Category: Book Review (Page 32 of 36)

Review: Suzanne Collins – Mockingjay

suzanne-collins-mockingjay-e1332361443499At first when I was reading this book I thought it wasn’t going to be as actioned packed as the first two, and for the first part of the book, it was definitely more political than action packed. But it all picked up again about a third of the way through the book and it was back to non-stop action.

As with most action books you expect people to die, but the choice of who died in this book really shocked me. I can see how it was used to develop the story and how each death pushed Katniss to do something that she had to do, but there were definitely some people that I wished hadn’t died!

Katniss finds herself the leader of a team in this book, and there’s a lot more guilt about her actions than there was before – you can definitely feel it through the writing. I think the writing itself was more of a factor in this book than the other two. With it not having as much action in it and much more drama, the strength of Collins’ writing really comes through.

As with the other two books, I don’t want to spoil the storyline too much, but I will say that I was slightly disappointed with the ending. Throughout the series, there’s a fight going on within Katniss’ mind between Gale and Peeta, and at the end you find out who she ends up with. I would have preferred her to stay with the other, but it does round the story off nicely this way. I did feel that the end was a bit rushed – it was a bit like the last Harry Potter book where there’s just a chapter tagged on at the end about the future. But I do think that it was a nice way to end the book without leaving lots of loose ends.

I’m definitely looking forward to seeing the films now, I just need to wait for my Dad to finish reading the books first so we can go together.

5-5

Review: Suzanne Collins – Catching Fire

suzanne-collins-catching-fire-e1332001505516All I can say about this book is that it was better than the first, which is saying something because I loved the first one. There are plenty of reviews of this book on many WordPress blogs that will tell you what happens in this book, so I don’t really want to go into that too much here. Besides, I know my dad is starting reading the first one, so I don’t want to spoil this one too much for him (if he even reads this!).

When the first book ended, I thought it had been ended in a bit of a weird place and I was curious to find out what happened next. Suzanne Collins sure knows how to shock her readers though. Whatever I expected to happen, it was definitely not this!

This series is definitely more about the plot than the actual writing, but the plot is just non-stop. Every time you think it might slow down a bit, it’s back up again with another twist.

And just like the first book, this book is left at a cliff hanger, with big question marks about what is going to happen next. I was happy that Gale was brought back into the story at the end, but I’m sure that that after what I’ve read so far, nothing is going to run smoothly in book number three.

Another 5/5 review for this book – brilliant!

5-5

Review: Suzanne Collins – The Hunger Games

suzanne-collins-the-hunger-games-e1331933637252I’m kind of ashamed to say I devoured this book in less than a day. I now know why all the reviews I’ve read say that you just can’t put it down once you’ve started it. I’m going to try not to spoil the story too much in case you haven’t read it yet and you’re planning to do so – I’ve already persuaded my dad and brother to give it a try.

The book is aimed at teenagers, so it’s pretty easy reading, and the actually fighting scenes in the book are not that graphic, although the premise of the book is quite still quite shocking. Basically, 24 teenagers are picked at random and sent into an ‘arena’ in a battle to be the last one left alive.

Some of the teenagers have been training for this for a long time, others are just too young, like little Rue who is only 12 years old. The main character Katniss is only 16 years old but you discover through the book that she’s quite worldly wise and has done a lot to protect her family, including the scary task of taking the place of her sister in the games.

As this book is the first part in a trilogy, I expected Katniss to live through to the end, but there are plenty of moments that leave you wondering what will happen, and the end was definitely unexpected. I’m a little unsure after finishing the book where the next two books are going to go, but we’ll soon find out.

A definite 5/5 rating, if only because I just couldn’t stop reading!

5-5

Review: Mitch Albom – The Five People You Meet in Heaven

mitch-albom-the-five-people-you-meet-in-heavenI’ve just finished this book and it was fantastic! It was quite a sad book, but one that definitely made you think.

The book is about 83 year old Eddie, who works on Ruby Pier, a seaside fairground. One of the rides malfunctions and comes crashing to the ground – he dies when he tries to push a young girl out of the way, and spends the whole book worrying that he hasn’t saved her.

When Eddie gets to Heaven, he realises that it’s not what he thought it would be. Instead, he meets five people who will help to explain his life and things that happened in it, as well as his death and the reason for it.

The first person he meets is someone that he doesn’t think he knows, but he recognises him to be someone from the ‘Freak show’ at the Pier when he was a child. Eddie is shocked when this man tells him that Eddie killed him. He explains that he didn’t kill him directly, but inadvertently when his ball rolls into the road, setting a chain of events going which ends up in the man dying. This man is the source of one of my favourite quotes from the book, :

Strangers, are just family you have yet to come to know

I loved this, and the meaning of the entire first part of the book, it makes you think quite closely about the effect you have on other people, and the consequences that your actions can have.

Throughout the book, Eddie also meets his Captain from when he was at war in the Philippines, a woman called Ruby (after whom the Pier was named), his wife Marguerite, and a young girl called Tala, who was killed in a fire started by Eddie when he was in the Philippines, whose eyes he thought he saw all those years ago and have haunted him since.

