Review: Maggie Stiefvater – The Dream Thieves

The Dream Thieves
Maggie Stiefvater

Ronan Lynch is the typical bad boy who doesn’t get along with anyone. His friends barely manage to keep him in check, and he spends more time arguing with Gansey than making a difference to the adventures of his buddies. That all changes in this novel… It’s Ronan calling the shots, and taking the shots, and being shot at.

17347389At the end of the first novel, there is a hint about what will happen in this one. I didn’t get the hint, even with this novel sitting on my shelf. This time we see the evolution of the Raven Boys into young men who are slightly more decent people. It helps that the perspectives are now changing between them and Blue, as her views are coloured by her family.

It seems like my review is filled with things comparing it to the other novels in the series, but I can’t help it! It’s so easy to spoiler this novel. World building? Check. Engaging storyline? Check. Evolving characters? Check. I think you’ll enjoy this one, but don’t expect anything too spectacular.

Years ago I received this novel for review, but didn’t own the first one to get started on the series. After the third novel (Blue Lily, Lily Blue) came into my mailbox I thought I should really get a start on reading them… But it wasn’t until Christmas last year that I received the novel (hardbacks are expensive!).

I just can’t think straight about these novels. I put them down and almost immediately forget what the story was about and whether I enjoyed it. Is it that the story wasn’t that engaging or that each ending feels satisfying or maybe even that my concentration is shot?

4star

 

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Review: Sara Barnard – Beautiful Broken Things

Beautiful Broken Things
Sara Barnard

Caddie has never had any significant life events. No boyfriends, no sex, and nothing exciting. When the broken Suzanne comes into her life, her friendships and experiences are going to change. Her best friend Rosie is going to be pushed out of the way by a girl who seems larger than life.

25437747I’m going to be honest here, the first couple of chapters were so slow that I considered putting it back on the shelf for another time. But I kept persevering, and I was rewarded with emotional torrents that could pluck heartstrings while also giving a harsh relativity to the main characters.

Caddie is a selfish teenager sometimes. She wonders to herself, if I do this thing… oh wait, she didn’t actually think about it at all, she just did it. And now people are annoyed at her. She makes plenty of bad choices, and doesn’t seem to know how to stand up to people. Sometimes she was so dumb I wanted to slap her.

I’m not sure anyone was taking Suzanne seriously enough. She writes things off as jokes, make fun of her own mortality, but underneath she does need help. Caddie tries to provide that, once she knows what is going on, but Suzanne doesn’t want to accept help. Considering that Caddie’s parents have had to deal with Tarin being bipolar (which is presented in an entirely blaze way), they don’t seem to get depression when they see it.

For all the worry about where Suzanne is, adults are hopeless and the final chapters of the book are heartrending. What is wrong with you people? Why can you not see these things? Isn’t it obvious that something major is wrong?

There was a lot of underage drinking going on in this novel, plus some weed. I don’t have a problem with that at all though, it certainly fit with what I know about teenage girls. As old as Caddie’s parents are, you would sure hope they might have learnt something about parenting. The chip on Caddie’s shoulder about going to a private school has to stem from them, and I can understand where she is coming from.

This is on par with Cam Girl for me. One depicts codependency as horrible, the other as something that can be respected. Two novels about how friendships can break apart and be put back together, but one as a teenage fiction and the other as brilliant, accessible teenage fiction.

4 stars from me.

4star

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Review: Will McIntosh – Burning Midnight

Burning Midnight
Will McIntosh

David Sully is a usual teenage boy. In his modern world, the economy rides on spheres. Spheres can make you smarter, or taller, or have nice teeth, or give you supersonic hearing. He’s been successful before, but having been burnt once by the resident sphere millionaire buyer, he’s reluctant to trust anyone. When Hunter comes along, the whole spectrum of spheres is going to shift…

25489041This innovative magic system – I could have had more! The basis was spheres – burn a Ruby Red one, have straight teeth, or Aqua ones so that you can sleep whenever you need. The price point is all you need to worry about to do. In the manner of Brandon Sanderson, I wished there had been an index at the end of the novel to remind me what each of the spheres burned did to each person. Then I could have flipped back and forth as I wanted.

