Archive for the ‘Book Reviews’ Category


You Review: Rooms by Lauren Oliver

Thursday, October 16th, 2014

Reviewed by Marianne van der Wel

Richard Walker has died. His ex-wife Caroline and their children, Minna and Trenton, have just arrived at his country house for their inheritance. But they are not the only ones in the house.

Long-dead former residents Alice and Sandra are there as well, watching while the Walkers try to sort through the detritus of Richard’s past.

All of them are haunted by secrets of their own, secrets that are trying to get free, because everything surfaces in the end.

Rooms by Lauren Oliver is set up like a house tour. You slowly go through it. In each new room memories resurface and the characters move towards the inevitable revelations of their secrets. All the characters reveal a bit of their stories at a time. At the start it feels a bit fractured, but once everyone has had their first say, you can start to see the bigger picture.

In the beginning of the story I did not like any of the characters. They all seemed petty and self-absorbed. But as it unfolded, my dislike of them became less. You get to know them and they become more human. Unfortunately, this made the beginning of the book a bit dull, and even irritating at times. I’m glad I kept reading, though. It’s a tragic story, with its own sort of happy ending. It’s the best the characters could have hoped for.

In the end I really liked this book. There isn’t much in the way of character development, but that is not what it’s about. You have to give the character a chance to tell their story. And this story is told in a very natural way. You can feel the slow build of nothing to suspenseful, and finally the satisfaction of knowing that everyone is where they should be. This is a very special kind of ghost story.

You Review: The latest releases, reviewed by ABC customers.

There is no ebook of Rooms available yet, but there are ebooks of Lauren Oliver’s previous work: Before I Fall, Delirium (but not the rest of that series, sadly), Panic, Liesl & Po and Spindlers.

You Review: The Perfectionists – Sara Shepard

Saturday, October 11th, 2014

Reviewed by Esmée de Heer

Welcome to Beacon High, hell on earth for underachievers. The Perfectionists by Sara Shepard, who you know from the hit series Pretty Little Liars, tells the story of five girls who get fed up with Nolan Hotchkiss, the richest kid in all of Beacon Heights. Nolan is the worst kind of rich kid, one who uses his money to humiliate others and to always get what he wants. No wonder they want to kill him. The girls come up with their devious plan during Film Studies, taught by their oh-so-hot, but oh-so-bad teacher Mr. Granger. But when they execute said plan during a party, things go horribly wrong. Nolan ends up actually dead and the girls are being set up by the murderer, whoever that may be.

The book is a solid mystery and definitely reminiscent of Pretty Little Liars. The high school drama is unescapable and the love triangles are aplenty. There is enough juicy gossip to make the book last and every girl has her own secret and reason to want to get revenge on Nolan.

While reading The Perfectionists you do have to ignore some of the obvious flaws. Of course it makes sense that the girls wouldn’t be able to go to the police, because the police is in on the conspiracy. Of course the girls also all have difficult home situations and not a single adult is to be trusted. And of course they all have at least one boy swooning over them! What would a mystery be without a litte (read: a lot of) romance? But at the same time the book is fun and suspenseful and all the characters are different and interesting enough to make it work.

The setting of Beacon High as a high school where excelling is equally and maybe even more important than just being pretty was refreshing, and the girls are not just empty headed vessels for pretty clothing. They deal with pretty big problems besides their every day teenage problems, and the author comes up with detailed back stories that still leave plenty of room for future mysteries. The Perfectionists is a great beach read and a definite must for anyone who loves previous work of Shepard. The mystery will definitely keep you turning pages and when you’re done, you will want even more.

Blogmistress’s note: The Perfectionists was supposed to be published in the summer of 2014, but, as you can see, has been significantly delayed.  In fact, the US edition shows both a publication date of this month AND May 2015.  Go figure.  The UK edition shown above can be ordered now, though, and delivered within the week (if we don’t have it in stock).

You Review: The latest releases, reviewed by ABC customers.

Esmée, together with Charlotte, runs the Bored to Death Book Club. Head on over to see if you might like to join them!

There is no ebook available of The Perfectionists yet (…see my note on publication date confusion above), but there are ebooks available of her previous works: The Heiresses, Pretty Little Liars (and other books in that series) and The Lying Game (and other books in that series).

