Review: Chris Carter – Gallery of the Dead

Gallery of the Dead
Chris Carter

Hunter is known to be brilliant at psychological evaluations and getting inside the Killer’s mind. With a new killer on the loose that seems to be creating fantastically horrible art with his victims, will Hunter be able to stop them before he creates a whole series?

Keep in mind that I have not read any of the first 8 books in this series. Thus I think I was missing some background information that could have been useful in helping me interpret Hunter’s particular personality traits. This was less about his ability to read criminal minds, and more about his ability to interpret weird clues. In the end though, the solution was pretty simple, and didn’t really need that much fancy interpretation. Try any of the Kendra novels or Sanderson’s Legion instead for that.

Again, my problem with this ‘Thriller’ / Detective novel was that I wasn’t given enough information to work things out for myself. I’m all for an insight into the perp’s brain (think The Admirer), but I need it with some suspense and fear for the main character as well. I had this problem with Corpselight and The Fix as well, and would make the suggestion of Name of the Devil or babydoll instead. There are so many other better options out there that I have read!

I finished reading this novel, but I think I wouldn’t have necessarily started (and finished) it on the same day it arrived had I known the ending. It was in the end a lot of flopping around during the text with no suspense. Also, a couple more victims would have been interesting. Morbid as that sounds, it IS just a novel. I wanted to know what other things The Artist might have done, given time. Did he want to collect a whole series of focal pieces?

I’m giving it 3 stars because of that relatively simple ending and lack of suspense. Also, all I seem to have done in this review is compare it to other novels, and that’s never a good sign for the uniqueness of the plot.

Simon and Schuster | February 2018 | AU$29.99 | paperback

Review: Ernest Cline – Ready Player One

Ready Player One
Ernest Cline

Wade Watts has been hunting the ultimate prize in Oasis for almost as long as he has been alive. With little to live for in the real world, the VR world of Oasis, even if he can’t leave the home planet of School, is his proper place to be alive. With an excellent mastery of Lore, Watts has a chance to take the prize – but what will it cost him?

What doesn’t make sense to me is why he didn’t just live in his van the whole time. Why bother venturing out? Because honestly, the breakdown of the Stacks really didn’t seem to bother him much.

This is like an updated version of Gillian Rubenstein’s that has been made relevant to the takeover of VR technology. Or a different version of Game Runner where it is actually enjoyable! I assume that this kind of novel has taken control because of The Maze Runner‘s success (movie franchise and all). It has the potential to appeal to both young men and women, and that makes it an excellent YA novel. Good work Cline!

Actually, just looking at it makes me want to read it again. Good work Penguin #blinddatewithabook because I loved my blind date! See a cute picture of the wrapping on my Instagram. Penguin even express posted this to me so it would get here in time for Valentine’s day. Thanks Team!


Review: Will Boast – Daphne

Will Boast

Daphne was a normal enough child but when she hit puberty she started to have odd paralysis fits. After being tagged for the morgue, Daphne’s life was sure to change – her paralysis fits were brought on by strong emotions, her own or anyone else’s nearby. Repetition is the only way she can survive, yet is that really a life?

Arg! I was left without real knowledge for whether this condition was a real life one, or just one that the author thought would be interesting to explore. The potential ‘science’ behind the disorder was explored to an extent but again, there was nothing concrete about it. At least novels with Selective Mutism give support resources, as do any novels detailing mental illnesses.

The author seemed to be going for symbolism, such as Biscuit and the man-blob. I felt confused though, and distracted from the rest of the story. It really didn’t fit in. The man-blob had his own part to play, but honestly the inevitable death of Biscuit (I promise this isn’t a spoiler, it’s obvious once you read about him) did nothing for me. I’d never formed an attachment to him, and Daphne didn’t seem to either (because she can’t possibly get attached to anything). Oh! And poor Hidalgo! Really author? That was just cruel and unnecessary.

I was utterly unsatisfied by the ending. I didn’t see how she could possibly survive for that long! Patterns and repitition are excellent… but they can only take you so far. Perhaps some actual counselling rather that going to a Doctor who would rather put you through tests to see your limits? Imagine what a marriage breakdown could do or the death of Brook or her mother. I wouldn’t have blamed her for her ways out.

I started this novel eagerly, giving it 4 stars out of the gate because of the interesting premise of Daphne’s disorder. Then, it downgraded to 3 stars when I realised that the writing style was not going to perk up and it was going to continue to be a hybrid stream-of-consciousness. Finally, the ending did me in and put it down to 2 stars, as did the lack of resources on the condition. Don’t waste you time on it.

Allen & Unwin | 21st February 2018 | AU$27.99 | paperback

Review: Anna Day – The Fandom

The Fandom
Anna Day

Violet thinks that she is a Shrinking Violet and that there is nothing special about her. When she is catapulted into her favorite novel as the heroine and she is the only person who can get them home, Violet must stop shrinking and grow some balls (the author’s terminology, not mine)!

