Review: Garth Nix – FROGKISSER!

FROGKISSER!
Garth Nix

Princess Anya always gets the responsibility of cleaning up after her sister’s messes. Unfortunately, she’s also trying to avoid her step-step father killing her off and taking the throne. When her step-step father makes yet another one of her sister’s wooers a frog, it’s up to Anya to save the day.

Who wouldn’t love a plucky heroine who really just wants to sit in her library and study sorcery? Oh wait, maybe that’s just me. No! I don’t think so. Nix has once again created a strong female character with a set of unique character flaws. She’s young enough to be appealing to young readers, but there are some in-jokes in the novel that teenagers would enjoy too.

I’m going to be handing over my copy of this novel to a 16 year old keen Garth Nix reader to see what he thinks. Is this novel particularly new and exciting? Is it adding something exciting to the genre of fairytales? Maybe is all I can say. It is certainly better than some of the other offerings out there, and if you like Garth Nix, you will probably still love this novel.

What you can’t see from the cover image is the glorious fluorescent yellow page edges. Check out my instagram to see them. It almost makes me want to put the book back-to-front on my bookshelf so that it can stand out!

I can see where this novel could easily become a series – there is reference to an overall set of Rules after all. But this novel was perfect in itself. This novel is far better than the other recent Nix novel, Newt’s Emerald, but not as good asΒ Clariel or Goldenhand. I’m giving it 4 stars, although I would consider reading it again should a sequel appear.

Allen & Unwin | 22 February 2017 | AU $19.99 | Paperback

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Review: Josh Martin – Ariadnis

Ariadnis
Josh Martin

Aula and Joomia are the Chosen Ones, forced to compete in a trial to decide the fates of their nations. Little is as it seems however and things are falling apart quicker than either of them can control. They’ve always been on opposite sides, but now they must unite or all will be lost.

I once again expected this novel to be far more exciting than it was. I was tantalised by the amazing tactile cover that lept out at me and screamed ‘read me now!’ Sadly, it just wasn’t to be. Despite there supposedly being a sense of urgency and death imposed on me from the blurb, I never felt very concerned.

I could see how the two girls were related, in that they were almost exact opposites. What I couldn’t believe was how dumb they were. Aula is a complete oaf and I just couldn’t get connected to her in any way. Joomia was no better, being a complete wuss about everything! Those opposites could have made them powerful characters, but instead I didn’t even feel pity for them.

There was a chance for this novel to have a big twist – but instead it was just framed as an ineffectual memory. I appreciated more people being involved in a prophesy than usual, but the plot struggled along so slowly that I really had to concentrate on which character was speaking – both of them were equally boring.

What is the obsession with creating sequels and series these days? This novel worked perfectly as a single novel. No need to drag it out any more than it already was. They spend the first half of the novel dragging their feet about training, and the other half in a frenzied mess.

Hachette Australia | 1st February 2017 | AU $16.99 | Paperback

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Review: Elly Blake – FrostBlood

FrostBlood
Elly Blake

17-year old Ruby is a FireBlood in a world of passionless FrostBloods. After the King’s soldiers kill her beloved mother and stick her in prison for a year, Ruby is ready for revenge. Even if that revenge comes by way of making friends with some renegade FrostBloods and plotting to melt the throne (literally).

The language in this was passionless. For a novel about fury and rage being key to power, the text itself didn’t inspire that in me. Perhaps there was too much detail for me? It felt like clinical observation by Ruby the whole time. Ruby’s reponse to ‘Die in pain’ was too cold and clinical to something that was spat out in fear.

There wasn’t enough of a twist in this novel for me. It was more like a slight turning of the head, and more could have been done with it. The same went for the cruelty of the King – please tell me less about it, and show me more. I couldn’t have cared less whether Ruby died or not, and that’s not a good characteristic to have in a main character.

For a comparative novel, I’d suggest Blackthorn and Grim because there is a similar theme of revenge vs healing going on in there. If you’re looking for a very similar magic offering, perhaps Red QueenΒ or the Poison Study trilogy could be up your alley.

I’d recommend it for teenage readers, rather than YA readers despite the ‘heated kisses’ because there isn’t enough depth and surprise to hold an older reader’s attention in my opinion. 3 stars from me.

Hachette Australia | 1st January 2017 | AU $19.99 | Paperback

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Review: Jodi McAlister – Valentine

Valentine
Jodi McAlister

Pearl and Finn (and Marie and Cardy) were all born on the 14th of February, and have suffered through countless Valentine’s Day celebrations together. After a horse appears and one of them disappears, it is time for Pearl to get her act together, both literally and figuratively.

