Tag Archives: book review

#16 Lone Wolf – Jodi Picoult

17 Feb
Lone Wolf - Jodi Picoult

Lone Wolf – Jodi Picoult

Goodreads rating: 3.61/5 (22,100+ ratings)

My rating: 6/10

Why it’s on the list: I have read all Jodi Picoult’s books except for her latest, and Songs of the Humpback Whale. I went through a phase of reading all her books so of course I have to finish all of them!

First Published: February 28th, 2012 by Atria Books

Genre: Drama, Modern Fiction

For avid Picoult readers, the plot will probably be predictable, however a quick rundown – Estranged son Edward Warren has lived in Thailand for 6 years, when he finds out his dad and sister have been injured in a terrible accident back in the US. When he returns home and finds out his father is in a coma which he’s unlikely to recover from, Edward and his sister Cara, who holds a grudge against him, have to decide what is best for their father – whether to keep him hooked up to life support with the likelihood of being brain-dead, or to end the life support.

To add to this, Edward & Cara’s father, Luke, is a famous animal conservationist who became famous after living with a pack of wolves in the wild, and he now runs a wolf conserve.

This story was pretty weak, and I didn’t like the ending. Unlike many of her books, the underlying story was pretty boring, I didn’t really like any of the characters, and there are secrets to be revealed in the book but aren’t really built up to make you want to know what they are.

The only element that saved this book was the information about the wolves. Like most Picoult books, the themes are heavily researched, which is one thing I love about her books. Picoult describes the habits and characteristics of wolves really well, although I feel like she made them out to be much tamer and placid than they probably are in real life!

The chapters that were from Luke’s point of view about living with wolves in the wild were my favourite, I found them interesting and well thought out, as well as really well described – particularly the facts about how a pack works and the different rankings of wolves in a pack.

From reading this article on sheknows.com, Jodi Picoult wants readers to feel three things after reading this novel – Moved, Emotional, Smarter – and I did feel all three after finishing it, so I guess I got what she wanted the reader to get out of it. I mainly felt moved and emotional when thinking of being in the position of the children and having to make life and death decisions about my parents. And of course, as I mentioned, I felt smarter after reading all the wolf facts!

I think it’s worth reading if you’re a Picoult fan, but if not, you should definitely stick to some of her better books such as The Pact or My Sisters Keeper.

Bits & pieces

  • Debuted as Number One New York Times bestseller.
  • Picoult spent time with a man who actually did live with wolves in the wild, Shaun Ellis, for a year. She also met some wolves he had in captivity.
  • Picoult also learnt how to howl like a wolf.
  • When describing Lone Wolf in 140 characters or less, Picoult says – ‘When is it right to end a life? And why is a family like a pack of wolves?’

Sources: Caroline Leavitville blog; Jodi Picoult website; sheknows.com

Quotes

“Like a missing tooth, sometimes an absence is more noticeable than a presence.”

“Me, I was already jaded and tarnished, skeptical that a fantasy world could keep reality at bay.”

“The scariest thing in the world is thinking someone you love is going to die.”

“I used to believe everything my brother told me, because he was older and I figured he knew more about the world. But as it turns out, being a grown-up doesn’t mean you’re fearless. It just means you fear different things.”

-H-

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#15 True Blood Omnibus – Charlaine Harris

15 Feb

The Southern Vampire Mysteries – Books 1, 2 & 3 of 13

True Blood Omnibus - Charlaine Harris

True Blood Omnibus – Charlaine Harris

Goodreads rating: 4.19/5 (1400+ ratings)

My rating: 4/10

Why it’s on the list: I love True Blood the TV series, and had already read the first book, Dead Until Dark, and wanted to continue the series.

Genre: Mystery, Fantasy, Romance

The True Blood Omnibus is made up of the first three books of The Southern Vampire Mysteries:

  1. Dead Until Dark (Published May 1st, 2001)
  2. Living Dead in Dallas  (Published March 2002)
  3. Club Dead (Published May 2003)

I’d previously read, and reviewed Dead Until Dark, so won’t talk about that in this post but check out that review for a basic rundown of the series.