They have to be super sneaky and smart to survive, but sometimes they are just plain stupid! Hunter was the highlight for me, because she was so pigheaded all the time, and seems to still get there in the end. Unlike Sully, who once burnt, becomes a suspicious bastard. The Spheres had been around for around 5 years, and hunting them is what makes a living for Sully and Hunter. Sully has created a second wave, and the new ones are something special again. And that makes the whole premise of this novel.

Yes, yes, there’s romance in this novel. It was inevitable. You can’t have teenage fiction without it it seems. Hunter did the usual ‘I’m not girlfriend material speech’, and Sully did his ‘I don’t care, you’re so hot, mighty sphere hunter’. And didn’t everything work out very interestingly, and not so straight forward and good? Yes, yes it did.

Burning midnight drove me absolutely up the wall with really wanting to read it. Worst of all, I had to stop about 10 pages from the end and do some other things in the mean time, and that was just cruel! I’d recommend this novel without reservation to any teenager who enjoys an action packed time.

The ending could have frustrated me, but actually I thought it left me feeling quite satisfied, despite it ending a little abruptly. Some other reviews I have read suggest it needs a sequel, but it’s not at all clear where that would go. For me, it was very satisfying and I think it’s going to give you a couple of really good hours of reading. 

4star

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Review: Maggie Stiefvater – The Raven Boys

The Raven Boys
Maggie Stiefvater

Blue is able to amplify psychic powers. She also knows that if she kisses her true love, she’s going to kill him. When a quartet of Raven boys walk into her life, all of them have a strange attraction that could kill her or them… or endanger others.

17675462I’m not really sure how I feel about this novel. I didn’t really get into the psyche of the characters. I couldn’t keep the boys straight at all to start off with, and although I liked Blue, I just didn’t get along with her. I couldn’t feel anything with her – no fear, no nothing. If anything, they were all too cool. Even when they were in danger, they hardly seemed to care. I didn’t care if they were going to die or not, which isn’t a good sign.

I could see the world around the characters really clearly, and feel the palpable tension in the air. I could see the aunts bustling around in the house, and it reminded me of The Wild Ways which I also loved for giving me a vivid picture of what goes on in a witchy household.

I can’t imagine what will come in the next novel, it felt like this one would be a standalone, but the set up in the beginning with Blue’s fate doesn’t play out how you might expect it to. So there’s plenty of room for the second, which I received originally from Scholasitic and didn’t read because I didn’t own this one! Thanks girlfriend for buying me this one for Christmas 2015.

How sexy is the cover on this bad boy? In fact, I took off my dust jacket and got an even more impressive book to my mind. Check out my Instagram to see those! I’m going to display them on my wall without the dust jackets. Any ideas on where to keep them safe?

I don’t know how I felt about this novel overall. I’ve read other novels by Stiefvater, and felt equally divided.  I think I enjoyed it, but it didn’t leave a lasting impression in my mind. I wanted to read it while I was in the middle of it, but then when I finished I only had a slight inclination to read the second. I’m going to be generous and give it 4 stars, simply because I loved the cover so much.

4star

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Review: Isobelle Carmody – Alyzon Whitestarr

Alyzon Whitestarr
Isobelle Carmody

Alyzon is the most boring member of her family. She isn’t artistic, she doesn’t play an instrument and she doesn’t have any interesting physical features. One day she is hit on the head, and wakes up with her senses overwhelmed by smells, real and dubious. She’s a response to a sickness that takes over spirits, and they’re after her… and her sister.

1961314I forget how much I like this novel every time I put it away on the shelf, and then when I pick it up I just can’t stop reading it. It’s fascinating to think that special extensions of senses are just evolution. Let me evolve that way! I wish I had abilities like this. But I wouldn’t want to be able to smell the rotting meat of infected people.

