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TheAussieZombie

The Aussie Zombie

Zombie, post-apocalyptic and dystopian books are like shoes - you can never have enough.

Pivot Point

Pivot Point - Kasie West

You know that moment you finish a book and think 'why the hell did I wait SO LONG TO READ THIS?' - that feeling is exactly how I felt about Pivot Point.  It's been sitting on my shelves since shortly after its release, and although it had received glowing reviews from nearly every YA reader I know, I still passed it over for other books on at least a dozen occasions.

It was only when I was 'browsing' (aka I have tried 4 or 5 books and they were all rubbish) my shelves for something I knew other people had loved that I decided it was time to get reading Pivot Point - and then I devoured the damn thing.

 

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Source: http://www.theaussiezombie.com/2013/10/review-pivot-point-by-kasie-west.html

A Trick of the Light

A Trick of the Light - Lois Metzger

I've read several books about eating disorders in 2013, but A Trick of the Light is the first one with a male main character, and also the most unique.  The narrator of the story is not Mike, it is anorexia itself, which brings a completely different perspective.  

The story begins as Mike's life starts to fall apart - he's a pretty quiet, unassuming kind of kid, with one best friend and does well in school and in sports - but when his parents relationship starts to disintegrate, he turns to the voice in his head to help him have one thing about his life that he controls - his weight.

 

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Source: http://www.theaussiezombie.com/2013/10/review-trick-of-light-by-lois-metzger.html

Contagious (Infected #2)

Contagious  - Scott Sigler

Immediately after I finished reading the first book in this series, Infected, I had to continue with Contagious.  Although not your classic cliffhanger ending, I wanted to get to the next part of the story, and because I have read Contagious before, I knew that it was more action-packed, intense and gory apocalyptic horror just waiting for me.

Where Infected focuses on three main perspectives in Margaret, Perry and Dew, Contagious broadens to include a host of other unforgettable characters, some of whom are definitely not your normal baddies, and a disease that grows more and more brutal as the story continues.  

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Source: http://www.theaussiezombie.com/2013/10/review-contagious-by-scott-sigler.html
Until You're Mine - Samantha Hayes When I read the synopsis of Until You're Mine, I was immediately curious. Although not a mother myself, it struck me that a story about a pregnant woman with creepy nanny could be one of those edge-of-my-seat kind of books because the stakes are so very high.

Until You're Mine is told through three perspectives - Claudia who is finally pregnant with her first child after years of trying and heartbreak, Zoe the nanny who seems too good to be true and Lorraine, the police office investigating a rash of deaths amongst pregnant women in the local area. Lorraine's perspective was a real surprise, for although she is the investigating officer, she is also having problems in her marriage to Adam, who is also a cop working the same cases as Lorraine.

Unfortunately, Lorraine's perspective, although interesting, actually distracted me from the storyline of Zoe and Claudia and I didn't really see why it was relevant to the story. It almost felt like it was thrown in as a filler to make the story longer (and at 400 pages it's not exactly a quick read) and it also made it difficult for me to connect with Lorraine because I just wasn't invested in her story.

As for the plot between Claudia and Zoe, that was certainly more what I was looking for - there was definitely an element of mystery and as the story progressed it became more and more captivating as more about Claudia and Zoe's pasts were revealed and the story climaxed in a way I wasn't really expecting. I didn't see the clues that led up to the ending, although looking back they were there but just cleverly concealed.

Until You're Mine is a good, if slightly predictable in places, thriller, with a lot of mystery and some very clever characterisation. However, I found the extra perspective irritating rather than adding any value and the ending was a little bit too quick, without the kind of resolution I really needed.

