Little Free Library Update

Hi all!

It’s been a really long time since I’ve updated the blog, but I can assure you, books have been slowly turning over in the Queens Park LFL. We had a major win the other day, stumbling across a sale which had ten books for $1. We’ve also had a number of kind donations from family, friends and strangers, so we have quite a backlog of books at the moment!

As the weather is warming up a little now, it’s great to see people out and about in the neighbourhood. I’m hoping to get some bookmarks done up soon to drop in letterboxes, so people know we are here.

Today I’ve done a complete rotation of the books, so come swing by and see if there’s anything you’d like to take home.

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🙂

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Review – All the Missing Girls – Megan Miranda

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book via Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.

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This book was an absolute ripper, and so, so clever.

From Goodreads,

It’s been ten years since Nicolette Farrell left her rural hometown after her best friend, Corinne, disappeared from Cooley Ridge without a trace. Back again to tie up loose ends and care for her ailing father, Nic is soon plunged into a shocking drama that reawakens Corinne’s case and breaks open old wounds long since stitched.

The decade-old investigation focused on Nic, her brother Daniel, boyfriend Tyler, and Corinne’s boyfriend Jackson. Since then, only Nic has left Cooley Ridge. Daniel and his wife, Laura, are expecting a baby; Jackson works at the town bar; and Tyler is dating Annaleise Carter, Nic’s younger neighbor and the group’s alibi the night Corinne disappeared. Then, within days of Nic’s return, Annaleise goes missing.

The key to this story’s success is the way in which it is told.

“The book is told backward. After the setup, the story jumps ahead fifteen days and then counts down, day by day, until we reach the beginning again”

Starting two weeks after the disappearance of Annaleise, it works its way backwards until we reach the day she went missing. The mystery of what happened to her, and to Corinne ten years earlier, is unraveled, piece by tantilising piece. This is a compelling read, but not a quick one, as I found myself having to concentrate to connect the dots and pick up all the clues that trailed throughout the backwards chapters.

The story is incredibly engaging, and although none of the main characters were particularly likeable, they all had their part to play in the mystery. That feeling that there was something ‘off’ about them all permeated the narrative. The big reveal at the end tied everything up very neatly, but did leave a sour note. It was this feeling of disappointment and distaste that made me want to go straight back to the beginning and start the book again, now armed with the full knowledge of exactly what was going on. On this point alone, I would say Miranda has a bestseller on her hands.

This novel is Miranda’s debut adult fiction title, and it’s clear that she is at her best writing the teenage characters which normally populate her YA fiction. The intense emotion and romantic tension is thick and palpable during these passages. Generally however, the writing style was nothing remarkable, and there were a couple of repeated analogies that got on my nerves. Despite this, the backwards narrative was more than enough to create suspense and tension. I have a feeling that if the story were told conventionally, it would lose a lot of what makes it special. As it stands, however, the tone of this novel is dark and brooding, with the menacing forest always encroaching on the periphery, almost becoming another character that puts you on edge, right from the start.

The twists and turns, red herrings and dead ends made this novel a memorable one that I would recommend to fans of psychological thrillers.

Megan Miranda’s All the Missing Girls is due for publication June 28th by Simon & Schuster.

 

Little Free Library Update

Here’s the latest to go into the LFL at 68 Reginald St, Queens Park.

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Dr Who ‘choose your own adventure’?! That’s probably a collector’s item right there!

We also have,

  • The First of the Penguins by Mary Steele (which is one of those crazy, 70s, Playing Beatie Bow, type books)
  • The Humbles by Hilary Seton (Very ‘The Magician’s Nephew’, which is also in the library)
  • Mattie by G. D. Griffiths (The story of a hedgehog)
  • Ashleigh’s Christmas Miracle by Joanna Campbell (Thoroughbred Super Edition)
  • Fantastic Max – All in a Babe’s Work (As seen on BBC TV!)

The library also had its first comment in the guest book over the weekend (thanks Phonz!) and I’m delighted to see kids stopping by now and then 🙂

Review – You Know Me Well -David Levithan & Nina LaCour

Disclosure: I was furnished an ARC of this novel via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

A quick little read, I polished this one off in two nights in a post-uni-assignment celebratory binge.