Book Review: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys – Gerard Way, Shaun Simon and Becky Cloonan

Friday, October 10th, 2014

Reviewed by Michael Minneboo

Before we get down to the nitty gritty of The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys, lets enjoy this video by My Chemical Romance first:

I hope you like the song and video, because the song, and the album that it is on, Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys are actually the prequel to the comic, written by Shaun Simon and Gerard Way, who is the lead vocalist of My Chemical Romance and comic book writer of interesting stuff like The Umbrella Academy.

(Fun fact: comic book author Grant Morrison also makes an appearance in the music video. He’s the bald bad guy killing the Killjoys.)

The comic picks the story up a decade later. You see, the Killjoys were a team of revolutionaries who lost their lives while saving a mysterious young girl from the tyrannical mega corporation Better Living Industries. Today the Killjoys live on in memory, as BLI widens its reach and freedom fades. The girl is now grown up and in her late teens. A new group of revolutionaries, who live in the desert and get their inspiration from the original Killjoys, think the Girl is their saviour. It’s a role she doesn’t know anything about, but when the story unfolds she will play a pivotal role in the revolution against oppression. The group of outlaws consists of a bunch of narcissistic teens that seemed to be worried more about their hair looking good than the victims they shoot. As characters, these outlaws aren’t very interesting, and as a reader I didn’t care that much about their fate.

The trade paperback The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys collects all the six chapters of the story. Not knowing beforehand the comic was a sequel to a record, I felt kind of lost in the first two chapters, getting to know this Strange New World of Way and Simon, but I got into the groove of the story soon enough and especially enjoyed Becky Cloonan’s energetic art work. Cloonan seems to take some visual cues from manga comics even though she uses the grammar of American comic books.

Basically, there are three storylines that unfold simultaneously. The first storyline concerns the Girl coming of age and finding her destiny. The second storyline is about Korse, the Scarecrow that originally killed the Killjoys (Grant Morrison in the video). He’s a homosexual who has a secret relationship that gets discovered by his BLI employees. For Korse there is no alternative than to go head-to-head with the head of the company. The third story arc is about two porno droids trying to escape Battery City. I found their journey to be the most compelling.  Interestingly, it is the droids that show the most human emotions.

Stories such as these always call to mind outstanding literary narratives such as Brave New World by Aldous Huxley and 1984 by George Orwell. To me, Killjoys is just another modern-day, blockbuster variation on the dystopian future as depicted in these aforementioned classic novels. The BLI corporation on the surface seems like another version of Big Brother as it runs Battery City, in which regular citizens are like enslaved consumers, living in fear for breaking the law set by BLI. Draculoids and Scarecrows enforce this law. They are scrupulous and scary employees of BLI who wear white masks and heavy artillery. In Battery City everything seems easy and secure. People can erase their emotions through tablets and get off with porn droids. As BLI considers emotion to be a weakness, whoever steps out of line gets neutralised.

It’s not hard to recognize in BLI’s wish to strip citizens of their individuality and making them into mindless consumers, a nod towards the way the Western world is heading today, which makes this futuristic story quite relevant. Nowadays, big corporations seem to be more powerful than governments. Citizens are brought up to be compliant consumers. With our everlasting addiction to our smart phones, apps, the web and other consumer products, it seems that the vision of the citizen-as-robot the comic book makers present us doesn’t seem to be too far off reality as it is.

Having said that, even though the art work looks good and on the whole The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys is an enjoyable read, because it plays with familiar dystopian tropes I did feel like I’ve read this story already, many times before.

Michael Minneboo is a journalist specialised in comic books and visual culture. Read more of his work on his excellent website, www.michaelminneboo.nl.

You Review: Made for You – Melissa Marr

Friday, October 3rd, 2014

Reviewed by Jennifer Kneijber

Eva Tilling has it all: an attractive boyfriend, plenty of admirers, popular friends and a stalker.

Our story sets itself in a small town in America, where nothing out of ordinary ever happens and the lives of the townsfolk are uneventful. Until disaster strikes and a series of unusual crimes take place.