As always, the characters come alive even from the single perspective of Alyzon. This is helped by the fact that we get all of Alyzon’s extended senses telling us (and her) things that other people wouldn’t notice. I like that there is a varied cast, not everyone is boring and mainstream. This reflects the fact that people are different on the inside, even if you can’t see it.

People on GoodReads seem really divided about it. Some hate it, call it boring and awful. Others love it. I can agree that it is often wordy, but it’s part of the story! How else can Alyzon talk about her extended senses? Perhaps it is people reading it as adults. To me, this is a perfect teenage novel, just as it was when I was younger.

I was inspired to read this again because it’s coming out from Ford Street Publishing this year! And when I spoke to Isobelle Carmody (about 3 times in the space of a week), she said she felt like she hadn’t finished with the world of Alyzon. Never mind that Isobelle tends to not want to let go of any of her characters (uh hum, Obernewtyn).

5 stars from me. Did you really expect anything else?

5star

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Interview with Valerie Davisson

ValerieDavissonPortraitAn Interview with Valerie Davisson, author of Shattered* and ‘Forest Park’. Stay tuned for my review of ‘Forest Park’ coming soon! *Here’s the link for my review of Shattered

I am reviewing your current set of novels. From your other published novels, are there some that I should absolutely read?
This series is my first! Each book is a new adventure for me as well as my protagonist, Logan McKenna. My other books are non-fiction and poetry.

I both love and hate novels that don’t leave a discrete ending for the reader. Have you ever felt the need to write sequels for specific novels, other than this set?
If I had a standalone novel, I’m sure I would want to know what happens next with the characters – as long as we’re alive we have room for growth and change.

There’s always another novel in the pipeline to write… Tell me about it! Does it have even a working title?
Ahh…yes! I just sketched out the main points for Logan Book 3 and am digging into the research. This one takes her back to Jasper, her home town on the Southern California coast. All I can say now is that it involves sea otters, seduction and salty dogs…

Some advice other writers have given is that your first novel is best sitting in a drawer for a while, because then you feel stronger about chopping up ‘your baby’. Do you still have a copy of your first novel? Whether this was published or unpublished, I need to know!
Great question! SHATTERED: Logan Book 1 is not only my first novel in the series, but my first novel ever! I wanted to see if I could write one. Once I make up my mind, I just do it. I had no idea what I was doing, so went to a writers’ conference in La Jolla, found some experienced people to show me the ropes and off I went. It’s been a roller coaster ride ever since. Why leave something sitting in a drawer?

Do you have a dedicated writing space? How does it meet your writing needs?
I do – it’s an open loft area in my home. I’ve got a drafting table with a large monitor on the top shelf, a comfortable chair in the corner where I can curl up and read drafts sometimes. When I’m in the final writing stages – that final 1,000-words-a-day push, I lock myself in up here, put on headphones, crank up a Tchaikovsky violin concerto or 2 Cellos and everyone knows the “Logan light is on!” I need quiet to juggle all the plot lines in my head, or try to get a line right. I can do white noise – coffee shops are fine – I just can’t carry on a conversation or listen to music with lyrics and write at the same time.

I also find myself working at the kitchen table if no one is home or I’m too lazy to walk up the stairs. It’s closer to the refrigerator…

What is your writing process? Have you ever thought about changing it? Other authors I have interviewed talk about having an outline – post-it notes in an office, or writing in paper journals. Is there something like that in your writing technique? Or is it all digital for you?
This question brings to mind my first attempt at plotting. I taped several large pieces of chart paper together and used different color post-it notes for each character, placing them along the arcs of the story. Needless to say it got too complicated, so I gave it up. But it looked really cool. Made me feel very official.

I next tried Excel to keep track of dates, plot lines and characters – who’s doing what when. Excel works for me once the story gets going.I am the Excel Queen!

In the initial stages, I write and sketch ideas on blank paper-mind mapping, jotting down thoughts as they come to me. Once I decide one thing, everything starts rushing into my head and I have to write fast to get it all down. I can always change it later if something doesn’t work, but I feel lucky that so far the ideas come easily – the patience and skill is in weaving them together.

