Review: You Break What Falls – Robert Okaji

You Break What Falls – Robert Okaji – 4 stars

‘You Break What Falls’ is a quick little poetry collection which you can access (for free!) here. It consists of six little poems, and guys – I would suggest it’s worth a look!

Each poem is succinct and thoughtfully crafted, grounded in tangibility, and yet light with abstraction. Although there were points where the philosophy felt a little heavy-handed (especially in ‘In Praise of Rain’), as a whole the collection was delightful to read. I loved the almost haiku-like simplicity of the lines, and the way each poem focused on specificity without running out of things to say.

My particular favourite of the collection was ‘Mirror’ – it was so perfectly contained that it left me wanting to give someone a sincere yet animated high five.

The other thing is, Okaji excels at last lines. Every single on of these poems is rounded off neatly, concisely, and without limiting the breadth of meaning behind the poems.

Have you read through this collection? Which would be your favourite poem?

Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day!

Dani

Book of the Month 2014 Summary

Basically, I’ve chosen a favourite book that I read in each month of 2014. Some I wrote posts for, most I really didn’t, but we’re going to let that slide.

JanuaryThe Help by Kathryn Stockett – Five stars and a lot of love from me. It’s about racism and justice and family and…just read it.

February: I Am The Messenger by Markus Zusak – Oh look another five stars. The author of The Book Thief, in case you didn’t pick up on it. It’s a contemporary and it’s fantastic.

March: Farenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury – The classic Dystopian about books and ‘firemen’. Beautifully written, and a real thought-provoker.

AprilGone Girl by Gillian Flynn – Five stars for creepy, twisted psychological thriller-iness. Read it before you watch it!

MayThe Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald – Another one of those classics that I felt pressured into reading. It’s okay though, because this one’s really good.

June: Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson – So much love for this book! It’s a children’s novel about a little British girl who’s sent to live in the Brazilian Amazon. Amazing.

July: The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd – Kind of a cross between The Help, The Secret Garden and The Thief Lord. I liked it.

August: The Protector by Danielle Lenee Davis – I wrote a review here! It’s a detective/crime/mystery novel and I think it’s great.

September: The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkein – I freaking love this little fantasy novel. It’s a kind of prequel to the Lord of the Rings, and it’s just lovely. I wrote a little post about it here.

October: It Shouldn’t Happen to a Missionary by Alf Cooper – The humourous and really inspiring autobiography of a British Christian who ends up in Chile.

November: The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer – The first non-fiction book on this list, it’s more of a Christian, theological thing. I really loved it!

December: The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkein – What a book to finish the year with! I love it all.

So these are my twelve favourite books of the year – what are some of your picks? Have you enjoyed any of the books I mentioned?

Happy Almost-New-Year, and thanks for reading!

~Dani

Review: The Unicorn Girl – M.L. LeGette

I received this book as part of Rosie Amber‘s Book Review Team.

The Unicorn Girl – M.L. LeGette – 4 stars

The Unicorn Girl

This YA fantasy novel follows the story of Leah, who is marked by the very magic that everyone fears. It saves her life, but sparks a series of events that are far out of her control and even further out of her comfort zone.

It’s got such a fantastic plot; the book is exciting and relentless in its pacing. The visual story-telling just begs for a film adaptation (which I would be the first in line to go and see, by the way.) The simplicity and action orientation means that this book is perfect for a young person just getting into reading; I’ll definitely be recommending it to any friends that have yet to fully experience the magic of books.

My only complaints about the book were requests for more; some huge decisions were perhaps a little rushed, and left with gaps in the explanations; there was a lack of non-action-based conversation (I’d have loved to see Lavena and Leah bond more); and I’d have really liked to see more of the unicorns.

That said, I loved pretty much everything that was put in – Ms LeGette creates some adorable characters (yes you, Ian), and she injects the story with flashes of humour and wisdom. Leah is a great protagonist: relateable, well-developed and a real pleasure to read about.

The plot was at times cliche and a little predictable, but I felt that these things were forgivable because it gave the story the feel of a fairy-tale.

In all, this book was fast-paced, clean and magical with a genuinely enjoyable story-line and the perfect premise to appeal to young readers (myself included).

