Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Ken Hart - The Eyes Behold Tomorrow

The Eyes Behold Tomorrow
Ken Hart

Edward Teach is one of the first humans to be chosen to fly off world to the Feletians. A red blooded, idiotic male through and through, Teach has to have some sort of redeeming qualities - he's a good leader and a good ship captain.

The entire novel's language is stilted in my opinion. I never really got into the feel of it. The diaglogue felt forced, and I never saw any of the scenery. As far as I was concerned, the only location realised even a little bit was the Devistator. The command room etc. But I didn't get a feeling for the hundreds of crew on board – what the hell were they all doing? It's not like Teach actually had anything to do with most of them. Sure, he took care of his crew, and professed that he felt something for the wounded, but it wasn't really that big a deal.

Something that perhaps could have redeemed this novel, or put it firmly in the romance/ sci-fi crossover genre, would have been some sex scenes. I don't think I've ever suggested more sex scenes, but this novel could have done with some spice. As it was, there was mainly hints of how sexy she was, and how massive his 'assets' were. Not to mention the claws.

At no point did I feel concern for any of the characters. When a couple of them died, I still wasn't bothered. The action felt manufactured and the ending incomplete. They hadn't actually dealt with the shape shifters, or the other threats. Teach was still trying to recruit for his ship (as said in the introduction), and why do that unless there was something left to do?

I finished this novel after already struggling to pick it up. I'm afraid I wouldn't recommend it, unless of course you are desperate for a sci-fi and it happens to be sitting around. I try not to choose novels from authors that aren't my style (bearing in mind the postage costs they face), but somehow this one still missed the mark.

I received this novel in return for an honest review. As always, the opinions in this review are my own.

Friday, 17 October 2014

Nicole Skuba - Another Kind of Free

Another Kind of Free
Nicole Skuba

This novel is hardly a novel. It's more of a short, reflective piece of non-fiction. It was released in response to Robin William's suicide earlier in 2014. The author talks about her journey through Bipolar Disorder, and the peace that she eventually found within herself.

For me, it's difficult to review. The writing style is ok, but it's not the best I've ever read. I often felt like I should have been identifying with the main 'character' more, but instead I was thinking about what could happen next.

A key thing to take out of this is that you're responsible for your own heath. Although, whoever put a bipolar person on purely Prozac was asking for a manic period. What the author finds is that she can keep her promises, and that self-reflection is key into managing her disorder. It's not going to work for everyone, and I think you need to be towards that side of thinking about things before this novel will open doors for you. It might open a couple of windows however.

The only reason this PDF novel got read was because it was short, relatively painless to read, and it was sitting on my Desktop when I felt like I needed a short read. It's not available as a paperback, and even if one is produced, I would strongly advise against purchasing it.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Jessica Shirvington - Disruption

Jessica Shirvington

Maggie is hunting for her father. She's been hunting for him since two years ago, when he suddenly became a 'neg' and disappeared from their family. As she delves deeper, and involves more people, she realizes that maybe the goal she has been chasing isn't worth it.

Maggie's a flawed, and therefore fascinating, character. From someone you think must have no feelings (and she professes that she doesn't feel anything), to someone who begins to grasp the meaning of friendship and not exploiting people.

I wished I could have had some perspective from Gus and Quinnie. Their roles are very important. That being said, they aren't one-dimensional characters, despite Gus hardly ever even appearing, except on the phone. Then again, this would give away some of the ending!

The pheromone technology that allows the detection of 'true matches', people who are perfectly suited to each other, is something that could happen in our own society. The Apple watch is just the beginning of tracking what people are doing the whole time. That makes this a book as close to a believable dystopia as I have come across.

I downloaded this as a talking book, and got through it in around 2 days. The reader was great, and I never had problems telling the different characters apart. I didn't want to stop listening, and I kept wondering to myself when I could listen to it again.