Eva is one of the victims. She gets run over by a car after leaving a party, and she is the first of several. After she wakes up in the hospital, she has a new strange skill: she can see the deaths of people upon touching them. With the help of her friends she tries to uncover the identity of the culprit.

When I first picked up Made for You by Melissa Marr, I wasn’t sure what to think of it. The writing seemed mediocre and the protagonist seemed kind of shallow. However, throughout the book it became easier to empathize with the characters. This being said, I still had a hard time connecting to them.

One thing that made Made for You an interesting, haunting, creepy and funny read was the rotation of the three different narrators. Throughout the book the point of view switches between Eva, her best friend Grace, and the Eva-obsessed Judge. We get to know that Judge is a close friend of Eva’s without knowing his real name. As a reader you try to figure out who could be behind the crimes and I couldn’t put it down until the puzzle pieces fit together and Judge’s identity was revealed.  Even though this book suffered from clichés, it remained an interesting and intriguing book until the last page.

Before I read this novel I hadn’t read any of Melissa Marr’s books, but after reading this one I am not sure if I’m interested in picking up her other works, even though this is her first semi-realistic, contemporary YA novel.

You Review: The latest releases, reviewed by ABC customers.

Three other Melissa Marr books have been You Reviewed over the years: Graveminder, Faery Tales & Nightmares and Loki’s Wolves.

There is no ebook available of Made for You as of yet, but there are ebooks of her older titles: Wicked Lovely (and other books in that series), Graveminder, The Arrivals and Carnival of Secrets.

Book Review: Over Easy – Mimi Pond

Thursday, October 2nd, 2014

Review by Michael Minneboo

Have you always wondered what sort of world is hidden behind the counter of your favourite bistro, bar or restaurant? Well, if you read Over Easy by Mimi Pond you’ll get a very entertaining and revealing look in the world of waiting.

Frankly I couldn’t wait tables if my life depended on it. I am simply too clumsy to be a waiter. Thankfully, Margaret Pond isn’t. When she is denied financial aid to cover her last year of art school, Margaret gets a job as a dishwasher in the Imperial Café and soon becomes a waitress.

Over Easy is Mimi Pond’s freewheeling graphic memoir about her life and times at Mama’s Royal Café in Oakland, California, in the late seventies. An era in which the sensitivities of the hippie movement faded away and were replaced by Punk’s angry outlook on life. It’s also the era in which the staff of the Imperial Cafe, besides having a coffee and a fag, take a recreational sniff of coke on their lunch breaks.

Pond is a cartoonist, illustrator and writer. She has created comics for different publications including the Los Angeles Times. Television credits include the first full-length episode of The Simpsons, and episodes for the shows Designing Women and Pee-Wee’s Playhouse.

On the menu we have an interesting collection of colourful characters, Margaret’s colleagues. There is the friendly Lazlo Merengue who runs the place – if you apply for a job and tell a joke he likes, you are hired. There is Sammy the cook and wanna-be poet, who marries one of the waitresses on a whim while they’re spending a drunk weekend in Reno. And then there are the lovely waitresses, each with their own outspoken personality. They all imagine themselves to be the stars of the little dramatic theatre that is the Imperial Café. All the regulars and the staff have pseudonyms and Margaret is christened Madge.

The book is filled with well-written observations, and I especially liked the way Mimi portrayed the characters. Her voice-over is very witty and light of tone. For instance, this is how she describes Helen, one of the waitresses: ‘Helen is tall, and without being what you’d call classically beautiful, manages to pull off this punk Lauren Bacall thing that drives men wild. She has deadpan delivery, and she hardly ever smiles. But when she does, all men become her slaves. And if you make her laugh, well, the clouds part, the sun comes out, life looks great again. I am determined to learn her secrets.’

The Imperial Café community seems to be as without direction as the plot of the book, which moves along at a slow, free-wheeling pace. The story climaxes at a poetry night on Halloween, if one could call it a climax. Actually the book is pretty much open-ended and on the last page the story seems to be far from finished. Let’s hope Pond will have a sequel finished soon.

Michael Minneboo is a journalist specialised in comic books and visual culture. Read more of his work on his excellent website, www.michaelminneboo.nl.