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

Review: Kaethe Schwehn – The Rending and the Nest

The Rending and the Nest
Kaethe Schwehn

95% of the world’s population was wiped out unexpectedly – and those left behind have had to make a life out of scavenging Piles to get the simple things that they need. The little community some of the survivors have put together has been functioning smoothly enough for 3 years, but the birth of inanimate objects from otherwise fertile women upsets the status quo.

This novel just got stranger and stranger, and I actually really enjoyed that. First there’s the strange Babies, and then there is a Zoo with a self-made savior. Then there is Mira and her conflicting personality traits and trusts. Despite feeling like I didn’t get to know the characters very well from Mira’s warped perspective, I didn’t actually want to know anything about the others so that I could better understand what Mira was going through.

I was reminded of The Rains in a positive manner. Strange how different people can respond differently to the end of the world. For a young adult version try How To Bee. Or of course, there is NK3 which is a terrible version of this!

The cover says it’s ‘A Novel’. Um, what else would it be? I always think a little less of a novel that uses that sort of language to ‘sell itself’. It could instead be billed as a novel that asks the reader hard questions within the veil of storytelling. How do we know the truth about ourselves and others? Is there any truth anywhere?

Phew. I loved the Acknowledgements that said thank you to her agent who said it needed another 20k words! There was a moment towards the end where lesser writers would have just stopped writing – and I would have demoted the novel to 3 stars. Instead, I’m giving it 4 stars for keeping me eagerly reading for whatever could happen next.

Bloomsbury | 1st March 2018 | AU$24.99 | paperback

Review: Lisa Jackson – After She’s Gone

After She’s Gone
Lisa Jackson

Cassie’s sister Allie has gone missing so Cassie checks herself out of the psychiatry ward to find her. Cassie is still suffering from nightmares and flashbacks, and doesn’t even know how to look after herself. If there was ever a girl in need of a Hero, it’s Cassie, Allie and their famous mother. Can they find Allie in time? Does Allie even want to be found?

Oh dear. This novel sat on my shelf for about 2 years before I picked it up. I just wasn’t feeling another strange disappearance or mystery after try not to breathe and Painkiller. That’s the problem with copy-cat authors that produce all the novels that are compared to Girl on the Train or The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I get that they must sell well, and thus it’s not really the authors’ faults they have to write that stuff as no doubt publishers pushing for it.

Um Hollywood glamour (or rather just hints at it being important but it’s really not) does not make a novel! Especially for someone who doesn’t really follow or understand Hollywood the way a homegrown North American might. I found myself completely and utterly confused most of the time (ringing any bells like Ankaran Immersion?). The protagonist was an unreliable narrator, which would have been fine if everything else in the plot hadn’t been jumbled up. And then the other characters were also confusing as hell with a healthy does of insanity themselves. There was no redemption for anyone. Anyone heard of counselling?

I ended up reading about 1/6 of the novel before I started skipping forwards to try to get to a meaty good bit! But alas, I found myself just skipping all the way to the end where, because I hadn’t actually connected properly to any of the characters, I was utterly indifferent to who the baddie was and was kind of hoping that they all died!

1 star from me. Don’t bother attempting it.

Hachette Australia | 1st February 2016 | AU$29.99 | paperback

Review: Benjamin Zephaniah – FACE

FACE
Benjamin Zephaniah

I’m a Gangsta yo, I’m a Gangsta! Wait, no, wrong novel. Martin gets by on his good looks and charm, trouble making his way effortlessly through the gangs at school. Accepting a ride with the wrong friend and getting into a police chase is bad news – bad news for his FACE.

Oh gosh. This was terrible. I skimmed the first half so I could get to where the FACE business actually happened. Then I was so disappointed in Martin’s eventual internal monologue about his face that I just dropped the book. I could have even dropped it in the pool, it was that terrible! The supporting characters might have actually had something to do in the second half of the novel, but I wasn’t waiting around to find out.

Nice to see a female character that won’t take no Shiz, but seriously, do you have to make it so darn obvious? Yes, we get it, she’s amazing and a ‘real woman’ but no need to keep drumming it in. Wow, she’s a human girl! And she too has feelings! I would hope that a teenage boy reading this novel could separate out the fact that if a girl has to act like that to get you to do the right thing, you’re doing something wrong!

I’m sure there is an audience out there for this novel, but it’s not me, and I’m pretty sure that it’s not other Australians (strangely enough given the publisher). It’s set in London with gangs, which is something that doesn’t feature in the current young Australian’s highschool years as far as I know! Maybe it is more prevalent in Sydney since I’m a Melbournite at the moment?

