Review: Matthew Reilly – The Secret Runners of New York (K)

The Secret Runners of New York
Matthew Reilly

It can be extremely challenging to join the cliques of the upper echelon of society, but once you do, a whole new world awaits. When Skye Rogers befriends Misty Collins, she is invited into an exclusive group, with secret access to a portal into the future. As friendships fall apart, and the future shown by the portal is discovered, their games turn from fun to terrifying.

The book started off slowly but picked up the pace over time. The plot was intriguing and executed very well. While there was a time-travelling portal, the book didn’t revolve around it, instead focusing on the behaviour and personalities of the characters, using the portal to help achieve that end. This made the book feel much more layered and complex than a simple story about some kids having fun travelling through time. The book was very immersive, and once I had gotten past the slow beginning, I was hooked.

The end of the book was absolutely wonderful! I was worried that somehow the characters would magic everything into perfection, and it’d be like the catastrophe talked through the whole book never happened, but instead the author managed to make an ending that tied up loose ends, was satisfying in not having all the characters die, and clearly changed the lives of the characters drastically.

I definitely felt that the beginning of the book was a let-down compared to the rest. The relationship between the main character and her brother Red wasn’t really shown, but rather we were told about how close the two were. The references to movies and games also felt a bit strange to include in a book. I had to google one of the references they talked about (which broke the continuity for me a little), and some of the others felt outdated.

This was a really good book that I thoroughly enjoyed reading. I wouldn’t recommend it for younger readers, especially if they are easily spooked, but I found it a solid book and will probably read it again, which is why I’m giving this book 4 stars.

Pan Macmillan | 26th March 2019 | AU$16.99 | paperback

Review: Ally Carter – Not if I Save You First

Not if I Save You First
Ally Carter

After Maddie’s father saves the first lady from being shot, he takes Maddie with him to make a new home in Alaska. Maddie finds herself torn away from her best friend Logan – the President’s son – and grows angrier with him over time as she sends him hundreds of letters and never gets a response. Six years later, Logan is sent to live with them in Alaska, both as a punishment for his behaviour, and to keep him safe. When he then gets kidnapped by the same people who tried to kill his mother years ago, Maddie must save his life, even if that means getting captured herself.

This book was full of plot holes, poor decisions, and just wasn’t exciting. The main character, Maddie, seemed to be either perfect or immortal. After falling off a 15-meter cliff, she’s able to trek through the Alaskan wilderness, make her way across a dangerous bridge, and run away from a man shooting at her. 15 meters might not seem like a lot, but it’s not uncommon for people to die from a fall that high. She later gets shot in the shoulder, and is still able to cause an explosion, survive the explosion, and throw a knife into a man’s back. Nothing felt like it had any meaning, and by the end the book felt boring and stale, because I knew that Maddie’s ability to shrug off fatal injuries would likely mean that nothing would happen to anyone else. The only progression that occurred throughout the book was the discussion between Maddie and Logan about the letters, and even that was resolved in a few pages.

There were some parts of the book that I enjoyed. I loved Maddie’s personality, with her mix of tough and girly, and her ability to annoy her captors. The letters at the beginning of each chapter were also a nice touch, helping to show more of Maddie’s personality, and how the lack of response made her feel.

This book wasn’t terrible, but it’s definitely not something I’d read again. I constantly found myself jolting out of the book and back into reality from a variety of just… strange occurrences, ranging from weird sentence structure, to poor decisions on the characters part, to people doing things that should’ve been impossible. I’m giving this book 2 stars as it wasn’t an effort to get through, but it also wasn’t very enjoyable.

 

Review: Shea Ernshaw – The Wicked Deep

The Wicked Deep
Shea Ernshaw

Penny lives on an island outside a small town called Sparrow. 200 years ago, three sisters were drowned as witches. Since then, they have returned every year on June 1st, and stay for a few weeks to possess the bodies of girls and take their revenge by drowning boys in the village that betrayed them.

This was a nice, light book that was a pleasant time-filler. I appreciated that it was short and sweet, and a book that I could read once, and move on from (instead of a larger book, or a series, where I remain invested long after I’ve finished reading). The book felt, at least to me, as if it was split into three distinct sections that each had a different feel and that I enjoyed differently.

