Review: Victoria Aveyard – Glass Sword

Glass Sword
Victoria Aveyard

Mare Barrow is back to being plain old Mare after the Red Guard’s audacious rescue and she knows what she wants to do next – hunt down the newbloods and then use them to kill Maven and kill his mother Elena. Having been burnt by Maven in the past, Mare doesn’t trust anyone. And can anyone trust Mare?

Oh yes! So remember how everyone was devastated by Sirus’ death in Harry Potter? I feel like the death in this novel of someone close to Mare should have triggered more of an emotional reaction from me, but I didn’t even flinch. Even when Mare succeeds at one of her major goals, I felt like it had happened too quickly for me to even appreciate it.

The ending to this novel would have been unacceptable if I didn’t have the next novel sitting on my shelf. Cliff hanger! But I still haven’t picked up King’s Cage. This novel wasn’t as breathtaking as everyone seems to feel. I actually read two other novels to completion while reading this one. I’m not sure what quite was wrong with it, it might have been Mare’s stubborn woe-is-me, I will never trust anyone again attitude for the whole novel.

What is with all the novels at the moment with admittedly kick-ass Princesses having to take their throne back for themselves? I’m thinking Ruined or Ash Princess here. Or The Selection, which I have not actually read. I’m sure there are more out there. Honestly after a while they all blur together.

I went to a Publisher get-together a couple of years back and received the first novel in this series as my free book. Then I recently got the third novel for review from the publisher but didn’t own the second novel. My fiancee bought it for me for our anniversary, and here I am reading it. A pity that I just found out that this is a quartet, and I’m not sure I’m interested in pursuing the series when I have so many other interesting things to read. 3 stars from me.

Review: Nathan Ripley – Find You in the Dark

Find You in the Dark
Nathan Ripley

Martin has a slightly disturbing hobby of hunting down the missing bodies of women hidden by serial killers. Not to mention that he is married to a woman who’s sister’s body was never found. When his informant suddenly starts wanting recognition and threatens blackmail, Martin decides to give up his hobby. But it’s too late – someone else has recognised him and they want him to escalate his behaviour to killing.

This book was entrancing and meaty and I lost quite a lot of my day to it! This novel had just the right edge to it in terms of creepiness. I found myself drinking it in in small sittings because I had to process what had just happened. It kept me awake thinking about it. It raises questions – do serial killers always act on their urges? Is it something you can treat?

The use of several perspectives made this novel had me sitting on the edge of my seat. The author got it just right with my sympathy for the main character so that I never suspected or interpreted him as a dangerous creep. That poor detective! Sandra’s instincts are awesome, but Martin is just too smart. Sometimes I felt like her brain and analytical nature was overplayed, particularly in her relationship with Chris.

Go get your sneaky hands on this novel and let it keep you up late at night. It’s going to have to wanting to double check your doors are locked and that you brought something in your handbag to ward off attackers.

Text Publishing | 2nd April 2018 | AU$29.99 |paperback

Review: Becky Albertalli – Leah on the Off Beat

Leah on the Off Beat
Becky Albertalli

Leah is ready to ride out her senior year of school and cruise into the college that she has a full scholarship to. But she expected to have all of her friends together – and when they start breaking up into smaller groups and losing relationships due to distance, Leah finds herself out of step with the beat.

I think I would have actually benefited from reading ‘Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda’ first. I just ignored the fact that this novel was the sequel because it looked awesome, and I really enjoyed the Upside of Unrequited (actually receiving this one pushed me to review that one). I then felt like I never connected properly with the characters and that it seemed like they were just wandering through Leah’s life.

I honestly found myself expecting more actual drumming in this novel rather than dramas. The closest it gets to her drumming is the band showing up at the rehearsal house – and then the guy who lives there is having a breakdown!

I love the way Leah owns the way she looks. Although she occasionally mentions her weight, you don’t get the feeling that she’s self-conscious about it. She isn’t afraid of squashing anyone – all she is concerned about is that being bisexual will alienate her from her group.

If you are looking for a teenage fiction with a non-typical protagonist (not a straight, thin, middle-class white girl) then this could be a novel for you. I read it all in one sitting and I didn’t regret it! I’m giving it 4 stars as I found it above average but not spectacular.

Penguin Random House | 30th April 2018 | AU$17.99 | paperback

Interview with Lisa Brown Roberts

An Interview with Lisa Brown Roberts, author of Spies, Lies and Allies.