I couldn’t face Gansta Rap by the same author, so I’m not sure what made me think that I could go for this one. I took it along for holiday reading so I would at least attempt it. I’ll save you the trouble – don’t even attempt it. 1 star from me.

Bloomsbury | 1st March 2018 | AU $14.99 | paperback

Review: Jesse Andrews – Munmun

Munmun
Jesse Andrews

In a world where your size is determined by your wealth, it’s dangerous to be poor – you could be eaten by a cat or your father could be trodden on by someone larger. Warner and his sister have to try to make it work, and the only way for Prayer to move up is to marry someone richer than her. Warner on the other hand has plenty of get-rich-quick schemes.

The storyline on this is quite decent, with quite a few plotlines to keep the reader entertained. Unfortunately, the narrative was a little scattered, and I think it could have benefited from Prayer’s perspective. Warner was so completely biased against the Bigs that the filtered narrative was difficult to follow and a bit unpleasant.

Something that irritatedme the wholetime was the runtogetherwords likethis. Why wasthis necessary? This was clearly a differentsci-fiworld and ifthese were intendedto highlightthis difference, they wereunnecessary. Anddid I mention that theywere annoying? So toothe interiorcommetary by Warner. Seehowyoulikeit!

I requested this novel without noticing that the author was the same as Me and Earl and the Dying Girl and  The Haters. That should have warned me off it, but it didn’t because I was so intrigued by the concept. The writing style just couldn’t keep me, and I was reading just to get to the end. Now, about that ending. I wasn’t satisfied really. I understood his motives, and I really appreciated them, but in the end I don’t think it made a big difference that he rampaged for a while. Except that it made him feel better?

Of course, anything that involves size makes me think of The Sin Eater’s Daughter. It’s not the same concept at all, but that novel is worth checking out. Or maybe Ready Player One where it is also very difficult to move socio-economic status. I don’t highly recommend this novel, but I will give it three stars because I think other people who aren’t going to be irritated by the writing style will enjoy it.

Allen & Unwin

Review: Lia Weston – You Wish

You Wish
Lia Weston

Thomas Lush can made your dreams come alive. You want to marry someone else? You need a fake graduation photo to show off to those one-up relatives of yours? Thomas and his business can do that for him. Thomas is happy just performing his photoshopped works of art, but there are darker things going on in the business that he will have to take off his headphones and grow up.

This was a wizbanger of a novel! I loved the concept and connected well with the main characters. To some extent, people already do this. I cropped a person out of a photo (it just wasn’t the photo I needed), and it didn’t look half bad. And I have NO art or photoshop skills. I’m certain there are businesses doing this already, but it’s more black market than what seems to be going on with Thomas’ work.

Imagination is totally all you need. I disagree that giving people what they want is wrong, and that it isn’t art. To create something that looks like it really happened, and for everything to look natural, is amazing. Why shouldn’t you have the chance to change the fact that the woman you married was actually sleeping with all of your groomsmen? The ones of dead kids growing up are a bit weird, but if it provides comfort for parents? This novel gently asks you how far your ethics are able to stretch.

Oh! The irony of that love story! How embarrassing. And yet so perfect. I’m not sure I saw the way the novel ended (hindsight is a beautiful thing, my readers), and the twist was excellent. Things worked out better than I possibly thought they could. This novel resonated through my bones and brain for a long time after I read it, that’s how much I loved it.

I’m giving this novel 5 stars, and lending it to my other reader friend to assess it. From the Publisher’s media sheet, I now know that this is Weston’s third novel, and that I need to get my hands on her other novels ASAP. This novel and Ready Player One would be at my top reads for 2018. Go get yourself a copy and ask yourself how far you could justify changing the past.

Pan Macmillan | 27th March 2018 | AU$29.99 | paperback

Review: Anita Selzer – I Am Sasha

I Am Sasha
Anita Selzer

This is a fiction novel based on the true story of the author’s grandfather. He was safe during the Nazi occupation of Poland because his mother hid him in plain sight by turning him into a girl.

I was really looking forward to this novel, but then I couldn’t get into it. I expected that most of the novel would be during the time that Sala was pretending to be a girl, but instead it was split into about half-half. I honestly never felt like he was in danger. He was never with a group of people who were ordered to drop their pants and half the time they were in hiding where he wasn’t even in contact with people. As far as I could tell, the worst risk was the people who had known his mother and that his mother was Jewish.