Code Name Verity (Code Name Verity, #1)

Code Name Verity  - Elizabeth Wein

Code Name Verity is a book that immediately screamed READ ME the first time I saw it. Apart from being historical fiction set during World War II, the lead characters are female - which is not exactly rare but there's usually one female and one male character (rinse and repeat). Coupled with the fact that it's YA, which doesn't have THAT much historical fiction in comparison to other genres, I was really excited about it. But I won't lie - although I hadn't read any in-depth reviews, I'd seen how other readers had rated it - and the reviews were pretty much extreme love or extreme boredom.

The story begins at the end. Kind of. And because of that, I didn't find it the easiest read, nor a particularly flowing narrative. At times I actually felt like I was reading but not progressing at the rate I would have expected, not because it's a bad book, but because I found it pretty complex to get into.

As mentioned earlier, one of the things that appealed to me the most about Code Name Verity was the female characters - but what I didn't expect is the strength of their friendship and their bravery. It's something that I didn't really appreciate until about 25% of the way through, and it only continued to consolidate itself the further I read.

The characters and their interactions were the highlight of Code Name Verity for me - although the setting was intriguing, and the storyline pretty jaw-dropping, the characters felt very real to me - and at times I completely forgot that they were fictional characters in a fictional situation.

There is a lot of airplane-speak and although I found it infinitely fascinating and Wein does a pretty fair job of making it easy to understand, I can see that it might be off putting for readers who are just not interested in it because it's a pretty heavy theme throughout the story.

I won't go any further into the plot because I'd be throwing spoilers around everywhere, but although I found it slow-going in some places, the action definitely picked up in the last third or so, and by the end I was completely emotionally invested in the story.

Code Name Verity is intense historical fiction that at times feels a little more heavy than I expected it to be, but the characters more than made up for any stagnation in the plot and they kept me reading because I was so invested in finding out what happened in the end.

If you enjoy historical fiction with strong characters, I can definitely recommend Code Name Verity. And if you start reading and feel a little lost, or get a little stuck, my advice would be to push on - the characters were really worth investing in.

Source: http://www.theaussiezombie.com/2013/10/review-code-name-verity-by-elizabeth.html
This Song Will Save Your Life - Leila Sales This Song Will Save Your Life is a book that pretty much everyone I know completely adored. In fact, it's a book that never would have been on my radar if it wasn't for the glowing reviews that it received from bloggers that I trust implicitly to be totally honest about how a book makes them feel. So when it accidentally-on-purpose fell into my cart, I was so excited to read it.

Elise is a character that I immediately felt a strong connection with - she's not popular, doesn't fit in and puts up with some horrendous behaviour from the other students at her school, but she has a burning passion for music, and can completely lose herself and ignore the world around her when she's plugged in. And that is probably why this book was such a fabulous experience for so many people - being a teenager (and an adult if we want to get that deep) is hard, especially when you are different and for some reason that you can't fathom, you are ostracised, belittled and generally just treated like crap. Relating to Elise was easy for me because I had similar experiences at school.

The surprise element in This Song Will Save Your Life for me was the musical element. I hadn't connected the fact that she's wearing headphones on the cover with the mention of a band and DJ in the synopsis. Elise has a passion for what I call PROPER music - not this manufactured crap (man I sound old), but music that you can sing out loud to, and the musical mentions throughout the book had me wanting to fire up my iPod and block out the world courtesy of The Cure.

It's not all doom, gloom and blocking out the world - my favourite part of This Song Will Save Your Life was seeing how Elise found her niche - people who liked her for who she was, appreciated her talent and made her feel valued and loved. In that way, This Song Will Save Your Life has an important message to anyone that feels lost - there are people that care, and your passion can lead you to a happier place where you can be yourself.

One thing that I often bemoan in YA literature is the lack of parental involvement, or arsehole parents that might as well be absent for all the damage they are causing. In This Song Will Save Your Life however, Elise's parents and family are all present, quirky and their love for Elise is obvious in their actions - plus they are pretty awesomely open-minded and supportive of Elise finding her feet.

