Allegiant – Victoria Roth

It has been well over 12 months since I read Divergent and Insurgent so I figured it was about time I finished off the trilogy, plus I found it cheap at the bookstore. My mistake with  this book was not rereading the first two books before reading this one considering the time lapse between my reads of books two and three. By the time I realised it was too late and I spent the first few chapters remembering who was who, but eventually it all came back to me.

 

Allegiant continues the story of Tris and Four (and all their other friends and family of course) in their world shattered by the removal of the Factions that they defined their lives by. This final book obliterates their beliefs even further with the information they learn across this novel. I enjoyed the variation of perspectives in this book, seeing things through both Tris and Four’s eyes. The struggles for these two characters was at an ultimate high in this final stage of the story. I love that despite their differences at times they still put each other first and can cast them aside for each other. I also appreciate the range of characters Roth creates. So many black and white characters making human decisions, human mistakes. This is no fairytale and people are flawed, including the protagonists.

 

So much action occurs throughout the book you don’t have time to get bored and due to an afternoon at home sick I polished off this book in a day. The book is fast paced with a lot happening in this final chapter, which keeps the reader busy. Then that ending! I admit I did know about the ultimate twist but even so thoroughly enjoyed discovering the circumstances myself. I have a lot of respect for Roth and the way she chose to end the series. It was an unusual twist, however, a realistic one which was a nice change from a cliched ending (not that I have anything against a good cliched ending).

 

To be honest Divergent series was never my favourite dystopian story. I quite enjoyed the first book but started to lose interest during Insurgent, hence my delay in finishing the series. I am glad I did follow through and finish and would one day like to reread them in succession, see if I can get more into the story. However, I don’t think this series will ever hold a special place in my heart. Overall the series was enjoyable and well written with interesting characters. I give Allegiant three serum injections.

 

Screenshot_2016-03-18-17-36-13-1

The Lake House – Kate Morton

This book has been on my TBR list since last year and I finally got to it yesterday. Almost 600 pages long and I’ve finished it a day later. This book gripped me from very early on and I just could not put it down until I knew what happened.

 

The book follows several characters across seven decades, each person tied to Loeanneth, the Lake House. These characters include Sadie, a police officer on forced leave after a botched investigation, who stumbles across a mystery in the abandoned lake house. The mystery of a baby boy who disappeared into the night seventy years ago. Whose disappearance drove away his family from their home forever. We also meet Alice, older sister of the missing child, who now seventy years later is a successful writer currently writing her fiftieth mystery novel, and her rigid mother, Eleanor. Each of these women have their secrets, their own part of their story to tell.

 

Morton flips between these characters, plus others and the different decades with each new chapter. Personally, I loved the way the story was told, slowly revealing clues in each chapter, never knowing where you were headed next. I found the three leading ladies incredibly fascinating, all strong in their own way. The host of supporting characters were all vivid and memorable adding colour to the story and playing their role in the mystery.

 

There were many theories, plot twists and curve balls throughout the story all leading to an ending so perfect it feels like you have been walked into the ultimate  trap. So perfect that you don’t know it is a trap until it is too late and suddenly the pieces fall together so neatly that you kind of want to hate it but it makes so much sense you can’t deny it. In reality I loved the ending. Morton wove an enthralling tale that had the right amount of mystery leaving me wanting more. I can’t wait to get my hands on another book.

 

If you like a good mystery that is plausible with some great characters that ties off to a neat conclusion then this is the book for you. I give the Lake House, four long-lost letters and am off to find more of Kate Morton’s entrancing mysteries.

 

2016-03-17 19.43.05-1

The Dressmaker – Rosalie Ham

The Dressmaker came to my attention as it was recently made into a movie and a coworker gave me the book as she was finished with it. I’ve been sitting on it for a while and finally got to it and wow! It blew me away! The book follows Tilly Dunnage, who suddenly returns to her small home town in country Australia to care for her crazy mother. No one knows why she has suddenly returned and few are happy to have her back, until her skills as a dressmaker are revealed. As with all country towns a dark secret surrounds her and her initial disappearance from town.