I wanted more of a narrative and less reliance on Sala’s internal (boring) monologue. I much would have preferred it if I could see the outside world more. Although the concept certainly holds up, and this novel was based on the author’s family history, I felt like I wasn’t firmly enough into Nazi Poland to understand what was going on. I felt myself having to draw on my reading from Nazi Germany and I feel that that was a let down from this novel. It could have been used to really educate people about the differences between Poland and Germany during the war. Also, the fact that I understood the concept of the ‘gentiles’ was taken for granted by the author (I didn’t really know). Were they just wealthy people who weren’t Jewish? Were they people who had planted the right bribes?

Anyway, I didn’t end up finishing this novel. At this point in time I have so many novels demanding my attention that unless I am caught up in it, it is unlikely that I will come back. I don’t think it’s necessarily the novel’s personal fault, I think that it and I just didn’t get along. Others may enjoy it, so I’ll give it a generous 3 stars.

Penguin Random House | 2nd April 2018 | AU $17.99 | paperback

Review: Sebastien de Castell – SpellSlinger

SpellSlinger
Sebastien de Castell

Kellen needs to pass 4 trials in order to become a spellcaster. Unfortunately his magic is gone and his trickery could easily be revealed. But is magic all there is to the world?

Hmm, while I was reading this I was totally engrossed and couldn’t put it down due to the powerful plot. However when I think back on it some of the character development was completely see-through and unexciting. Unfortunately that’s what I’ve come to expect from HotKey Books. The novels don’t seem to be as refined in my opinion; I’m thinking of novels such as Fly on the Wall.

Kellen is also the name of a quirky protagonist in an older Mercedes Lackey novel. I think that also persuaded me that Kellen was a character worth reading about. Anyhow, you had to be attached to Kellen because there certainly wasn’t any airtime for other characters.

I think Kellen’s decision to help his sister was dangerous and will come back to haunt him later. Not to mention just leaving his parents to be disasterous clueless idiots. Adversity is the key to developing new skills so maybe Kellen will continue to brighten up. If you can kill any family member, surely you can kill more than one…

Plot twist! Kellen! You are awesome! Well most of the time, even if you are a bit clueless and you need that Daroman woman to set you straight. Aw, a terrifying squirrel cat familiar. Even if you aren’t supposed to get one Kellen. Maybe a squirrel cat is a sugar glider? Except I’m not sure those have such sharp teeth…

I had read in the beginning that this was a series, but the second book was due to be out October 2017. That’s how long this novel sat on my shelf, but I had actually lost it somewhere. Anyway, 4 stars from me and I need to get my hands on the other novels in the series.

Allen & Unwin | 26th April 2017 | AU $19.99 | paperback

Review: Will Weisser – Ankaran Immersion

Ankaran Immersion
Will Weisser

Evie and her brother have been separated from their tribe – and now Hunter is very sick with something that only the Tainted can cure. Will Evie be able to help her brother in time? Or will her hatred of the Tainted get in her way.

I found myself quite confused a lot of the time and I struggled to follow the point of the novel. The blurb led me to believe that it was all about Evie and Hunter, but in fact it focussed just as much on Ono/Aurio and the struggle of wills. I was left feeling confused about the aim of the novel. Did this novel want me to sympathise with Evie and conclude that the strand was evil? Or did it ask me to set that aside and see the positives of the strand? I’d lean towards the former, but I couldn’t work out why it was relevant to me (despite the maps suggesting that this was a future world of our own).

I was enjoyably surprised by the quality of the prose in this novel and the detailed world building. However, I was left with many questions: What is an Int? Are they real poeple? What makes a virus a virus? I really couldn’t understand what was going on for a lot of the time with the strand and the resultant mess. It is rare that novels allow tech to take over the world (although The Matrix springs to mind), and I often struggle to understand why the tech lets the humans live at all.

To sum up – Evie developed as a character, but a lot of it was difficult to follow because just as I was starting to understand her, the perspective started flicking erratically between Hunter, Evie and Ono. Then I felt like I was getting some real knowledge out of Hunter, but I couldn’t understand what was wrong with him in the first place (and didn’t really ‘get’ why he became what he was). And Ono had the potential to answer my questions about the strand, but it really didn’t come through clearly.

This novel did keep me entertained, just not as well as SpellSlinger (I read them concurrently). I’m giving it 3 stars for its readability. I’m not really sure what audience it would be best suited to however. I previously interviewed the author, and I think it would be worthwhile keeping an eye out for his future novels.

Interview with Will Weisser

An Interview with Will Weisser, author of Ankaran Immersion

Born into a literary family (both his parents are authors and college professors), Will fell in love with science fiction and fantasy literature during the comics boom of the early 90’s and never looked back. Now residing in the fantastic realm known as the Philly ‘burbs, he uses his geek talents to program computers by day, while by night he huddles over unfinished manuscripts, attempting to engineer characters who touch the human spirit. In his scant free time he enjoys practicing martial arts (which he is pretty good at) and playing guitar (terribly).

