Review: Margot McGovern – Neverland

Neverland
Margot McGovern

Kit has almost killed herself in her efforts to get home to Neverland, the place of her childhood storytelling.ย She’s forced herself to forget the night her parents died in the hopes of maintaining her childhood fantasies. Her psychiatrist uncle is determined to help her heal, but is Kit too stubborn for her own good?

I actually never fell for the protagonist of this novel. I thought she was a selfish b**** that never thought for anyone but herself. In fact, I felt like she undermined their healing, and that was just cruel. I also didn’t in the least appreciate the interspersion of the ‘fairytales’ throughout an ok real action novel.

Burying the past is never a good idea. I loved the symbolism of Kit taking her love interest to the centre of the island and likened it to a bookaholic handing their favourite novel to a potential partner and getting them to read it. However, this also made her easier to manipulate, and in the end I hated her.

I didn’t agree with the premise of Neverland – who ever thought of putting a psychiatric hospital for teenagers on a freaking island? I could imagine that the isolation and fresh environment could be healthy, but I also know that it probably wasn’t all that positive that people COULD JUST LEAP OFF A CLIFF!

I barely finished this novel. I was hoping for redemption at the end, so I did finish skimming to the end. But I wouldn’t recommend this novel at all. It was overall quite mood-dampening and had no satisfying ending that redeemed it in my mind. 1 star. Don’t waste your time or your heartstrings on this novel.

Penguin Random House | 2nd April 2018 | AU$19.99 | paperback

Review: Laura Dockrill – Big Bones

Big Bones
Laura Dockrill

Bluebelle is fat, and not afraid or ashamed to admit it. She loves food in every way, and she’s determined to not go back to school, instead applying for an apprenticeship at Planet Coffee. To negotiate with her mom, Bluebelle finds herself forced into doing a food diary.

This was an average novel with a meandering storyline that had me losing interest about half way through (and thus pausing to write this review). BB was a lovable, cuddly protagonist and it was certainly comforting to read a fat-positive novel for once. However, she IS unhealthily fat and I’m not sure I can give completely positive feedback to a novel that initially promotes it.

It was unclear to me how much of the text was food diary, and how much was actually narrative. Some of the things BB wrote in her food diary were a lot more suited to a general diary, not a food one! That ‘boyfriend’ of hers was so slow and BB’s reactions so cliche that I figured it couldn’t possibly be written in a food diary – but lo and behold it was!

Confession: I skimmed to finish reading this novel. I don’t want to condemn it to 2 stars despite that,ย  because I’ve just come back from vacation and I literally have a stack TBR of higher than a meter and other things just look more exciting. BB’s redemption and joining a gym, precipitated by the big family upset were ok, but not compelling.

I’d recommend readingย Holding Up the Universeย or Pretty Girls Don’t Eat before diving into this novel. Their protagonists have more depth, and overall the love stories, while taking a backseat, are more intriguing and believable. I’ll give it 3 stars because it could have finished strongly – but I wasn’t going to hang around to find out when there were better things on offer.

ย Allen & Unwin | 23rd May 2018 | AU$19.99 | paperback

Review: Karen Gregory – Skylarks

Skylarks
Karen Gregory

Joni’s family struggles to pay the rent and Joni wants to keep her family together. All she wants is to send her little brother to camp by working more hours at the library, but the invasion of the region’s rich girl Annabel is going to disrupt more than that plan.

Oh Joni, why are you so blind? Why are you so stubborn? Why can’t you just let things go and see further than the end of your nose? You certainly don’t fly higher because your feet are firmly on the ground and your head is either fixed on them or glaring into someone’s face.

I was frustrated by Joni’s attitude towards everything in life. I appreciated her concern for her little brother and her disappointment in the rest of her family, but I just feel irritated and angry that she didn’t actually think about what those things might mean.

Once again, being gay is something to be frowned upon and it overshadows the rest of the novel, which I thought was actually more important. People losing jobs and their housing is a big problem, and it’s not often explored in young adult fiction. I always hope for novels that could reflect a teenager’s life and this one had the beginnings of it.

A confession to be made that it has been at least 2 months since I read this novel and so it has become a bit hazy in my head. However past me gave it 3 stars, so I’m going to roll with that rating.

Bloomsbury | 1st July 2018 | AU$16.99 | paperback

Reivew: Nichola Yoon – Everything Everything

Everything Everything
Nichola Yoon

SCID, or severe combined immunodeficiency, is very rare, yet its sufferers are famous. Maddy has her whole house locked off from the world and sees just her nurse, Carla, and her mother. One day, a boy moves in next door, and Maddy knows she’s about to get her heart broken.

