Books Beside My Bed #33

Title: Night Film
Author: Marisha Pessl
Published: 2014
Publisher: Random House
Readership: Adult
Genre: Thriller
Rating: ★★★

There’s a lot of love and hype out there for Night Film – quite a few people I know absolutely adore this book and I was really excited by the prospect of an adult novel told through mixed-media styles, but unfortunately Night Film was probably not the book for me.

Disgraced, former investigative journalist, Scott McGrath, is determined to unravel the mystery behind the apparent suicide of Ashley Cordova – the daughter of acclaimed filmmaker, Stanislas Cordova. His career was destroyed by a lawsuit from the filmmaker, and yet McGrath can’t stay away from the dark, mysterious underworld that surrounds Cordova and his films.

As a thriller, it functions perfectly well – there’s twists and turns and it’s hard to know exactly who or what is behind Ashley’s death – but I think it was the protagonist, McGrath, that made it fell flat for me. I never really connected with him and his mission to redeem himself, and the whole thing seemed to be a serious of fortunate (or unfortunate, depending on your point of view) coincidences.

I did like Marisha Pessl’s writing, so I’ll probably check out some of her work, but unfortunately Night Film didn’t really do much for me.

* * * * *

Title: Cicada
Author: Shaun Tan
Published: 2018
Publisher: Lothian Children’s Books
Readership: Children
Genre: Fiction
Rating: ★★★★

See full review here.

 

* * * * *

Title: Henrietta and the Perfect Night
Author: Martine Murray
Published: 2017
Publisher: Allen and Unwin
Readership: Children
Genre: Fiction
Rating: ★★★★

Henrietta is a precocious and charming five year old who likes to think about her world. In this collection of five stories, Henrietta is waiting for the birth of her younger brother or sister, and while impatient to meet her new sibling, learns a lot of life truths along the way, as well as starting school and making friends.

I was charmed by this young character who’s exuberant and honest and kind. She has big dreams and even when something doesn’t quite go to plan, she finds ways to deal with what’s happening, making it a great story to help young readers understand what it means to be resilient.

I’ll definitely be reading these stories to my Grade One students in the coming weeks.

Henrietta and the Perfect Night was shortlisted for the 2018 Children’s Book Council awards in the category Younger Readers.

* * * * *

Title: The Ghost Bride
Author: Yangsze Choo
Published: 2013
Publisher: Hot Key
Readership: Adult
Genre: Paranormal
Rating: ★★★★

Set in 1890s Mayala, The Ghost Bride is about seventeen year old Li Lan who has just received a strange request: marriage to the dead song of the prominent Lim family. Torn between the oddness of the request and the financial state of her father (and thus her family), Li Lan must uncover what this marriage proposal means for her, especially when she finds herself drawn into the afterlife – a shadow-y version of the world where different rules apply and a there are things that tempt, terrify and delight her.

I had a basic understanding of the story before I began, but once I started reading I realised how little I actually knew. This book was not at all what I expected – it was so much better. Li Lan is a young woman caught between two worlds, and a place where love and marriage are not necessarily connected. You can feel the oppressive nature of her life in the real world, and the freeing (if more dangerous) nature of the afterlife.  There are lots of little twists and turns, especially as Li Lan tries to uncover what happened to the son of the Lim family, and why they’re so desperate for her to marry him.

And keep an eye out for Er Lang. He was definitely my favourite character!

This is historical fiction that I enjoy – dark and twisting, with some paranormal elements woven through it. It was just beautiful to read.

* * * * *

Title: Rogue Protocol (Murderbot Diaries #3)
Author: Martha Wells
Published: 2018
Publisher: Tor
Readership: Adult
Genre: Science Fiction
Rating: ★★★★

The third book in the Murderbot Diaries series, Rogue Protocol does not disappoint. Picking up right where we left off in Artificial Condition, MurderBot discovers that the case against GrayCris is floundering and Dr. Mensah is under more scrutiny regarding the missing SecUnit. Determined to find some evidence to ensure the GrayCris case can be resumed (and thus deflect unwanted attention) Murderbot tags along on a exploratory mission of a station abandoned by the corporation and unwittingly finds itself drawn into it’s role of human protector… even when it really would rather be elsewhere.

I love stories with artificially intelligent creatures that have personality, and MurderBot is near the top of the list of my favourite AIs. Despite being heavily antisocial and downright dismissive of humans (unless on a mission), MurderBot is distressingly humane, and unashamedly sarcastic and I love it. I really did enjoy its interactions with the newest AI it comes across, Miki, and their story progression was just so insightful.

If you haven’t started this series yet, do yourself a favourite and pick it up. You won’t regret it!

* * * * *

Title: The Undercurrent
Author: Paula Weston
Published: 2017
Publisher: Text Publishing
Readership: Young Adult
Genre: Science Fiction
Rating: ★★★★

Julianne DeMarchi is a girl with a secret – her body produces excess electricity that she can barely control. In the past, she’s caused incidents that have garnered police and media attention, but both her and her mother have managed to lead them off from the truth.

I enjoyed this story, but I found it had quite a few pacing issues as there was a lot of backstory and world building going on for a standalone (I think?) book. What I enjoyed most was the theme of big corporations taking control of the farming industry by isolating traditional farming methods and paying everyone to use their genetically modified crops – while we’re not there yet, it’s very real world and the implications of it are potentially dire.

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