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?

After at least six re-writes, I published my first novel as The Reintegrators in 2013. While I’m proud of that book and the reader response to it, I’m not sure I would have spent so much time on it given a second chance. On the rare occasion I give advice, I lean toward telling new writers to get more practice writing novels from scratch, rather than re-polishing the same work over and over. I’m living proof you can make any book shine, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best use of your efforts toward developing as a writer.

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?

Some pre-planning is always good, but years would be too much. If I let an idea sit for too long it usually loses what made it special to me, and becomes nothing more than a few uninspired sentences in my notes file. Ideas need to breathe as part of a living story in order to remain interesting.

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)?

These days I do pretty much everything on my Macbook, whether at home or at Starbucks or wherever. I once tried editing on paper, and although it was a neat feeling, once I realized how long it would take to type up the changes I abandoned that process quickly. I’m not nearly patient enough to do twice as much work to accomplish one thing!

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?

My wife reads all my books first. She’s an accomplished reader who finishes 50+ novels a year and she doesn’t hold anything back in her critiques. As much as I wish she would sometimes, I must admit she’s saved me quite a bit of embarrassment over the years. For the next phase I’ve been lucky enough to recruit some pro authors to read pieces of or the entirety of works in progress by swapping my own beta reads for theirs. That said, I know I need more “pure reader” interaction from a variety of sources, too, so I’m working on filling out a list of people who could give me more feedback on the next go-around–those who liked my other books, friends in the scifi/fantasy community, etc. With everyone’s shifting schedules and commitments it’s good to have a long list of betas to pad against dropouts.

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?

I must admit I don’t go to bookstores too often. My shelves are all full and I barely have time to read anymore, even on my Kindle. Instead I listen to a lot of audio books while driving. It’s expensive, but I need to keep up with what’s current somehow if I’m going to continue this writing thing, or so I tell myself.

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? Too many to name, but one that jumps to mind at the moment is The Phantom Tollbooth. I recently read it to my son, and while the writing doesn’t quite hold up, the wealth of amazing ideas blew my mind as a kid.
2. adolescence? I was a big comics fan in my teens, starting with Marvel and DC, branching off into Image and then into independent and underground comics and cartoons. I did read the occasional novel, too, though. I recall reading Jurassic Park about a year before the movie came out, and the thrill the first time I saw that trailer–wow.
3. young adult? After high school I stuck mainly to science fiction. I read a lot of old classics and old Hugo winners, Asimov, Niven, etc. My favorites at the time were probably Neal Stephenson or Dan Simmons, big, sprawling books packed with really out-there imagery.
4. adult? For a long time I avoided fantasy altogether, with a couple exceptions: I loved Pratchett because he made me laugh, and I really dug Tad Williams’s Otherland tetrology, which though technically sci-fi I understand now was written in the vein of his epic fantasies. Beyond that, though, I associated fantasy with certain rather cheesy novels of the 1980s which were mainly stale re-treads of Tolkien. Then one day a friend told me to read a relatively unknown book called A Game of Thrones, which he claimed was “actually really great.” Beyond actually being great, that series opened my eyes to what a new generation of fantasy writers were doing to move the genre forward. Now fantasy is so positively flooded with new and exciting voices–Katherine Addison, N.K. Jemisin, Mark Lawrence, among others–that it makes science fiction look a bit stagnant by comparison. My science fiction novels excluded, of course ;).

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. Do you manage your own profiles or did you choose someone else to?

I have a pretty lame social media presence. I am most active on Twitter where I share random thoughts sometimes, but I’m not what you’d call a prolific tweeter. I also have a public Facebook page but I don’t update it very often, as Facebook tends not to show your updates to anyone, anyway. My philosophy on social media is that I’m happy to engage with any fans/weirdos who want to contact me there, but actually building an audience on e.g. Twitter would require too much of a time investment which, even if it paid off in the end, wouldn’t be worth it from the perspective of maintaining my peace of mind.

About Ankaran Immersion:

All her life, Eveningstar of the Pure has honed her survival skills against the strand, a nanotech organism which infests most of the planet. And she has always shunned the Tainted, those who replace their body parts with tamed strand to enhance their bodies and minds. But then a gang of child soldiers kidnaps her brother, taking him to the distant Gridlands, past a gauntlet of shape-shifting monsters. In an eternal war between technology and nature—between those who oppose it and those who embrace it—Evie will need to break the law, put aside her distrust for the Tainted, and perhaps even take a few of their tricks for her own if she wants to save her brother.

Website: https://metanautics.net/
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