The first section of the book was confusing for me to read. Although the blurb stated that the three sisters did exist, the book itself didn’t make that clear until around 1/3 of the way in. This meant that I spent the first part of the book unsure if it was meant to be a mystery or a fantasy novel, and as I read the two types of books differently, it was hard to immerse myself in the story.

The middle third of the book was much better than the first, as I was able to commit to the story now that I had some idea of what was happening. I don’t have a whole lot to say on this section, apart from thinking it was well-written and reasonable, although not outstanding.

The final part of the book was by far the best. The progression of events forces Penny to make difficult decisions, and I really enjoyed reading through her reasonings. That said, it felt like Penny spent a lot of time pitying herself – which wasn’t fun or interesting to read through – and the ending was predictable. The enjoyment of this third section of the book was very dependent on already having formed a bond with the characters and being invested (at least somewhat) in their romance.

The romance in this book was pretty average. It begins in such a predictable manner that I already lost some interest before it had hit full steam. The trope of ‘a mysterious person saves the main character, and they instantly have a connection’ is so overused in books that it doesn’t interest me much anymore. It wasn’t terrible, but it was predictable and not very engaging. Their relationship also felt like it moved much too quickly, going from first meeting each other to falling in love in a few weeks, with not a lot of time spent on their interactions. That said, this was a very short book, and I feel that fleshing out the relationship too much could have made the book feel bloated.

Guest Reviews from Kyria #2

Remember last year when I had a guest stay with me for 11 days and she read a bunch of book and reviewed them for me? Well, she’s back and in 7 days she read all these novels. Take it away Kyria!

Akarnae

The start of the book didn’t do it justice. It felt jumpy and confusing, because the book went to the effort of explaining and describing a situation that the character would be in, only to pull her out of it almost directly afterwards. This continued throughout the book to some extent, although never as bad as in the beginning; there were parts that felt jumpy or rushed.

However, after making it through the beginning, the book got much better and by the end of it I was really interested in what was going to happen; so much so that I might have to buy the sequel. 4 stars

The Ash Princess

If there’s one word for this book, it’s mediocre. It had a great idea, but the book didn’t live up to expectation. The idea of different ‘personalities’ that the character had, depending on who she needed to be (Thora vs Theodesia) seemed more like a way to hide a jarring personality change that instead should’ve been written into the book in a much slower, and careful way. The only way that combination of submissive and powerful would have worked is if she had been Theodesia the entire time, choosing instead to act as Thora when she needed. However, this isn’t what happened; instead, it seemed to happen over the span of a few pages, when she decides to reclaim her name, and her kingdom, and not be broken anymore. It’s reasonable that a decision like this could be made in a moment, but there should have been more happening before this, of her slowly gaining confidence, instead of just jumping on an opportunity she’s been beaten away from her entire life. 3 stars

The Bone Queen

This book was definitely not one of the best books I’ve ever read. By the time I was halfway through, I was barely skimming through it, and only because I hate leaving books unfinished. The book started out solid, however, the first change of POV started the downhill spiral than this book went on. Starting with a character who knew nobody meant that there wasn’t a bombardment of names to remember, but this changed once we left his point of view. Already, this meant that I was disinterested in half of the book, because I couldn’t understand who was doing what. The other part of the book was really good… until the two sides inevitably met up, and brought along all the name problems.

The exciting parts of the book were always good; when something interesting was happening, it was well-written, and I was interested. However, these parts seemed to be few and far between as I entered the second half of the book, instead filled with pages and pages of meaningless filler that didn’t add much to the storyline. It was around this part where I just began skipping the filler and reading only the more exciting parts; and while there was some storyline that I missed, the only noticeable difference from ignoring a significant part of the book was one change in location.
This had the potential to be a great book, but sadly fell short. 1 star