If you’ve read this too, I’d love to know your thoughts!

Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day.

~Dani

Review: Moon Whispers – G. Michael Vasey

I received this book as part of Rosie Amber’s Book Review Team.

Moon Whispers – G. Michael Vasey – 4 stars

Moon Whispers

I was so excited to receive the anthology, as this will be my first time reviewing poetry! I couldn’t have been offered a better collection to begin with; Dr Vasey drags the reader onto a roller-coaster of profundity from the word go. I can honestly say that I devoured every poem.

While each poem is a text in its own right, the book is held together by recurring themes like God, life and death, media, and current events. His style of writing screams of intelligence, and he invites the reader to join him in his thought processes. That said, you’ll have no difficulty understanding the language; the words have a clarity to them that makes them both refreshing and all the more challenging on a practical level.

The poems vary in length and structure, but as a general rule there is a real freedom to the formatting, and the lines flow beautifully. The writer’s bold candour shines through the rather creative structuring and graphology, leaving us with an airy lay-out that really lets the poems breathe.

While the collection was not as phonologically stunning as I might have expected (or wished), Vasey is very artful with his rhyme and repetition; his poetry is edgy, relevant and probably the most thought-provoking thing I’ve read this month (and that’s saying something because I read a LOT). I put the book down feeling like I could have read more.

That’s a four star rating for Dr Vasey, and I look forward to reading more of his work.

If you’ve read this too, let me know what you thought!

Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day.

~Dani

Review: Never Fade – Alexandra Bracken

Never Fade – Alexandra Bracken – 4 stars

Never Fade

This is the second installment of the Darkest Minds trilogy, and if you loved the first one, it doesn’t disappoint!
It took me a while to get into, but I think it was more that I’d forgotten how to sit back and enjoy the story without over-analysing the writing than any real fault of the book. Ms Bracken does a fantastic job developing the plot and keeps up the high standard of story-telling that she started in The Darkest Minds.
My main problem with this book was the dialogue. There were a few points where people’s utterances just didn’t feel natural, and some of the conversations seemed to go around in circles more than necessary.
That said, some of my favourite scenes in this book were conversations. What I love about Alexandra Bracken is that although she writes great romance and nemesis scenes, she takes the time to develop some really touching friendships. One of the things that makes this series stand out to me is the emphasis on teamwork; it was wonderful to watch these characters supporting each other throughout everything.
Of course, we can’t forget about Bracken’s action writing – she’s not only sensitive, but knows when to move a scene along with an explosion or two!
A really well-balanced story that is a fantastic continuation to what I hope will become a great series.

If you’ve read this too, I’d love to know your thoughts! What are your predictions for the next book? Does anyone else ship Chubs and Vida like crazy?
Also, if you’ve read the novella In Time, did you find it necessary? I’m torn as to whether I should pick it up.

Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day!
~Dani

Review: Twilight’s Indian Princess – Margaret Jean Langstaff

I received this book as part of Rosie Amber‘s Book Review Team.

Twilight’s Indian Princess: Book 1 – Margaret Jean Langstaff – 4 stars

Twilight's Indian Princess

Okay, what just happened?

This is forty pages of pure psychological weirdness. Not plot-oriented, no real character back-story, and no real relational development (unless you count the potato scene, which I’m not sure I do.)

And yet…Ms Langstaff pulls all of these things together with an absolutely gorgeous writing style that is rich and full, and that you can really get your teeth into. Whatever crazy things happen in the narrator’s brain become completely rational to read about simply because this woman writes with such confidence and flair. And in the end, the things we might want more of from an instalment of a novel like this aren’t even necessary, because – and I’ll say this again – Margaret is a great writer.

Her protagonist, Sarah, is believable, easy to relate to and subtly funny. Sarah’s children came across beautifully in their letters, and it was really special to watch this author switch easily into different voices.

This book was, overall, a really fun read; short but juicy, and effortlessly humourous. It was enjoyable, and I would definitely recommend it.

That’s a four star rating for Margaret and ‘Twilight’s Indian Princess’, mostly because of my deep respect for her being able to pull something like this off.

If you’ve read this too, I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day.