Towards the end of the novel, I started worrying about the ending. And right I was to worry – this is a duology. The next novel is due out some time before the end of 2014, so I have hope to see it then. I doubt however that it will be available in a talking book immediately.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Randa Abdel-Fattah - 10 Things I Hate About Me

10 Things I Hate About Me
Randa Abdel-Fattah

Highschool is hard. Being a 16 year old is hard. Losing your mother is hard. And if your heritage happens to be Lebanese-Muslim, then you've got little chance of attracting the hottest guy in your grade. Unless you're Jamie/Jamilah - in which case you need to beat him off with a stick because no-one knows who you really are.

Jamilah is a frustrating protagonist, but also a very understandable one. At the same time that I wanted to beat her around the head for being an idiotic, moon-struck teenager, I wanted to hug her and tell her to go get out in the world!

Sometimes I found it hard to believe that Jamilah is 16. She doesn't seem to have enough responsibility, or enough personality to be that old. That's even with her father being ultra protective of her.

The contrasts between the way siblings are treated holds true across most families. There's always a favourite - or a 'perfect child'. And Jamilah is forced into that role of being perfect, but she finds it increasingly hard to keep that.

There are some morals in this novel, which you could easily put aside if they didn't suit your purposes. Not doing drugs, smoking killing you off, taking an active stance against things, not making out with boys - all these things have value and worth, but aren't going to appeal to everyone.

This is a very good read, and would resonate with teenagers, regardless of their background. Boy troubles, and being yourself, are something that many teenagers face. If not all. There's something universal in this book, and it wouldn't matter if you were in Australia or the US. This novel is specifically set in Sydney, Australia, so that makes it all the much closer to home for me.

The similes and metaphors in this make me wish I was a writer. You'd think they'd be cloying, or cliche and annoying, but really they make a lot of sense! And in the talking book I listened to, the reader never skipped a beat.

I want to get my hands on the other novels by this author, but my library seems to be missing talking book copies. Arg! I'll just have to wait, particularly with the number of novels waiting for my attention at the moment.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Garth Nix - Grim Tuesday

Grim Tuesday
Garth Nix

Arthur thinks he's safe home in bed, busy undoing the sickness brought by Mister Monday's goons. Little does he know that the next minute his house will be for sale, and everything will be reclaimed by Grim Tuesday - unless he returns to The House.

Again, I'm rereading these in line with my girlfriend's brother. He's enjoying them, even if he is super slow at reading! I get through these novels in the space of around 1-2 hours, because they aren't particularly meaty.

Arthur is not the most brilliant of characters, and this is perhaps what makes him most endearing to teenage readers. He doesn't profess to be smart, and most of the time he's just wandering around trying to get himself out of mischief. Suzi Blue, his friend, is also trying to get him out of trouble. 

Again, action driven and best for those who don't want too much character development. It's aimed squarely at the reluctant reader.

The Will is so pompous! They are super annoying. I don't see why Arthur has to release the bits of Will in order to get to the gloves or anything else. Bugger the Will! Sunbear. Pah. Frog.

I liked the challenge between Arthur and Grim Tuesday. Arthur's relationship with his family is very important to him, and to them, and even if Arthur seems to be hardly home, and they leave messages on the fridge to each other, they're still a loving family.

I think the best thing for me in this novel are the Ships. I can't really talk about them without giving too much away, but let's just say there are worlds inside bottles. I remember that they play a larger role in some of the other novels in this series - and I look forward to rediscovering that.

My resolve to read and review these is not strong. I'm not sure what I can really say about these plot-driven novels by an author I already loved.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

James Snyder - Where All The Rivers Run

Where All the Rivers Run
James Snyder

Connelly is still in hospital, and faces being sent to a state mental hospital for the rest of her life if she doesn't start talking. Instead, a hopeful doctor sorts through her belongings and finds a letter that Connelly seems to have forgotten.

This final novel in the trilogy is one of hope, and yet despair. Connelly deserves something more from what she was given from age 6, but she must claw and fight her way for it.

It this novel, I felt like I lost touch with Connelly. I no longer knew what she was going on about, and I felt like the painting took her away into her own world. Perhaps that was the aim of the novel, or the aim of the author - you must be truly alone before you can get your way back into the light.