The Phoenix Project

This was an amazing book! I was hooked from start to finish. It was unpredictable; but not in a bad way. Instead of being able to guess what was going to happen from the very beginning, the book went in directions I wouldn’t have expected. The character progression felt natural, and I could really understand his actions, and why he did them.
There was only one part of this book that I didn’t particularly like, and it was relatively minor. The relationship between two of the characters felt a bit rushed; they went from barely knowing each other, to disliking each other, to being friends in a way that felt much too fast for my taste. 5 stars

Elantris

Wow. Just wow. This book legitimately blew me away. I usually have trouble keeping up with a book as it goes through separate storylines; one always seems much more interesting than the other. However, this wasn’t the case at all for this book. Both storylines had me equally interested, because they both brought something new to the table, instead of one half being the necessary but boring part. The author clearly focused on making sure that the book was well-written, and was interesting all the way through, instead of knowing what he wanted to happen, and just finding a way to get there. I started this book in the afternoon, so I inevitably stayed up late to finish it. However, usually when I’m up late to finish a book, I wish it were shorter so that I could get all the enjoyment out of it, but still go to bed earlier. This was absolutely not the case for this; I wanted the book to continue forever, even if it meant I wouldn’t go to sleep for the next few weeks.

The book did a great job at constantly keeping the reader in suspense. There were unexpected twists all throughout the book, which kept me constantly on my toes. I also appreciated that they made sure not to give the surprises away too soon. The two main characters spent so much time together, with one of them not knowing who the other was, that it constantly frustrated me. However, it also kept me reading to wait for the sweet moment when everything would be revealed.

The only negative that I have with the book is that a little more backstory would have been nice. I understand why the book started out on such a vital part, but it meant that as a reader, I was unaware of the relationships that the prince had to the other characters, so it meant that I didn’t have much to expect from when he revealed himself. 5 stars

A Chronicle of Chaos

Absolutely great book. The first part of the book played with suspense really well; I never knew what was going to come out of the relationship. It kept me hooked from the second I started reading. Throughout the book, the character development of the demon was done perfectly. I didn’t think it would’ve been possible for a genuine character development to take a demon into… a not-demon, but it felt genuine the entire time. This also happened with the main character, although there was less development because he hadn’t started off at as extreme a position.

I feel like the quality dropped near the end of the book, when Anathema became human. It felt less exciting, especially compared to earlier in the book. The transition between the relationship of the characters also felt unnatural; Chaos went from hating Anathema to instantly risking everything for him. I understand that this was done because he realised Anathema loved him back, but it still seemed unrealistic, and a bit of a jump. That said, because the rest of the book was so spectacularly done, I kept interest the entire time, because I really felt invested in the characters. 4.5 stars

The Traitor’s Game

This was a solid book. It had a great storyline, and was written well for the most part. The major let-down of the book was the predictability. I could’ve guessed a significant part of the storyline from the very beginning, which ruined a lot of the book for me. There was also one part of the book that I found very confusing, after she found the blade, where it wasn’t made clear what she had actually done with it. I understand that this was for a big reveal later on, but as a reader it just left me confused and wondering if I’d skipped a page.
The character development was also all over the place; especially the character of Trina, who went from hating Kestra to wanting to be friends in the blink of an eye. Kestra was also very predictable. Although she made a few decisions that I thought were genius, and hadn’t expected, a lot of her personality focused on her (extremely predictable) relationship with Simon.

That said, it was enjoying to read, and would definitely be a good choice for a light book you don’t want to think too much about. 3.5 stars

Guest Reviews from Kyria #1

I have something amazingly exciting to share today! I had a guest stay with me for 11 days, and while she was here, she managed to read all these novels. I’d just sent my other novels away for photographing, so I didn’t have any guarenteeded good things to share. Nevertheless, she set off into the ‘eBay category’ (these are books that got < 3 stars from me) and found some that suited her 17 year old fantasy reader tastes.

Based on her reviews, I’m going to reconsider reading ‘Whisper to Me‘ (which I just couldn’t get past the first couple of pages for) and knock ‘The Book of Whispers’ and “Linting and the Pirate Queen’ from my TBR pile.

