Book Review: Boo by Neil Smith

Boo by Neil SmithBoo: What it is about

From the publishers: “It is the first week of school in 1979, and Oliver “Boo” Dalrymple—ghostly pale eighth grader; aspiring scientist; social pariah—is standing next to his locker, reciting the periodic table. The next thing he knows, he finds himself lying in a strange bed in a strange land. He is a new resident of a place called Town—an afterlife exclusively for thirteen-year-olds. Soon Boo is joined by Johnny Henzel, a fellow classmate, who brings with him a piece of surprising news about the circumstances of the boys’ deaths.

In Town, there are no trees or animals, just endless rows of redbrick dormitories surrounded by unscalable walls. No one grows or ages, but everyone arrives just slightly altered from who he or she was before. To Boo’s great surprise, the qualities that made him an outcast at home win him friends; and he finds himself capable of a joy he has never experienced. But there is a darker side to life after death—and as Boo and Johnny attempt to learn what happened that fateful day, they discover a disturbing truth that will have profound repercussions for both of them.

Hilarious and heartwarming, poignant and profound, Boo is a unique look at the bonds of friendship in what is, ultimately, a book about finding your place in the world—be it this one, or the next.

Boo: What I thought

This book is narrated by a 13-year-old, but it’s very much a book for young adults and adults. This heaven is a very original heaven. It’s far from perfect. The children fight and quarrel, just like they did before. Also, the items around them, such as furniture, utensils, etc. are all clearly second or third hand. Food and goods arrive as if by magic once everything in the warehouse has been used up.

Boo isn’t finding life there all that bad, but when his friend Johnny starts an investigation of what happened to them, he joins in and the adventure starts. Unfortunately, things don’t go well for Johnny, and the story shows what may happen if a large group of 13-year-olds turns against you. It’s not pretty!

A quick and fun read and highly original. For anyone who wants a change of reading scenery.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars (good)

Number of pages: 310

First published: 2015

I got this: from my local Random House representative

Genre: Fantasy, YA


Book Review: The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami

The Strange Library by Haruki MurakamiThe Strange Library: What it is about

From the publishers: “Opening the flaps on this unique little book, readers will find themselves immersed in the strange world of best-selling Haruki Murakami’s wild imagination. The story of a lonely boy, a mysterious girl, and a tormented sheep man plotting their escape from a nightmarish library, the book is like nothing else Murakami has written. Designed by Chip Kidd and fully illustrated, in full color, throughout, this small format, 96 page volume is a treat for book lovers of all ages.

The Strange Library: What I thought

This is a long short story in a remarkable little book. To open it, you fold the flap at the front upwards, and the flap below it downwards. The text begins on the front page, which feels like it should be an additional cover page. But it’s not. There’s the text, in a kind of courier style, as if type written. There are many page-sized pictures in beautiful colors. What all these pictures mean is not always clearly visible but it’s a pleasure to the eyes.

The story itself is a simple one: A boy goes to the library to borrow a book and gets locked up inside. In order to be released, he has to carry out an impossible task. But there is a girl who may help him.

This is definitely a Murakami story. There is a lot of mystery (who are these people in the library, what do they want of the boy, why don’t his parents wonder where he is, etc.) and the story has a dream-like quality.

A pleasure for the eyes and for the reading mind. Any book lover will need a copy of this book, but Murakami lovers need it yesterday.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars (good to very good)

Number of pages: 96

First published: 2014

I got this book: from my local bookstore

Genre: short story, surrealism

Also read by this authorThe Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and Hear the Wind Sing (and many more, unreviewed, books)


Book Review: The Subprimes by Karl Taro Greenfeld

The Subprimes by  Karl Taro GreenfeldThe Subprimes : What it is about

From the publishers: “In a future America that feels increasingly familiar, you are your credit score. Extreme wealth inequality has created a class of have-nothings: Subprimes. Their bad credit ratings make them unemployable. Jobless and without assets, they’ve walked out on mortgages, been foreclosed upon, or can no longer afford a fixed address. Fugitives who must keep moving to avoid arrest, they wander the globally warmed American wasteland searching for day labor and a place to park their battered SUVs for the night.

Karl Taro Greenfeld’s trenchant satire follows the fortunes of two families whose lives reflect this new dog-eat-dog, survival-of-the-financially-fittest America. Desperate for work and food, a Subprime family has been forced to migrate east, hoping for a better life. They are soon joined in their odyssey by a writer and his family—slightly better off, yet falling fast. Eventually, they discover a small settlement of Subprimes who have begun an agrarian utopia built on a foreclosed exurb. Soon, though, the little stability they have is threatened when their land is targeted by job creators for shale oil extraction.

But all is not lost. A hero emerges, a woman on a motorcycle—suspiciously lacking a credit score—who just may save the world.”

The Subprimes : What I thought

This was a great read, very funny, even though a lot of the story was so unpleasant. People thrown out of their houses and moved on from place to place, because their credit rate is “subprime”. A man arrested for playing football with his son and some other boys. A big, big fracking machine en route to start digging in a housing estate where a group of subprimes have started a new life.

The story follows both a group of subprimes and two families that are well off. I found it sometimes hard to distinguish between the men in those two families and ended up mixing them up every now and then. But the story lines nicely interact and this story ends with a very satisfying Grand Finale in which all the main characters are present and work towards solving a major problem.

One mysterious woman with incredible powers keeps saving people, by handing them money, solving their problems, healing them. This made the story supernatural. But only as far as that one woman was concerned. In all other respects, most of the story could really happen, unfortunately.

A quick, fun read about injustice and the power of the government and of big corporations. But also a story of people wanting better for themselves and starting a new life outside society.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars (good to very good)

Number of pages: 320

First published: 2015

I got this book: for review from the publishers, Harper Collins

Genre: science fiction, dystopia

Also read by this author: Triburbia


Book Review: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

The Girl on the Train by Paula HawkinsThe Girl on the Train: What it is about

From the publishers: “Rachel catches the same commuter train every morning. She knows it will wait at the same signal each time, overlooking a row of back gardens. She’s even started to feel like she knows the people who live in one of the houses. ‘Jess and Jason’, she calls them. Their life – as she sees it – is perfect. If only Rachel could be that happy.

And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough.

Now everything’s changed. Now Rachel has a chance to become a part of the lives she’s only watched from afar.

Now they’ll see; she’s much more than just the girl on the train…

The Girl on the Train: What I thought

This is one of the books I read for the 24-hour-readathon. And it was ideal for that. A fast read, reasonably thrilling, ideal for when you want something that doesn’t last for hours and hours and hours.

It was both interesting and frustrating that the main character, Rachel, can’t remember certain things. She was in the area when a woman went missing, but did she have anything to do with it? She doesn’t know. She befriends the prime suspect, the woman’s husband (a real clever thing to do, right?) and meddles in the police investigation. But for all we know, she has nothing to do with it. Or maybe everything.

It’s fun to read, but I had trouble keeping certain characters apart, in particular the husband of the missing woman, and Rachel’s own ex-husband. They seemed too similar. Also, their partners were rather similar. What I like about certain thrillers, is that initially I have an idea of what might have happened and during the story, I have to change my mind again and again. That was certainly the case here. Bit by bit new information comes to the surface that changes your view on the situation. I love that!

So, a fun, quick read, but nothing too special. Ideal for a holiday or train journey.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars (good)

Number of pages: 318

First published: 2015

I got this: from Ciska of Ciska’s Book Chest (just because)




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