Review: The Atomic Weight of Secrets or The Arrival of The Mysterious Men in Black

May 30, 2011 at 2:00 pm (4 stars, review) (, , , , , , , )

Courtesy of Bancroft Press

The Atomic Weight of Secrets or The arrival of the Mysterious Men in Black by Eden Unger Bowditch

Pages: 339, hardcover

 ISBN: 9781610880022

Publisher: Bancroft Press

Release Date: March 15th 2011

Genre: Middle Grade / mystery

Source: galley from the publisher


n 1903, five truly brilliant young inventors, the children of the world’s most important scientists, went about their lives and their work as they always had.

But all that changed the day the men in black arrived… (continued on the Goodreads page)

Buy it from: The Book Depository / Amazon

First things first: wow, I was really impressed with the writing. From the very first page, it lured me in. It has this mesmerizing quality that makes this book feel so magical and almost impossible to put down. The writing works well for this MG book (it’s described as YA on Goodreads, but none of the characters are close to teens, and the writing is MG-y). This is the kind of book I wish I had when I was growing up. The writing falls short near the end of the book, but otherwise, is still enjoyable.

The characters feel so real. They’re kid scientists with the ability to create great things. I’m sure some people would find a problem with the little insertions of each child’s life, but I quite liked it. It gave me a insight as to what these kids were like before they were taken from their parents by the men in black. Sort of watching them grow up, so to say. This is especially effective for Faye, who was a horrid, spoiled brat at the beginning. I honestly thought that I was going to hate her, and I worried for a while that she’d remain that way and ruin the book. But, instead, she grew a whole lot. We saw the reasoning behind her brattiness in the first place, and we also see her learn to have friends, and to treat people like, well, people. It’s quite a remarkable change, and I really applaud it.

My second favourite character was Wallace. He’s the character I felt most sorry for. He has a tragic past, where his mother had passed away when he was young, and with her, all the love and affection he ever received. His father had incredibly high expectations of him, and never let him forget it. Amongst all the pressure, Wallace seemed close to cracking. His sweet, secret relationship with his teacher (don’t worry, not THAT kind of relationship), Miss Brett showed just how much his mother’s death had affected him, and it was a bit saddening.

My one issue is the chapter titles. There are two chapter titles for each chapter, and it doesn’t really feel necessary. It feels a bit like overkill. Though, I suppose it’s because I don’t really care for chapter titles.

This is a great book if you want to read something mysterious, or about nerdy kids. Something like Evil Genius by Catherine Jinks.

Cover Art: 2 (one of the downsides of the book. I have no idea what’s going on in the cover)
Plot: 4
Characters: 5
Writing: 4
Level of Interest: 4

Total Rating: 4/5 stars


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Review: The Body Finder

May 21, 2011 at 10:24 pm (3 stars, review) (, , , , , , )

The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting

Pages: 327, paperback

ISBN: 978075537895

Publisher: Headline

Release Date: November 11th, 2010 (First published March 16th 2010)

Genre: YA / romance / mystery / paranormal

Source: library


Violet Ambrose is grappling with two major issues: Jay Heaton and her morbid secret ability. While the sixteen-year-old is confused by her new feelings for her best friend since childhood, she is more disturbed by her “power” to sense dead bodies—or at least those that have been murdered. Since she was a little girl, she has felt the echoes the dead leave behind in the world . . . and the imprints that attach to their killers.

Violet has never considered her strange talent to be a gift; it mostly just led her to find dead birds her cat had tired of playing with. But now that a serial killer has begun terrorizing her small town, and the echoes of the local girls he’s claimed haunt her daily, she realizes she might be the only person who can stop him.

Despite his fierce protectiveness over her, Jay reluctantly agrees to help Violet on her quest to find the murderer—and Violet is unnerved to find herself hoping that Jay’s intentions are much more than friendly. But even as she’s falling intensely in love, Violet is getting closer and closer to discovering a killer . . . and becoming his prey herself.

