Archive for the ‘Book Reviews’ Category

You Review: The Bees – Laline Paull

Friday, August 22nd, 2014

Reviewed by Oona Juutinen

Most dystopian novels nowadays seem to be variations of the same few plots and patterns, all with similar protagonists and generally not much to get excited about. Amongst this bunch of The Hunger Games copies, Laline Paull’s book The Bees is like a breath of fresh air. Original to boot, I can honestly say I have never before read something like it: a novel from the point of view of a honey bee.

Flora 717 is born a sanitation worker, the lowest of the low in her hive. The hive is highly organized and the mantra of the bees is to accept, obey, and serve. But there is something different about Flora 717. Unlike her kind usually, she is able to speak, and she appears to have been born with a rebellious streak. Flora ends up challenging the established order of the hive, where each bee has her own place, where anything and everything is supposed to be sacrificed for the wellbeing of the hive – and where only the queen is allowed to breed. Before long Flora 717, like all other dystopian heroines, will find out that in a society that relies on sameness and order, being different can be extremely dangerous.

While The Bees is probably not a book that will stay with me for years (unlike The Handmaid’s Tale, for example, to which the back cover text somewhat ambitiously compares the book), it was definitely a fun and refreshing read. Having read the book, you will never again look at bees the same way you did before.

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

Ebook available for The Bees, as well as for the other books compared to it, The Hunger Games and The Handmaid’s Tale.

You Review: Munich Airport – Greg Baxter

Thursday, August 21st, 2014

Reviewed by Anouschka van Leeuwen

It took me a while to start writing this review after I had finished Munich Airport. That is because the book’s heavy subject and its eerie atmosphere needed some time to sink in.

The book starts when the main male character (whose name is never disclosed), his father, and an official from the American embassy are waiting at Munich Airport to board their plane. We soon discover the object of their travels: they have come to Berlin to collect the body of the main character’s sister Miriam, who died of starvation, apparently of her free will.

From that point on, the story never moves forward, only backwards. The book mostly consists of memories of the main character’s youth and of the three weeks leading up to the present, when he and his father stayed in Berlin waiting for Miriam’s body to be released by the authorities. By spending time in Berlin, where Miriam lived the last years of her life, her brother tries to find out what led to her illness and ultimately her death. He speaks to the people that knew her, spends time among her stuff, and joins his father for a tour of the vicinity. It soon becomes apparent that there is much left unsaid between not only the two of them but also between them and Miriam. These issues are dealt with in a serious manner, although the book also contains some humorous, almost cynical dialogues between father and son.

I found that the style and structure of the book suited the overall themes very well. In between tales of the past, the reader is taken back to the present at the airport, thereby maintaining the sense of waiting, of urgency, of impending bad luck. Also, the fact that Miriam died of starvation leads the male character to obsessively focus on his own eating pattern. Indeed, when you start paying attention to it there is an awful lot of eating and drinking in the book. I thought that this focus on food conveyed the overall ‘hunger’ of the characters to obtain love and happiness without being too obvious about it.

The author/main character describes Munich Airport as ‘blue’, in a quite literal sense that the interior and the lighting give off a blue hue. The same characterization can be used in a metaphorical sense for the feeling that is generated by the book as a whole. The story is a raw and compelling report of troublesome family ties, complicated relationships, and getting to grips with feelings of guilt. It left me speechless for a while – but I’m sure that in due course, I will look at some of Greg Baxter’s other work.

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

Ebook available for Munich Airport, as well as for his earlier books The Apartment and A Preparation for Death.

You Review: We Are Called To Rise – Laura McBride

Wednesday, August 6th, 2014

Reviewed by Kayleigh Goudsmit

In We Are Called to Rise, Laura McBride tells us about ‘when the worst in life brings out the best in us’. The story is told from four perspectives, each dealing with posttraumatic stress disorder in their own way – either because they experience it, they see a family member struggling with it, or tragedy happens to them because of it.

From the first page, I loved the book. The writing is very good and the voices are genuine. One of the protagonists is the third-grader Bakshim. My biggest pet peeve is that writers often give the children in their novels a voice beyond their years, but McBride gets it just right with Bakshim.