I was left underwhelmed by this novel. There just seemed to be nothing outstanding about it. The characters were a bit wussy, I couldn’t get inside anyone’s heads and Pearl was an inconsistent narrator who was mainly irritating for me to read.

I thought that the premise of the novel sounded exciting, with four teenagers being born on one day, then being killed off. It turned out that mostly they weren’t even killed off! And the blurb promises me that the Unseelie want to kill the Valentine, but to me, most of the action seemed to happen from the Seelie side of things.

It was interesting to have a perspective that for once wasn’t the ‘it’ character. Much as Pearl would like to be the special one, she isn’t. That doesn’t stop her behaving stupidly about it though and being completely whiney. The worst part for me was the emotions seemed to be completely false, and the dialogue was stilted to boot.

The ending of this novel was mainly a relief. Yes, it’s the first in a series with a paranormal twist, but don’t feel compelled to read the rest when they finally appear. Try breathing under water for a similar teenage paranormal vibe, or maybe Haunt Me for more of a love story. Three begrudging stars from me.

Penguin Random House | 30th January 2017 | AU $19.99 | Paperback

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Review: Wolf Hollow – Lauren Wolk

Wolf Hollow
Lauren Wolk

Annabelle is a quiet sort of girl, happy to travel along in life with her friend Ruth, going to school and being educated. Once Betty comes to town though, everything changes. Betty isn’t nice, or kind – she seems set on killing someone. When she disappears, somehow it becomes Annabelle’s job to keep the local loner alive.

Let me start out by saying that the cover did not fill me with joy. I can’t resist reading any words that come past my nose, so I fully expected that something good would come from it. Instead, despite being promised that she would ‘earn her keep’, her role turned out to be useless.

Annabelle is ok as a character, and her actions in her relationships with her parents are believable. However, I had problems with the way she treated the bullying because it was clear that bodily harm was going to occur. If she had spoken up quicker, a lot less misery would have occurred.

This novel was far too slow to keep my interest. I struggled to pick it up, and it was far too easy to put it down again. Although the pace sped up in the last couple of chapters it was too late to redeem the novel for me.

Although I was erring on the side of 3 stars after finishing the novel, writing this review has crystallized it as only 2 stars. I just couldn’t love it, or Annabelle. Others have compared this to ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ but I think this is weaker by far.

Penguin Random House | 3rd May 2016 | AU $16.99 | Paperback

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Review: Steve Martin – Vet Academy

Vet Academy
Steve Martin

Do you have a child who loves animals? Do they want to be a vet? Do they just have an interest in pets in general? This book is going to be for them. With fun stickers, a poster and a model to build, this book has plenty of things to keep a child entertained.

This book covers animal health needs from pets, to zoos, to farms. It also has fun facts that will perk interest from adults as well. It could be a good book for a long car ride, because there are a range of activities to do.

The reading level in this book is probably a late primary school age, but you can also leave it with a beginning (precocious) reader who will flick through and look at the beautiful illustrations and then ask lots of questions!

This is a non-fiction, so I’m not going to be giving it any stars. But if you have a child who likes animals, or you need to give a gift to a primary school age child, this book is perfect. I can’t think of a child that wouldn’t enjoy having it, even if not all the animals take their fancy.

Allen & Unwin | 25th January 2017 | AU $19.99 | Paperback

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Review: JP Delaney – The Girl Before

The Girl Before
JP Delaney

First there was Emma, who died a lonely death at the bottom of the stairs. Then there is Jane, trying to recover from the death of her baby and the loss of her high paying job in a house that seems too good to be true. Is it the house that killed Emma? Or is it Edward? Jane needs to find out, but the truth might kill her.

The parallels between the women that Edward can see to exploit are really nicely pulled out by the author so that they are on the edge of the reader’s consciousness as well. And then as the two storylines collide, it’s that not even those things are as they seem.

This novel warns you that Jane will be the next one to die, but it lets itself gradually unfold who the killer might be. Mid-way through the book when I sat down to write myself some notes about it, I couldn’t decide if I wanted her to die or not. I could see how the perfection would work either way!

Now that, that was a killer ending. Perfect. It wasn’t what I expected, but I was satisfied nevertheless. You think you know the characters, and then BAM they turn on you, and themselves. In hindsight, Jane and I both should have noticed these things.