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From Goodreads,

“Who knows you well? Your best friend? Your boyfriend or girlfriend? A stranger you meet on a crazy night? No one, really?

Mark and Kate have sat next to each other for an entire year, but have never spoken. For whatever reason, their paths outside of class have never crossed.

That is until Kate spots Mark miles away from home, out in the city for a wild, unexpected night. Kate is lost, having just run away from a chance to finally meet the girl she has been in love with from afar. Mark, meanwhile, is in love with his best friend Ryan, who may or may not feel the same way.

When Kate and Mark meet up, little do they know how important they will become to each other — and how, in a very short time, they will know each other better than any of the people who are supposed to know them more.

Told in alternating points of view by Nina LaCour, the award-winning author of Hold Still and The Disenchantments, and David Levithan, the best-selling author of Every Day and co-author of Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist (with Rachel Cohn) and Will Grayson, Will Grayson (with John Green), You Know Me Well is a deeply honest story about navigating the joys and heartaches of first love, one truth at a time.”

Now, I haven’t read any of the other novels by these authors, and it has been a long time since I’ve read any Young Adult, but I thought this particular book was quite skillfully done. I enjoyed the story being told from two different perspectives, and found the writing styles of the two authors quite complimentary. There is some cracking poetry smack in the middle (courtesy of the characters attending a POETRY SLAM!?!?!!) and the prose flows quite lyrically, buffeted along on a tide of teenage angst.

The angst is where the story lost me a little, although granted, I’m not the intended audience. What I did love about the book is that the characters were all gay, without the story actually being about their gayness. There’s no big coming out, no overly gay themes, just teenagers having relationships, figuring themselves out and being generally angsty, who happen to be gay. It was really refreshing, and cleverly executed.

Overall I’m giving it 3 stars, mostly I think, because I’m not young enough to truly connect with this book. I have a feeling that fans of The Perks of Being a Wallflower and The Fault in our Stars will love it though.

You Know Me Well is due for publication by St Martin’s Press, 07 Jun 2016

Review – The Girls in the Garden – Lisa Jewell

Disclosure: I was given access to a free copy of this book by the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

I hadn’t heard of Lisa Jewell before I got this novel on Netgalley, but it turns out she has quite a back catalogue, including Ralph’s Party, Thirtynothing, and more recently The House We Grew Up In. The Girls in the Garden (which seems to be shortened to just The Girls by Australian publishers at least) is due for a US release 7th of June, but has been available in Australia for around a year.

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For the US release they have given The Girls a swanky new cover with a Contemporary Literature feel. The Australian release last year features a pastel cover, reminiscent of Jodi Picoult or Marian Keyes books, which feels like a more honest fit.

From the publisher;

Imagine that you live on a picturesque communal garden square, an oasis in urban London where your children run free, in and out of other people’s houses. You’ve known your neighbors for years and you trust them. Implicitly. You think your children are safe. But are they really?

On a midsummer night, as a festive neighborhood party is taking place, preteen Pip discovers her thirteen-year-old sister Grace lying unconscious and bloody in a hidden corner of a lush rose garden. What really happened to her? And who is responsible?

This was an easy read, yet compelling. Although the writing style was light, there were enough twists and turns to keep me reading, and I had it finished within a couple of days. Starting out with the knowledge that Grace is going to end up unconscious in the garden, was a clever move. I read voraciously to find out how it happened, then to find out who did it.

Literary fiction this is not, but what it is is an engaging tale, populated with interesting characters and a good dose of suspense. It moves along at a cracking pace, and is definitely plot, rather than character driven. I didn’t care much for any of the adults in the story, but Grace’s younger sister Pip was well developed, with an internal monologue that somewhat reminded me of To Kill a Mockingbird‘s Scout in its better moments. Jewell is good at what she does, crafting a setting and scenario which draws you in, but doesn’t waste time.

This one was a page turner for sure, and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a light read alternative to vapid, gossipy chick lit.