~Dani

Review: Delirium – Lauren Oliver

Delirium – Lauren Oliver – 5 stars

Delirium

I don’t remember the last time I gave a YA Dystopian novel five stars. It gets to the point where you feel like every controlling society, every teen-turns-hero and every romance has already been done.

The reality is that Delirium is different to your typical book of this genre, and I think one factor is that it doesn’t have a huge scope. That may sound like a bad thing, but for me, it’s so refreshing to have teen-aged characters living fairly normal lives in a futuristic society – that’s not something we often get to see. With books like ‘The Hunger Games’, ‘Legend’, and ‘The Darkest Minds’ (which, for the record, I do really like) we don’t get to experience the full horror of the world because the protagonist gets straight to shutting it down.

That said, I don’t want to talk too much about the premise; I think that’s better experienced through the book itself.

I’ve heard so many complaints that the book is boring, or that it’s slow. I think a certain slowness is the whole point! It centres around a girl who makes the transition from drifting along, fully supporting her dystopian society to waking up to the realities of her situation and having to re-evaluate everything she’s ever known. I honestly think Ms. Oliver did a great job of writing that! I assume that the next book – ‘Pandemonium’ – contrasts with some action-packed system-fighting (and I’m so up for reading that), but I really don’t think the sequel could out-do this one for me.

Another complaint about this book tends to be the writing style. “A slow story needs great writing to carry it,” etc. But guys…I LOVE Lauren’s writing.

“One of the strangest things about life is that it will chug on, blind and oblivious, even as your private world – your little carved-out sphere – is twisting and morphing, even breaking apart. […]
And still the sun rises and clouds mass and drift and people shop for groceries and toilets flush and blinds go up and down. That’s when you realize that most of it – life, the relentless mechanism of existing – isn’t about you. It doesn’t include you at all. It will thrust onward even after you’ve jumped the edge.”

She doesn’t use huge words, or overly complex sentences, but she’s writing for a young adult audience who quite often don’t need that complexity. Do we think big words make big emotions? (why yes, that was an Ernest Hemingway reference.)

Let’s talk about characters. In a book that’s essentially about love, it would have been so easy to make the whole thing about Lena and Alex’s romance. What I loved was that Lauren Oliver took care over building up a beautiful mother-daughter relationship, a moving sisterly relationship and a really fantastic best friend. It’s not Lena and Alex vs World, but Lena discovering the contours and nuances of the taboo that is love. It was a great juxtaposition with the clinical emotional drought, if you will, and the contrast made it all the more touching.

Lena and Hana in particular were great. I loved the way they interacted, and the realism with which the author treated the dips and peaks of their relationship was pretty special. The character I wasn’t overly convinced by was, sadly, Alex: I don’t feel like I know him very well, or have picked up a lot about his personality. That said, I trust Lena as a narrator, so what I don’t see is made up for by what she sees.

This book has had a fair amount publicity, and I’m glad of it. I think the messages about love, freedom, and even religion and science are so important to at least consider, and it makes me happy that so many people are getting their hands on such morally-upright and thought-provoking stories.

All in all, this book has wormed its way probably to my number one favourite Young Adult Dystopian book, and I recommend you pick it up next time you see it!

If you’ve read this too, let me know what you thought.

Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day!

~Dani

Review: As the Crow Flies – Damien Boyd

As the Crow Flies – Damien Boyd – 4 stars

As The Crow Flies (D.B.)

Now, this was a book I didn’t have very high expectations for. It was free on the Kindle store, so I guess I assumed it was going to adhere to the ‘you get what you pay for’ rule. Let’s just say I would have paid money for this book.

I don’t read a lot of crime fiction, so it was definitely refreshing for me to read something in this genre – especially something that I feel makes an effort to stand out. I really enjoyed the rock-climbing aspects, and felt like it was something the author was passionate about, which always makes for more enjoyable reading. I also really liked the fact that it was set in Britain (my homeland), as it just made the whole thing more relatable to me, and allowed it to step away from some of the CSI stereotypes.The plot trotted along – to me – at an enjoyable pace, and while I felt it worked well with twists and installments of information, it wasn’t as suspenseful or thrilling as I might have expected.