This Song Will Save Your Life is a book that has a little bit of everything - music, fantastic characters, a little bit of romance (albeit slightly unconventional, but that's the best kind), family relationships and a plot that conveys an important message without being condescending or shallow.

I'm not even completely sure why I'm not five starring This Song Will Save Your Life, but I honestly believe that there are a lot of people who will love this book even more than I did. Read it!

Two Boys Kissing

Two Boys Kissing - David Levithan

I've been waiting for Two Boys Kissing to be released ever since I first heard that David Levithan was releasing another solo book.  And it was worth every minute of stalking, obsessing and monitoring my mailman.  Although a short book, it took me far longer than it usually would to read a 200 page book because when I read Levithan, I love savouring every word and I never want the book to end.

The two boys who are attempting the world record for kissing are the lynchpins of the story and the way that Harry and Craig communicate and support each other throughout their marathon is really touching.  The reactions of the people around them was both uplifting and saddening, but all the while they continued to support each other, without words, just with actions and it really made me feel that they were completely dedicated to their cause and each other.

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Source: http://www.theaussiezombie.com/2013/10/review-two-boys-kissing-by-david.html
Margot: A Novel - Jillian Cantor From the very moment I first heard about Margo, I wanted it in my hands. I've said it a hundred times, but Historical Fiction is the genre I grew up reading - I love the insights into life in the past, the characters, the atmosphere - absolutely everything about it. And although Margot is based on a non-fiction book, the fiction element was strong enough to have me obsessing about reading it.

I admit that I don't remember reading The Diary of a Young Girl although I do own a copy - iconic books are often the ones that I don't choose to read because I'm so fearful of being disappointed, but I don't think it would be considered essential to have read it first - and in some ways I'm glad I haven't. Although it will be interesting to read it having read this, albeit fictional, book from Margot's perspective.

I had an overwhelming sympathy for Margot right from the beginning - having lost her family and even her own identity, she has ensconced herself in a safe, comfortable life in Philadelphia, and has, for the most part, packed away her past and concentrated on just blending into the background and making it through the next day. As the story progressed, I really started to admire her as a character too - although cracks start to appear, she continues to hold everything together as best she can.

Cantor's creativity in re-imagining Margot's story was fabulous - it really made me stop and think about how secondary characters in non-fiction and in first person perspectives in fiction are usually very one dimensional because their side of the story isn't told. I also wondered about Diary of a Young Girl, and how in becoming so famous, that book only tells part of the story of the Frank family as it is from Anne's perspective.

The plot is not action-packed - when I finished reading and looked back on it, all that really happened was Margot's journey to confront her past and understand how it fit into her present. But it was a page-turner nonetheless - Cantor sucked me right in to Margot's story and whenever I had to stop reading, I couldn't wait to get back to it.

Margot was incredibly creative, well thought-out and the characterisation was fantastic - I'd recommend this book to anyone.

The Vow

The Vow - Jessica Martinez

Contemporary Young Adult novels aren't usually my cup of tea.  It may be that I'm a cynical old bird, but I find the whole 'I am attractive but don't realise it and that cute boy will never notice me' thing a little offputting and unrealistic.  So I had pretty low expectations for The Vow - I expected cheese, lighthearted banter and cute boys.  Colour me surprised....


It took me about 40 pages to fall completely in love with Mo.  He was exactly what a best boy friend should be - supportive but honest, funny yet caring and as a person he is an overachiever but not arrogant about it.  It took me a little while longer to warm to Annie, but when more of her past was revealed, I really wanted to just give her a hug.  Together their dynamic was perfect - sarcastic and funny as well as strong and loving.  But it wasn't just their personalities that made it for me - it was also the fact that neither of them were perfect, and there was far more at play than just the relationship between Annie and Mo.