Out of all five people, I think the part of the book that was most touching was when he met his wife again – she died of cancer when she was 47, and Eddie lived the rest of his life alone in the house they shared together. My favourite quote from the book though comes from Ruby, when she is talking to him about his Dad:

Learn this from me. Holding anger is a poison. It eats you from inside. We think that hating is a weapon that attacks the person who harmed us. But hatred is a curved blade. And the harm we do, we do to ourselves.

That’s so true, and something that we all get wrong at times – we could all learn from this!

I really loved this book, I thought it was quite an unusual idea to start with, but it was really well written and you really start to feel for Eddie as the book goes on, to the point where you just don’t want it to end.

5-5

Review: Jonathan Coe – The Accidental Woman

jonathan-coe-the-accidental-woman-e1331237021290I realised after a few pages that I wasn’t going to enjoy this book, but I persevered anyway, because I don’t like to give up without giving a book a fair chance. I do wish I’d left it though, as I just didn’t like the book at all.

My first problem was that it seemed like the writer was trying to be too clever. There were so many sentences that I found myself reading multiple times just to figure out what he was trying to say. Sometimes there were sentences with so many commas that it just didn’t flow properly and took away from the telling of the story.

I also felt that the narrator got in the way too. We never find out who it is, but he has this way of telling things like he is aware of the reader and like its a conversation. He frequently references other chapters in the book too, which I found very off-putting.

“Did I not say, at the beginning of the chapter, that it was a Tuesday, and that there was something particularly interesting about Maria’s thoughts, as she walked home from work?

When I read a book I like to become completely lost in the story, and sentences like this just made it very hard for me to do so.

As for the story, it just didn’t capture my imagination, and I frequently found myself a bit bored, realising I’d read a few pages without taking anything in and having to go back and read it again. Now this could just be me missing the whole point, but I just didn’t get along with this book at all.

I’ve got two other books by Jonathan Coe to read so I hope they are better, but I’ll be leaving them for a while before I read them.

If you’ve read this book, let me know what you think!

1-5

Review: Dirk Hayhurst – Out of My League

dirk-hayhurst-out-of-my-league-e1330855312503It’s been a while since I posted a review, not been feeling great the last few days so had a break from the laptop. But this book was awesome! I kind of knew what to expect from the book after reading Hayhurst’s first book (The Bullpen Gospels), and I most definitely wasn’t disappointed.

This book was just as funny as the first book, it had me laughing out loud quite a few times! Lines like this were just what I expected:

Hitters are stupid, if they weren’t, they’d be pitchers.

The book is refreshingly honest, and gives you a great insight into what life is like for a baseball player, and a better understanding of just how big a difference there is between the lifestyle of the minor leagues and major leagues.

I felt like this book was a lot more personal than the first one, and contained a lot more about his relationship with his girlfriend/fiancee/wife Bonnie. He lets you in on a lot of events in their relationship – the proposal, the wedding, and even a huge argument they had shortly before the wedding after he had pitched a bad game. I liked that this was included, he wasn’t afraid to include the bad parts of himself as well as the good.

The book ends just as he has been claimed off waivers by the Blue Jays, setting up very nicely for book number 3. I have a feeling it’s going to be longer than I would like before it comes out though!

I’d recommend this book to any baseball fan, and also anyone who just wants a good laugh. If you’ve read this book and enjoyed it, you should definitely check out The Bullpen Gospels too. You should also follow him on twitter – @thegarfoose, he’s just about to start playing in the Italian baseball league which should make for some interesting tweets.

5-5

Review: Daniel Tammet – Born on a Blue Day

daniel-tammet-born-on-a-blue-day-e1330617744852I want to give a big thank you to Hannah for lending me this book because it was fantastic, one of the most interesting and well written biographies I have read in a long time.

The book is about Daniel Tammet, a man with Savant Syndrome and a condition called synaesthesia, which makes him see numbers as colours, shapes and textures, enabling him to do extraordinary sums in his head.

I’m sure we’ve all heard about people with Savant Syndrome in the past, you’ve probably seen Rain Man with Dustin Hoffman or watched a documentary on TV. But this book was completely different as it was written by Daniel and contained his thoughts and feelings, not someone else speculating what is happening in his head. It’s unusual for someone with this rare form of Aspergers to be able to communicate so effectively for themselves, and you find out through the book just how that came about. For example, he even travelled on his own to Lithuania to live for a year teaching English. While he was there he also learnt to speak Lithuanian, one of ten(!) languages that he can speak. He learnt to speak Icelandic in 7 days, conducting a live interview on Icelandic TV at the end of the week.

As well as finding out about his extraordinary ability for learning languages, you also find out a lot about his love of numbers, and how he experiences them. To him, each number up to 10,000 has it’s own shape, colour and feeling (e.g. the number 9 is large and towering). When he does calculations, he sees the results in his head as a composite of the numbers involved. Throughout the book, Daniel draws out examples of what he means by his descriptions, including a picture of the number on each chapter’s title page.