As for the characters, I did feel they were approached a little clinically. I would have liked to learn more about DI Nick Dixon (the protagonist) and definitely would have liked to see more development in his relationships – especially with Jane, with whom romance is only hinted at. I assume that these things build up in the books that follow, but that’s something I would really have benefited from.

The writing itself was clean-cut and edgy; smooth reading without being too simplistic. The only thing that tripped me were numerous cases of shoddy editing: missing/misplaced commas, the odd spelling error…nothing that a finer-toothed ‘editing comb’ couldn’t have sorted, and yet not really an issue than can be claimed to detract from the overall very enjoyable writing.

The book as a whole was pleasantly surprising, and I really got involved with the case-oriented plot, trying to piece together the evidence. I, personally, was completely taken by surprise by the turns of events, but again – I don’t read a lot of crime fiction. The ending especially, I felt, was neat and poignant – a perfect ending to a generally excellent book.

Four stars to Damien’s Boyd’s debut novel, and may his writing career flourish.

 

If you’ve read this too, I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day.

~Dani

Review: Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams

Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency – Douglas Adams – 4 stars

Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency

I love Douglas Adams. His novels are quirky without being contrived, easy to read without forfeiting richness of writing, and consistently hilarious.

This is my second Douglas Adams book – the first being ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,’ – but
I think until now I had concentrated on the witty quirk rather than the genuine quality of Adams’ writing. Some of the descriptions in this book blew me away – I’d had him pinned as ‘Just Another Sci-Fi Writer’; now his subtle genius has made him a firm favourite for me.

The structure of the story weaved here grounds everything, and allows space for whole realms of wacky without the reader getting completely lost. As threads are tied we begin to see the writer has not only a child-like imagination but a profound intelligence, something I admit I hadn’t credited him with before.

I loved the characters too: despite a distinct lack of female presence (this book fails miserably at the Bechdel Test), every character felt well-formed and believable. Even better, I think the author knew his characters well too; while they were all a little quirky, and perhaps embodied some of Adams’ own characteristics, they were a joy to read about and made the story special.

In spite of all this, the book did drop a star, and for me this was because of the philosophical undertones. Now, don’t get me wrong: I believe books should make you think, and I’m all for a dose of Deeper Meaning. What I don’t appreciate is an author that, instead of presenting his own views, ridicules others’. There were parts of the book that I felt the author’s opinions bleeding through in such a bitter way that it leeched some of the enjoyment out of the book for me.

Nevertheless, four stars is still a great rating, and I did genuinely enjoy this book.

 

If you’ve read this too, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Thank you for reading, and had a lovely day!

~Dani

Review: Starters by Lissa Price

Starters – Lissa Price – 3.5 stars

Starters

Lissa’s debut novel centres around sixteen-year-old Callie, who donates her body to ‘Prime Destinations’ (a programme where elderly people can be temporarily ‘transferred’ into a younger body) in order to earn money to save her ill brother. Of course, things go wrong, she has to fight the system, and – wait for it – she falls in love with two people.

I would hate to suggest that this book is unoriginal, but I did wonder if Ms. Price went far enough out of her way to break the mould. ‘Starters’ – as far as YA Dystopians go – was particularly well written; I thought flashbacks were handled well, and a satisfying amount of metaphor and clever wording was thrown in alongside.

There were, unfortunately, a few things I couldn’t let slip. Before I start, can I just clarify: I think fairy tale references are wonderful. I love fairy tales. However, the clumsy, forced Cinderella parallels that kept cropping up crossed the ‘magical’ line, and were well into ‘cringe-worthy’ territory.

Concern Number Two: Sara is meant to be twelve. TWELVE. I hate to be rude, but I’ve known six year olds with a better grasp of the English language.

Third Concern: While I love surprising plot twists, I also like to be able to go back and spot tiny signs that I missed the first time – otherwise it feels like the author got bored, and tried to add a little excitement for the sake of it. I’m not saying the twists were inappropriate to the story; I just think a little foreshadowing goes a long way.

Minor Bonus Concern: That cover is terrifying. I had nightmares. You think I’m joking.

On the whole, though, I should clarify that the book really did hold my attention, and while it didn’t contain much profundity or artfulness of language, it was an entertaining read.

 

Have you read it? What were your thoughts?

Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day!

~Dani