While I was thinking about this novel, I thought about the previous one again. And it occurred to me that none of the menfolk seem very bright. And Bobby and Roxie seem like what they have is dysfunctional. It's only in this novel that you begin to see some healthier relationships. Even then, no one seems to think of the consequences of their actions.

Connelly is always said to be very beautiful, and she attracts men to her. I wonder though, how pretty is she after all the drugs she went through? And Will, well, he might be a fool for loving her, but at least they have each other.

I really loved the scenic descriptions of the countryside. And the life on the Ranch. Cousin Liz has so much going for her! And a child doesn't hurt either.The thing with the illegal immegrants seemed backwards to me.

I wish I had looked more closely for where this novel was set. And also when. I don't know anything about the foster care system that failed Connelly. I would imagine that the Australian system might not be better. So many people fall through the cracks.

Monday, 29 September 2014

John Marsden - So Much to Tell You

So Much to Tell You
John Marsden

Marina has been scarred for life, in her interior and on her exterior. She doesn't talk, at all, any more. She shrinks into walls, and has spent a long time in hospital.

There's some really nice insights into the way teenagers feel in this novel. Marina wonders at one point why adults seem so confident. And she asks whether they have lessons after they graduate high school! I kinda wish we adults did get that. But it's all a matter of hard earned experience.

After one of the other novels I had read recently, this short look into family life is relatively beautiful. Marina's family is dysfunctional, and there's no remedy for that, but the other families' lives that she peers into are good.

I like Marina, and at no point did I feel frustrated by the way she was behaving. I understood that there were things going on that she didn't write about, and at the same time felt ok with that.

A boarding school always sounded good to me, because I thought it would be fun. I think that's the fault of Enid Blyton and her 'The Naughtiest Girl in School' series. This boarding school, from Marina's perspective, is both Heaven and Hell. After hating it there, she finds that it is helping her more than she knew.

I'd strongly recommend this novel for teenagers. Angsty, but resolute. Tortured, and yet satisfying. I first read it in high school, a little, unoffensive looking book that has so many feelings inside I'm surprised it can stay on the shelf.

I didn't know until I was looking for images of this book, that it was his debut novel. I think it's the first novel of his I read, but I could be wrong. The rest of his novels are just as unfinished as this one, with the exception of 'Tomorrow When the War Began'. By unfinished, I don't mean not well written. It's that it is up to the reader to work out what comes next.

I went looking for a PDF copy of the half-sequel, 'Take My Word for It', and instead found a fascinating interview/author biography of Marsden. And he has a school! He's the Principal of Candlebark, just north of Melbourne, Victoria. Just as his books promote independence and resilience in children and teens, his school does also.

Friday, 26 September 2014

Juliet Marillier - Dreamer's Pool

Dreamer's Pool
Juliet Marillier

Blackthorn and Grim are dying slowly, tortuously, in a dungeon of the foulest ruler of their lands. When Blackthorn is given an unexpected opportunity to change her situation, she finds herself being forced into a life-path she never expected to take.

With two highly flawed protagonists and a raw, gritty storyline, this new offering from Marillier is suited to the young adult and adult readers. It was a fresh breath of air in the other more childish novels I have been reading lately. Just what I wanted.

I empathized strongly with Blackthorn, although others might find her prickly personality off putting. Her life circumstances seem quite unique, but only in that she is not afraid of stating her opinion (or dying by it). Her role as the healer of the town reminded me of the Owlflight novels by Mercedes Lackey, and the empathetic healer in that.

The ending came as a surprise. Why did no-one ever consider the number of people in each pool incident? The build up of information, if you weren't familiar with storytale endings, would lead the reader onwards. There's also some coy links with her other novels, including the Sevenwaters series (one of the first reviews I ever wrote - be gentle!).

I loved that there was more than one climax. Although we all wondered about the Prince's happiness, it was good to see Blackthorn still defending others and taking her own path. And Grim defending others at the same time as protecting Blackthorn (which he has decided is his goal in life).

I wish I knew more about Grim. In fact, I'm pretty sure everyone will want to know about Grim, whether they are a character in the same book, or someone reading it! He's such a dark persona, and although his perspective is provided intermittently, it's not really clear what is going on inside his head.

