UPDATE: Please find an Audible clip from Juliet Marillier's newest novel, Dreamer's Pool, on the original blog post.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Laylah Hunter - Gabriel's City

Gabriel's City
Laylah Hunter

Colin is a upper class boy with a gambling problem so bad that he can't go home, and is hunted through the streets. Gabriel is a touched boy who takes a shine to Colin. As Colin's old life slips away, it's Gabriel who will take that empty position.

The beginning was a bit of an annoyance for me. I didn't like the tense it was told in, and I felt like the background information could have been incorporated better. It's separated into three parts, across the seasons. Although this sounds like a logical order, it's not actually really related to the seasons. There are several main events.

Gabriel and Drake's tentative love for each other is both touching and realistic. You don't realize that Drake has any experience in this area until later in the novel. And Gabriel seems like he might have been abused, but he warms to Drake's tentative touch. This thread of romance isn't overdone, it's just the right amount.

Something that might make some people uncomfortable are the descriptions of sex in the novel, and the straightforward facts of whoring in the slums. I found them well written, without any cloying descriptions, and they actually add something to the characters.

As Colin (Drake) took on the persona more, the character naming was reflected to show that. The entirity of the text is written from Drake's perspective after all. This was a clever device used by the autho, and I really appreciated it. The transition was so smooth, that I had to double check the ending and beginning to make sure I hadn't gotten confused!

I sat still for several hours to read this. Once I got in, I couldn't get back out again. Amazing how a good author can produce such in-depth characters with a sense of pace that won't let you go.

It's amazing how much trouble two young men can get into when they set their minds to it. But they're both really good at their job, as bloody and messy as it is. I can't even blame Gabriel for being a bit... well, creepily interested in collecting body parts. Most of the targets they are set on deserved their treatment as far as I am concerned.

I was requested to read this novel, and was provided with an ARC. This was in electronic format, but I had such faith in the publishers that I opted to read it.

Friday, 31 October 2014

Scott Westerfeld - Afterworlds

Scott Westerfeld

Darcy has written a novel, a first novel, which took her a single month. She's been taken on by a publishing company, and now she needs to do the re-writes on the book, and face writer's block. At the same time, the reader has the story that Darcy is rewriting to read, and be fascinated by.

Afterworlds was a dream to read. I felt equally compelled to read by both stories, and I couldn’t put it down after the first quarter. Although I’ve just said I enjoyed both stories, it was Lizzie's that counted for me. While Darcy lives it up, Lizzie is really living. Which perhaps is the way this was meant to go and be interpreted.

Darcy shows the real story of young authors trying to get a break. Her new friends are doing the same thing. I wish Westerfeld would write Gen's novel as well. He certainly has the knack for writing a brilliant beginning.

I’ve read other novels by this author, but none recently. I first picked up ‘Uglies’ and it was as good as an intro gets. This novel is more obviously gripping and based in reality. I’d like to say Scott is a pioneer of the dystopian/paranormal, or at least real teen books of interest.

For an author who splits time between Australia and the USA, I’d love to know why he set it in the States. I guess because more people would find Manhattan accessible. I feel like I’ve written a lot about my perspectives on the author, and little about what I felt about the book. 

I did love the writing though. Everything! Please go and read it. Something I really enjoyed was how romance seemed to creep up on Darcy inexplicably, when she wasn’t writing. Or perhaps because she was writing.

Something that goes with me was what Darcy says about writing. Sit down, and write a couple of pages every day, and at the end of it you’ll have a novel. Isn’t it every writers nightmare to stare at a blank screen?

I received this novel in return for a honest review. All opinions and ideas are my own.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Veronica Roth - Divergent

Veronica Roth

In Tris' society, you belong to one of five factions, depending on the broad personality traits that you display - honesty, peacefulness, selflessness, bravery and intellectuality. Everyone must choose in their 16th year, after undergoing an aptitude test that suggests their best fitting faction. Tris, however, shows affinity for more than one faction, making her a dangerous divergent.

I found the training of the Dauntless fascinating, and it was the highlight of the novel to me. I felt like Tris should be succeeding and exceeding at different things that she fails at, she's so plucky and determined. But at the same time, there are other things she succeeds with, particularly her fears. It's easier for her, because she's divergent, but at the same time, she shows insight into why each of the things affects her.

It's starting to drive me nuts, all the comparisons to 'The Hunger Games'. They aren't everything that this genre has to offer! This novel, when reviewed in it's own right, is worth reading. People say 'Divergent' is not as good as 'The Hunger Games', but it doesn't need to be, it's allowed to be different.

It all seems a little convenient that Tris just happens to be a divergent and that it so happens that this plan is going to happen just then. It seems like a plan that would take years to set up, and yet Tris is the one who must stop it. Ah well, what's a novel without convenience?

I'm looking forward to reading the other novels in the series, but even if I don't get around to them, I won't feel too sad. This novel seems like it will be the one I will enjoy the most anyway. I'm feeling a bit browned off series, I want a good solid read in its own right.

I bought this book as a vacation novel - free choice! Well worth the $13 I spent on it at Kmart, a light read that didn't actually ask me to think too deeply (although it subtly prompts different ideas).

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.