To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

Published: 15th April 2014 (print)/15th April 2014 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers/Recorded Books
Pages: 355/8 hours 22 minutes
Narrator:  Laura Knight Keating
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★  – 2 Stars

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is the story of Lara Jean, who has never openly admitted her crushes, but instead wrote each boy a letter about how she felt, sealed it, and hid it in a box under her bed. But one day Lara Jean discovers that somehow her secret box of letters has been mailed, causing all her crushes from her past to confront her about the letters: her first kiss, the boy from summer camp, even her sister’s ex-boyfriend, Josh. As she learns to deal with her past loves face to face, Lara Jean discovers that something good may come out of these letters after all.

I didn’t really like this book but I am not going to tear it apart because I was more confused than anything. Confused why it’s so loved, confused why people love Peter, and confused because it was a strange book where nothing happens.

The premise is reasonable, but the execution was unsatisfactory. I understood the sister dynamic that Han was aiming for, the loss of a big sister when she moves, the little sister relationship and the adoration of the cute boy next door, but something was missing. There was family charm and Han explains the relationship well, I just never felt it.

The narrative was boring and I struggled to make myself finish it. The fact I was on a 17 hour flight with little else to do is the only reason I kept going. With the only plot point this forced romance and a small mystery about the letters, it wasn’t much to hold onto into terms of depth and interest.

I am seriously going to have to watch this movie now because I did not get the adorable Peter vibe from this book. I got the Peter is a tool and he is annoying and cannot fathom why people think he is a sweet, charming person? This relationship between them is fake, and even when Lara Jean convinces herself she likes him for real, it still felt fake. I did not believe for a minute they actually liked each other like that. They may have become friends, may have got to know each other better and like who they were, but there was no romance. The triangle was unrealistic and the whole thing felt unbelievable. And Peter remained unlikable.

With no character growth I felt nobody learnt anything, and I seriously cannot mention the anticlimactic ending enough because the point of this novel is that ending and it fails. It doesn’t even sit like an open ended, audience decides thing, it just ends.

I actually had an ending in mind based on how Han had constructed this which would have been a great ending to a lacklustre book, but it never happened. I actually felt betrayed that this perfect ending was practically laid out before us which never eventuates. It would have made everything worthwhile if that had happened, but alas, it ended on a strange cliff-hanger (if that’s what we can call it), for book number two. I don’t really think I will be running out to read it, but if I find myself on another 17 hour flight with nothing to do I might pick it up.

You can purchase To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Angus and Robinson | Dymocks | Wordery

Fishpond | Amazon Aust | Amazon | Audible

Truly Devious (#1) by Maureen Johnson

Published: 16th January 2018 (print)/16th January 2018 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Harper Collins/Harper Audio
Pages: 416/10 hours 12 minutes
Narrator: Kate Rudd
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Young Adult / Mystery
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

Ellingham Academy is a famous private school in Vermont for the brightest thinkers, inventors, and artists. It was founded by Albert Ellingham, an early twentieth century tycoon, who wanted to make a wonderful place full of riddles, twisting pathways, and gardens. “A place” he said, “where learning is a game.”

Shortly after the school opened, his wife and daughter were kidnapped. The only real clue was a mocking riddle listing methods of murder, signed with the frightening pseudonym, Truly Devious. It became one of the great unsolved crimes of American history.

True-crime aficionado Stevie Bell is set to begin her first year at Ellingham Academy, and she has an ambitious plan: She will solve this cold case. That is, she will solve the case when she gets a grip on her demanding new school life and her housemates: the inventor, the novelist, the actor, the artist, and the jokester. But something strange is happening. Truly Devious makes a surprise return, and death revisits Ellingham Academy. The past has crawled out of its grave. Someone has gotten away with murder.

I finished reading this book and immediately wanted to read it again. I don’t mind waiting for the next one, I will live on the excellent cliff-hanger for a year if I have to, it will give me a chance to go back and relive the wonderful clues because even that cliff-hanger had clues once I thought about it. It’s divine.

Johnson knows how to write a good mystery and is great at writing a mystery that doesn’t feel too intense or overly complicated. She balances the mystery and the regular story wonderfully but blends them together marvellously.

There are the red herrings, plus my CSI brain went over the top and I already have a suspect for the 1930s case, not so much for the current one. I love that nothing is what it seems and what might just be a shy or reclusive character is now a suspect. Having a mystery around a bunch of teenagers is a great premise and in a grand old school with grounds and hidden tunnels is a prime location.

Johnson is new to writing these kinds of mysteries but she already a master at creating a fascinating and captivating mystery filled with unique characters that have quirks and fantastic personalities. Stevie is a great character, she is passionate and a tad obsessive about the Ellingham mystery. Stevie loves true crime podcasts and detective books which drive her passion and thinking processes. But I also love that she has her own flaws; she has anxiety, she isn’t the friendliest and she is often lost in her own world. It was refreshing to read about a character like her, driven and focused and perplexed by other people.