Although I quite enjoyed Book #1, unfortunately I felt like Books 2 & 3 just combined into one long, boring, badly written novel. It reads like a constant circle of; Sookie is in love with Bill > Sookie is angry at Bill > Sookie gets in a fight/is attacked/is taken and is injured > Sookie saves herself > multiple male vampires/werewolves/shifters come to look after her > Sookie wants to have sex with said vampire/werewolf/shifter > Sookie goes back to Bill. And so the circle of Sookie’s life continues.

Unlike the TV Series, where you feel real danger for Sookie, the books make the fighting or tense scenes really quick and like Sookie gets out of bad situations much too easily. The only thing I liked about the books was that Sookie is generally a strong woman (most of the time) and knows what she wants.

The writing is really, really, bad. Sometimes I had to go back and re-read sentences multiple times before understanding what Harris was trying to say. This could be reflective of my reading skills, but somehow I don’t think so.

I will continue to read the series, as I hate to start something and not finish, however if you haven’t started this series yet, I wouldn’t bother and suggest you just go watch True Blood which is awesome.

-H-

#14 The Secret Ingredient – Dianne Blacklock

4 Feb
The Secret Ingredient - Dianne Blacklock

The Secret Ingredient – Dianne Blacklock

Goodreads rating: 3.74/5 (43 ratings)

My rating: 8/10

Why it’s on the list: I won it in a Woman’s day puzzle competition.

First published: November 1st, 2011 by Pan Australia

Genre: Modern Fiction

This book surprised me. The blurb on the back was a bit ‘airy-fairy’ and not my sort of book. All about how flavours evoke memories and what not. I was hooked within the first chapter. It’s a great story of love and loss.

Andie is the main character, and her marriage falls apart in the beginning of the book. It is set in Sydney, which I always love, because I can imagine the places. It’s mainly set in Rose Bay, Double Bay and Roseville – all places I know.

Her mother and brother have both passed away, and it’s just her irritating sister and her lonely dad left. She’s given up a lot of her dreams and aspirations of being a professional chef to let her husband focus on himself, and is running a deli. She decides to try again with the cooking and starts working at a top restaurant with renowned chef, Dominic Gerou.

I really loved Andie. I find it hard to warm to most female characters in these types of books because either I think they’re irritating, or weak, or self-absorbed, however Andie is great. She’s strong-willed, friendly, and… normal! It’s really easy to HATE her husband Ross, and LOVE all the people who are good to her.

There’s a lot of ups and downs. I felt for Andie during the whole book, her highs and lows. In the end, it’s a feel good book and the good guy wins, which is a nice change from some other books I’ve read lately!

I definitely recommend this book, for an easy, light read that still draws you in, and I think most women will be able to relate to the emotions and feelings brought up in this book. Men could read it, but I’d definitely class it as being for women, however it’s not what I’d call ‘Chick Lit’. Dianne Blacklock talks more about how she classifies her books, here.

Bits & pieces

  • Named ‘Pick of the Week’ in The Age, 14th January 2012.
  • This was Dianne Blacklock‘s 8th novel, and took her to over 1million printed words!

-H-

#12 Paint It Black – Janet Fitch

23 Jan
Paint it Black - Janet Fitch

Paint it Black – Janet Fitch

Goodreads rating: 3.4 (5,700+ ratings)

My rating: 3/10

Why it’s on the list: I’ve had this book for a few years, and i’ve started it about 3 times and have never got further than the first chapter, so finally decided i’ll finish it.

First published: September 18th, 2006 by Little, Brown & Co.

Genre: Modern Fiction

What a depressing book! By the end of it, I felt so down. Long, dragging story short – Josie Tyrrell is in love with a guy called Michael, and he kills himself by shooting himself in the head in a motel in the Californian desert. Of course, a terrible thing to happen, and Josie is obviously depressed.

