Thirteen

Author: James Phelan
Series: The Last 13, Book 1
Publisher: Scholastic
Star Rating: 3/5
Date Read: August 27th to 29th, 2013
Read Count: 1
Review:
There seemed to be some hype surrounding this book at the bookstore I bought it, part of the whole ’50 Books You Can’t Put Down’ campaign, but I wasn’t completely sold on it. I felt it’s readership was aimed a little high as ‘Young Adult’ – I would have recommended it to be more Middle Grade, mainly due to the simplistic language.

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Moby Dick

Author: Herman Melville
Publisher: Readers Digest
Star Rating: 2/5
Date Read: September 2nd to 16th, 2013
Review:
What a crazy old bugger that Captain Ahab was!

It has taken me so long to finish this book that I’m glad I can slam it shut, put it on the shelf and write this review. But where to begin?

I don’t want to slam the whole thing. Really, I don’t. Because I was quite looking forward to reading it, and the first few chapters where we meet Ishmael and Queequeg got me quite interested in the story. The they got on the ship and it all kind of slowly went downhill from there.

Being on a whale ship, in between when you are actually chasing whales, must get pretty boring for the whalers. That’s how this part of the book seemed to me. A lot of philosophizing about … stuff? … and then scientifically inaccurate (they probably seemed right at the time) descriptions of the whale as a ‘big fish with lungs’. It floated in and out of the actual story (which I was more interested in) about the madman Ahab and his crazy quest to find and destroy Moby Dick (who does not appear until the 466th page, in my edition!) and the philosophy and musings and explanations from Ishmael. As the story went on I felt we lost Ishmael’s point of view and it became more of a third person narrative. That was too bad – I liked Ishmael and his story. But I get that his story is a mere part of the whole adventure.

I enjoyed some of this book, but mostly I was just glad to finish it!

The Man Who Broke Into Auschwitz

Author: Denis Avey
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Star Rating: 4/5
Date Read: September 15th to 18th, 2013
Review:
It is impossible not to be moved by the story of Denis Avey, the man who broke into Auschwitz. A British POW in the second world war, it has taken him 70 years to tell his story. He recognised that it was important for his story to be told and I agree with him.

The title, ‘The Man Who Broke Into Auschwitz’, is somewhat misleading but it does not make Avey’s story any less incredible. While a POW, Avey worked alongside the Jewish who were prisoners in Auschwitz III Monowitz. This is not ‘the’ Auschwitz where the mass murders through gassing occurred, although it wasn’t far from there, this is where they housed those fit enough to labour for the German war effort – until of course they were worked to death. On two occasions, Avey swapped places with a Jewish man named Hans, putting his own life at risk so that Hans could have a decent feed and a sleep where he wasn’t in fear of at any moment suddenly being put to death. I think it amazing that Hans would swap back the next day, knowing what it was he had to go back to. The British POWs weren’t treated well, but it was better than the Jewish men were treated.

As well as being the story of Avey’s swap with Hans, this also the story of Avey’s chance meeting with another Jewish man named Ernst, who had a sister relocated through the Kindertransport to England. What followed had me in tears on the train.

I worry that stories like Denis Avey’s, like Hans’ and Ernst’s, will fade as time goes on and we progress further and further from the days of World War II. I think it is so important that we do not forget what happened during the time, lest it happen again.

The Legacies

Author: Pittacus Lore
Series: Lorien Legacies: The Lost Files #1 – 3
Publisher: Penguin
Star Rating: 3/5
Date Read: September 18th to 19th, 2013
Read Count: 1
Review:
It was so refreshing to read Lorien stories that weren’t from John’s perspective at all! I did enjoy reading these stories as I’m so intrigued by Loric-Mogadorian fight and I felt this was a fitting companion to expand on the individual stories of the rest of the Garde, other than what we have gained from the series itself. Note that this book, though set before the main series, is best read after reading the previous books (#1 – #3) that were published before this one, mainly as the author doesn’t explain anything about the Garde, the Loric or their fight with the ‘Mogs’, which I was glad of.

What I was not glad about was “Pittacus Lore” (we all know it’s you, James Frey!) and his ridiculous attempts to add romance/love stories/possible love stories/even just crushes to every single backstory (or current – but that’s another review!). It. Is. Just. Not. Necessary. I understand the lure of human relationships, even friendships or connections, but guys, c’mon. YOU ARE IN MORTAL DANGER. I can maybe understand One, she had no idea just how much danger she was in. But Nine? Really? Guys how about the protection of our races? Clearly both humans and the Loric are in trouble, why don’t you do what you were sent here for and keep yourselves alive? Don’t argue that you’re only human – because you’re not. You are supposed to be more than that! Pull your heads in!