(Taken from Goodreads)

Buy it from: The Book Depository / Amazon

So, the premise of this book is fairly cool. A girl who can feel the dead. What’s not to love? I’d been eagerly awaiting the Australian release of this book for months, and was rather jealous of everyone who’d read it in the US.

To start with, the writing. It felt awkward at times. For example, “The sound was getting stronger. Not louder, but stronger.” (pg 3). The redundancy makes the writing look dumb, and doesn’t help convey whatever message she’s trying to send across. It just looks silly. What makes it worse is that things like this litter the book, and gets really annoying. Another example, “The large mountain dwarfed the smaller ones that surrounded it.” (pg 40). What else can a large mountain do when it’s surrounded by smaller mountains? No need to state it like that.
In terms of writing, I feel that this book needs to be looked over by an editor a few times. The word “she” is used far too much for my liking. The start of about 80% of each sentence starts with the word “she”. It got to the point where I was close to proclaiming this a DNF.
Also, there were pointless paragraphs of useless bits of information or actions that didn’t add anything to the story. So much needed to be cut out.

There’s a lot of telling, and hardly any showing at all. It’s all “she did this, she felt that, he did something else, and as a result, she felt something.”  It felt weak and barely held my attention.

I’m really glad, though, that Vi’s parents played a part in this book, and have several scenes where they’re there for their daughter. If there’s one thing I hate about YA, it’s that oftentimes, the parents are absent, and the kids are left to their own devices. This was a nice change of pace, and it really helped with developing Vi’s character.

Concerning Violet, she is really creepily obsessed with her best friend. Even if she does like him, it doesn’t make her behavior alright. She gets mad if other girls like him, as if it’s something he can control.

Even worse, I don’t see what Violet sees in Jay. Jay deliberately tried to make Violet jealous, and was so sure that she liked him. Why?

“Because I did and there was just no way that you didn’t feel it too.” – pg 221.

Yeah, you read that right. Because he fancies her, he assumes that she would automatically feel the same. If only life were like that. And instead of being this nice guy, Jay is controlling, and doesn’t allow Vi any free will. He might have been seen as romantic to some, but I was sat there wondering what Vi saw in this controlling bastard. Sure, he might be doing what he does under the pretense of Vi’s safety, but at the same time, he’s enforcing himself as her protector, as if she needs his big, strong manly manliness to keep her safe. No, just no.

And I couldn’t help but notice that even before they became an item, Jay and Vi’s relationship was a really terrible one. Jay is supposed to be her best friend, yet he ignores her and ditches her on the slightest whim. He causes her internal pain by becoming rather chummy with other girls, and he knows what he’s doing the entire time! What kind of friend does that?

I’m not even sure what to say about her other friends. They tease her, anger her, are horribly bitchy to her and then expect her to laugh when they joke at her expense. Vi really needs to find new friends.

As for some of the positives about this book–fear not, there actually were things that I liked–the plot was really engaging. It was suspenseful and kept me on my toes. I wanted to know more about what was happening, and I wanted to become as immersed in this world as possible. Vi’s gift–or curse?–was really well done, though there were a few issues I had with it–like, what about the bugs that were to die each time someone stepped on grass, small stuff like that–but otherwise, it was planned out perfectly.

I’ll be definitely reading the sequel, and reviewing it too.

Cover Art: 3
Plot: 4
Characters: 2
Writing: 2
Level of Interest: 3

Total Rating: 3/5 stars

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Review: Mercy

May 14, 2011 at 1:00 pm (4 stars, review) (, , , , , , , , , )

Mercy by Rebecca Lim

Pages: 280, paperback

ISBN: 9780732291990

Publisher: HarperCollins

Date Released: November 1st, 2010

Genre: YA / romance / angels / mystery

Source: library


Mercy ′wakes′ on a school bus bound for Paradise, a small town where everyone knows everyone else′s business… or thinks they do. But Mercy has a secret life. She is an angel, doomed to return repeatedly to Earth, taking on a new ′persona′ each time she does, in an effort to resolve a cataclysmic rift between heavenly beings.

