Posts tagged book reviews

Getting Dark Earlier = More Time To Read!

Happy end of daylight savings everyone!  Colder weather is coming, which is the perfect excuse to sneak into bed a little earlier and snuggle up with a good book.  There’s nothing I like better!

I’d love to get some book tips from you, so please tell me in the comments what you’re reading and whether you’re enjoying it. Or what your favourite book is.

Here’s what’s on my bedside table right now:



by R.J. Palacio

“I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.”

Because of the way he looks, Auggie Pullman’s never been to school. He just wants to be treated like everyone else, but how can that happen when he looks so different?

This is a story that will both make you laugh and break your heart. It’s unusual in that different chapters are in the point of view of different characters. The reader not only gets to know Auggie, but the people around him as well.

This is one of the best books I’ve ever read and I highly recommend it.

My favourite quote from Wonder:

“Hey, if they want to give me a medal for being me, that’s okay. I’ll take it. I didn’t destroy a Death Star or anything like that, but I did just get through the fifth grade. And that’s not easy, even if you’re not me.”


Looking For Alaska

By John Green

John Green is one of my favourite writers.  I can’t wait for The Fault In Our Stars to come out as a movie, and I really hope it’s even half as awesome as the book.

Looking For Alaska is not your typical boy-meets-girl story. Miles “Pudge” Halter’s off to boarding school and in search of the ‘Great Perhaps’. He finds Alaska Young, a human hurricane who swirls him into her world, snatches his heart, then tears him apart. It’s a wild ride of a book that made me giggle uncontrollably and wipe away tears.

This one’s for older readers. If you’re a teenager looking for a book that pulls no punches, give it a try.

My favourite quote from Looking For Alaska:

“So I walked back to my room and collapsed on the bottom bunk, thinking that if people were rain, I was drizzle and she was a hurricane.”



By Louis Sachar

Sentenced to Camp Green Lake for a crime he didn’t commit, Stanley Yelnats is forced to spend all day digging holes in a dry lake under a punishing sun. Stanley blames the family curse for his bad luck and tries to make the best of things. But he soon discovers that there’s a reason the cruel warden has them digging holes.  

This is a very clever book, and I loved the way all the connections were slowly revealed. How is a centuries-old curse connected to a pair of shoes falling from the sky, connected to Kissing Kate Barlow, an outlaw of the Wild West?  Read Holes to find out!

My favourite quote from Holes:

“It was all because of his no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing great-great-grandfather!”


Daughter of Smoke and Bone

By Laini Taylor

“Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love. It did not end well.”

This is the first book of a series of three. I read and enjoyed the first two, and the third one (Dreams of Gods and Monsters) has just come out and I can’t wait to read it!

If you’re a teenager looking for an exceptional fantasy series and great characters to sigh over, get into this one and you won’t be sorry.  Now I’ve got to run, I’ve got a book to read…

My favourite quotes from Daughter of Smoke and Bone:

“Loneliness is worse when you return to it after a reprieve—like the soul’s version of putting on a wet bathing suit, clammy and miserable.”

“It is a condition of monsters that they do not perceive themselves as such. The dragon, you know, hunkered in the village devouring maidens, heard the townsfolk cry ‘Monster!’ and looked behind him.”

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Book Reviews with Bite

One of the great things about the Christchurch City Libraries Catalogue is that you can add your own book reviews.

One of the great things about South Christchurch Library eBook Club is that the kids in it LOVE to do book reviews. Can you see where this is going?

Recently we read some fantastic animal books and recorded some quick video reviews using Mojo Masks, an app that lets you wear a virtual mask while you record videos.

Video TabTo see these awesome videos, click on the catalogue links, scroll to the bottom of the page and choose “Videos” under Community Activity. Why not make your own video reviews of books and add them to the catalogue?

ABC Zooborns by Andrew Bleiman

Top 10 Minibeasts: deadly and incredible animals by Jay Dale

Manukura: the white kiwi by Joy Cowley

Foxes by Sally Morgan

Birds by Terry J. Jennings

Killer Pets by Tony Hyland

And if you do add a video review to the catalogue, let us know in the comments below, so we can check it out!

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The Dreaded Book Review…


If you’re like me then you love to read, to get lost in a new world where you feel so close to the characters that they feel like old friends. Those are the sort of books that you want to tell your friends about, send them a link, show them where they are in the library, perhaps even lend out your own precious copy. “You should read this,” you’ll say. “It’s a great book. I really liked it. I couldn’t put it down.”  But when your teacher asks you to keep a reading log and write reviews about books, even your favourite books, do you groan inwardly? Does analysing a book – summarising its good and bad points – make you shudder? I know for a lot of people, this is the case.  Some say it spoils the reading experience for them, but not Paula Phillips. By day, my friend Paula is a softly-spoken bespectacled city librarian, but by night Paula turns into the Phantom Paragrapher, writing hundreds of book reviews every year and posting them to her blog, one of the most trusted book review blogs in the world. Good heavens! Does she even sleep? What makes her want to do this? Let’s ask her some questions about being a super hero.

Hi Paula. How many books have you reviewed this year? To the middle of March – 93 books reviewed this year.

Yikes! That is a lot. What sort of books do you review? A wide mixture of different genres from mysteries to romance, as well as children’s, tween’s and teen fiction, and the odd non-fiction book for all ages.

Why are book reviews even important? Book reviews are important as they not only help you, the reader, with your writing skills, but they give you the ability to read between the lines. Who reads them? Anyone who has a computer and loves to discover the titles of new books out there to read and buy.