I give it 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Little Free Library Update

LITTLE FREE LIBRARY LOCATION: 68 Reginald St, Queens Park, WA

The LFL seems to be taking off, with six books disappearing over the weekend, although we are still waiting for our first deposit. I really should make some attempt at cataloguing them, as I have no idea what was taken! In an attempt to rectify this situation, and to hopefully spark some interest in the contents of the Library, I thought I would include pictures of new titles in my updates. Today these titles were rotated in from my personal collection.

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Is it obvious I’m going through my Hs and Js?

The Johnsons and the James are books I picked up in a multibuy many years ago, and the Hobb is the first in the The Soldier Son Trilogy (which is excellent) that I ended up finishing in eBook format.

The William Horwood book is the second in a series which I read (without having read any of the others, before or since) when I was about eleven. I remember when I bought it mum was hesitant, because she wasn’t sure it would be appropriate. She was right. It contains mole sex (although I didn’t tell her that!). It’s well worth a read for that alone. Hilariously inappropriate.

I digress.

I also added a guestbook to the Library today, so if you are visiting, I’d love to hear from you. I left a note encouraging suggestions, which I will keep in mind for future second-hand-book-scouting.

What would you love to see in a LFL if there was one on your street?

Review – Before the Fall – Noah Hawley

Disclosure: An advance copy of this book was received from Netgalley, in return for an honest review.

Being my first official BookSwag review, I really wanted to love this novel, the latest from award winning creator of the TV show Fargo, Noah Hawley.

Unfortunately I just couldn’t do it (and this seems a fairly unpopular view, considering the mounting pile of rave reviews!).

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From Goodreads:

“On a foggy summer night, eleven people-ten privileged, one down-on-his-luck painter-depart Martha’s Vineyard on a private jet headed for New York. Sixteen minutes later, the unthinkable happens: the plane plunges into the ocean. The only survivors are Scott Burroughs-the painter-and a four-year-old boy, who is now the last remaining member of an immensely wealthy and powerful media mogul’s family.

With chapters weaving between the aftermath of the crash and the backstories of the passengers and crew members-including a Wall Street titan and his wife, a Texan-born party boy just in from London, a young woman questioning her path in life, and a career pilot-the mystery surrounding the tragedy heightens. As the passengers’ intrigues unravel, odd coincidences point to a conspiracy. Was it merely by dumb chance that so many influential people perished? Or was something far more sinister at work? Events soon threaten to spiral out of control in an escalating storm of media outrage and accusations. And while Scott struggles to cope with fame that borders on notoriety, the authorities scramble to salvage the truth from the wreckage.”

Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty to like about this book. There were moments in the first scenes that had me welling up, but unfortunately, there were also moments as the book progressed that had me close to ditching my e-reader across the room.

What Hawley is good at is the episodic, suspenseful style of television drama screenwriting. The narrative is full of possibility, with red herrings, storylines and characters that meander through the novel, leaving you wondering how they will all tie together in the end. The action scenes are the strongest, and Hawley’s writing is at its peak early on, during the crash and the ensuing struggle for survival. By the end of the book I had several theories about why and how the plane had crashed, all of which seemed equally plausible. It did keep me guessing right up until the last pages, but the final resolution was still somewhat predictable and pedestrian after such a build up, and there were many other questions left unanswered.

Before the Fall also puts itself forward as a commentary on modern media, capitalism and corruption, but falls short on this front too. It lacks the fully formed characters and intricate prose of true literary fiction (yes, I’m a book snob), and some of the analogies and metaphors made me snicker, re-reading them several times for the ‘wtf?’ factor. I’m also hoping it might go through a final edit before printing, because no novel should contain the word ‘artisanal’ so many times.

In short, it’s a ripper of a premise, with great potential, but poorly executed. I will also add that mystery/thriller/suspense/crime is not my favourite genre, so it was going to take some first class prose to impress me with this one. In the end, I’m giving it:

2.5 out of 5.

Before the Fall is due for publication 31st May, by Hachette Australia.

Little Free Library is Live!

Just a quick update to let you know that the Little Free Library is up and running at 68 Reginald St, Queens Park. We have already had our first two books disappear this morning! If you are in the City of Canning/Perth area, you should come by and check it out. There are currently 71 titles awaiting borrowers both young and old.