The first of a brilliant new series sees Mercy meeting Ryan, an eighteen-year-old whose sister was kidnapped two years ago and is presumed dead. When another girl is also kidnapped, Mercy knows she has to act quickly and use extraordinary powers to rescue her, even if it means exposing her true identity. (Taken from Goodreads)

Buy it from: The Book Depository / Amazon

The opening paragraph was interesting enough. It showed that the writing was clear and concise, but sadly, it was followed by this massive info-dump on what the main character looks like, and it turns out that she’s one of those “I’m pretty but I don’t notice it” characters, which makes me groan, since 90% of YA is filled with these characters. Then, she goes on to describe who I can only assume is a potential love interest, because he has far too many far-fetched descriptions like:

“He is tall, broad-shouldered, snake-hipped, flawless as only dreams can be. Like a sun god when he walks.” – pg 4.

To which I can only respond with WTF? what is with that? Why are all possible love interests described so weirdly. I don’t know. Personally, I find it off-putting, especially with odd descriptions like ‘snake-hipped’ and ‘sun god’. I don’t even know how to imagine snake-hipped. Anyone know?
Lim seems to have an interesting and poor way of describing people visually. They only seem to be described as beautiful and stunning, or disgusting and ugly and flawed. There is no middle ground, which makes me feel uneasy, a bit.
Also, the sentence structure was often repeated in a way that made Lim over-describe something. A couple of times per page, you can expect to see something like “Something COMMA synonym COMMA another synonym COMMA continue with sentence as normal.” It’s constantly used and feels unedited. It blocks the otherwise clear writing that could have made this book even more amazing, I think.

There are some parts I’m not so fond about. Pretty, popular girls are sluts and enemies, and the main character often describes other females with some fairly derogatory terms, such as bitch and slut. For the most part, Mercy is at the mercy (hehe) of a pretty, popular bitch who is a bitch just because she can. It’s fairly annoying and overused.

Now, those are the bad things. Onto the good.

The story is fairly fantastic. The premise holds so much promise, and it delivers. There are two major plot points: 1) that Mercy constantly finds herself in the body of a human, not knowing what she needs to do to be finally free and able to find the man she loves, Luc (or at least, she thinks she does) and 2) a girl had gone missing 2 years ago, and the girl’s brother is still out looking for her.

Both plot points intertwine, and at the same time, they feel completely independent of each other. The first is one that isn’t even close to resolution at the end of the book, whilst the second ends on a cheerful note. Both are executed quite well, in an engaging and exciting way. The story is the strongest part of the book, and it really shows and makes up for the writing.

This is a book that I really love, and I can’t wait to get my hands on the sequel, Exile, which comes out in early June, and the third book, Muse, which comes out late October. Isn’t that great? You won’t have to wait long for the next installment! This makes me giddy!

Cover Art: 4
Plot: 5
Characters: 3
Writing: 3
Level of Interest: 4

Total Rating: 4/5 stars

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Review: The Eyre Affair

April 22, 2011 at 4:42 pm (2 stars, review) (, , , , , , , , , , )

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

Pages: 373, paperback

ISBN: 9780340733561

Publisher: Hodder

Date Released:July 19th, 2001

Genre: literary fiction / satire / mystery / sci-fi


Available from The Book Depository


There is another 1985, where London’s criminal gangs have moved into the lucrative literary market, and Thursday Next is on the trail of the new crime wave’s Mr Big.

Acheron Hades has been kidnapping characters from works of fiction and holding them to ransom. Jane Eyre is gone. Missing.

Thursday sets out to find a way into the book to repair the damage. But solving crimes against literature isn’t easy when you also have to find time to halt the Crimean War, persuade the man you love to marry you, and figure out who really wrote Shakespeare’s plays.

Perhaps today just isn’t going to be Thursday’s day. Join her on a truly breathtaking adventure, and find out for yourself. Fiction will never be the same again… (Taken from Goodreads)

It took me a while to get into this book, and to understand what the hell was going on. What I found out was that unless you’re either British, know about British history, or are a classical literary student, then you’ll have a hard time understanding just how witty the author is being in making the Crimean war (go on, Google it. I did) last 130 years, and other obscure British history references.