That being said, Adam the Mog was quite an interesting character. A bit of a speed through of the find and murder of Two and Three, but interesting to see it through the eyes of a character not yet encountered this way. Looking forward to seeing more of that! (And less of John…)

A Little Bush Maid

Author: Mary Grant Bruce
Series: Billabong, Book 1
Publisher: Ward, Lock
Star Rating: 5/5
Date Read: September 20th to 22nd, 2013
Read Count: 1
Review:
I’d never heard of Mary Grant Bruce or the Billabong series until one day my grandmother started talking about the books she read as a child, some 70 years ago now. For all I knew she was making it all up because I had never heard or seen of it anywhere…until I stumbled across the first book A Little Bush Maid in a secondhand bookstore. I bought it immediately, and sat down to see what the fuss was about.

Of course, I loved it. How could I not? It’s Australia, it’s the bush, it’s history (though fiction I believe this portrays an accurate picture of rural Australia at the time), it’s a plucky little heroine who you can’t help but love and a whole other cast of characters. I can see why my grandmother loved this as a child and I only wish I, too, had discovered them at a younger age (being now about 10 years above the target age).

Many who read these books today may be shocked by some of the terms and behaviour used by even the children toward the Aboriginal stable boy. I think it is important to realise, while we should in no way encourage this behaviour, we also shouldn’t try to cover up that part of history. That was the way life was in the 1900s and is clearly very different to life in 2010s. Just to put my two cents in, I see no reason to politically correct any novels, including the Billabong series and also Enid Blyton books, which I believe have been ‘edited’. I think that adults shouldn’t be so shocked that those attitudes did once exist, and I also think that children who read the books should have an understanding of how life used to be different and why it’s not like that anymore.

But I digress! This book is wonderful and I look forward to scrounging around a few more secondhand bookstores to get my paws on the rest!

Moon Filly

Author: Elyne Mitchell
Series: The Silver Brumby
Publisher: Hutchinson
Star Rating: 3.5/5
Date Read: September 22nd to 23rd, 2013
Read Count: 1
Review:
Elyne Mitchell has a wonderful way of bringing to life the magical high country in the minds of those who have never seen it, and causing those who have (such as myself) to recall fond memories of the bush. The imagery she creates means that you never have time to ponder upon the fact that in this entire novel, revolving around the two beautiful brumbies (wild Australian horses, to the uninformed) Wurring and Ilinga, there is no dialogue. Despite this fact, the reader is still able to connect to the horses and their story, their journey to find each other again.

I felt like I could feel the emotion through the pages and yet it never seemed as if Mitchell had anthropomorphized these creatures, which is an easy mistake to make in any fiction where animals are the main characters, and still create a believable story.

The Silver Brumby stories are Australian favourites for a reason.

Shatter Me

Author: Tahereh Mafi
Series: The Juliette Chronicles, Book 1
Publisher: Harper Collins
Star Rating: 5/5
Date Read: September 23rd to 24th, 2013
Read Count: 1
Review:
Thank you to Allen & Unwin for sending me this copy!

Where to start with this review? Maybe with the heart wrenching affliction that Juliette has lived with every day of her life…my heart ached for her the whole novel. She has never known the warmth of a parents’ embrace, the feeling of a kind touch. All her life she has been told she is a monster. She has no idea how to interact with other human beings, even though you can see the yearning in her to be good, to help.

Juliette Ferrars has the ability, through her hands, to suck the life out of any human being she touches. But she does not want to harm people, she doesn’t want to be a danger to society. People are frightened of her anyway and when she accidentally kills someone, she is locked away in an asylum.

Being inside Juliette’s head fascinated me. I felt like I could feel what she was feeling. The writing style really suited this kind of novel. I kept willing her to be brave and strong even though if I was in her position I don’t know if I could endure like she did. I see her as an intricately woven tapestry – there seems to be so much more to her than has been revealed in this book, maybe more than she even knows herself.

I’ve read a lot of dystopian YA over the last few years but if it’s done well and is original, like Shatter Me, then I’m not likely to get sick of it. Yes, it does have the usual world-gone-to-shit background, although we are not yet told exactly why (this just frustrates me in general but it has nothing to do with the story and everything to do with my impatience!), but Juliette’s place in it and what may be her future role makes this one different to the many others. She’s not normal (clearly!), she has a gift, or curse, and I’m looking forward to see how that influences her decisions and her future.

I almost finished this review without mentioning Adam, then I realised I couldn’t do that! Adam is … interesting. A little bit too much the perfect boy seen in so many YA romances, but I like his relationship with James and there’s definite intrigue! I think there’s more to him too.

5 Stars!

Find my review of book 2 of this series, Unravel Me, here.