That’s basically it… she and Michael’s famous pianist mum Meredith clash, and then become friends, and then fight, and are then friends. Josie does some drugs here and there, smokes a certain type of cigarette, wears some ratty clothes and does some acting. She eventually visits the motel where Michael killed himself… aaand that’s really about it.

Paint it Black was such a drag to get through, and it had promise. It’s written by the writer of White Oleander, which although I haven’t read the book, I have seen and enjoyed the movie. This story could have been great, but it wasn’t and I don’t recommend reading it

Fitch said in an Amazon.com blog “Paint It Black started as a gothic little short story, which became the emotional core of the book, like a secret windowless room at the heart of a haunted mansion. Then I built outwards from that room, into the outer life of the book, until I finally got the beginning, and then the ending, which is the doorway out, into the sun.” 

I really think it should’ve stayed a gothic little short story, rather than expanding it into a long-winded novel.

Oh and also, I don’t know if anyone else ever feels like a book isn’t set in the right city, but this one was set in LA and really should’ve been set in London.

-H-

#10 1984 – George Orwell

18 Jan
1984 - George Orwell

1984 – George Orwell

Goodreads rating: 4.05 (795,000+ ratings)

My rating: 8/10

First published: June 8th, 1948 by Secker and Warburg

Genre: Dystopian, Political Fiction

1984 was written in 1948, and was Orwell’s idea of what the future would be like in 1984. I’m not very knowledgable of politics or governments, so I probably won’t describe this book perfectly.

1984 is set in Oceania, where society is ruled and governed by ‘The Party’. ‘The Party’ controls everything, edits history, governs thought, and there is constant government surveillance and mind control of the people. Big Brother is the party leader, who may not even exist.

The book focuses on Winston Smith, who works for the Ministry of Truth and his job is to re-write past articles in the newspapers to reflect and support the current party stance. Winston secretly hates and wants to revolt against the party however the fact that all actions and conversations are constantly monitored, he doesn’t know if anyone else feels the same way.

Eventually, after a few interactions, he meets Julia, who feels the same way as him in regards to the party. They start meeting in secret, and fall in love. From here, they meet someone who they think is running a revolution, however, you can never be sure what’s true in Oceania.

loved this book. There were some dry parts that were a lot of text and read more like an essay, however the overall story was awesome. The thought of living in this world sounds terrible, however after I recently read Stasiland by Anna Funder, I realised that life in the German Democratic Republic from the 1960s – 1989 was a diluted form of the way of life in 1984.

I highly recommend this book, and it’s not overly long so despite some of the lengthier chapters, it’s a pretty quick read. It’s become a bit of a cult book, and a lot of the ideas and words have been often referenced since its publication.

Notable quotes

‘From where Winston stood it was just possible to read, picked out on its white face in elegant lettering, the three slogans of the Party:
WAR IS PEACE
FREEDOM IS SLAVERY 
IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH’

‘People simply disappeared, always during the night. Your name was removed from the registers, every record of everything you had ever done was wiped out, and your one-time existence was denied and then forgotten. You were abolished, annihilated: vaporized was the usual word.’

‘Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.’

In the end the Party would announce that two and two made five, and you would have to believe it. It was inevitable that they should make that claim sooner or later: the logic of their position demanded it. Not merely the validity of experience, but the very existence of external reality was tacitly denied by their philosophy. 

 Until they become conscious they will never rebel, and until after they have rebelled they cannot become conscious. 

“If you want to keep a secret, you must also hide it from yourself.”

“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.”

Chastity was as deep ingrained in them as Party loyalty. By careful early conditioning, by games and cold water, by the rubbish that was dinned into them at school and in the Spies and the Youth League, by lectures, parades, songs, slogans, and martial music, the natural feeling had been driven out of them.

“Big Brother is Watching You.” 