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We’d also be super grateful for any donations of books to keep the ‘stock’ ticking over, so to speak. So if you are in Perth and have some books you no longer need, let me know and I’ll come pick them up!

In other BookSwag news, I have almost finished Noah Hawley’s (creator of the television series Fargo) ‘Before the Fall’which is due out May 31st. Review coming soon.

Little Free Library Update

I think this weekend could be the one! The BookSwag Little Free Library will hopefully be in place by the beginning of next week. If you haven’t heard of the Little Free Library movement, you should really check it out here.

I’ve had the library box sitting in my lounge room for the past couple of weeks, getting steadily dinged up by the kids and generally being in the way. But with a few days off over the weekend, there’s hope that the brick column for it to sit on in the yard will be built, and that the library can take its place on the front lawn.

With that exciting possibility looming, it’s time to start looking at stocking the library! This week, my mum dropped off a big box of my old books from home, which have been sitting gathering dust for the past 15 years or so. My first instinct was to just chuck them all in the library without looking at them, but of course, when it comes to books, it’s virtually impossible not to turn each one over a few times in your hands and reminisce.

And I’m very glad that I did, as there were a couple of gems that simply had to go into my personal library, and not out into the Little Free one.

The first is Catwitch by Una Woodruff, with text by Lisa Tuttle. As indicated by the attribution, this book is not so much about the story of a cat who becomes a witch, as it is about the beautiful illustrations by Woodruff.

I think I read this book a few hundred times.

The other is The Animals of Plashes Wood – Rufus the Fox, written and illustrated by Graeme Sims.

Where Catwitch was all about magic and fantasy, Rufus the Fox is about life and death. I’m not quite sure what it was about this book that endeared it to me so (especially since the inside cover bears my brother’s name!), considering it is solely about the death of a fox who is shot by a farmer. Maybe it’s the honesty of it, portrayed so simply in a children’s picture book. This one will be staying at home too.

Is there a book from your childhood which makes you nostalgic?

ABIA 2016 Shortlist

The 2016 Australian Book Industry Awards shortlist has just been announced, and it pretty much reads like my ARC wishlist. Although the awards cover a variety of categories, including children’s books, non-fiction, illustrated works, young adult and the like, the two categories of most interest to me are the General Fiction Book of the Year, and Literary Fiction Book of the Year.

The contenders for those categories are,

General fiction book of the year

  • The Lake House (Kate Morton, A&U)
  • Close Your Eyes (Michael Robotham, Sphere)
  • The Perfumer’s Secret (Fiona McIntosh, Michael Joseph)
  • The Patterson Girls (Rachael Johns, Mira)

Literary fiction book of the year

  • The Natural Way of Things (Charlotte Wood, A&U)
  • The Other Side of the World (Stephanie Bishop, Hachette)
  • The Secret Chord (Geraldine Brooks, Hachette)
  • The World Without Us (Mireille Juchau, Bloomsbury)

I’m going to put my prediction out there (having read none of those books!!) and put my money on Kate Morton’s The Lake House and Geraldine Brooks’ The Secret Cord.

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Brooks is a pretty safe bet in my opinion. She has already taken out the Pulitzer Prize for her 2006 novel ‘March‘, and her ‘People of the Book’ is up there as one of the best I have ever read. She has an amazing gift for storytelling, which weaves vivid characters together in the most unlikely ways. Her worlds are always so rich with historic fact that they feel so authentic, yet retain a beautiful, wistful quality. They are in some way almost nostalgic, making you miss people and places you have never experienced.

And that brings me to the reasoning behind picking Morton’s ‘The Lake House’, whose ‘The Forgotten Garden’ was a beautiful read that I recommended to every passing stranger at the time of its release. Morton has a similar approach to Brooks with historical fiction, giving her characters authenticity through accurate period details. A lighter read than Brooks however, Morton is perhaps more accessible to a wider audience. It’s the kind of book I’d recommend for someone wanting an ‘easy read’ who can’t quite bring themselves to read ‘Chick Lit’. Enough substance to enthrall, yet able to be devoured over a weekend.

I’ll be interested to see who takes out the awards, which are announced on the 18th of May.