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Source: http://www.theaussiezombie.com/2013/10/review-vow-by-jessica-martinez.html

Pivot Point (Pivot Point #1)

Pivot Point - Kasie West

You know that moment you finish a book and think 'why the hell did I wait SO LONG TO READ THIS?' - that feeling is exactly how I felt about Pivot Point. It's been sitting on my shelves since shortly after its release, and although it had received glowing reviews from nearly every YA reader I know, I still passed it over for other books on at least a dozen occasions.

It was only when I was 'browsing' (aka I have tried 4 or 5 books and they were all rubbish) my shelves for something I knew other people had loved that I decided it was time to get reading Pivot Point - and then I devoured the damn thing.

As I'm not a huge fan of paranormal novels as a general rule, I was a bit iffy about that element - sometimes they work for me and other times they don't - but luckily in Pivot Point although it wasn't my favourite part of the story, it works really well. I think the key point is that it's believable - West has plausible explanations for the whole paranormal aspect - how they live, how they can be undetected and not be a flaming dystopian mess.

But by far, the stars of the show are the characters. I loved Addie - she's a bookworm which automatically gets bonus points, but she also has a sarcasm that I really enjoyed, a determination that made me admire her, and a loyalty that made me want to be friends with her. In other words, she's the kind of character I'd love to see far more often in YA - she's down to earth, likeable and feels like a real person.

Then there are the boys. I'm not a fan-girl when it comes to book boys - I think I've used the phrase 'book boyfriend' a grand total of once, but all I will say is 'oh, Trevor'. I loved him from the first moment he was introduced as a character - quiet but not grumpy, cute but not arrogant, damaged but not angry and the absolute perfect match for Addie. All the while I was reading Pivot Point, I just wanted more of him, especially towards the ending when he has the most heartbreaking line pretty much ever (which I won't add here as it's a bit spoilery).

I honestly thought Pivot Point would be just another YA paranormal romance, but it was so much more. There is also a thriller/mystery element which I didn't expect and yet I really really enjoyed it - for me it added an extra level to the whole package that made it just a fabulous read.

If Pivot Point is languishing on your shelves waiting for 'one day' - go straight to your bookshelf right now (yes, NOW) and read it - it will definitely be worth your time!

Source: http://www.theaussiezombie.com/2013/10/review-pivot-point-by-kasie-west.html

Perfect Escape

Perfect Escape - Jennifer Brown

There are several reasons why I was drawn to this book.  Firstly, the main characters are brother and sister, which is something that isn't often intimately explored in Young Adult literature.  I'm the only girl of four children, so sister relationships are foreign to me, but brother-sister relationships are something I know pretty well and I was interested to see how Brown would portray the relationship between Grayson and Kendra.  Add in a road-trip (hello!), and Grayson's OCD, and I was totally intrigued to see how this story played out.

 

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Source: http://www.theaussiezombie.com/2013/10/review-perfect-escape-by-jennifer-brown.html
A Trick of the Light - Lois Metzger I've read several books about eating disorders in 2013, but A Trick of the Light is the first one with a male main character, and also the most unique. The narrator of the story is not Mike, it is anorexia itself, which brings a completely different perspective.

The story begins as Mike's life starts to fall apart - he's a pretty quiet, unassuming kind of kid, with one best friend and does well in school and in sports - but when his parents relationship starts to disintegrate, he turns to the voice in his head to help him have one thing about his life that he controls - his weight.
I loved the relationship between Mike and his best friend, Tamio in the beginning - although not perhaps the most obvious of friendships, they are drawn together by common interests, but as Mike's illness starts to worsen, he isolates himself from his old friends and the connection starts to weaken.

Mike's parents, particularly his mother, are fairly present throughout the story, although they are caught up in their own issues for the most part, and although his mother does become more involved by the climax it did make me feel more sympathetic towards Mike that the people who should have loved him the most didn't realise just how ill their son was becoming until it was nearly too late.