-H-

#9 Freakonomics – Steven D Levitt & Stephen J Dubner

5 Jan

I don’t have a photo of the book I read, however this is the same edition. 

Freakonomics - Front Cover

Freakonomics – Front Cover

Goodreads rating: 3.8 (233,900+ ratings)

My rating: 8/10

Why it’s on the list: My boyfriend was reading it whilst we were holidaying in Mexico & Hawaii, and I ran out of books to read, so read it after him.

First published: April 12th, 2005 by William Morrow

Genre: Non-fiction

Freakonomics is awesome. It’s basically the love child of pop culture & economics, written by a New York Times journalist, and an economist. I hated economics in university, didn’t understand it, didn’t like it one bit, and only passed by 1 mark. Freakonomics makes economics actually interesting. It is a book which applies economic theories and practices to questions such as ‘What do school teachers and sumo wrestlers have in common?’ and ‘If drug dealers earn so much money, why do they still live with their mothers?’. 

You’ll find yourself interested, and curious, about the answers to questions you never knew existed, which is why I loved this book so much. I gave it 8/10 because as much as I enjoyed it, I felt like you had to just take it on face value, and although there were lots of references to different studies, it obviously doesn’t really disprove opposite opinions.

Bits & pieces

  • By 2009, Freakonomics had sold over 4 million copies worldwide. [Source]
  • Peaked at #2 among non-fiction on the New York Times best seller list

-H-

#8 Dead Until Dark – Charlaine Harris

3 Jan

The Southern Vampire Mysteries – Book 1 of 13

Dead Until Dark - Charlaine Harris

Dead Until Dark – Charlaine Harris

Goodreads rating: 3.95 (212,100+ ratings)

My rating: 7/10

Why it’s on the list: I’m a huge fan of the True Blood TV Series, which is based on this book series, so I thought i’d read the books too.

First published: May 1st, 2001 by Ace Books

Genre: Mystery, Fantasy, Vampire (if that’s even a real genre!)

For those of you who’ve watched True BloodDead Until Dark is literally just Season 1 of True Blood.

If you haven’t seen True Blood (you totally should), this series is about Sookie Stackhouse, who lives in the fictional town of Bon Temps, Louisiana. In the Dead Until Dark world, Vampires are trying to assimilate with humans, however there is still lots of negative stigma revolving around them. They are not treated equally, and in the South particularly, there is a lot of hate directed towards them.

A vampire named Bill moves into Bon Temps, as the vampire scene is kicking off, and Sookie and Bill become an item, which has got the whole town talking. What does a pretty, young, blonde girl like Sookie see in the ‘scary’ old vampire. Coincidentally, around the same time Bill moves into town, a whole spate of horrific murders are committed, leading to a mystery with a cool twist.

If you happen to have seen True Blood before reading this book, you will know everything that’s about to happen, and the series practically mirrors the book to a T. If i’d read the book first, i’d be happy with that, but watching the show first makes it a (obviously) predictable read.

I still recommend it, especially so that you can continue reading the rest of The Southern Vampire Mysteries. 

-H-

#4 Fall of Giants – Ken Follett

3 Dec

The Century Trilogy – Book 1 of 3

Fall of Giants - Front Cover

Fall of Giants – Front Cover

Goodreads rating: 4.14 (35,000+ ratings)

My rating: 9/10

Why it’s on the list: About  5 or so months ago I was looking for book recommendations (Around the same time I started The List), and a good friend of mine recommended it to me. When she first sent me the synopsis I said no straight away, because it sounded long, rambling and boring. But once I saw another summary I decided to read it, and I’m so glad I did.

First published: September 28th, 2010 by Pan Macmillan

Genre: Historical Fiction, Epic

Fall of Giants follows five interrelated families from America, Germany, Russia, Wales & England and is set between 1911 and 1924, and covers huge events including WWI, the Russian Revolution, and the struggle for women’s suffrage. It is full of love, scandalous sex, betrayal, war, loss, hatred, family ties, loyalty (both to family and country) and aristocracy.