Award-winning romance author Lisa Brown Roberts still hasn’t recovered from the teenage catastrophes of tweezing off both eyebrows, or that time she crashed her car into a tree while trying to impress a guy. It’s no wonder she loves to write romantic comedies. Lisa’s books have earned praise from Kirkus Reviews, Publishers Weekly, and the School Library Journal. She lives in Colorado with her family, in which pets outnumber people.

I’m not going to be reviewing your newest novel, but from your other published novels, is there one that is your own personal favourite?

Hmm…that’s like picking a favorite kid or pet! I love each of my books for different reasons, but my first book, How (not) to Fall in Love, will always have a special place in my heart.

Everyone has a ‘first novel’, even if many of them are a rough draft relegated to the bottom and back of your desk drawer (or your external harddrive!). Have you been able to reshape yours, or have you abandoned it for good?

I’ve abandoned my early efforts, however I used the main character from the first semi-decent book I wrote as an important secondary character in How (not) to Fall in Love. He became the uncle of my protagonist, and played a major role in the story.

Some authors are able to pump out a novel a year and still be filled with inspiration. Is this the case for you, or do you like to let an idea percolate for a couple of years in order to get a beautiful novel?

Since my first novel came out in 2015, I’ve published a total of six novels. I never would’ve dreamed I could do that, but I was fortunate to be offered multiple book contracts – but then I had to produce much more quickly than I had prior to being published. However, by nature I’m more of a percolater and a tweaker. I can’t read my books after they are published because I want to revise them – again.

I have heard of writers that could only write in one place – then that cafe closed down and they could no longer write! Where do you find yourself writing most often, and on what medium (pen/paper or digital)?

I can write anywhere. With a family and a day job, I have to use every spare writing minute I can find. My favorite writing space is my sunny home office, but I also write in my car, in doctors’ waiting rooms, libraries, coffee shops, restaurants…anywhere and everywhere. I use notebooks when I’m out and about, but do my main writing on my computer. Sometimes I dictate ideas or dialog into my phone when I’m out walking my dogs.

Before going on to hire an editor, most authors use beta-readers. How do you recruit your beta-readers, and choose an editor? Are you lucky enough to have loving family members who can read and comment on your novel?

I have wonderful critique partners I’ve worked with for years – they are all authors. I also have a couple of avid reader friends (not writers) who are great betas. My family doesn’t read my books until they’re in print, and honestly family members usually don’t make good beta readers because they’re too nice and don’t want to hurt my feelings.

I walk past bookshops and am drawn in by the smell of the books – ebooks simply don’t have the same attraction for me. Does this happen to you, and do you have a favourite bookshop? Or perhaps you are an e-reader fan… where do you source most of your material from?

We have wonderful bookstores in Denver, Colorado- The Tattered Cover, Denver BookBar, Second Star to the Right, The Bookies, and more. I love print books,, but I also enjoy ebooks and audiobooks. I will use any media to enjoy a great story!

I used to find myself buying books in only one genre (fantasy) before I started writing this blog. What is your favourite genre, and do you have a favourite author who sticks in your mind from:

  1. childhood? Laura Ingalls Wilder, E.B. White, Dr. Seuss, Louisa May Alcott, Mary Norton
  2. adolescence? Paula Danziger, Judy Blume, S.E. Hinton
  3. young adult? The same as I’ve listed under adolescence. We didn’t really have YA when I was a teen.
  4. adult? So many I don’t know where to begin. Here are a few: Kristan Higgins, Anne Lamott, Jill Mansell, Sophie Kinsella, Sarah Hegger, Pamela Mingle, JoJoMoyes, John Irving, Graeme Simsion, Amy Reichert, Rainbow Rowell… I could go on and on!

Social media is a big thing, much to my disgust! I never have enough time myself to do what I feel is a good job. What do you do?

I handle all of my own, because I’m reluctant to trust someone else to express my “social media self” accurately. Social media can be a minefield, so I tread carefully.

My favorite is Instagram, because I don’t encounter any drama there like sometimes happens on Twitter and Facebook. Also I love admiring others’ photos, and following all sorts of feeds, like crafts, food, travel etc.

About Spies, Lies, and Allies

Summers are supposed to be fun, right? Not mine. I’ve got a job at my dad’s company, which is sponsoring a college scholarship competition. I just found out that, in addition to my job assisting the competing interns, I’m supposed to vote for the winner. Totally not what I signed up for.