How do you know when a novel or short story is finished? How do you know to step away and let the story speak for itself?
I read somewhere that a mystery novel should aim for about 65,000 words. So, I had that in the back of my head, but really, it just seems to work itself out. When it’s done, it’s done. I like resolving some big issues, but also leaving room for the characters to continue living their lives, even if we never see them again. But, of course, we will see SOME of them again…

Do you have a preference for ebook or paperback format? This is for both your own reading and your novels.
I was always a person who loved physical books – the feel of a book in my hand or on my lap – wandering through bookstores, selecting books off the shelves with great pleasure. But…in the last few years, almost all of my reading is done on my kindle. It’s lightweight and doesn’t keep my husband up with a bright book light I used to have to use. Also easier to travel with.

Social media is becoming a big thing. How does managing media outlets come into marketing your brand and your books?
Because I did a blog as part of a non-fiction book about conversation salons I wrote a few years ago, I was somewhat familiar with WordPress, so when the publisher wanted me to do an author website and Facebook page, it felt pretty natural. I enjoy posting – just wish I could clone myself. Sometimes it’s hard to find time to write your novel AND your blog posts.

You have answered other sets of interview questions, is there something you wish someone would have asked you? Or conversely, something you wish they hadn’t asked?
One of my favorite questions is which character is my favorite – and it’s usually a toss-up between Tava’e, the massive, Samoan Chess Queen who owns the coffee shop down the hill from Logan at the beach, and Iona Slatterly, the feisty head of security at the Otter Festival in SHATTERED: Logan Book 1. She was modeled after a woman I saw while serving jury duty years ago. Tiny woman marched in wearing skin-tight, hot pink jeans with matching nails and lipstick, over-bleached blonde, towering beehive and drawn on eyebrows. Cigarette dangling out of her mouth. I never got to talk to her, so I reinvented her as Iona in my first novel. She was a kick to write! Lived by her own rules. Heart of gold. Rough around the edges.

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Review: Kyra Davis – Just One Lie

Just One Lie
Kyra Davis

Mercy/Melody is the lead singer in a band that’s just gotten a new drummer. When she sees an old one-night stand in the audience she feels like things have come full circle. The jobs and friendships she has to hold down next could be her undoing.

23492689This is the sequel to Just One Night. But I didn’t know that when I picked it up to read it (or otherwise I probably wouldn’t have started it at all). It reads perfectly well as a stand-alone, which is good enough for me with the waiting-line of other novels I want to read!

I can’t say I was particularly interested in it to start off with, just another tale of a poor band that has a lead singer that gets recognition. But then I was hooked in, with plenty of action and variety to keep me there.

I didn’t see this as a love-triangle, otherwise I would have put it down immediately. Often in those situations the guys end up as caricatures, and here they are fleshed out (haha) and actually have their own roles to play. Yes, Mercy feels drawn apart between them, but it doesn’t feel set-up.

There was sex scenes in this. Now, that’s not in the least a bad thing. They’re well-written, not particularly ‘porny’ and add to the sexual and emotional frustration of the characters.

This is quite an emotional novel, or perhaps I was just feeling particularly emotional already when I read it. The things that happen to Melody/Mercy are cruel, dangerous and tempting all at once. I felt myself inhabiting her character, both her triumphs and her falls.

What I would have liked to see more of was the period of her solitude/recovery. I didn’t get a whole story there, and I felt like it could have been a novel all on its own. So many juicy details missed out on!

For a mainstream novel that seems to be way too popular with the heartthrob romance loving crowd, I actually really enjoyed it. It had a spark to get me, and some grit to pull me along. 4 stars from me.

4star

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Review: Antonia Senior – The Winter Isles

The Winter Isles
Antonia Senior

Somerled is a young boy when his family first travels to the unforgiving slopes of Scotland. His future doesn’t seem bright, his father loves but doesn’t trust him. His beloved mother keeps standing tall by his side at all points. When he grows to be a warrior, he is able to achieve unbelievable feats in battle.