Ooh, this has the twist of The One Memory of Flora Banks, and the love story of Tin Heart. Maddy is a lovable protagonist who you want to just hug – but of course you aren’t supposed to. I admired her determination and self-awareness, and her ability to still put others beyond her own safety. However I was surprised by her lack of general knowledge, as I felt that she could have learnt more information despite being trapped inside a bubble.

This certainly comes under the heading of Young Adult fiction due to the tastefully written sex scene and the themes of parent betrayal and domestic abuse. At the same time, the author treads lightly enough that it isn’t abrasive and adds nicely to the story line.

This was a thoroughly enjoyable diversion on a 15 hour plane flight. I was very excited to find it at a garage sale for the grand total of $1. I could have sworn that I had read “The Sun is Also a Star” but it turns out I haven’t read that one either.

I’m giving this novel 4 stars. I wasn’t enraptured as I could have been as I was able to put it down in the middle of reading it, but it belongs on my shelf as a comfort read.

Review: Janet Evanovich – Stephanie Plum series

Stephanie Plum series
Janet Evanovich

Stephanie Plum is a terrible daughter, neighbour and employee. Most of these qualities are due to the fact that she’s employed as a bounty hunter for bail jumpers – but leaves her cell phone flat and her gun in the cookie jar. This lovable/hateable unlikely heroine regularly finds herself being shot at but with the help of her love interests Morelli the cop and Ranger the sexy beast, and her ex-ho friend Lula she’ll live to fight another day.

You don’t need to have read the first novel in the series. You don’t need to have read any of the series in the middle to the novel you’ve gotten your hands on! Evanovich sets the scene of Stephanie very simply at the beginning of every novel. In the past, I read Turbo Twenty-Three without having touched the novels before! I read 5 or so of these in a row before I couldn’t take anymore.

Steph is so clueless, and the jokes so stupid and the badguys so unbelievable it just makes you laugh the whole way through. The novels are set up in such a way that the reader can predict the ending but Steph is left wandering around in the dark (literally, half the time). When she got the dog, Bob, the funniest moments were when he ate too much and she took him to poop on her arch-nemesis’ front lawn. So I’m not immune to toilet humour, sue me. I can’t believe they made this into a movie! I fear for my eyeballs.

This is just like the Mercedes Thompson novels I just read! A cruisy light read that encourages your brain to switch off for vacation time. However, the plot and execution of the Mercedes Thompson series is more my style in the end (also, there is 25+ novels in that series!).

I’ll be giving three stars to this harmless crime-romance series. Just don’t read too many in a row or your brain may fall out from Steph’s sheer stupidity.

Review: Amy E Reichert – The Coincidence of Coconut Cake

The Coincidence of Coconut Cake
Amy E Reichert

Chef Lou Johnson loves her restaurant, is relatively happy with her fiance and is lined up for a comfortable holding pattern for the rest of her life. When she bakes a Coconut Cake for her fiance but instead finds him naked with an intern. That night, a anonymous food writer comes to review her restaurant – where Lou is burning and destroying dishes left right and centre. His resulting review starts a breakup in Lou’s life – but the new man she’s met could be a catalyst for positive change.

This is the second novel in a row that I have read about food. Clearly I was feeling hungry when I went to the GoodWill to pick out some new holiday reading. The feel of this novel was quite different to the last one though, because here there are more secrets being hidden. Also the life of a small business owner chef is very different to that of a personal chef. When I go out to a meal, I want to order something I couldn’t make for myself – and the things described in these delectable pages were certainly of that nature.

I love the way that the secondary characters got some proper airtime and were fleshed out as characters. I could almost see the burly Harley in the kitchen delicately sculpting impeccable fragile desserts, and see John’s beard oer the writers’ cubicles! I could have had more airtime of them, and I wouldn’t even mind another novel focusing on John now that he is going to Paris. He’s a secondary character who deserves a life.

I appreciated the ending of this novel, and the nice little twist. I like it when things don’t work out neatly. It wasn’t too cloying, as long as you are ok with some fate and ending up with “the One” no matter what! I almost cried because I was so attached to the older couple in the novel.

3 stars from me. I have no strong urge to read it again, but it was an excellent escapism read that prompted me to keep reading it because of the suspense Devlin brought to the restaurant’s survival.

Review: Elizabeth Kerner – Song in the Silence

Song in the Silence
Elizabeth Kerner

Lanen Kaelar has longed to explore the world since she was a small girl because she was abandoned by her travelling mother. When her father dies, she is determined to go to the Dragon Isles where no ship has returned from in the last 20 years. Not to be daunted, she goes anyway.

Apparently (according to the blurb) she has been exposed to the most horrible family life ever growing up. I was expecting her to be beaten every night and have to sleep on the hearth rug. Instead she just seemed not to fit in. Um, ok, getting married is definitely not everyone’s cup of tea and your father not loving you much is painful, but you have a loving farm hand to help you out! When she sets out on her trip, it’s not like she’s being held back.