When I first bought this book, I couldn’t believe how HUGE it seemed. But thankfully, it’s broken up into chapters that have small ‘mini-chapters’ within it, which makes it much easier to tackle. The story is so easy to get lost in, and the great thing about it is that you can totally relate to the people and their stories, even though it was set almost 100 years ago.

Cast of Characters - Fall of Giants

Cast of Characters – Fall of Giants

I found myself much more interested in the fate of the English, Welsh and Russian families than the German or the American, however they really are all interrelated and woven within each other that you can’t have one family’s story without the rest of them. Although the chapters jumped from one country to another, it was really easy to keep track of the families thanks to the handy index at the beginning, listing all the families, their acquaintances, and real historical figures from the time, as you can see in the photo to the left.

Every night when I’d read in bed, I felt like I was losing myself in a totally different world, and once I’d finished the book I felt like I was saying goodbye to old friends. I think whenever you feel like you’re going to miss a book and its characters, you’ve found a gem.

Bits & pieces

  • Fall of Giants was checked by eight historians. [Source]

-H-

#3 Freedom – Jonathan Franzen

26 Nov
Freedom - Jonathan Franzen

Freedom Front Cover

Goodreads rating: 3.63 (62,900+ ratings)

My rating: 5/10

Why it’s on the list: I bought it as it was on Dymocks‘ top ‘something’ list, and I could get 3 books for 2. Plus it sounded like something I’d be interested in.

First published: August 31st, 2010 by Farrar, Straus & Giroux

Genre: Family Drama

I read this book whilst holidaying in Mexico & Hawaii, and it was quite a depressing story. I hated every. single. character. I found them all selfish, uncaring, dishonest and depressing. However, after reading up on this book more, I believe that was Franzen’s intention. Freedom has a sombre mood throughout, and just when you think something good is going to happen, or a character is finally happy – something happens to change that. Which is frustrating, because as a person you expect ‘happily ever after’.

Set over a 20 or so year period in different states of the US, Freedom is about a typical, middle-class, American family – The Berglund’s – made up of Walter, Patty, Jessica & Joey. It centers around this family, with the comings and goings of rock star Richard Katz (Walter’s friend), Lalitha (Walter’s work colleague) and Connie (Joey’s girlfriend).

The first third is told from different perspectives of different characters. The middle portion of the book is in the form of an Autobiography written by Patty, at the suggestion of her therapist. In the last third, we go back to being written in different perspectives, but it jumps ahead, past the time that Patty’s autobiography is written. Freedom jumps around in time which can become confusing if you’re not paying attention to the story. Personally, I enjoyed Patty’s autobiography section, as you learn a lot about her childhood, and why she’s ended up the way she has. I felt really sorry for her through parts of it, but in the end found myself blaming her for her problems. Although her depression is sad, and in some ways I can empathise with her there.

Freedom is depressing and sad, and is a perfect example of what I’d never like my life to be like. At the end of it, I found myself pretty disappointed with the ending and where it went. Despite all my negative comments, I still think it’s worth reading this book, for the mere fact that it’s an interesting look into what some people’s lives are like. I tend to agree with the review below.

Past reviews

“Despite the brilliance, or maybe even because of it, I found the novel quite unappealing, maybe because every line, every insight, seems covered with a light film of disdain. Franzen seems never to have met a normal, decent, struggling human being whom he didn’t want to make us feel ever so slightly superior to. His book just has too much brightness and not enough color.”  – Alan Cheuse, National Public Radio

Notable quotes

“Nice people don’t necessarily fall in love with nice people.”

“You may be poor, but the one thing nobody can take away from you is the freedom to fuck up your life whatever way you want to.”

“This isn’t funny, Joey. She’s very depressed. You’ve given her a depression and you need to stop messing around. Do you understand?”

-H-

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