It is easy to empathize with the characters, and because of this it took me a while to finish the book. Sometimes the situation described was so oppressive that I felt I had to put away the book and take a break from it. The thought of not finishing did cross my mind, but in the end I’m glad I read on. I loved this book, even if it made me feel sad, because the writer shows that while not everything will end well, life may end up giving you back your belief in the human race.

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

Kayleigh can also be found on Twitter: @KayleighGoudsmt.

You Review: The Pearl That Broke Its Shell – Nadia Hashimi

Monday, August 4th, 2014

Reviewed by Şirin Tugbay

I’m not sure how I feel about Nadia Hashimi’s The Pearl That Broke Its Shell. The blurbs will tell you this: It’s a story of two women in two very different Afghanistans: one on the brink of modernizations several generations ago, and the other on the brink of collapse under the pressure of the war between the Taliban and the Western forces. These two women, Rahima and her great-great-grandmother Shekiba face similar problems being women in a society that does not have any role for women besides bearing sons and doing housework.

Towards the beginning, the slow build-up of the stories of Rahima and Shekiba and the slightly didactic way certain cultural aspects of Afghanistan were being explained within their stories exhausted me and made me wish for a better writer. However, the more I read, the more invested I became in Rahima and a better life for her.  I pressed on, aching for all women anywhere who go through such hardships.

Through Rahima, The Pearl that Broke Its Shell deals with questions that most of us living in Western countries would not really think consciously about in this decade (the right to education for girls, the freedom for girls to exist without being seen as indecent, women’s biggest achievement being more than the birth of sons, etc). Even harder it is to read these same questions echoed in Shekiba’s life several generations ago. It is frustrating and heart-breaking to read about Rahima and think of child-brides like her existing today, but I found it even more frustrating to see how little has changed in the role of women between the generations of these characters.

After reading more about Nadia Hashimi and her American-Afghan context, I am triggered to read more from Afghan writers still living in the region, purely for the comparison of how similar issues are told from a less Western point of view.

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

Şirin can also be found on Twitter: @sirintugbay.

There is an ebook of The Pearl That Broke Its Shell available here.

You Review: Don’t Try to Find Me – Molly Brown

Friday, August 1st, 2014

Reviewed by Sara Raap

I have to be honest here, when I saw that Don’t Try To Find Me by Holly Brown was recommended for those who loved Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn I was intrigued. But does this book live up to Gone Girl, a book that people seem to love or hate, not much in between?

Marley is a fourteen-year-old girl from a happy, normal suburban family. Dad Paul is a control freak, and mom Rachel is a homely wife with a job to keep her occupied. They have no money troubles, they live in a nice former farm in a small town; in short, everything seems to be well.

But then Marley disappears, leaving behind her iPhone, iPad and a note on the whiteboard in the kitchen, telling her parents “Don’t Try To Find Me”. Of course they don’t listen, and Paul starts an online campaign, using Facebook and Twitter and a special website to draw attention to their lost daughter. Rachel seems lost, not knowing what to do or how to react. Soon it is revealed that she has her own secrets, secrets that made her lie to the police about where she was the morning Marley disappeared.

The book follows Marley and what happens to her, and Rachel in her own struggles and search for Marley. The twist in the story is not as shocking (or sick) as the one in Gone Girl, but for me, that made the story more real. Marley is a pretty grown-up fourteen-year-old, maybe a bit too grown-up to be realistic. However, Rachel’s side of the story felt very human and very realistic. Partly this is because of her flaws; she is not a perfect mother or wife. It is also because the other people in the story, Paul and others, react in very human ways. Everybody is flawed but everybody tries their best.

I read this book in one day, it is a quick read. On the one hand that is because it is not very surprising, it is a ‘real’ story. On the other hand, it doesn’t need to be anything else, it is good as it is. I would recommend this book to those readers who like real-life drama, and those who felt that Gone Girl was just a bit too much. I enjoyed this book, and give it four out of five stars.

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

Read more of Sara’s book reviews on her blog,

An ebook of Don’t Try to Find Me is available here.  There’s also an ebook of Gone Girl.