Now for some more of my entirely delectable #MiniReviews!
Today we have a pile of reviews about (mostly) dead people.Well they all involve DOOM AND DEATH in some way or other. Good times for all. (Except the dead characters, I presume.) This is a bit of a grumpy round-up unfortunately but HEY at least I’m only invoking the “fury” part of my name briefly for each book!
And just remember, reviews are subjective! Just because it isn’t my cup of proverbial tea, doesn’t mean you won’t like it. So if it appeals to you — GO FOR IT, MY DEAR PINEAPPLES.
Thank you to Bloomsbury and Allen & Unwin for these surprise review-copies!
THE BOUNDLESS SUBLIME BY LILI WILKINSON
★★★✩✩ // published August, 2016
Ruby Jane Galbraith is empty. Her family has been torn apart and it’s all her fault.
The only thing that makes sense to her is Fox – a gentle new friend who is wise, soulful and clever, yet oddly naive about the ways of the world. He understands what she’s going through and he offers her a chance to feel peace. Fox belongs to a group called the Institute of the Sublime – and Ruby can’t stay away from him. So she is also drawn in to what she too late discovers is a terrifying secretive community that is far from the ideal world she expected.
Can Ruby find the courage to escape? Is there any way she can save Fox too? And is there ever really an escape from the far-reaching influence of the Institute of the Sublime?
Even though I emphatically dislike cult books, The Boundless Sublime did sufficiently disturb me and I couldn’t look away. So yes, I was hooked, but at the end I just felt mad and unsatisfied and 98% annoyed with the protagonist. #awkward
- Very disturbing. HEY YES THIS IS A POSITIVE! Because who wants to read a thriller / cult story and be comfortable enough to take a nap? No way. We want the heebie-jeebies. (Does anyone actually say “heebie-jeebies” anymore?? No? Just me then.)
- The love interest was the cutest thing in the history of ever. Fox was downright ADORABLE. He was super naive and sheltered, having been raised in a cult, but he loved books and he was sweet and just ajfdklsad FOX WAS EVERYTHING.
- Very addictive. Because who’s going to be brainwashed next? Or muuuuurdered?? I MUST FIND OUT.
- I seriously don’t understand how people fall for cults. Obviously there is brainwashing involved and people are often sucked in when they’re venerable (aka = Ruby’s deep in grief after the death of her little brother). BUT I JUST DON’T UNDERSTAND HOW PEOPLE CAN BE THIS STUPID. Ruby’s brainwashing did not make sense to me. I’m not saying it wasn’t realistic. I’m saying I personally didn’t get it.
- Ruby was kind of…stupid. I mean, SHE’S GRIEVING. I should be nice. But she was…really stupid. She joined a cult because of a boy. And the only reason she wasn’t totally depressed was because of a boy. I just didn’t care about her. Also her whole mantra was “this can’t go wrong”. OF COURSE IT’S GOING TO GO WRONG. IT’S A CULT. Oh I apologise…it’s “not a cult”.
Actual Summary Of Conversation Between Ruby and Cult Leader:
Cult Leader: I know you’re wondering if we’re a cult.
Ruby: Kind of.
Cult Leader: Well we’re not.
Cult Leader: We just live in a secluded commune, all dress the same, hate the outside world, believe we need to purify our bodies for end times, have a very restricted diet, worship the cult leader as a godish figure, and abuse members when they don’t do what they’re told.
Cult Leader: Not a cult.
- Also predictability? We gotcha some. Which is disappointing. I felt like it followed a lot of “cult tropes”.
- The food was not okay. Look, you know it’s a cult when this is the food:
Two women I hadn’t met before came in to help Newton get dinner ready — broccoli stalk “pasta” with green beans and sage, buckwheat and endive tabouleh, and a snow pea and chicory salad with hazelnuts.
No no no this is a cult get out now.
THE LAST GOOD DAY OF THE YEAR BY JESSICA WARMAN
★★✩✩✩ // published July, 2016
Ten years ago, in the early hours of New Year’s Day, seven-year-old Samantha and her next door neighbor, Remy, watched as a man broke into Sam’s home and took her younger sister, Turtle, from her sleeping bag. Remy and Sam, too afraid to intervene at the time, later identified the man as Sam’s sister Gretchen’s much older ex-boyfriend, Steven, who was sent to prison for Turtle’s murder.
Now, Sam’s shattered family is returning to her childhood home in an effort to heal. As long-buried memories begin to surface, Sam wonders if she and Remy accurately registered everything they saw. The more they re-examine the events of that fateful night, the more questions they discover about what really happened to Turtle.
Even though it’s a thriller, it was SO SLOW that I nearly fell asleep. It’s written in this quiet / reflective / memoir style with long introspective tangents that were entirely dull. I wanted a bit more suspense! Terror! A child is missing here and the “wrong man” might be in prison for it! But the style was 100% not for me.
- It’s actually set in the 80s which is cool. Because I wasn’t alive back then so wooooah ancient history. Nice.
- It was so chilling at times. The thought of a 4-year-old child disappearing IS REALLY TRAUMATISING. Like this is a pro, because that really hit home for me and I think the fear of it was well captured. But it was actually hard to read about. I babysit my little nieces/nephew a lot and so this story line totally terrified me.
- The protagonist, Sam, is about as dimensional as a pancake. She narrates the story but SHE BARELY DOES ANYTHING THE WHOLE TIME. Who is Sam? What does Sam think / feel about this situation? WHAT IS SAM’S PERSONALITY??? No one knows.
