Monday, October 31, 2011

Book review: Gamerunner

By B.R. Collins

Gamerunner follows Rick, a teenage boy living in the future where acid rain prevents people from going outdoors. Rick’s father, Daed, works for Crater—a virtual reality game developer that benefits from people spending the majority of their time, and money, in their games. Daed created the Maze as the ultimate game that can never be beaten. Rick not only tests the Maze for glitches, but also finds solace in the various activities and challenges within. And when a player comes close to completing the game, it falls to Rick to stop them.

Collins has created a detailed and believable setting where the greater population is scared of the outside world, Undone, and obsessed with the Maze. Sure the Maze isn’t real; but, it beats living in Undone.

Collins effectively uses the limited third-person point of view. At one stage, Rick eavesdrops on a conversation in another room. Although Rick can’t ‘see’ inside the room, sounds allow the reader to figure out what happens while Rick remains confused.

Whenever Rick is in the Maze, the narrator uses an awkward, repetitive sentence structure with very little punctuation. This is awkward to read at first, but after a few chapters it proves to be a great way to differentiate the Maze from the real world. Sharp, repetitive sentences remind the reader that although Rick would happily spend all his time in the Maze if he didn’t have to eat and sleep, he shouldn’t shun the real world for a game.

Corporate greed; dysfunctional father-son relationships; a dystopian future; and, humanity’s tendency to follow the status quo, rather than challenge it, are all explored in Gamerunner. While the setting, theme and plot are definitely dystopian, gamers like me will say, ‘Bring on the rain!’

(The novel for this review was supplied by Bloomsbury)

Review by Emanuel Cachia

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Book review: Chick ‘n’ Pug

Text and Illustrations Jennifer Sattler, 2010

RRP $14.99 paperback

Book supplied for review by Bloomsbury Publishing

Chick is a vibrant chicken who leaves the chicken coop to search for excitement. He immediately meets a sleepy Pug dog. The optimistic Chick believes Pug to be a hero, and never stops believing in his new friend, even though the dog seems happiest sleeping, scratching and yawning. Chick tries to instill excitement in the Pug, encouraging him to do fun dog activities like frisbee. The tension mounts as Pug finally springs into action to remove some “embarrassing” clothes that his owner has dressed him in. Chick is impressed to see his friend in action. The climax comes when a cat enters the territory. Chick hopes his Pug friend will save the day, but the Pug is worn out and goes back to sleep. Cheerfully, the Chick realises he will have to be the hero after all. The colourful illustrations perfectly capture the bright spark of the main character, Chick, and the laziness of the rotund Pug. The Chick is an inspirational character who makes things happen and believes in his friends. Young readers will enjoy the Chick’s unrelenting enthusiasm when faced with the obstacle of a hero who doesn’t want to be a hero. In the end, the Chick has to save himself from the terrifying cat. Readers with fat, lazy pets will find the Pug character lots of fun.

Book Review by Peta Keown      

Monday, October 24, 2011

I Don't Write Book Reviews Often But...

I just recently finished “The Lady of the Rivers” by Philippa Gregory. This is the third book in the “Cousin’s War” series she is writing, but is technically the first one in the chronology. Gregory is known for her wildly controversial novel “The Other Boleyn Girl” which really stretched the fiction side of historical fiction.

Personally, I enjoyed “The Lady of the Rivers”. Revolving around Jacquetta of Luxemburg, the great-grandmother of Henry VIII, Gregory used what very little information there is on a medieval woman whose significance would never have been foreseen in her lifetime to bring to life the story of a woman who loved passionately, used a strong head and managed to survive the tumultuous War of the Roses and accusations of witchcraft.

Gregory managed to tell a story of a girl who wanted love, and married her late husband’s squire in secret in order to keep her love. She told a story of a mother of sixteen children, thirteen of whom are thought to have survived to adulthood. She told the story of a woman who had a forbidden talent in a medieval court, and could have very well been burnt at the stake for practising it. And she told the story of a deeply loyal Lancastrian supporter, who loved her King and Queen until the day her daughter married their enemy and she became the mother of the new Queen. Gregory’s tale wove a highly engaging and wonderful woman in a book you just couldn’t put down.

Jacquetta was mother to Elizabeth Woodville, queen of Edward IV, and she was one of the witnesses to their highly secret marriage. Gregory’s first book in the series, “The White Queen”, was told through Elizabeth’s point of view, and it was enjoyable to see her from her mother’s point of view, from a newborn baby to a woman meeting the King, her future husband, for the first time. The books pages closed on the very same pages the first book opened on, giving a lovely sense of wholeness to the story. Jacquetta’s story is completed in Elizabeth’s book just as Elizabeth’s was started in Jacquetta’s. A fantastic read, leaving me wanting for the next book, “The White Princess”, about Elizabeth of York, Jacquetta’s granddaughter, and mother of Henry VIII.

By Amanda Wickham

How to Avoid Writing

I’m one of those writers that, when I am in the mood to write, I write. When I’m not, I find every way around it. It goes a little something like this:

I turn on the computer, and then go and make myself a cup of tea. I grab some biscuits to eat, because writing is hungry work. Then I log into the computer, but in the meantime, I need to clean up my room a bit, there’s stuff everywhere! Computer’s logged in, internets up. Gotta check my emails, sort them into files. It’s been a while since I cleared them, so I go through and delete what I don’t need. Then I’ve got to check facebook, post a witty status about settling down to write, check a couple of friend’s pages. Some humorous sites next, Taste of Awesome and Smartphoned are my favourites, along with all the web comics I read that have just updated. Amazon has sent me an email with the latest specials, so I need to browse Amazon right now, and then Amazon UK to compare prices.

Back to facebook. Someone’s tagged me in a picture and I need to comment. Then update again about writing, check who liked the last status. Oh, now it’s dinner time. Then dishes then walk the dog. Something good is on TV, so I need to watch that, because people will be talking about it on facebook. Back to facebook to talk about the TV show, and then I finally open a word document. But of course, I drastically need to do research at right that moment, so I go and pull every relevant book off my bookshelf, but get distracted by one that’s irrelevant. I flip through it, and another ten afterwards, before remembering I’m supposed to be researching. I take the books back to the desk, and it takes a couple of trips, because they’re hardbacks. But know I realise it’s late, and I have work in the morning. Writing can wait, I can’t write when I’m tired. So, I shut everything down and turn off the computer and go to bed, having successfully avoided writing for the night, but feeling like I’ve still made the effort.

By Amanda Wickham