It takes a while to understand that this is a sort of parallel universe, set in 1985m where technology is amazing (to the point where dodos have been genetically brought out of extinction) and time travel is possible. When you discover these abstract things, it really feels like being hit in the face. I found myself crying out “why? WHY?” often.

The writing reads almost as if Douglas Adams were a pompous literature student sitting on his Macbook in Starbucks. When I read this, I couldn’t help but compare the weirdness of this to that of Hitchhikers. But of course, this is much different, mainly because Hitchhikers was fun, and this is forced, and almost as if Fforde was so impressed by his knowledge of obscure literature, and wants his readers to be impressed too.

It’s written in first person, but is badly done, as a lot of the time, things that Thursday Next, the main character, shouldn’t know are narrated to us. For example:

“My room was exactly like all the other rooms in the hotel.” -pg 119

Now, I have a few issues with that sentence. First off, how does she know what all the other rooms in the hotel look like, especially when this is her first time at this particular hotel? Secondly, how is it relevant? It isn’t, and it just clutters the story with unnecessary details. Sadly, the novel is littered with things like this, and it gets fairly distracting after a while.
Also, pretty much all of chapter 11, and quite a few parts near the end of the novel are written in 3rd person. Now, this awkward, random just from 1st to 3rd person pov is tacky and needs to be heavily edited. If you’re going to have a book written in 1st person pov, the person telling it needs to actually be present during all of those scenes.

Also, I really wanted to know why this world is so immersed in literature. There’s no reason, no explanation, no background. We’re just led to believe that it’s normal for people to be selling bootleg first editions of books on the black market, and it’s totally normal for there to be vending machines that only exist to quote Shakespeare. While I have no issue with a world such as this, and I wish I lived in it, I still want to know WHY they love literature so much that there’s a police force dedicated to it. It'[s such a big thing and surely needs explanation.

The villain wasn’t much of a villain. His motives were all over the place, and he seems to only be evil for the sake of being evil. Plus, he’s almost a Mary-Sue with his invincibility and vast intelligence and whatnot.

And finally, the romance: I thought it was a bit shoddy. In the beginning, Thursday is pretty much obsessed with the man she dated 10 years ago, and when they end up going out again (y’know, 10 years later, and he’s engaged to someone else. No biggie), it’s fairly unimpressive. That Thursday Next steals someone else’s man infuriates me, and does not at all seem endearing or strong. It makes her look desperate, and bitchy.

I had a lot of issues with this book, as you can see. I dunno, if you’re into witty and satirical stories that try to be sarcastic and play with classical literature,, then you might like it.

Cover Art: 4
Plot: 2
Characters: 1
Writing: 2
Level of Interest: 2

Total Rating: 2/5 stars

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Review: Beautiful Malice by Rebecca James

April 20, 2011 at 3:12 pm (4 stars, Australian, review) (, , , , , , , )

Beautiful Malice by Rebecca James

Pages: 304, paperback

ISBN: 9781742373003

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Date Released: May 1st, 2010

Genre: YA / romance / thriller / mystery / contemporary

Source: library


Katherine has moved away from her shattered family to start afresh in Sydney. There she keeps her head down until she is befriended by the charismatic, party-loving Alice, who brings her out of her shell. But there is a dark side to Alice, something seductive yet threatening. And as Katherine learns the truth about Alice, their tangled destinies spiral to an explosive and devastating finale.

An intense and addictive psychological thriller

Buy it now from The Book Depository

It was hard for me to decide if I had liked this book or not. At first, the writing was awkward and annoying. It mostly consisted of the tortured inner monologue of the main character, Katherine. There isn’t much action, and far too often, there’s the painful scrutinising over the same details, hammering it into the readers head that her sister is dead and that Katherine is suffering greatly for it. At first, it was interesting, but 130 pages in, and it’s been repeated about forty times. Ugh. It started to get boring, and I had very little sympathy for her.