I read the first part of this book, and really regretted having to put it down. When I got a couple of free hours, I polished it off and was devastated that I had finished it so quickly. Thank goodness there are two more books planned in this series. I don't know what they will cover, as surely nothing more can happen in this tiny community?!? I look forward to reading them soon, as Marillier often has a good publishing schedule going on.

I was provided this book in return for a honest review. I would have bought the book regardless of whether it had been provided, because I love this author's works on their own standing. It will be released to the general public in Australia on 1st October 2014.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Allayne Webster - Paper Planes

Paper Planes
Allayne Webster

NIko is a normal young boy with a loving family and home. But suddenly, he finds himself in the middle of a war zone, and he must make his way through it to safety  with or without his family.

I wasn’t expecting anything when I picked up ‘Paper Planes’. To my surprise, it was the narrative of a young boy, threatened by war in Bosnia. Again, I’m not good with history, but this the real thing. In the back of the novel, you will find a note from Jarko.

The reader feels just as lost, and alone as Niko does, as the world falls apart. From such a normal beginning, things deteriorate. Niko just wants to go to school, but instead he’s trapped inside, with his family – until his sister and brother are forced to serve.

This novel also points out, albeit subtly, that there are no differences between people of different religions. Niko prays, but is afraid his father will find out. And his best friend is Muslim. Niko doesn’t understand why religion should play a role in who die or lives. In fact, it seems like dull chance whether they will survive.

This novel brings a face to the refugees that come to Australia. They aren’t responsible for their situation (as Niko finds, as he fears he is), and they have so few options. It hurts me to see that the Red Cross and the UN can’t do more.

I think the blurb on the back ‘Can Niko find the courage to face his worst fear?’ isn’t very accurate. He’s not facing hi worst fear – it’s just that he finds himself where he can’t get away from any of the war. I also vaguely expected that this novel would be a dystopian, in line with the other novels Scholastic had sent me in the package – imagine my surprise!

This novel, in my opinion, should be nominated for late primary school / early secondary school reading. I think it would be difficult to get onto the curriculum, but at the same time, it would be so valuable as a resource. It’s more accessible than ‘The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas’.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

James Snyder - Into the Abyss

Into the Abyss
James Snyder

Connelly’s life has taken a turn for the better. For once, she is wanted (despite ending up in a bad place once again to get there), and her foster parents seem great. But slowly, slowly, everything falls apart again, and she is left on the streets.

This middle novel in the series (The Beautiful-Ugly Trilogy)
stomps on your heart in the same way the first one tore it. It was painful to read, and yet just as painful to put it down, not knowing what would happen next.

Those brief moments when Connelly feels like she has a family you want to celebrate with her, but also understand her reservedness. Her inability to keep things together after that however, is kinda annoying. She says she knows how to say no, how to just observe, but she can’t help spoiling what she has.

I find it hard to reconcile Connelly dropping drugs so quickly with the rate at which she moved into them. She's into some hard things, it's easy for her to go deeper in than to come out. Yet when she has a change of scenery, she feels those changes strongly enough that they take the joy or ignorant bliss of drugs from her.

The gang head is friendly than the average Joe on the street! If it’s true, the way New York is portrayed here, I never want to go there. Sure, Connelly isn’t very good at picking friends, but she doesn’t have much experience.

Something that disturbed me was the way that Snyer basically made every male in Connelly’s life a predator or a hindrance. In the end, even the question to find her brother was answered in this way. In fact, I’m not sure there are any wholly positive influences, apart from that art teacher a long time ago. The women are equally dysfunctional as the men, and it’s a hard, cruel world out there for everyone.

This is a gritty novel, even more so than the first one. The ending fits in with the beginning, and smoothly transitions into the next novel, so if you’ve got them, make sure you take them all with you to your reading spot.

Trigger warnings for drug use, rape, sexual content, suicide and swearing. Definitely a young adult novel, not teenage fiction.

I requested this trilogy directly from the author, and was lucky enough to receive all of them at once. I’m really glad I did, as these were really enjoyable, if emotionally difficult to read.