One thing I adored was listening to it as an audiobook. Rudd does a fantastic job and the tone and voice of Stevie is natural and flows seamlessly. As with all of Johnson’s books there is so much of herself in these words. The story is written the way she speaks and tweets which was a delight, plus Rudd’s voice sounded like Johnson’s which, for me, was like having Johnson herself in my ear which made it even more wonderful.

You can purchase Truly Devious via the following

Booktopia | Book Depository Audible

Amazon | Amazon Aust | Wordery

Angus & Robertson | Dymocks

 Fishpond | QBD

 

The 65-Storey Treehouse by Andy Griffiths

Published: 12 August 2015 (print)/12 August 2015 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
  Pan Macmillan Australia /Bolinda Audio
Pages: 384/2 Hours 13 mins
Narrator: Stig Wemyss
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Junior Fiction
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

Andy and Terry’s amazing 65-Storey Treehouse now has a pet-grooming salon, a birthday room where it’s always your birthday (even when it’s not), a room full of exploding eyeballs, a lollipop shop, a quicksand pit, an ant farm, a time machine and Tree-NN: a 24-hour-a-day TV news centre keeping you up to date with all the latest treehouse news, current events and gossip. Well, what are you waiting for? Come on up!

With a touch of Jack and the Beanstalk, time travel and the film Them! it’s a curious adventure Andy and Terry go on. Jill comes in with her logic and reason to bring the boys into line and solve their problems all of which combine to be a pretty normal day in the treehouse.

In this new adventure you learn new words, get to travel through history in a wheelie bin, albeit a smidge inaccurately, but it is fun. TreeNN is a fun addition as well, ending chapters with something different. I liked the break in formula in this one, no book talk, instead we need a building inspection from Inspector Bubblewrap. This prompts the time travel and all sorts of mishaps as they try to travel back 6.5 years and end up at all different points through history.

Admittedly, I couldn’t get into this story as easily as the others. I liked the diversion from the normal structure because that can be boring after a while. It was fun but not as engaging as the previous stories. I also got a visual copy in the end because while Wemyss has done a brilliant job in the past to compensate, I needed Denton’s illustrations this time to appreciate some of the jokes and references.

The Treehouse series continues to grow and change with each book and the creativity and inventiveness of Griffiths and Denton is amazing. The jokes are clever and the illustrations are so detailed that there is always something to discover in them. The two make a perfect team and while I didn’t love this storey as much as previous storeys, I look forward to seeing what the next storey in the treehouse has to offer.

You can purchase The 65-Storey Treehouse via the following

QBD | Dymocks | Book Depository

Booktopia | Angus and Robertson | Fishpond

Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

Wordery | Publisher

The 39-Storey Treehouse by Andy Griffiths

Published: 1st September 2013 (print)/28th Sep 2013 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
  Pan Macmillan Australia /Bolinda Audio
Pages: 352/2 hours 5 minutes
Narrator: Stig Wemyss
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Junior Fiction
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

Andy and Terry’s amazing treehouse has 13 new levels including a chocolate waterfall, a non-erupting active volcano, an opera house, a baby-dinosaur petting zoo, Andy and Terry’s Believe it or Else! museum, a not-very-merry merry-go-round, a boxing elephant called the Trunkinator, an X-Ray room, a disco with light-up dance floor, the world’s scariest roller-coaster and a top secret 39th level that hasn’t even been finished yet!

So what are you waiting for? Come on up!

One thing that can be said about the audiobook experience of the Treehouse series is that Stig Wemyss really enjoys his role as narrator, and with the freedom and challenge of engaging children in an audio book his enthusiasm is a great draw.

Despite this, I do think this would have been a good one to read rather than listen to, there sounds like there would be a great assortment of pictures based on what happens. That is to say it wasn’t still enjoyable. As before, audio prompts, music, and sound effects make this just as enjoyable, maybe even more so; though I do feel like Terry’s drawings are being neglected, considering how much he talks about drawing in the books.

With another 13 storeys added to the treehouse another adventure awaits. Andy tells us what new things they have added to the treehouse, each as exciting and improbably and delightful as the previous things. Andy and Terry once again have a book due but Terry has a solution he’s been working on which naturally causes mayhem.

Terry also got a spotlight moment and a reprieve from being the daft friend, his drawing skills become essential and his illustration skills are commended. There’re also songs in this story, some more poems than songs, but one definite song, which Wemyss has to sing which was…an experience. I’m also learning that there will always be a recap of the book within the book, but thankfully it’s a fast recap.

