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Archive for the category “Three Foxes”

Short Stories, or, Review-Palooza!

It’s become clear that I read a lot of books. This year, I’m (still!) averaging one book every three days, across all sorts of formats, including manuscript, eBook, audio book and, of course, my true love, the paper book.

In order to keep them fresh in my mind, and to deliver opinions about them in a somewhat timely manner, I’m going to do bite-sized reviews of a recent selection.

Come along, then:

fathers eggersYour Fathers, Where Are they? And the Prophets, Do They Live Forever? – by Dave Eggers

My second Dave Eggers, this was so intriguing! And whew, what a title. Written entirely in dialogue, Your Fathers is an exploration of America, a comment on a generation, and also a look at one really disturbed guy, spiraling into self destructive criminal madness. Very weird. Very cool.

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daughtersmokeDaughter of Smoke and Bone – by Laini Taylor

Karou’s never been exactly normal. How could she be, raised by Chimeras? She’s always been kept at arms length by those who raised her, but there’s more to Karou’s background – and her future – than she could ever have imagined. And not all of it is good. Even though it suffered from a little bit of too-many-recommendations-itis, this book and its sequel Days of Blood and Starlight left me reeling. Also, Laini Taylor exploded her own world twice in two books! I can’t wait to see what on earth the third book brings.

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unwindUnwind – by Neal Shusterman

In this future society, abortion is illegal. But before a child turns 18 they can instead be ‘unwound’. Every part of their body is used by someone else, so they’re not truly dead. Here, life is at once sacred and cheap. What a cool, freaky concept. And this book delivers – sometimes. It’s not as gripping as I wanted it to be, given the solidity of the premise, but it’ll keep you up at night reliving the brutal unwinding process. *shudder*

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TheFeelGoodHitOfTheYear C CVR SI.inddThe Feel-Good Hit of the Year – by Liam Pieper

I’m not that interested in memoirs unless you’re Stephen Fry (sorry, everyone else). But I absolutely raced through Liam Pieper’s accounts of misspent youth, from his birth in a sort-of hippy commune in the Melbourne suburbs to becoming an accidental teenage drug dealer, to figuring out that life’s more profitable when you’re a little less criminal. (Only a little…)

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So, whatcha been reading lately?

The Cinderella Moment – by Jennifer Kloester

cinderellaAngel’s dream has always been to become a fashion designer. But as the daughter of a housekeeper, it feels like that dream may never come true. When Angel’s best friend, Lily, begs Angel to pretend to be Lily in Paris for two weeks while Lily attends drama school in London, it seems like Angel’s chance may finally have arrived. Lily’s grandmother, the Comtesse de Tourney, is one of Paris’ most influential figures, with an invitation to one of the world’s most prestigious fashion events. What if Angel can use this chance to meet the right people, and start living her dream?

It’s a madcap setup that leads to all sorts of mayhem, as Angel quickly discovers that being Lily isn’t just a little white lie. People are going to get hurt – including Angel. But if she doesn’t take this opportunity while she can, will Angel miss her moment forever?

Okay. No summary is going to do justice to the several complicated concurrent story lines fighting for attention in this novel. There’s the Parent-Trap-esque swap. There’s a Teen Couture competition. There’s theft of fashion intellectual property and a bogus entry into said competition. An absent father (Lily’s). A sick mother (Angel’s). An evil almost-stepmother and  almost-stepsister. Two or three extremely convoluted back stories. And a boy (of course). Phew. You Don’t Even Know My Last Name:

White Lines – by Jennifer Banash

White LinesQueen of the downtown club scene, presiding over the door to some of NYC’s hottest venues, it seems like 17-year-old Cat has everything she could want. Her days are spent struggling to stay awake through classes and avoiding the stares of her classmates, who can tell she’s not like the rest of them. But her nights are spent as royalty – drink, drugs, dancing, and a few collected misfits who are closer to Cat than her family.

You don’t have to scrape very far down at all to find the grime hidden beneath the glamour of Cat’s life.