What do you look for when analysing a book? What makes a 5-star review? The first thing is to decide whether I can read it or not as I hate books that are BORING, and this is decided if I can make it through the first couple of pages/chapters. If it succeeds, then it is all down to holding my attention. If a book manages to not only hold my attention but it turns out to be a book that I cannot wait to finish reading and finding out what happens – then more often than not that is my 5 star review. When reviewing books I look at:

  •  the story – is it fast reading or are you finding yourself falling asleep?
  •  the language – is it something that you can understand, free from all technical jargon?
  •  the cover – is it an amazing cover and totally to die for?
  • then, I rate the story on how it makes me feel when I am reading it.

If I am I tempted to skip parts but don’t, then the book might get a 3-star rating.  A “I finished the novel but I’m not jumping up and down” gets a 4-star. Five-stars is a really amazing read but it’s still missing something important, and then a 5-star plus a silver star means the book is like totes amaze-balls and I cannot stop raving to the world about it.

What’s your favourite thing about being a reviewer? My favourite thing is getting to read the new books that are being published before everyone else and meeting an awesome lot of friends through Facebook.

Some of our readers have book reviews to complete for their homework and we were just wondering, can you be bribed? Actually, yes! Sometimes people donate money to have me review their books, but it doesn’t change the rating I give the book, which depends on how much I enjoy the story.

Thanks Paula! 

You can check out Paula’s blog at


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End of the alphabet by Fleur Beale

I love each and every one of NZ author Fleur Beale’s novels, but End of the Alphabet has to be my favourite.  It is the story of Ruby Yarrow; a fourteen-year-old girl who lives in the shadow of her younger brother Max.  Max is smart, talented and adored by everyone.  Ruby struggles at school and is always busy at home.  She cares for her little brothers, cooks the dinner and cleans up after Max.  One day her best friend Tia puts her foot down- she is sick of Ruby being a doormat.  Her outburst gets Ruby thinking…does she want to live her life being treated second best?  Of course not- so begins Ruby’s journey to find her backbone and start standing up to people.

This book is truly outstanding, one of my favourite of all time.  Ruby is one of those characters that you can instantly relate to.  If I could meet a character in one of my books I’d want to meet Ruby.  She’s just so likeable and so easy to understand.  As the book progresses it’s easy to see how Ruby has changed.

If you’re looking for a read that you won’t want to put down, choose End of the Alphabet!  It’s a book that you’ll want to read again and again.

Reviewed by Tierney Reardon.

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Fun with books on Guardian Children’s Books

The Guardian newspaper in England has just launched a cool new website about children’s books where you can get some more reading ideas and have some fun with books.  There are lots of different areas of the website you can check out, like quizzes about your favourite characters and books, Top Ten lists, videos, competitions and reviews.  Have a look at these:

Have a look around and let us know what cool things you find.

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Book Buzz

Book Buzz is a place where kids up to the age of 12 can talk about books. Tell everyone about your favourite books by commenting here!

Want more Book Buzz? You can read more reviews on the Christchurch City Libraries website:

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Authors and Book Reviews

I thought I’d write today on the subject of book reviews. Like most authors, I crave reviews, just as I fear them. My work, my beautiful baby that I spent years writing and editing, is up on public display for anyone to comment on as they like. But I, the author, get no right of reply. My mouth is taped shut.

I have been fortunate in that I have had almost all positive reviews. Where a reviewer has criticised some aspect of one of my books, after the initial defensive reaction, I have tried to take that criticism on board for future books, thinking that if one reviewer thinks that, then so will thousands of readers.

I publish all the reviews I find on my website, good or bad, so that people can read them all and make up their own mind.

Reviews come in two types. There are those by professional reviewers, who write for newspapers, magazines, radio, television, or sometimes just for the web. Then there are amateur reviews. Anybody with a computer and access to the internet can write down their thoughts on a book and publish it on a blog somewhere.

The first kind, the professional reviewers, tend to be people with experience in children’s literature who have read widely and can write well. Whether they like a book, or not, they tend to provide a balanced, reasoned view of the book, although it is, of course, still just one person’s opinion.

The second kind of review, the amateur blogger, is very different, but just as interesting. Anyone can express an opinion, even if they’ve only read one book in their entire lives. But it is still a valid opinion. I think most authors value amateur reviews as taken collectively they provide an insight into the mind of the average reader.

Sites like GoodReads ( invite readers to write reviews and rate books, and give an author the ability to see how their books rate against other books such as Harry Potter. (Brainjack:  3.8 stars, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone: 4.2 stars).

The only amateur reviews I don’t like are the stupid ones. Ones where the writer simply doesn’t know what they are talking about. One review of “The Tomorrow Code” criticised the science in it, saying “it involves so much appalling cod-science that I actually hit myself over the head with the book at one point to see if it was less painful that way.” Yet the science was very well researched, including interviews with university professors.  The science was extended from science fact into science fiction, but the basis of it all was solid. So I rather think that this reviewer must have hit themselves on the head with books a little too hard, or too often! (Now I’m reviewing the reviewer! I wonder how they feel.)

A review yesterday of Brain Jack described the technology in the book as “just a bunch of random computer terms”. But they weren’t. I have a long background in computers, and also sought the help of one of New Zealand’s leading computer experts to make sure that the technology was as accurate as possible, bearing in mind that the book is set in the future, and that I didn’t want it to become a “how-to” manual for hackers.

Yet even while I grit my teeth at such stupid comments, I know that even these people represent a proportion of the readership of my books and that all reviews, even the misguided, ill-informed, stupid, amateur ones have a right to exist, and to be read.

Some authors claim they never read reviews. I wonder if that is true, but if it is, I think they are misguided. Reviews, professional and amateur, give the author an insight into the mind of the reader.

Henry Ford famously said “Never complain, never explain.”

That’s the world that we authors live in.

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