Nope, I didn’t buy the Violet – Alice connection. I really did feel that Alice was an ass. Seriously, 17 year old girl suddenly deciding that she’d like to stay in a violent fantasy world that has to eventually collapse? Idiot… I wanted more Katie time! Damn she was good. Way more an exciting character than Alice (and more deserving too).

I wonder how many shared dreams/comas there are in real life? It’s an interesting concept. I certainly dream pretty vividly, so it is possible. Perhaps out-of-body experiences? I have a non-fiction novel by a neuroscience on my shelf at the moment that perhaps will explore this idea more.

As the novel progressed, I found myself more and more confused. How exactly did this cross-over work? I’m not sure whether this is a spoiler or not, but you very quickly work out the double worlds at play. Sadly, I didn’t find that it created any suspense – the potential beeping of the hospital machines or anything else.

I really enjoyed this novel due to its fast pace, but I don’t think it is a reread for me. As other reviewers have noted, you get told the ending at the very beginning. I also always figured that they would come out ok at the end, and thus the ending wasn’t as exciting as it could be. 4 stars from me.

Chicken House / Scholastic | March 2018 | AU$16.99 | paperback

Review: Mary Watson – The Wren Hunt

The Wren Hunt
Mary Watson

Wren is chased once a year for her name. This year, she pledges, is the year she will no longer be frightened, and the year she will no longer be caught. Instead, the leader takes a slice of her hair, claiming the literal kill for himself. But there are other plans afoot – does Wren have a different destiny to fulfill?

It took me a while to get into this novel. The start was very slow, despite a chase scene. But the lead up to the chase scene destroyed the anticipation. The rest of the novel wasn’t as predictable though (except the love interest). Oh! Twist! I did not see that coming. This novel stands alone quite nicely, but I can tell it has been set up for a sequel. What will Wren do next? What does it all mean?

I felt Wren’s character was nicely defined, and her behaviour was very consistent despite the different environments she found herself in. Like her family, I also felt that she should have done more snooping, but for her own benefit.

I felt confusion about what had come before with the artist and her mother? And I also didn’t get any conclusions about some of Wren’s visions. I also would have liked some more information about her mother. Finally, I wanted to know more about why these archives were actually formed.

As you can see, this novel left me with a lot of questions. At the same time, it did conclude. For the terrible beginning I’m giving this three stars, but I would consider reading the next novel if there is one.

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

Review: Sara Bernard – Goodbye, Perfect

Goodbye, Perfect
Sara Bernard

Eden can depend on Bonnie for being there and holding her up. But now Bonnie has run away with her boyfriend, and Eden doesn’t know which secrets she should be keeping. As Bonnie gets further and further away from Eden, Eden is forced further into her lies. Can Eden bring Bonnie home without betraying her trust?

I’m not sure how convinced by this novel I was. I wanted to get more of a sense about Eden’s background, but I appreciated that the author didn’t want to make a big deal out of it, because the whole novel was really about how far you would go to keep a secret. There were touches of romance between Eden and Connor, and attempts to explore the sometimes complicated nature of families, but most of the novel was focussed on Eden’s stubbornness. I never felt a real breakthrough in her personality, despite the softening she displayed later.

There could have been more action to keep my attention in the first part of the novel. I never felt like Eden was going to tell, so I didn’t feel much of a problem as Bonnie got further and further away from her home. I got to page 36 and commented to my partner that nothing seemed to have happened yet.

Something that you are told about frequently in foster care training, or as a psychiatric patient, is that you have to warn people that you can’t actually keep things a secret – if keeping the secret will harm them, or others, you are required to tell someone who can act to keep the person in question safe. Teenagers find this hard to understand, probably due to peer pressure & influence.

I felt pretty betrayed at the end honestly. I don’t know how I felt about the whole Jack-Bonnie situation either. I agree that he was in a position of power, and that he shouldn’t have abused that power. How could Bonnie be so naive? She seemed to have plenty of book-smarts, but no common sense. Not to mention the lack of responsibility of the school. Oh! And I wasn’t convinced that Jack was ‘grooming’ Bonnie. I agree that he probably didn’t feel the same star-struck love for her, but he might not have been a paedophile. Consent is a tricky thing – make sure you are both consenting ADULTS before doing anything…dodgy.

I’m giving this 4 stars.

Pan Macmillan | 13th February 2018 | AU$16.99 | paperback

Review: Short Stories, Because You Love to Hate Me (ed. Ameriie)

Because You Love to Hate Me
Editor: Ameriie

Leave it to the heroes to save the world—villains just want to rule the world. In this unique YA anthology, thirteen acclaimed, bestselling authors team up with thirteen influential BookTubers to reimagine fairy tales from the oft-misunderstood villains’ points of view.

I confess, I read the first two short stories and almost gave up on the whole anthology. Neither were in a style I enjoyed. A book of short stories was never going to be my favourite read. You will remember from the time that I was more enamored with Mercedes Lackey that I read a lot of short stories. I usually like to use them to pick out some new authors to test out, but honestly at the moment I still have novels left over from last year to review and it’s just not going to happen.

