November/December Short Reviews

I haven’t managed to do too much reading lately – life has been very busy with the approach of Christmas and lots of work. In exciting news, I have managed to get a job for the upcoming school year – I will be working in a school as a teacher-librarian! Just what I was hoping for! 😀 😀 😀

A side-effect of this is that I have been given a pretty long recommended reading list, full of stories that young adults like to read. I had to laugh when I saw that I had already read quite a few of the recommended authors – my enjoyment of YA literature is definitely coming in handy! The best of the recommended YA books I have read so far is definitely Sarah Dessen’s Just Listen. The novel has some great characterisations, and dealt with some sensitive issues in a delicate yet realistic manner. More on the novel below.

Coming up, my reviews of Juliet Marillier’s latest release, Flame of Sevenwaters, and the (auto)biography of John Barrowman, Anything Goes.

Featured this month:

  • Contest – Matthew Reilly
  • Joel and Cat Set the Story Straight – Nick Earl and Rebecca Sparrow
  • Just Listen – Sarah Dessen
  • Crow Country – Kate Constable
  • The Body in the Fog – Cora Harrison

contest  Contest – Matthew Reilly

Rating: 3.5/5

Contest is The Hunger Games for an older generation, only with more action! Dr Stephen Swain and his daughter Holly find themselves teleported to the New York State library, where seven contestants from different worlds must compete in the ultimate fight to the death. Swain seems the unlikely choice to represent humankind, yet he soon proves that he might just be a worthy opponent.

Unlike the other Matthew Reilly books I have read (Ice Station, Area 7), I struggled to get into the story of Contest. The novel was just as action packed and full of thrills as Reilly’s other novels, it just didn’t draw me in as much. Nonetheless, Contest is still a really good book. I found the idea of the novel really interesting, though the idea of humankind participating in a fight to the death they know nothing about is a bit disturbing. This was a really interesting concept and I liked some of the characters, I just wish I’d liked the whole thing more!

joel and cat  Joel and Cat Set the Story Straight – Nick Earl & Rebecca Sparrow

Rating: 3/5

This is a tandem story where Earl and Sparrow write successive chapters as their characters Joel and Cat, respectively. I found the layout of the novel really interesting, and enjoyed the way that Earl and Sparrow’s tandem novel paralleled their characters’ attempts at tandem storytelling. This was a really interesting concept for a novel, but I didn’t love the characters, the story, or the style of writing. The constant change of character POV kept me from connecting with either of the characters and I felt like I was just reading it for the sake of it.

There were some really funny scenes in the novel, particularly when the two families got together at Sizzlers and when Joel had ‘appendicitis’. However, these scenes didn’t redeem the novel for me. A great idea, I’m just not sure about its execution.

just listen

  Just Listen – Sarah Dessen

Rating: 4/5

Everyone thinks that Annabel Greene is perfect – she is beautiful, a model with two sisters who are also models, the best friend of ‘it’ girl Sophie and incredibly popular. However, as this novel demonstrates perfectly, appearances can be deceiving, and just because someone’s life looks perfect, that doesn’t mean it is. Annabel returns to school without her best friend, without any friends at all, and a secret that makes her physically sick. Luckily, she finds a source of (weird) support in Owen, the mysterious new kid who is always listening to music. Uncovering the real Annabel behind the perfect façade was a great experience, and I really liked Dessen’s characterisation of her. Annabel may look and seem perfect, but she is much more than that, and a very interesting character. I thought the character of Owen was fantastic. He is far from the generic male romance figure and is definitely flawed – not only does he have a terrible taste in music, but Owen also has anger management issues. However, all of this just seems to make Owen much more realistic and approachable to the audience. I thought that this was a fantastic book, with a great message of strength, support and understanding. It definitely made me want to read more Sarah Dessen books!


Crow-Country  Crow Country – Kate Constable

Rating: 3/5

Sadie and her mother Ellie have recently moved back to Ellie’s home town of Boort, and Sadie hates it. Then Sadie is drawn into the Indigenous history of the area by the mysterious Crow, who tells her that this I his land, and she must right the wrongs of the past, committed by her own ancestors. This is a time-slip novel, and Sadie often finds herself passing out at strange moments and transported back into the past. I didn’t really like this novel. I found the depiction of Indigenous cultures quite interesting and I thought that Kate Constable dealt with the racial issues within the novel with care and tact. However, I just didn’t find the story interesting, and the conclusion felt overly simplistic. Decades of racial prejudice were instantly overcome because of football and the return of sacred Indigenous artefacts… It just didn’t seem accurate to me.

body-in-the-fog  The Body in the Fog – Cora Harrison

Rating: 4/5

This is the fifth book in the ‘London Murder Mysteries’ series, but the first one I have read and it easily works well as a stand-alone novel. The series focuses on Alfie and his gang who live in poverty in Victorian London and somehow manage to become involved in mysterious murders and crimes. This was a fun book, and a great insight into life on the streets in Victorian London. The mysteries were interesting and intriguing, and I read the whole thing in a single day. Definitely a great book for any young readers after a bit of mystery and adventure! A great read!


1 Comment

Filed under Book Review, Books, Monthly Short Reviews, Ranting, Reading, YA Books

One response to “November/December Short Reviews

  1. Esther Birchall

    Thanks, I will definitely read Dessen’s book ‘Just Listen’ and maybe try out the ‘London Murder Mysteries’ series based on your review.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s