There is little plot, just Katherine hanging out with her friends, Alice and Robbie, doing random things. After about 100 pages, the idea that there’s next to no plot makes it okay, since there is a great deal of character growth, for all of the main characters.

Katherine, I couldn’t find myself liking, mostly because after being stuck in her head for 300 pages, I grew tired of her inner monologue repeating how life-changing her sisters death was every few pages. Yes, Katherine, we know that it hurts and it sucks. No need to tell us so often.

Alice, I have mixed feelings about. She’s very contradictory, doesn’t have a stable personality, and is the kind of person that I wouldn’t want to involve myself with. BUT, despite all that, while we get to know her, we see what really goes on in her head. She’s a manipulative bitch (and I use this term sparingly, but really, she is one), who only lives to cause trouble for others. It’s this bitchiness that makes her character so interesting, and she fuels the story. Everything that goes wrong is done by her hand. And believe me, a lot of things go wrong in this story.

Finally, Robbie. He sort of read more like a middle-aged woman’s wet dream than a sexy 20 year old. Half the time, he’s described as being sensitive and having tears in his eyes, and it’s just pathetic seeing him like this. He’s emotional to the point where he barely contributes much to the story.

Now, this story found a place in my heart for two reasons:
1, it’s a story about rape and loss, and dealing with that loss. Katherine is bothered by guilt that it’s HER fault that her sister was raped and killed, which shows that it’s not just the rape victims themselves that are affected.
2, it’s also about betrayal, and learning to cope with this betrayal, even if it means having to do it alone.

As the story progressed, and as Katherine found herself having to deal with Alice’s horrible ways–which include the death of someone she deeply cares for–the story becomes gripping, as we delve into the past and find out what really happened back at the party that Katherine’s sister was drugged at, leading to her rape. And we find out why Alice is so intent on destroying Katherine’s life, though her reasons mightn’t be completely logical or moral.

Cover Art: 4
Plot: 2
Characters: 5
Writing: 3
Level of Interest: 4

Total Rating: 4/5 stars

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Review: The Messenger

January 28, 2011 at 12:25 pm (4 stars, review) (, , , , )

The Messenger by Markus Zusak

Pages: 386, paperback

ISBN: 97803304247338


Date Released: First published in 2002. This edition published in February 2009.

Genre: Literary fiction / Young Adult / mystery

Where I got it from: bought


Meet Ed Kennedy—underage cabdriver, pathetic cardplayer, and useless at romance. He lives in a shack with his coffee-addicted dog, the Doorman, and he’s hopelessly in love with his best friend, Audrey. His life is one of peaceful routine and incompetence, until he inadvertently stops a bank robbery. That’s when the first Ace arrives. That’s when Ed becomes the messenger. . . .

Chosen to care, he makes his way through town helping and hurting (when necessary), until only one question remains: Who’s behind Ed’s mission?

Winner of the 2003 Children’s Book Council Book of the Year Award in Australia, I Am the Messenger is a cryptic journey filled with laughter, fists, and love. (Taken from Goodreads)

This book was quite different from The Book Thief (also by Markus Zusak). The writing style is much the same, fragmented, attempting to be poetic, but incredibly annoying for the tone and the character.
I don’t know, maybe it’s the fact that I’m Australian and encounter these sort of ‘bogan’ people on the train everyday to and from uni, but the characters annoyed me. Their voices, though well constructed, were just too annoying for me to handle. Seriously, I hate how Australians talk, and this book encorporates it.

I did, however, enjoy the plot. Zusak has a way with words that allows emotions to come surging through. I admit, I cried at times during this book, and I laughed, and I seethed with raging fury. I was hopeful for the characters, and was constantly kept on the edge of my seat
Admitedly, I was disappointed at the lack of a climatic ending, but since this is Zusak, I’ll let it slide for the beautiful prose.

Cover: 3
Plot: 4
Characters: 2
Writing: 5
Level of Interest: 5

Total Rating: 4/5

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