 

The story started well enough, it seemed like your typical country town with all the narrow minded residents more interesting in gossip and scheming to out do each other than anything else. Growing up in a smaller country town myself I could identify with these situations and could appreciate the hilarity in their self-important ways. There are quite a few characters in the novel and initially it was a little difficult keeping track of who was who but over the course of the novel each becomes quite distinct and endearing (or irritating) in their own way. I quickly grew to love more than a few for their unique and loveable qualities, in particular Sergeant Farrat and Teddy. Then there are the characters you just love to hate and some of them do you really hate.

 

Then suddenly two-thirds of the way through, when things were going so well (silly me, should have seen it coming) the book left me reeling. It broke my heat a little, actually a lot. The story has a tragic edge to it that was hard to imagine when things were all light and silly in the first part of it. The sadness that occurs will leave you broken-hearted feeling for Tilly. Ham manages to keep the lightness of the book going with little bursts of karma and a dramatic finale. The book had me going right up until the end and left me a speechless for a few minutes after finishing the final pages.

 

I found this book snuck up on my heart quite quickly and unexpectedly. There are some beautiful, endearing characters and the plot is much richer than you might initially imagine. I find myself wanting to go out and immediately watch the movie, if only to see a visual representation of all the beautiful outfits Tilly creates, not to mention the great actors and actresses that were cast in it. I give The Dressmaker four of Tilly’s stunning dresses.

 

Screenshot_2016-03-14-12-44-24-1

The Heart Goes Last – Margaret Atwood

First of all, this book speaks to my soul. I quote “nothing with a beak can be truly cute”. I hate birds, am terrified of birds and think their beak and eyes and feet are the creepiest things going. Second of all, lets get to this review. I gather this book is set in a not too distant future where the global financial crisis has hit its peak. People are broke and homeless all over the place, looting and fighting for survival. When we meet the two protagonists of the story, Stan and Charmaine, they are living out of their car with Stan jobless and Charmaine working at a dive bar. Life is bleak. Until an opportunity to participate in the Positron Project arises. A social experiment where you live alternate months of comfort in a beautiful home and functioning society and conversely doing time in a prison cell. The offer seems too good to be true for the distressed couple.

 

Things seem to go well for the couple at the beginning and time passes by quickly. Then actions quickly lead to consequences and the plot takes some different routes. All is not what it seems and Stan and Charmaine are left reeling. The protagonists journey’s through the novel are also very different. Stan appears to start and end the book without much character development. Charmaine on the other hand undergoes  significant changes to her character across the timeline of the book. Atwood creates some unique situations for these characters to overcome and I enjoyed following it all coming together to a neat and tidy ending. I have to say I was surprised at how neatly and happily the ending came together considering the grittiness of the book at times but was quite pleased with it nonetheless.

 

This was my first foray into Atwood’s novels and I was quickly hooked. Coming from a psychology background I love books that focus on social experiments and how quickly humans can adapt to situations to survive, doing things the would never have imagined to stay alive. This book has many twists and turns with surprises along the way, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I give this book three perfect Positron houses and look forward to trying more of Atwood’s highly acclaimed novels.

 

Screenshot_2016-03-14-12-43-58-1

Audiobooks – A new found appreciation

Recently I had my first foray into the world of audiobooks. Previously they have never interested me as I am a hardcore reader and love nothing better than a comforting book in hand. I also am prone to tuning out at regular intervals so never considered audiobooks as an option when exercising and to be honest my work commute isn’t long enough to  necessitate the need to feel productive, the radio suits me just fine.

 

Until, it dawned on me. The frequency at which I have been travelling four hours to my home town in the country and then four hours back to the city in which I now reside increased dramatically in the past 12 months. This lead to the realisation that listening to music and singing along for four hours and then another four a few days later was getting quite old. Boring even. I needed to try something new, something different.

 

It may have taken a bit to connect the dots but I finally realised it was time to give audiobooks a go. Off to the library it was to test out this new idea. I knew I had a trip coming up and wanted to find a book to listen to. For my first trial I decided to go with a book I had already read, one I knew the general outline of the plot and where it would go but a book that I had’t read too recently, so I couldn’t remember all the plot details. I settled on one of my all time favourite books, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

 

So I began my journey into audiobookland. From the beginning, I loved it! I really noticed the language behind the story and delighted in the author’s use of descriptions in the plot. I found myself concentrating on each and every detail, rather than skimming over the words as I am prone to do at times. It was magical and I felt like I was rediscovering this amazing book. Not to mention listening to a story while driving around the city, in and out of traffic, helped reduce my impatience and frustrations while driving. I found I wasn’t in a rush to get anywhere and relished in this time to myself, particular on my early morning drives to work (I start work at 7-7:30am each day). To me it was a miracle! And I hadn’t even left the city yet.