There is a lot of talking and not much action. Sure, they take out a too-friendly stableman which prompts a long story assisted by plenty of ale. But no action! No forward motion! Sigh. Nothing enough here to keep my attention.

This was a too-fluffy novel with an unconvincing story-line. For something that I was promised to have dragons in, the first third of the novel had no dragons. No plot progression much either. So I abandoned this novel in the interest of reading something else with a bit more pizzaz. I could afford to be picky, there was a whole bookshelf there for the reading!

Review: Patricia Briggs – Mercedes Thompson series

Mercedes Thompson series
Patricia Briggs

Mercedes Thompson, or Mercy to her friends, is a VW mechanic who just happens to have a werewolf for a roommate and a pack of werewolves for back neighbours. She also happens to be able to turn into a Coyote. Somehow she manages to get herself into multiple scrapes with vampires, the Government and the Fae despite wanting a quiet life.

I gobbled up 4-5 of these novels without taking notes on each one, so this is a group novel review. The picture to the left is actually the first novel in the series that I didn’t actually read (I just grabbed one off the shelf in a hurry and didn’t even realise it was part of a series). No matter, the novel stood well alone.

This is a fun set of novels because I wasn’t ever really sure what would happen next, and Mercy was a funny and engaging protagonist that resonated with me. Nothing like having a no-nonsense mechanic as a heroine. It reminds me of Mercedes Lackey’s Elves on the Road universe but seems to be a lot funnier with a better focus on the semi-human protagonist (but let’s admit that there is less substance to Briggs’ work).

I’ll give these novels a rousing 3 stars. If I owned them, I’d probably keep them on the shelf as light reading when I couldn’t be bothered with something that needed a brain and offered simple entertainment.

Review: Mindy Klasky – The Glasswrights’ Apprentice

The Glasswrights’ Apprentice
Mindy Klasky

Rani’s artistic skills mean that her Merchant parents have sacrificed their life savings to transfer her to the Glasswrights for training and a better place in life. Rani is the bottom of the apprentices but she follows her tasks diligently enough. When she tries to prevent the Prince’s assassination she unwittingly allows for his murder – on the run she has to solve problems so that she can be free once again.

Oh dear. The protagonist Rani was a bit of an ignorant idiot. There were so many clues there that she didn’t pick up. And also her determination to get to her brother got a bit old after a while. She knows what life is like out there now, and yet she continues along stupidly. I rather liked it when she returned to her Merchant roots! Also, surely she’s young enough to disguise herself as a boy. It’s not like they have photographs of her!

I’m not sure why I enjoyed this novel, because I agree with other reviewers that Rani was a total idiot. But perhaps that’s her grab. For once we don’t have a brilliant protagonist who foils attempts and saves the day. Instead, we have some other smart and wily characters who are perfectly capable of getting themselves into (and out of) trouble. Rani must have the touch of the Gods on her as well, because she’s just so stupid and can’t wriggle out of things by herself – other people have to make sacrifices for me.

This is a nifty novel I picked up at my sister-in-law’s house (right after reorganising her whole bookshelf). Unfortunately, she didn’t have the second novel in this series! The novel is from the 2000s, so I don’t like my chances of finding the second novel. 3 stars from me.

Review: Steve Sem-Sandberg – The Chosen Ones

The Chosen Ones
Steve Sem-Sandberg

The Nazi-run “Spiegelgrund clinic was apparently well-intentioned: both a reform school for lost, wayward boys and girls, and a clinic for chronically ill or malformed children.” Instead, this novel exposes the truth of what happened behind those walls – children tortured and left to cry before being allowed to get sick and medicated to death.

I picked up this novel several times. I really wanted to love it, I thought that the content was fascinating when I read the blurb. However, the execution completely floored me.ย  rare sporadic speech was interspersed throughout text with little to no paragraphing.

One of the things that seriously confused me was the constant transitions between different forms of names. I could cope with the Viennese names, but I couldn’t cope with the crazy swapping between nicknames, last names and first names. Or no name at all, and just a description of their physical or mental state at the time (which was unreliable anyway).

This novel had so much potential because I was very interested in the subject matter. I wanted to love it, which is why I let it percolate on its shelf for 2 years and why it survived two novel cleanouts. I’m now going to release it on Book Crossing, even my mom wasn’t attracted to reading it.

This novel had the positive potential of Max but instead ended up in my could-not-complete pile with I am Sasha. 1 star from me. I couldn’t finish it. Occasionally I can tolerate this kind of abstract writing but I just couldn’t.

Allen & Unwin | May 2016 | AU$32.99 | paperback