Griffiths certainly had worked out a rhythm with this series. It’s repetitive, cheeky, silly, and all the fun and gross (but not too gross) things that make kids laugh. Once you get used to the structure of these books they become quite enjoyable, no matter your age.

You can purchase The 39-Storey Treehouse via the following

QBD | Dymocks | Book Depository

Booktopia | Angus and Robertson | Fishpond

Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

Wordery | Publisher

The Inaugural Meeting of the Fairvale Ladies Book Club by Sophie Green

Published: 8th August 2017 (print) / 2nd January 2018 (audio)Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Hachette Australia / W F Howes
Pages: 418 / 12 hrs and 44 mins
Narrator: Fiona Macleod
Format:
 Audio
Genre: Realistic Fiction/ Historical
★   ★   ★  – 3.5 Stars

Books bring them together – but friendship will transform all of their lives. Five very different women come together in the Northern Territory of the 1970s by an exceptional new Australian author

In 1978 the Northern Territory has begun to self-govern. Cyclone Tracy is a recent memory and telephones not yet a fixture on the cattle stations dominating the rugged outback. Life is hard and people are isolated. But they find ways to connect.

Sybil is the matriarch of Fairvale Station, run by her husband, Joe. Their eldest son, Lachlan, was Joe’s designated successor but he has left the Territory – for good. It is up to their second son, Ben, to take his brother’s place. But that doesn’t stop Sybil grieving the absence of her child.

With her oldest friend, Rita, now living in Alice Springs and working for the Royal Flying Doctor Service, and Ben’s English wife, Kate, finding it difficult to adjust to life at Fairvale, Sybil comes up with a way to give them all companionship and purpose: they all love to read, and she forms a book club.

Mother-of-three Sallyanne is invited to join them. Sallyanne dreams of a life far removed from the dusty town of Katherine where she lives with her difficult husband, Mick.

Completing the group is Della, who left Texas for Australia looking for adventure and work on the land.

Five different women united by one need: to overcome the vast distances of Australia’s Top End with friendship, tears, laughter, books and love.

I’m not sure what I was expecting from this book, but I know it wasn’t what I got. The title leads you to believe there is a bigger focus on the bookclub, but it is a small part really. It does kick start the events in the novel essentially. It brings together these five women and starts to interlock their lives over the next few years. So it does make sense if you think of it like that.

As a whole I enjoyed it. I liked the old fashioned rural aspect to it and in a way you forgot it was set in the 1970s. So much of it just spoke of country life and female friendships that the era was no barrier. When I remembered that it was set in the past it made me think a bit more about it. Green shows us what it was like on a farm back then, how isolating it was when there were no internet to connect properties to the outside world, when flying or driving for an hour got you to the nearest town and other human contact. Of course the same is true for rural properties now, but there is a lot of focus on how when the weather turned, you really could be cut off from the outside world for months with no news or contact.

The characters are what really drive this story. Each of their lives and the conflicts within them are the focus of the story and are what keep you reading; finding out if they’ll be ok, whether their anxieties will be relieved and how their lives will change through the course of their actions and the actions of others. Their friendship is inspiring and Green uses their bookclub catch ups to connect their stories and enhance these friendship connections further.

Green balances the story nicely between making it an easy read, and making it realistic. There are dramas and heartbreak, social issues and personal triumph and tragedy. It was warm and showed the importance and value of female friendships but had complexities and anguish as well. Crossing over multiple years helps explore these issues as well. Green jumps ahead in time, using the wet and dry seasons as a timeframe as a lot of the story takes place of Fairvale and often skipping over months. I liked that the story covers so much ground because it allows the story to be told properly, never really feeling drawn out or slow, and adding that realism factor and preventing Green from rushing any of the emotional journey to fit into a shorter timeframe.

One thing that stood out was that I did think it ended very abruptly. There was a sense of wrapping up and Green does impart a concluding style to her writing, but when it did end, I was a bit surprised. There are a few quick fixes and easy solutions which felt jarring and strange, often coming from nowhere and feeling out of place, even for the 1980s. It was also strange having gone through a whole book of well laid out storyline only to have a fast resolution it was a noticeable difference.

The historical connections are there with a list of key events for each passing year listed breaking up the novel, another thing that helps demonstrate the passing of time. But they play such a little part in the grand scheme of things that it was easy to forget that this was set in the past.

I’m glad I picked up this book even if I’m still in two minds about the level of my enjoyment. I think Green has done a wonderful thing with her writing because I could easily see this being a very literary novel but she has managed to keep it a normal story but weaving in dramas and that raise it above being a light hearted and fluffy read as well.

You can purchase The Inaugural Meeting of the Fairvale Ladies Book Club via the following

Booktopia | Book Depository | Audible

Amazon | Amazon Aust | Wordery

Angus & Robertson | Dymocks

 Fishpond | QBD

Previous Older Entries