My boss is running the competition like it’s an episode of Survivor. Then there’s Carlos, who is, well, very distracting––in a good way. But I can’t even think about him like that because fraternizing on the job means instant disqualification for the intern involved.

As if that’s not enough, an anonymous informant with insider intel is trying to sabotage my dad’s company on social media…and I’m afraid it’s working.

Much as I’d love to quit, I can’t. Kristoffs Never Quit is our family motto. I just hope there’s more than one survivor by the end of this summer.

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Review: Brandon Sanderson – Wax and Wayne (Mistborn #4, #5 and #6)

Mistborn – Wax and Wayne
Brandon Sanderson

This is a combined review of the three Wax and Wayne novels that are set in an era after the original three Mistborn novels (Mistborn, The Well of Ascension, The Hero of Ages). The Mistborn trilogy was actually the first set of Brandon Sanderson novels I ever read, so I had high hopes for these follow-on novels (please don’t laugh at my very old reviews). However, unusually for a Sanderson novel, I was kind of disappointed so I didn’t review them immediately.

The Alloy of Law’s first chapter was the best! I could have heard far more about Wax’s old life rather than his new one. It is interesting to return to the same stomping grounds of the original trilogy 300 years later, where technology has actually happened despite, or perhaps because of, the scarcity of magic. This is something rare for a fantasy series, although my beloved Ruined certainly has magic and technology battling it out. However, the city that Wax sees and the one he fights for frustrates me. Burn it all down and try again! And that bloody uncle of his…

Wax’s slow romance burns a little brighter in the second novel Shows of Self. This novel moved quickly due to Wax’s insistence on doing everything himself. Kandra tactics and the way Kandra have moved on from the original Mistborn series is explored in depth here, and some very surprising information comes to light. It’s nice to have a ‘God’ who actually responds, even if it is sometimes not in the way you expect…

The eventual conclusion of this series in The Bands of Mourning finally plays out the showdown of Wax and his uncle that readers have been anticipating from the beginning of the trilogy. The relative expansion of the physical world of the Mistborn saga allows Sanderson more scope for future novels (although I hope that is not the main reason for doing it). In addition, we also get a look at more Allomancy and Feruchemy which is the part of these novels that I am actually always excited about.

I’m actually going to give these 4 stars… Shock horror! I never expected to downgrade a Sanderson from a 5 stars, but these just lacked the awesome storyline and connectable characters of his latest stuff eg. Legion or Steelheart. Don’t worry, I’m still going to be getting my hands on the latest novels in his epics (even if I’ll never forgive him for taking time off to work on that stupid Wheel of Time epic…)

Review: Frank Ostaseski – The Five Invitations

The Five Invitations
Frank Ostaseski

“Discovering What Death Can Teach Us About Living Fully” – a non-fiction offering from a renowned teacher of compassionate care-giving and the cofounder of the Zen Hospice Project. This novel gives the Five Invitations to guide you in the right direction in your life so that you can die with your life better fulfilled.

Although I might flippantly reply to a question of “What is the meaning of life?” with “There isn’t one.” this novel provides a better answer, or at least contemplation of the answer. People often have regrets about what they could have / should have done differently. There are the typical lists of ‘The Top 5 Things People Regret’, but this novel actually offers readers a gentle guide to how to go about improving things now.

I read this novel such a very long time ago that I barely remember it. I dipped into it to review it now which was very relevant as my fiance’s (I got engaged!!!) grandfather died. This is a novel I would dip into more than once, as an inspiration for when things aren’t going so well in life (like right now!!!). Reevaluating your life is something powerful and painful and sometimes necessary.

A very respectable piece of non-fiction that offers lots of insights and comfort into Death, and how thinking about the inevitability of Death can help us live the life we actually want.

Pan Macmillan | 28th March 2017 | AU$29.99 | paperback

Review: Eleni Hale – Stone Girl

Stone Girl
Eleni Hale

Sophie has spent 3 days curled up in the shower away from her decaying dead mother. Now she has been removed from everything she knows and put into Foster Care. As the years wear on, Sophie’s experiences of Foster Care and her own personality deteriorate to the point where she has nothing left. Is there redemption for anyone?

The blurb suggests that there will be redemption, but there isn’t really. Sophie ends up being in worse and worse situations until there is no way out for her. But it’s not really Sophie’s fault. She is only 12 when she enters the system, and she doesn’t have a good grasp of right or wrong when she is thrown in the deep end.