On a more personal note, I think I’d actually love living in a house like that one. So long as I can have books somewhere (ok, so they’d need to be hidden away neatly), I’d like it. The neatness would appeal to me. Someone who saw my house right now wouldn’t agree with me, but truely, I do like things to be neat.

I couldn’t put the novel down, and devoured it in just under 3 hours. The set up as perfect, and the last third of the book even more riveting than the rest. It’s creepy and scary, but I think you’d still be ok to sleep after reading it after dark.

Hachette Australia | 1st February 2017| AU $32.99 | Paperback

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Review: Stephanie Garber – Caraval

Caraval
Stephanie Garber

Scarlett and Tella have been trapped on their father’s island for their whole lives. When one sister does something wrong, their father punishes the other. Scarlett longs to see the magic of Caraval, which her grandmother has always told stories about. On the eve of her marriage, Scarlett is granted the chance to see it.

What I liked about this novel was that there were multiple truths and lies for both Scarlett and the reader to unravel. However, it seemed that we could have benefitted from some of Tella’s point of view, because surely she had more insight than Scarlett. And I don’t think it would have wrecked the ending if it had been written sensitively. Also, despite what shouldn’t have been a linear narrative, that’s how it read because Scarlett couldn’t see in front of her nose.

The world building was fantastic. I could see the shops appearing out of the dark, but I couldn’t understand why they followed some of the rules of the game, and not others. Scarlett never spoke to me as a character, and that’s what let the novel down for me.

There was no conclusion here about what the next steps might be. I have to say that this novel was complete, yet I could have done with a bit more of epilogue – or perhaps none at all! That was just mean. Oh wait, there is a sequel…

I’m giving this novel 3 stars. It was easy for me to put down because I never really invested in Scarlett – she seemed too stupid for her own good. Listen to people when they give you advice ok??

Hachette Australia | 1st January 2017 | AU $24.99 | Paperback

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Review: Amy Lukavics – the Women in the Walls

the Women in the Walls
Amy Lukavics

Lucy’s life should have been one of luxury – living on an estate with a long history and almost limitless parties, homeschooled to keep away from the ‘common people’. Lucy’s mother is dead though, and her Aunt has just wandered off into the woods. Then her cousin starts hearing voices and her life rapidly gets more confusing.

I was afraid of this novel to start off with. What could be more creepy than dead people whispering in the walls? Then I realised that Lucy wasn’t the one hearing the voices, and it distanced me from the whole situation. I couldn’t bring myself to care about Margaret – although Lucy professed to be worried about her, she didn’t do anything. The threat of discovery for Lucy’s ‘little secret’ surely could have been enough to get her sent away to those colleges she was obsessed with?

For a 17 year old, Lucy sure spooked pretty easily. I tried to suspend my disbelief, but I just couldn’t hold on to it. Ok, so you’re homeschooled and lived isolated on this estate for your whole life. But really? You’re just going to accept that the police haven’t been called? Don’t you have access to a phone? It seems to me like there really is more that you should have done.

The finale? I was hoping it would redeem the whole novel, but it simply failed to conclude or give evidence of why spending time reading this novel was worth it. Maybe an epilogue could have saved it? Don’t get me wrong, I love an unhappy ending, but this one needed a bit more flare.

I’m giving this two stars, although I really wanted to give up on it. I invested in those first couple of chapters as wanting something exciting to happen, then spent the rest of the novel feeling cheated. I wouldn’t recommend this one.

Simon & Schuster | September 2016 | AU $19.99 | Paperback

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Review: RJ Bailey – Safe From Harm

Safe From Harm
RJ Bailey

Sam Wylde is a Protective Officer for the rich and famous. With army combat experience behind her and a few bonus skills, Sam must try to protect those she is working for, while also protecting her own family.

This novel was a disappointment. It could have been written as a psychological thriller and been much more effective while still using the same plot points. As it was, the slow pacing and flashbacks/flashforwards destroyed the novel and any hope of me enjoying it.

Sam strikes me as quite dumb really. She doesn’t question anything she should perhaps should, despite being ‘the best in the business’. Being aware of what could go wrong should be able to save her right? Or maybe the point the author is trying to make is that it is impossible to foresee anything correctly.

I’m giving this two miserable stars. Although I am not a connoisseur of novels that have a self-trained woman as a person protector, I don’t think that this one is a good one. Look elsewhere for someone to ‘keep you safe from harm’.

Simon & Schuster | 1st February 2017 | AU $29.99 | Paperback

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