25838712Honestly, this book almost bored me stupid. Somerled gets into bigger and bigger battles, produces more and more children. The battles are like road humps, they just keep happening. I didn’t finish reading it, and don’t even feel that sorry about it. I have better things to read. If you’re looking for a innovative warrior story, I’d go for Eirelan.

The only light point of this novel was getting the perspectives from the women. It was refreshing to have something other than Somerled’s endless questioning and optimism. The mental voices were crisp and distinct, I could easily tell them apart, and that’s something that is rarely done well.

My history is rusty, even though I generally have some idea of what is going on in the Celtic and Gaelic areas. This novel didn’t fill in any gaps, and I didn’t feel like I got anything out of it. Boring. 2 stars only for its excellent perspective work.

2star

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Review: Ann Morgan – Beside Myself

Beside Myself
Anne Morgan

Ellie and Helen swap places. Helen was the leader and Ellie was the follower. But Ellie refuses to swap back. Let with a host of behavioural problems, delinquency and chronic instability, Helen drops into madness, while Ellie lives a life of fame.

The twists and turns in this novel, both in time and perspective, made my head spin. Helen holds onto herself with difficulty, and you can really feel that happening. It’s nicely balanced between inaudible ramblings inside her mind, and outer thoughts that she can’t keep in. Not to mention how she interacts with other people.

Mental illness often runs in families, and this novel reflects that. It’s an interesting expose of how different people cope with being dubbed crazy, or just feeling crazy, or acting crazy because it suits them.

I couldn’t believe the twins’ mother! What a disgusting woman. Not to mention the rest of the family. No one says sorry about anything. Only Nick tries, and even then he is acting for his own purposes. Only the twins are really true to themselves, and even then things are skewed.

I felt completely confused by the ending. Why wasn’t she taking medication? How could things ever remain stable for her? Even with her studio. I can’t say too much here, but I’d love to hear other people’s thoughts. What did you feel about it? Were you satisfied? I was satisfied, yet confused all at the same time.

I got really trapped inside this novel and couldn’t put it down. I’m going to give it 4 stars, although perhaps it should be a generous 3.

4star

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Review: Ken Kroes – 2022 (Percipience #1)

2022
Ken Kroes

Hope performs a cunning murder to cover the slip that could destroy the organisation she works for. Olivia tries to finalise a virus. Richard sees the bigger picture. Together they will bring about distruction, both intentional and unintentional.

26870332Ah! The twists! Ah! The turns! Ah! The betrayal! Ah! The suspense! Loved it. I really can’t tell you more about the plot without ruining some things that go one, but please go and get a copy to find out for yourself.

The author worried about me taking apart the science, but it was actually very doable. Some of the things they talked about, such as engineering a virus or breeding humans in a particular way, are doable now. Not that we geneticists would ever admit to it 😉 It also talks about missions to Mars, which are happening now (I think?).

The book promised me romance, but there wasn’t too much of it. It wasn’t enough to stop things from happening, and there wasn’t really any lovey-dovey business to detract from the storyline. Instead it was used as a hold on all of the people, nothing was sacred.

The thing that stopped me giving this book 5 stars was the usual ‘telling, not showing’. Despite the sentences being crafted carefully and being dramatically correct, I felt like they were too dry. I could never really immerse myself in the world, because it was so dry. I’m not sure how better to describe it.

I must say that the world building here was beautiful. I could see Sue’s office, experience the RV lifestyle, and get my mind inside the colonies. Amazing. This is eco-terrorism as a plot device, more well thought out than in the Alex Rider series.

The author warned me that there would be a ‘serving of broccoli’, which is to say it addresses some worrying trends in the current environmental climate (haha, see what I did there?). But that’s not a big issue at all. The main text is used to forward the story, and the notes at the end give us more details if needed. It’s a wakeup that many people need to have.

I can’t wait to read the second and third novels in this series, as they are likely to be a huge change from this one. I fortunately have them sitting on my shelf, so stay tuned for a review.

4star

 

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