- The plot frustrated me no end. The actual BLURB says the wrong man is in prison…but the book spends 80% of the time figuring that out! C’mon book! CATCH UP WITH US HERE. And then in the last 20% the book is all “loooooool no there’s crucial details and information we’ve never talked about so here lemme dump it now!” Um, I am annoyed.
- The ending was bizarre. Totally not buying it.
- Jumping timeline. One minute it’s the past, then it’s the future. My head is spinning. I am dying.
- The slow tortoise-paced style? #NOPE So bored.
DRAGONFLY SONG BY WENDY ORR
★✩✩✩✩ // published July, 2016
The little girl found under a bush has no name and cannot speak. Is she a miracle child who escaped the raiders, or is she a bad-luck child, the one who called the Bull King’s ship to the island? No one sees the mama-stone around her neck, with the sign of the dragonfly. And only Luki, in training to leap the bulls, knows that she charmed the viper who would have killed him. When the girl turns twelve, she discovers her name – Aissa – and she knows that her one chance to live freely is to become a bull dancer, and be taken away to the island of the Bull King.
I’m very very very bad with verse-novels. I JUST DON’T “GET” IT. My brain doesn’t compute. I have run away from poetry all my life so, ahem, I was doomed with Dragonfly Song. It’s half verse, half prose and I found the transition between the two SO jolting. I basically had 2% of a clue what was going on the entire time. The ONLY PRO I have is that it’s cool that is centres around the legends of King Minos! Otherwise nope nope nope.
Ah, but note: everyone else of ever on Goodreads has given this 4 or 5 stars! So this is truly a “it’s me not you” thing.
(Also this is not specifically about dead people…BUT PEOPLE DIE IN IT SO IT STILL COUNTS FOR THIS POST.)
- I had no idea what was going on. Apart from what the blurb says about it being a retelling of King Minos of Crete. You know, the half bull dude who eats people?? #goodtimes
- The protagonist, Aissa, is an abandoned/abused/cursed girl who never speaks…but yet she is perfect. Like seriously. She’s a golden-souled angel and I couldn’t relate (or be interested in her life) to her at all. (I would have bitten someone honestly, given her abusive situation.)
- DID I MENTION I DON’T DO POETRY OR VERSE??? I do not.
- There are so many POVs. Literally, we can be in anyone’s head. It’s exhausting.
- The style is very detached. It’s has an old-fashioned-fairy-tale vibe so I’m being TOLD this story and I am not IN the story. Which makes me end up skimming because I’m bored.
ELSEWHERE BY GABRIELLE ZEVIN
★✩✩✩✩ // 10th anniversary edition published September, 2016
Welcome to Elsewhere. It is warm, with a breeze, and the beaches are marvelous. It’s quiet and peaceful. You can’t get sick or any older. Curious to see new paintings by Picasso? Swing by one of Elsewhere’s museums. Need to talk to someone about your problems? Stop by Marilyn Monroe’s psychiatric practice.
Elsewhere is where fifteen-year-old Liz Hall ends up, after she has died. It is a place so like Earth, yet completely different. Here Liz will age backward from the day of her death until she becomes a baby again and returns to Earth. But Liz wants to turn sixteen, not fourteen again. She wants to get her driver’s license. She wants to graduate from high school and go to college. And now that she’s dead, Liz is being forced to live a life she doesn’t want with a grandmother she has only just met. And it is not going well. How can Liz let go of the only life she has ever known and embrace a new one? Is it possible that a life lived in reverse is no different from a life lived forward?
I tried reading this in 2012 and failed miserably. In fact, I even DNF’d it which is something I never do because I don’t like unfinished things. I like closure. So I actually was keen to re-try this book when Bloomsbury sent me the newly reprinted 10th anniversary edition. Unfortunately…I still didn’t like it. Which is immensely disappointing because I do love the author’s other book All These Things I’ve Done.
- Despite the concept being rather cool, I was very bored. It’s a whole “what happens after you die” story and it’s just SO SLOW. Basically after you die you just continue living the Average White American Life. Oh joy. But hey I DID love the idea of ageing backwards and then getting posted back to earth! RECYCLING IS GOOD KIDS.
- But basically the plot is ROMANCE! ROMANCE! ROMANCE! Which is fine if you just want to read a romance between dead people who are slowly getting younger. I just foresee awkward honestly.
- Plus I’m not happy with the messages. When Liz gets to Elsewhere she’s in denial and very depressed. She spends all her time watching her family/friends and she just hates being dead. WHICH SEEMS LOGICAL. But they kept throwing around the “oh she has depression” and then, what would you know, we can totally cure that with romance! Very not okay with that. Plus someone makes a comment about how you can’t give up on romance because what’s left to live for without it? UM, LET ME LIST OFF 990000 OTHER THINGS THAT ARE GOOD TO LIVE FOR TOO. The story felt so shallow.
- I’m not a fan of talking dogs. Sorry not sorry. (Unless your name is Manchee and you are from The Knife of Never Letting Go.) It just makes the book seem really juvenile.
- Honestly that’s the problem: the book is really young. It’s written in this quirky upbeat juvenile comedy way that doesn’t do anything for me. Personal preference here!
- Also nothing really happened. Except Liz spent a lot of time (A) whining about being dead, (B) whining about not liking her grandma, (C) whining about the boy she likes being in love with his living-wife, (D) whining about all her bad life decisions.
- Basically I felt too old for the style, I got too bored with the plot, and I really hope this is not how the afterlife pans out or else I am living forever.