A Writer’s Review: Playlist For The Dead

When I first read the synopsis for Michelle Falkoff’s Playlist For The Dead, I for a moment thought that it had some striking similarities to Jay Asher’s 13 Reasons Why. Thankfully it wasn’t too similar. The story was unique even with its reminders of the girl who doesn’t want to fit in any more, like in Jennifer Niven’s All The Bright Places. And how she starts to become the shoulder to lean on for the boy who’s struggling. This book deals with suicide because of bullying, which does indeed to some degree catch some similarities with 13 reasons. But at the same time there wasn’t any connection with sexual abuse and whilst yes, this is a story about mental health, it’s portraying it in another light.

One thing that I struggled with to some degree while reading this book, was keeping track of who’s who. There were quite a few characters with usual names, like Jack, Jake, Jason etc… The introductions to some characters that we saw quite often like Sam’s sister were rather brief, however much we continued to see her pop up during the story. With that said, I don’t think that’s a drawback. It may just be my inability to concentrate that could be getting in the way. As always, the reason I review this book with satisfaction is because of its ability to draw me into the story. I noticed myself smiling at moments of joy, and concentrating deeply for moments of conflict. All in all, it was a book that I enjoyed to the end and was happy being able to keep turning page after page.

– Michael Topschij.

A Writer’s Review: Holding Up The Universe

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It was a sunny Thursday morning. I was lining up, wait, no, I just walked in. October 4th was the set release date for Jennifer Niven’s latest masterpiece; Holding Up The Universe. On October 3rd I visited the New Zealand equivalent of Barnes & Noble after reading that they had stock already of the book. I walked in, ready to buy, the shop assistant went out back to get my copy, only to come back and tell me I couldn’t have it until tomorrow. So, I came back, and bought it on release day!

This book was everything I thought it was going to be and more. Jennifer has a writing style that she seem’s to enjoy using. The method of writing through the eyes of two different characters to portray the story. I’d been used to this after loving her first novel; All The Bright Places. The one comment I will make, there were no chapters, and no pages numbers! But as for the story itself, well… This novel brought us into the lives of Jack and Libby. Libby an overweight American girl who’s struggled with being fat for a very long time, so much to the point of obtaining the title “America’s Fattest Teen”. Jack, well, he just seemed to be the cool kid at high school. With one big secret, he cannon’t recognize people. He has a real life syndrome that prevents you from recognizing faces. I found it astounding how this works, the fact you can recognize objects and identify what they are but not people? Yet, it’s a real thing!

We watched as Jack becomes introduced to Libby and explore things like self empowerment for someone like Libby who’s been struggling with the life of being insulted and ridiculed. And for Jack, things like being yourself as we’d seen Jack have to really try and push his way through with varied methods of faking a lot in his life. I really enjoyed this, it was indeed a page turner. I also enjoyed how easy it was to get through and read. Most people find themselves needing to make their way to the end of a chapter before they can put the book down, but pacing through this was quite easy due to Jennifer’s choice in writing style. And being able to make the ‘chapters’ rather short. I look forward to seeing more from Jennifer in the future, this book happily earns it’s way into the Books I Love category.

– Michael Topschij.

A Writer’s Review: The Way We Roll

I love goats! My first ever pet was a goat and his name was Zack. I was disappointed that CeC in The Way We Roll (the goat in this story) was only introduced so far into the plot. But, the Way We Roll was an enjoyable and funny novel. I loved how the characters were portrayed in a certain light, that their introduction was made when needed. I will admit, I did struggle to grasp the importance of who was who until the story progressed further, but eventually understanding who was who’s sister, friend, girlfriend etc…

The Way We Roll is a story about a young boy who’s father did something that caused him to run away from home. I will admit, I know that feeling. Not the, father doing something, but the running away from home thing. I’ve ran away from New Zealand all the way to California when I was 17. And this story showed me what it could have been like, if I didn’t have family there. We saw Will smuggle himself into the underground of a bowling alley, sleep underneath freeways and flat with friends from his work as a supermarket trolley pusher. We learn about girlfriend sex tapes, and even make friends with a security guard goat who lives next door. It was definitely great to see an enjoyable story come from just across the ditch in Australia.

– Michael Topschij. 

A Writer’s Review: The Catcher in the Rye

I hate being cynical. I even hate that I’m going to be making some critical comments about a well known classic. But quite simply, everything is different to different people. I unfortunately did not really enjoy reading through The Catcher in the Rye. I of course apologize to this well renowned classic novel. And also to those that enjoy this work. But for me, I sigh, because it did not do anything for me. I lacked anticipation to keep turning pages, and couldn’t wait for the final page to be turned. I struggled to grasp myself into the story, and follow along with seeing where things were going. The introduction of characters was not clear for me, and the progression of events felt sloppy and almost useless in some parts. In fact, if someone asked me to explain what this novel was about, I would almost have to say, I don’t know.

I loved being taken back in time, to the more vintage american feel. Exploring the rugged and wild times in New York City. I definitely connected with Holden (not referencing to Australian motor cars here) when he went night clubbing on a wild night for him. It was definitely fascinating to see an experience like that through his eyes. One other thing that would definitely be a positive for this, was the language and way characters were portrayed. I could almost say that Holden was providing a tutorial to readers for chatting up girls, and picking fights with flatmates. He introduced me to some new words for my vocabulary like “Necking”, “Chrissake” and “Crumby-like”. With all of that being said, I have to ask myself; Why am I being critical of something that is published by one of the largest publishing houses in the world? Well, because I have an opinion. And I don’t want to make false statements of admiration for something that simply, doesn’t do it for me. Perhaps I’m acting too much like someone of my age, and not appreciating things of a classic nature. And maybe that means I need to wear some different glasses when reading, have a fresh look at novels that have built up such a bold reputation.

– Michael Topschij.