Here’s an example of what he sees when he multiplies 53 x 131. The shape on each side is the shape of each number, and the shape in the middle is the shape of the result. All this happens subconsciously, which is why he can do these sums so quickly – how incredible is that?!

daniel-tammet-example

There was a documentary about him on Channel 5 a few years ago, which I think I am going to have to find and watch. You hear about his experience of filming in the book, but I would love to watch it too. He also wrote a second book called Embracing the Wide Sky, which I will have to read. A definite 5 star book, if only because of how incredible this man is!

5-5

Review: Rob Lacey – The Liberator

rob-lacey-the-liberator-e1330254420433As I have already read this book a few times, I knew it was going to be great, but I was surprised how much I enjoyed it. Every time I read it I get something different out of it, and this time I finished the book feeling more connected than I have in a long time.

If you don’t know, The Liberator is a re-telling of the life of Jesus, but the language in the book is brought completely up to date, Lacey was definitely not afraid to change it up a little. It make the book very easy to read (once you get used to the new language he has used – e.g. Prophets are called God’s Couriers, and the temple is referred to as Religious HQ). Here’s an example from the book, from Matthew 5:17-18:

It’s time to rumble the rumours: I’m not here to bulldoze through Moses’ Big Ten Rules. I’m not here to do a character assassination job on God’s Couriers. I’m not here to finish off the Instruction Manual. No, I’m here to complete it. Straight up, on the level, nothing’s getting deleted from Moses’ Contract – not the smallest dot from your paper print-out, not the tiniest pixel, not the faintest watermark – zip. Not till every ending, from main theme to smallest subplot, gets wrapped up and filed under ‘C’ for ‘Complete’.

Compare this to the NIV, and you can see the difference:

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.

Throughout the book are little fictional pieces, for example articles from a newspaper called ‘The Jews News’, and interviews with people from the time. It’s all very fun, and does help you see deeper into the story – a very clever idea.

As I mentioned in my last blog post, Lacey was battling cancer when he wrote this book, and he passed away shortly after it was published. It’s a shame, as he was truly talented and had a natural gift for communication and explanation.

I would recommend this book to anyone wanting to get into the Bible or find out more about the life of Jesus, or to anyone who has read the Bible many times and wants a refreshing take. If you’ve read this book and liked it, I would also highly recommend The Word on the Street – another book by Lacey in very much the same style, only this time he takes on the whole Bible – a very worthwhile read!

5-5

Review: Maureen Lee – Amy’s Diary

amys-diary-e1330119940401Well, as expected, it didn’t take me very long to read this book. But I felt that the book didn’t really suit the Quick Read format very well, it all felt very rushed. I guess that would always be the case when you try and fit a 6 year war into 100ish pages, but I would have preferred if this was longer with a bit more detail.

The book is supposed to be the diary of an 18 year old girl called Amy, but at times it drifted way off from diary format and turned into more of a story, which was a little confusing. The language was also very simple, making it seem like Amy was a lot younger than she is supposed to be.

The author chickened out of writing a few scenes, reverting back to diary form and saying something like “I’ll not write about what happened next just in case someone reads this diary”. I guess it didn’t matter too much in the overall story-telling, but it just seemed like a bit of a cop-out.

I’d only give this book 2 out of 5, it would have been more if the book had been longer, or at least told with language appropriate to an 18 year old. It’s probably not one that I would read again if I’m honest.

2-5

Review: Jim Bouton & Eliot Asinof – Strike Zone

strike-zone-jim-bouton-and-eliot-asinof-e1329777352178This book is the first baseball fiction book that I’ve read, and it was great! It’s been a long time since the end of the baseball season, so it was nice to feel the excitement of a baseball game again.

The story revolves around two main characters. The first is an aging rookie pitcher called Sam Ward, pitching for the Cubs in the last game of the season, a game that will decide whether the Cubs make it to the post-season or not.

The other main character is an umpire called Ernie Kolacka, umpiring his last game before his forced retirement at age 60. He has been persuaded to throw the game in favour of the Phillies, by his friend who is in big trouble after he got over his head with gambling.

The book goes back and forth between Ward and Kolacka every half inning, and I was gripped all the way through. I also loved the way that as well as going back and forward between the gameplay action, we also got completely involved in the personal lives of both players, so much so that you really didn’t know who to root for. There’s also quite a lot of insight (whether it’s true or not, who knows) into the hard slog of making it to the major leagues for both characters, and the thought processes that occur during a big game.

Right up until the end, I couldn’t tell how it was going to end, I kept swaying back and forth between a win for Ward or a ‘victory’ for Kolacka. I won’t spoil the end of the book for you, but let’s just say that it made me smile. There’s also a bit of a bombshell thrown in at the end, which shocked me and put a slightly different spin on the story.

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone that likes baseball, it will definitely keep you gripped all the way to the very last page.

5/5

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