Actually, most people are closer to Cat than her family. She hasn’t seen her father in months – but at least he pays the rent on her one bedroom apartment. Cat’s mother keeps trying to contact her, but Cat’s been burnt too many times before by the abuse to listen when she calls. Mostly, anyway. Why is it Cat can’t stop wanting her parents to pay attention: even though they’ve proven time and again that they couldn’t care less about her? If You Got Bad News, Wanna Kick Those Blues:

The White Queen – by Philippa Gregory

WhiteQueenI read The Other Boleyn Girl many years ago, and quite enjoyed Gregory’s blend of history with liberal doses of fiction – it’s addictive, and there’s just enough fact to make you feel like you’re learning something as you read. I picked up The White Queen in Britain (naturally) because I’d heard it was about to be made into a TV show, and I like to read the source material first, like a good booklover. Here’s how Philippa Gregory’s foray into the lives of the Plantagenets grabbed me:

Before the Tudors, the Plantagenets reigned in a bitter, brother-against-brother dynasty. The White Queen follows the young Elizabeth Woodville, who catches the eye of the young king, Edward I. Using all her charm, wit and possible otherworldly talent, she must maneuver the deep, deadly currents of the English court. Despite her best efforts, readers will know that Elizabeth’s two sons are the centre of one of the oldest mysteries in British royal history – the mystery of the princes in the tower. (Not) The Children of the Revolution:

Jess Talks: Queen of Kings by Maria Dahvana Headley

I’d like to give a warm welcome to Jess, my good friend who’s just as big a book nut as I am! Today in Jess Talks, Jess gives us her thoughts on Queen of Kings, by Maria Dahvana Headley:

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History merged with magic is an intriguing idea, and that’s what Maria Headley sets out to do in Queen of Kings. The trick to this sort of story is how well you pull it off: is it realistic, despite the magic? Do the characters stand up? Is the narrative clear? Here’s what I thought of Headley’s execution:

It’s 30BC, and Octavian Caesar and his legions are determined to take Alexandria. Having always wanted Cleopatra for his own, Octavian devises a ruse that leads Cleopatra to believe her beloved Mark Antony has taken his own life. Driven to the brink of madness by Octavian’s deception, Cleopatra calls upon the god Sekhmet, seeking his aid in reclaiming her Kingdom, and returning Mark Antony.

Calling upon Gods is never free, however, as Cleopatra quickly discovers. Sekhment agrees to return Mark Antony: in exchange for Cleopatra’s own soul. Under Sekhmet’s influence, Cleopatra is transformed into a shape-shifting, blood-sucking immortal being with only one driving force: vengeance. Completely devoid of anything human or good, she will settle for nothing less than the complete destruction of Octavian, and the world he has taken for himself. Hell Hath No Fury Like A Cleopatra Scorned?

Be Careful What You Wish For – by Gemma Crisp

carefulThis book is the first by the former editor of Cleo and Dolly magazines. It proudly declares that “If you liked The Devil Wears Prada, you’ll love this.” I did enjoy Prada, and I also really enjoy a good chick lit read, so I dove in. Here’s what I thought:

Nina Morey doesn’t love hospitality. As much fun as it is catering for the every whim of rich, entitled guests at one of London’s most exclusive hotels, she’s had about enough. Figuring out what she does love to do is the hard part – but when Nina spies an opportunity to intern at a fashion magazine, she jumps at the chance. Soon, she’s racing through the ranks of glossy mags in London and then in Sydney, juggling deadlines, professional frenemies, potential boyfriends and nightmarish hours as she tries to live the age old adage of the working woman who has it all. When She Was Just A Girl/She Expected the World:

Cinder – by Marissa Meyer

Cinder2Cinder is the first book in The Lunar Chronicles quartet by Marissa Meyer, retelling and reimagining fairy tales beginning with that of Cinderella. It’s an intriguing concept, and this title had been on my radar for a while. Here’s how I found Meyer’s modern-day, grim tale:

In a lot of ways, Cinder’s just a normal girl. In a lot of ways, she’s not at all. For starters, she’s a cyborg – part human, part machine. This means she’s technically the property of her stepmother, who never fails to remind Cinder of the fact. She’s also an extremely talented mechanic, with a knack for fixing things deemed irreparable.