Whisper to Me

This was perhaps the first non-fantasy/sci-fi book that I actually loved. At first, I thought that it was going to be absolutely terrible; it started off very slow and boring, and the lists at the beginning really threw me off. However, as I got further and further into the book, I found myself really enjoying it. There were only two real issues that I had with the book: the first was that all of the swear words were replaced entirely by asterisks. This interrupted the continuity of the book, and I found myself counting asterisks numerous times to try and guess the word. That said, I can understand why it was done: as the book goes further, there are a few places with just entire sentences of asterisks. This shows, to me, that it’s not about the actual words they are replacing, but rather the feeling that the main character gets from it.

My other issue is that the entire story is essentially an email to someone, asking them to forgive the author. This sets up the entire story as a cliff-hanger as a ‘will he forgive me?’ At first this really annoyed me, but over time I was able to just enjoy the story. I was pretty annoyed at the end, when the entire book ended up being the email and we never ended up finding out if he forgave her, but once again I can understand why that was done; it would’ve interrupted the continuity of the book to suddenly jump from this email, which has essentially been the entire book so far, to a real life scenario. 4.5 stars

Ariadnis

In brief: the one with the two cities and the trees and stuff. Solid book. This is the sort of general fantasy book that I loved reading when I was younger. It has a nice feel to it, and while at times it got a little hard for me to keep track of the characters, it wasn’t too bad. 4 stars

 

 

 

They Both Die at the End

This book was pretty good. Somehow, even knowing that the characters were going to die, the book was written well enough that I couldn’t help getting attached, and still felt sad at the death of the character. The book is a very different style to the type of book that I usually read, and it took me a while to get into it, but once I did it was pretty enjoyable. The ending wasn’t as good as it could’ve been, although I can understand to an extent why it was written the way it was, and it wasn’t altogether unsatisfying. 3.5 stars

 

The Graces

Quite frankly, this book confused me for quite a while. I spent a majority of the book not being sure whether or not the book was even supposed to be fantasy. In terms of character progression, and the relationships between the characters, the budding relationships between the characters was written quite well, although I was a little confused as to why the main character was first invited out to the spell.

Apart from that, the book was written well, and I did enjoy it. However, the ending was extremely unsatisfying, and as a reader, I felt like I was being tossed back and forth regarding the main character’s relationship with the graces. 3 stars

Elegy

In brief: fantasy pretender. This book was destined to be a young adult novel, but desperately wanted to be classed as fantasy, so the author threw in whatever weak fantasy link they could find. The book was good, but the fantasy add-on felt misplaced, like it was there purely to class the book as fantasy, and not to add any extra meaning or enjoyment to the book. It started off a bit slow, but once it picked up I really enjoyed it. That said, the ending was unsatisfying and annoying, and brings up some weird questions about a young girl and an old man who both remember loving each other. 3 stars

The Song from Somewhere Else

In brief: dimensions and stuff. It took me a while to become accustomed to having the images alongside the book, but I found it really nice to have a visual explanation of some of the events that were occurring. This book felt like it was written more to get a good review from critics than to be enjoyed by the average person, and felt a bit pretentious to me. That said, it was easy to understand and follow. 3 stars

 

 

Safe from Harm

This book really confused me. In the beginning, there were a lot of flashbacks/flashforwards, and at times it was difficult for me to even keep track of what was happening. As the book progressed, it got easier to keep track, but there were still confusing moments when I just wasn’t quite sure what was happening.

The end of the book was also really dissatisfying, but in a way that is worse than the usual dissatisfying ending. Most times, I just dislike how the book ended, or how things turned out, but here I wasn’t certain what even happened, and the book was vague regarding what happened to the daughter. 2.5 stars

 

The Book of Whispers

Not overly memorable. I enjoyed the book, but it was very average: not amazing, but not bad either. I was also a little confused at times, when I couldn’t quite understand why the characters were doing what they were, or how it would affect anything. I found it very challenging to relate to the characters. 2.5 stars

Linting and the Pirate Queen

This book was a fairly average book. Events moved very slowly and not a lot happened. The writing and story was also very simple. To me, it felt like the kind of book I would read after I’ve spent hours reading other books and needed to give my brain a rest. Perhaps not a great book choice for (almost) adults, but I would recommend it for younger children, perhaps around the age of ten. 2 stars