It only took me a couple of hours to read A Trick of the Light, and that was actually my main negative about it. At times it felt like things were moving along far too quickly, and although I can understand that Mike was vulnerable and the situation spiralled drastically, it felt like there were big chunks of time that were glossed over rather than given the attention they needed. The upside is that I found this a very hard book to put down - I read it in practically one sitting, alternating between sadness and hopefulness.

Metzger is pretty unflinching in her writing - there's not a moment where it felt like the seriousness of Mike's illness was being made light of, and it's definitely a compelling story.

Mother, Mother

Mother, Mother - Koren Zailckas

I've been reading psychological thrillers like they are going out of print recently.  I think it's to do with the fact that I wasn't reading as much as I normally did for a long period, and a good psychological thriller has the ability to really grab me and keep me reading no matter what.  

Told in the alternating POVs of the middle Hurst child, Violet, and the youngest, Will, Mother, Mother is an intimate, frightening look at how a family can go so very wrong on the inside, whilst maintaining a fairly regular appearance to the outside world.

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Source: http://www.theaussiezombie.com/2013/10/review-mother-mother-by-koren-zailckas.html

World War Z or When Re-Reads Disappoint

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War - Max Brooks

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about why I love re-reading books, and I mentioned that in the last year only one particular book was really disappointing when I revisited it, and that book was World War Z.

When I first read it, I was only just beginning to explore the zombie genre.  I recall being captivated by the journalistic style, meeting a range of different characters, and experiencing the whole arc of the zombie-apocalypse.  I was interested to see exactly how I would feel going back to read one of the books that started my obsession, and perhaps in that way my expectations were set incredibly high.

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Source: http://www.theaussiezombie.com/2013/10/review-world-war-z-by-max-brooks.html

The Dog Stars

The Dog Stars - Peter Heller

The Dog Stars came recommended to me by several apocalyptic-story loving friends, and after having it on my wishlist for more than a year, I thought it was time I read it for myself.

At times it feels like The Dog Stars is trying to be TOO clever - it's certainly haunting and written in a unique way, but at times I felt so removed from what was actually happening it was difficult to pull myself back into the story. The sentences are written in short bursts and the dialogue doesn't have quotation marks, which made it difficult for me to discern at times exactly who was speaking. There is a reason given why Hig speaks in such short sentences, and at times it does make the story more haunting, but it also took quite a while for me to get used to.

The characters are fairly engaging, but I found it difficult at times to understand and rationalise Hig's motivation for what he was doing and there is a fair whack of descriptions and dialogue about fishing and flying, although they were both presented in simplistic yet interesting ways. Normally when a book has characters that have interests that are really far removed from my own I find it difficult to care, but there was no skimming over lengthy descriptions because they are actually in short bursts, so there is a positive to the short sentences.

His neighbour was a bit of an enigma - it was hard to understand his motivation as Hig didn't really go into any great depth as to how they came together other than running through the basics, and I would have liked to know more about him. But their relationship dynamic was certainly interesting, and really made me think about how people that can be so different can work together in extreme circumstances.

As to the plot, it's pretty much what it says on the tin - Hig has freedom because of his plane, and he uses that to his advantage to scout the surrounding area and to go on his journey to find the other pilot that he hears, but although it doesn't move with a breakneck pace, it was interesting enough to keep me engaged and reading.

The Dog Stars is a book I'm glad to have read, but for me it wasn't anything very unique, other than the interests of the main character and the style took a bit of getting used to, but by the end I had come to appreciate the way that Heller had written it. It's not the best post-apocalyptic book I've ever read, but it kept my attention and gave me some interesting food for thought.

Two Women

Two Women - Martina Cole

Two Women had been on my wishlist for several years and when I found a cheap copy on sale a few weeks ago I thought it was high time I actually read the damn thing.  Although crime-mysteries aren't usually my thing, I've been reading quite a few of them lately, and this one particularly appealled to me as it sounded more like an insight into the lives of women in prison.

 

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Source: http://www.theaussiezombie.com/2013/09/review-two-women-by-martina-cole.html