 

Eventually I had my long drive home and found the audiobook kept me well entertained and interested on my long drive home. In fact I even tried to make my drive longer in order to finish the book before I got home (I failed), which is unheard of for me after a four hour drive. The only thing I didn’t foresee was what would would happen when I got to the ned of my book. What happens at the end of this book each and every time I read it. I was left inconsolable on the drive home. Sitting by myself in the car, in the dark, in the outback just bawling my eyes out. I actually found it a beautiful serene moment. I love books that make you feel and listening to this particularly touching book while truly on my own with no other distractions was an indescribable feeling.

 

Safe to say this foray was a screaming success. One which I am keen to repeat and to continue onwards and to even contemplate for long walks, which I adore. In fact I have already planned my next audiobook experience. I have decided that my second time around will be a book I haven’t read before. Something new. Something different. Easter is next week, which means another four hour drive home and four hour drive back. Now, just to pick a book!

 

Screenshot_2016-03-14-16-15-26-1

Glass Sword – Victoria Aveyard

After the ending of Red Queen I couldn’t wait to get into the second of the series, the recently released Glass Sword. After devouring the book in a weekend (a ridiculously busy weekend involving a wedding and eight hours of travel) I can safely say that Glass Sword doesn’t disappoint. This book picks up directly after the conclusion of Red Queen amongst all the chaos and fall out (no Red Queen spoilers, I promise).

 

The thing I loved most about Glass Sword was the changes in Mare. Her character development from the beginning of the series to now has been immense and the changes in her from the beginning of Glass Sword to the end are vast. I appreciate that one of the struggles Mare faces is retaining her morality and questioning some of the horrific things she has had to do for her cause and while trying to keep those she loves safe. This is quite unusual and divergent from other YA fantasy stories I have read and I like the reality of these feelings. I feel they parallel descriptions found in historical fiction set during world wars and find that it adds a realistic perspective to the book.

 

Mare isn’t without her flaws though and you witness her mental ups and down throughout the book and witness the effects on her relationships with other characters. These relationships between the characters within the book become quite complex and interwoven over the course of the book and I enjoyed seeing the different sides of other characters. The tension and emotionality between Cal and Mare is insane and had me all over the place.

 

The book is jam-packed with action and the story is taken in different directions than what you might assume (well different to what I pictured) and I loved the surprise. Not to mention that ending! If you thought the ending of Red Queen was intense, just wait for the cliff hanger you are left on with Glass Sword, you really are on the edge of a knife (sword even?). I found this book as enjoyable, if not more than Red Queen and am already early anticipating the next instalment. I give this book four Glass Swords.

 

2016-03-14 12.40.08-1

 

The Pillow Book of the Flower Samurai – Barbara Lazar

I’m quite fascinated by Japanese culture so when I saw this book described as a cross between Memoirs of a Geisha and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon I was immediately curious. A pillow book is essentially a personal journal, named as the journal would be stored under the owners pillow where they slept. This story follows Kozaisho, who we are introduced to as fifth daughter while only a child and who we follow through her life as detailed by her pillow book.

 

This book was highly interesting and I read it quite quickly despite its size. The beliefs of the Japanese culture and of the Samurai are fascinating, dealing with the concepts of honour and keeping on the right path. I thoroughly enjoyed learning about them in more detail. Kozaisho was an intriguing and unique character to have as a protagonist. Her development though the book, across her life was immense and from what I can tell she was a pretty kick-ass female for her time. Deadly and intelligent and I enjoyed the portrayal of a strong female character back in a time when women didn’t have as many rights.

 

The only part of the novel I found could have improved the experience for me would be if it was told in more of a narrative way. This is more my own preference than a criticism of the book as it is all there in the title: the book was described as a journal and was written that way. I also found the voice of Kozaisho was a tad unbelievable at times in particular when she was a child. The voice read as a much older character in my mind and I struggled to comprehend her as a child at times.

 

Overall, this was an enjoyable read which I recommend particularly if you have an interest in Japanese culture. The ending is quite haunting and brings the whole story to a fitting conclusion. I give this book three Japanese cherry blossoms.

 

Screenshot_2016-02-29-21-27-23-1