I liked this novel for the way that it exposed the flaws in the Foster Care system. At the same time, I dreaded reading it, because who wants to know that an essential part of society (children) are being let down in this way? Although children might start out innocent, it is easy for them to blame themselves for whatever happened that lead to them being in care, and this means that they often believe that they deserve anything that happens to them.

I’m not entirely sure on the title of this novel. I’d rather have gone with ‘Rock Girl’, given that a name for pure speed is Rock. This novel is raw and painful to read – don’t read it if your own psyche is not feeling as stable as it could. I’d recommend it for older teenagers and young adults – the language, drug use and sex scenes are inappropriate for younger readers.

I wavered between 3 and 4 stars for this novel. When I looked at it on my to-be-reviewed pile, I had to think for a minute what it was actually about. But then again, I did read it mainly in one sitting, so it must have been entrancing at the time!

Penguin Random House | 30th April 2018 | AU$19.99 | paperback

Review: Andrew Mayne – Black Fall (Jessica Blackwood #3)

Black Fall
Andrew Mayne

Jessica is an FBI agent with a difference – her training as a Magician and her knowledge of tricks is the reason for her placement at Quantico with three other technonerds. When a long dead scientist starts predicting natural disasters, it’s up to Jessica to debunk the predictions.

I was pretty excited about the missing town! How was this one going to be explained? And of course there was a fantastic explanation! The other parts about the set up of the underground rooms seemed predictable and boring in comparison. Because I knew Jessica could solve any problem, it wasn’t exciting anymore.

There was very little Jessica-development and a lot of racing around with nothing to show for it. A couple of potential dinner dates and a couple of potential friendships. Oh and a couple of close calls on death, but nothing that her oldest brilliant buddy can’t fix.

I’m not sure this novel had the same pizzazz as the first two novels (Angel Killer and Name of the Devil). It all happened too quickly and I found it difficult to trace the clues for myself. I’ll still give it 5 stars, but it’s heading down towards 4 stars. I’m going to keep reading the series in the hope that it will return to its awesomeness.

Review: Amy Tintera – Allied

Allied
Amy Tintera

Em has finally freed Olivia and it looks like Ruina belongs to the Ruined again. But is that what the survivors want, when kingdoms such as Lera have far better pastures? Victory does not mean the same thing to Em and Olivia, and as the war with the other Kingdoms continues, each of them is going to have to make an impossible choice.

This novel is full of action, action, action. The battle scenes and killings almost seem non-stop. Talking might be Em’s preferred way of negotiation but with Olivia on the loose it’s just not possible! Cas gets some airtime, and Galo and Aren finally are forged into full characters with their own thoughts and motivations.

We get a bit more of a perspective from characters other than Em this time, but sometimes I wished I hadn’t! It did add to the suspense in some parts but in other parts I felt like the forewarning made it too predictable. Go and read this novel and find out for yourself!

When this novel arrived I had to stop myself from diving in straight away. When I read Avenged (the second novel) a short while ago, I had wanted to reread Ruined, but just couldn’t wait. This time, I reread the first two and was enveloped in Amy Tintera’s world just as firmly as before. This series is deserving of its 5-star rating.

Allen & Unwin | 24th April 2018 | AU$16.99 | paperback

Review: Abbi Glines – As She Fades

Abbi Glines
As She Fades

Vale and her boyfriend Crawford are in a horrific accident the night of their high school graduation. Crawford is in a coma and Vale needs to make a decision to move on or not. When she goes to college she discovers that life can be very different.

Let me start out by saying first that this novel was terrible. Really terrible. The first half is lovely: the (seeming) main character developed well and I enjoyed the writing style. Unfortunately half way through the whole picture changed and I was left not wanting to finish the novel. I honestly no longer cared about anything that happened to Vale because her life was so boring and her real self so pathetic. Not to mention that Slate suddenly turned into a pile of goo.

What’s with the title? I don’t see anyone fading except the uncle, and even he makes it for most of the time! His totally inappropriate banter tries valiantly to save the novel but it can’t make up for the rest of the characters.

1 star from me. Don’t waste your time, because there are so many other good things out there. I stopped reading and was sad I had devoted time to the first half of the novel – if I had known what would transpire I would have skipped it.

Pan Macmillan | 2nd January 2018 | AU $14.99 | paperback