lirah's son was Froi and Quintana's stillborn twin was thrown off the balcony into the gravina with the oracle. This means that when Froi and Quintana had sex, Quintana fell pregnant. Froi tries to protect her, however they are followed many times, and then when he finally takes her somewhere he knows she will be safe, Turla, they are betrayed, and Froi is captured after telling Quintana to run for her life and to protect their son. Beatrice and Trevanion get married, and Lucian falls in love with his Charynite wife, Phaedra, who he had previously rejected. Phaedra however, seems to die in a plague with five other Charynite women and Lucian is devastated. In the epilogue we learn that Phaedra and the women are actually alive and faking their deaths was part of an unknown plan. Froi awakes to his uncle, Arjuro, who is going to heal him then help him find Quintana.

^I told you it was complicated. And I left out all the confusing stuff.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

A Fortunate Life - A.B Facey (1981)

My great-aunt sent this in the mail for my mother, my sisters and I to read. It has been buried in the depths of our house until I begged Mum to dig it out for me. My great-aunt raved about this book and insisted that we should all read it. She bought the book at an op-shop and it is in tatters. In my opinion, the more beat up a book is, the better it wil be.

This book is eye-opening. It reminds me a lot of Sewell's famed Black Beauty and a little bit of Boy. It is an autobiography about a man who went through a life filled with unimaginable hardships, yet still believed that he was lucky. He pushes at every boundary and takes all the chances he can, and unlike many  he actually lived his life to the fullest. At eighty-two, he wrote this book, with encouragement from his wife and children, having been known as the family storyteller.

Albert, or Bert, and his various sibling were raised by his grandmother. He become one mouth too many to feed and was sent off to various jobs as a farmer's boy.  Some were good, some were not and in one place he was whipped half to death by drunks. He never had the chance to go to school so this limited his options. He became a  good boxer and travelled in a boxing circus and was never once defeated. Bert enlisted in WW1 and survived, but not without injuries that further limited his career options.

He married Evelyn, a woman he received a parcel from whilst in the trenches. They had many children and he worked as a tram driver. When that proved too hard with his war disability, he and his family relocated back to the country. This served them well, until the Depression hit. They then moved back and Bert became a tram driver once more.  Their sons enlisted in WW2 and one, Barney, was killed. This has a big effect on his wife, and she was never quite the same. After "fifty-nine years, eleven months and twelve days" (page 322) Evelyn died, leaving behind a shadow of her husband. Yet after all this, Albert reflects on his life and is extremely satisfied.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

The Power of Six - Pittacus Lore (2011)

Clare lent me the prequel a while back and I liked it. I saw the movie, and it was pretty decent. (certain not like the butchery that was made of Eragon) So I bought this because I had to know what happened next. Pittacus Lore is a pseudonym adopted by the author and he is included in the story and maintains that the book is real and the names have been changed to protect the Garde. Rather reminiscent of Lemony Snicket and his Series of Unfortunate Events.

I liked this book, there was never any lack of action. Good, solid action-packed little book. Good for a fast read and a change of genre. Definite thumbs-up.

Four, Six and Sam leave Paradise after they wrecked the school in the last novel. They are trailed by police and are heralded as terrorists. Four opens his chest and it contains powerful gems that he doesn't knwo how to use . A dual story is also being told; Seven is living in a convent in Spain, and her Cepan has adopted a life of worship. Four, Six and Sam try to outrun the police and the Mogodorians and are ambushed a few times. They end up having to enter the Mogodarians lair to claim back their Chests. There they meet Nine. Six then leaves to help Seven who is being attacked by the Mogodorians. Six and Four plan to meet up in a few weeks.

Friday, 2 December 2011

Vanished - Danielle Steel (1993)

My mum picked this up for me secondhand. It's typical Danielle Steel, but it seems very personal and she did lose one of her own children. It's set in the 40s and doesn't seem very carefully researched. She constantly asserts the attributes of her characters instead of using dialogue or actions to allow the characteristics to be inferred by the reader.

I don't like this book. It has very little substance and drags on a lot. I don't recommend the book. But in saying that, I still like some of her other work.

Marielle married young and her toddler, Andre, drowned and later the same day she miscarried her daughter. This left her and her husband Charles devastated. She was in a sanatorium for two years and attempted suicide continuously. Years later, she has now married well to a wealthy Malcolm Patterson, and has a four-year-old, Teddy. Teddy is kidnapped, and Charles is the immediate suspect. Teddy's pyjamas are then found at Charles' house. A trial ensues and a search for Teddy. Charles is about to be convicted, and then Teddy is found. Malcolm was trying to spirit him away to Germany where his mistress and secretary could then adopt him and raise him as their son.

Inheritance - Christopher Paolini (2011)

I pre-ordered this book months ago. There may or may not have been tears of joy when it was revealed at the end of the third book that there was going to be a fourth. I've heard people say that his writing style is pompous, or that he is the worst of J.K Rowling and J.R.R Tolkien combined and that they couldn't bring themselves to read it because the movie was so bad. Or even that the movie is better than the book.. which is a travesty. Personally, I love the way he writes and the dedication he puts into the world he creates. Not to mention he was only 15 when he wrote the first book - Eragon. 

Read it! I love it more than Harry Potter, and I really love Harry Potter. It is admittedly hard to get into initially but within a hundred pages, you'll be making excuses as to why you're skipping meals. Easily one of my favourite books.
The Varden and their allies are making their way to Uru'baen to defeat Galbatorix wEragon and Saphira realise how ill-equipped they are to fight him, and turn to advice given to them by the werecats. They fly to Vroengard and find their true names, and unlock the Rock of Kuthian into the Vault of Souls. Inside are hundreds of Eldunari that Galbatorix believe dead, and hundreds of dragon eggs. The Varden, with much help from Roran, attack Uru'baen. Eragon, Saphira, Arya and Elva seek Galbatorix at the heart of his city surrounded by his stolen dragon eggs, using Elva to detect the various death traps set by Galbatorix. When Eragon finally confronts Galbatorix, he realises he cannot defeat him, Galbatorix uses the name of the ancient language to manipulate magic. Eragon casts a spell with the help of the Eldunari that makes Galbatorix understand how his subjects have been suffering. This understanding kills Galbatorix.

The Varden is victorious and Nasuada becomes Queen of Alagaesia. Arya leaves immediately, to Eragon's despair. Saphira and Eragon search Alagaesia to find a place to raise the dragons and train the Riders. Eragon also alters the Rider's enchantment to imbue Urgals and dwarves alongside elves and humans with the potential to become Riders. He meets up with Arya, who is now a rider as one of Galbatorix's eggs hatched for her. He is called Firnen and he and Saphira start courting immediately. Arya confesses she is now the elven Queen and Eragon asks her to renounce her crown as he has found that the only place the dragons can be raised is outside Alagaesia. She cannot and the pair realise that Angela's prophecy is going to be fulfilled, Eragon will leave Alagaesia, never to return.