Cinder had no idea how far her reputation had spread, until the day Prince Kai comes to her for a delicate fix he can’t trust to anyone but the best. Cinder is drawn not only to Kai’s secretive quest and political concerns, but also to his magnetic personality. For his part, Kai seems just as fascinated by Cinder. But how could anyone, much less a Prince, love the part human Cinder, with secrets even she doesn’t know she keeps? I’ve Been Dreaming of a True Love’s Kiss:

I’ve Got Your Number – Sophie Kinsella

numberI’m a sucker for a good chick-lit blurb, and this one caught my eye a few months ago. I finally got the chance to read the book. Meet Poppy. Her life’s a wee bit complicated, with a wedding next week and a million things left to do.

Disaster! Poppy Wyatt’s lost her engagement ring (a priceless family heirloom ring, no less). Not only that, her phone’s been stolen! So there’s no way for the hotel to call her when they find the ring – until she finds a phone dumped in a bin in the hotel lobby. Thank goodness! Finders keepers, right? But as it turns out, this phone belongs to businessman Sam Roxton’s company, and he’d like it back, thank you very much. In order to use the number Poppy desperately offers to act as Sam’s PA for a few days. And if she accidentally reads some of the messages she’s passing on, well, that’s unavoidable really. And if she begins to help Sam out by organising a few things on his behalf, well, he should appreciate the help. Unless he doesn’t. Oh. Call Me Maybe:

The Casual Vacancy – by J K Rowling

There are very few bigger names in our literary world than J K Rowling – and the legacy she’s built and now has so much pressure to live up to is huge. The Casual Vacancy was a closely guarded secret, embargoed, with very little information about the plot available before the release. I, like so many people, have been wildly curious to see what Rowling is like, post-Harry. This was my take on The Casual Vacancy:

Pagford is a small town. The kind of small town that Hobartians* can probably appreciate better than most: everyone knows (or at least knows of) everyone else. Gossip is part of the framework. Things seem a little more personal, and what might be seen as a small issue in a bigger place takes on a much greater importance.

We’re introduced to some of Pagford’s residents, such as Barry Fairbrother, whose big plans for Pagford are cut somewhat short by his abrupt death of an aneurysm. Barry’s death opens a seat on the Pagford Parish Council, and opens the door to the ambitions of a number of locals. There’s Miles, the town’s First Son, looking to follow in his father Howard’s footsteps. Colin, the local school principal, is hoping to continue the work Barry started. And Simon just wants a piece of the action. ...The Plot Thickens: The Plot (Really) Thickens:

The Uninvited – By Liz Jensen

ImageThis intriguing new crime novel caught my eye at work: children inexplicably start killing their parents, before lapsing into a passive, fugue state and not recalling the murders. Creepy, interesting premise. Here’s my take on the follow through:

Hesketh Lock is an anthropologist by trade, brilliant at identifying patterns both in nature and in people, which makes him an excellent investigator for Phipps & Wexman. Currently, he’s working on uncovering the links between a series of corporate sabotages carried out by seemingly loyal employees, in dozens of unrelated companies all over the world. Add these strange occurrences to the outbreak of child murders and Hesketh is sure there’s a bigger, more dangerous pattern emerging – the implications of which may be felt for generations to come.

This novel has a compelling and creepy central mystery – is it just me, or are murderous children more frightening than their grown up counterparts? Hesketh, our protagonist, is an absolutely wonderful character. He has Asperger’s syndrome, and provides the reader with a unique perspective not only on his inner thought processes but also on the world through his eyes. I loved Hesketh for his incredibly unique and yet surprisingly relatable personality. The Creepy Continues:

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