I recognised two of the authors here – Adam Silvera (They Both Die in the End) and Nichola Yoon. I wouldn’t say that any short stories really shone out as amazing, but my pick would be Julian Breaks Every Rule by Andrew Smith. Let’s just say it has a lot in common with Breaking Butterflies. I wouldn’t want to ruin the underlying theme of it.

Honestly, I’m actually really envious that these vloggers got to request specific topics for their short story. Maybe I should start vlogging about my books? But I’m more of a writer of reviews. If you asked me to do this, I think I’d choose a reimagining of a dragon fairytale, clearly. Maybe the dragon from The Hobbit?

Let’s give this 4 stars, which is pretty generous from me for a book of short stories. Worth reading if you love fairytales, don’t mind short stories and are looking for some new authors to read.

Bloomsbury | 1st September 2017 | AU$14.99 | paperback

Review: Megan Frazer Blakemore – The Firefly Code

The Firefly Code
Megan Frazer Blakemore

Old Harmonie is a utopian community where almost all diseases have been cured, and children at the age of 13 are granted access to their special talent. But is everything as good as the children have been taught?

I didn’t always understand Mori’s motivations. I actually wondered at the beginning if her own parents or Ilana had somehow coerced her into taking Ilana into her secret place. Or can it be excused by the power of ‘beautiful people’ to get what they want? I find it so funny how Mori can think that Ilana must be a ‘natural’ because she looks perfect. Dude! Everyone knows that natural genetics for humans doesn’t always turn out well. If someone is a ‘natural’, it’s likely that they don’t look perfect – they will resemble their parents more than Ilana does hers. Also, she should also totally blame her parents for her eyeball problems.

Looking for a YA version of this novel? Read Breaking and Burning by Danielle Rollings. Or perhaps Because you’ll never meet me. Playing around with genetics is so dangerous. We don’t even always get it right with mice – and it’s scary to think that scientists in poorly regulated countries such as China are already performing human cloning and no doubt some serious genetic engineering. It’s the ethics that always makes things complicated. How far is too far?

This novel has real potential for introducing younger readers to important genetic concepts. I’d set it at maybe age 10 up, just because the ideas behind changing people’s very genetic makeup is a hard one to grasp. They may also struggle with the idea that adults don’t always tell the truth, and that adults don’t always know everything. Being able to read the words and being able to understand the concepts are two different things.

Oh dear. This novel has made me want to read Sapient or The Ego Cluster again (PS: I did just reread Sapient – so good!). If only I had a printed copy of The Ego Cluster! I’ve just gotten a fancy copy of my PhD bound, so maybe I could do the same for it… Better ask the author (and see if he has written any more fantastic novels yet). I’m giving this 4 stars. It gets off to a really slow start, but certainly ‘heats up’ towards the end. And it has a sequel coming. Sigh. Why always with sequels? At least it mostly concluded properly.

Bloomsbury | 1st December 2017 | AU$14.99 | paperback

Review: Angelo Surmelis – the dangerous art of blending in

the dangerous art of blending in
Angelo Surmelis

Evan has been trying to fit into society and his family his whole life. But with violence at home, and the knowledge that he kissed a boy in summer at Bible camp, Evan is probably never going to manage it. As his life goes from barely tolerable to horrific, Evan has to decide how he is going to shape his life from here.

I didn’t understand the obsession with money, except as a way of having more control over Evan. Evan’s father seemed like a sensible enough man, even if he was trapped by what the Greek community told him was normal.

Oh Gods. This novel ripped me apart. While reading it, I felt like my heart was going to break, and when I finished it, I felt like I needed a cuddle from my own partner to remind me that not all of the world is filled with idiots.

This novel powerfully tackles domestic abuse (from a female perpetrator, no less) and coming out as gay in a community that doesn’t understand it. It brought back memories of my own high school years, and the experiences I have heard from many other Queer people. I loved the authenticity of this novel, which came from it being written based on the experiences of the author. That a person had to go through that as a child, well, it brings me to tears.

How much actually happens in this novel? I spent a lot of the novel anticipating what Evan’s mother was going to do to him next, and not as much paying attention to the action. That anticipation and climax is what lets me give this novel 5 stars.

Penguin Random House | 12th February 2018 | AU$19.99 | paperback

Review: Kathleen Barber – Are You Sleeping

Are You Sleeping
Kathleen Barber

Josie’s mother has just died, setting off a chain of events that she never could have predicted. Josie is expected to attend the funeral – the only problem is that she already told her boyfriend that her mother had died years ago. Finally, a social media reporter has just taken up the closed case of Josie’s father’s murder – and the whole world is baying for righteous blood.

This novel is an emotional roller-coaster ride, rather than a thriller. Josie has kept everything suppressed for so long (dude, you seriously needed counselling, not random sex in overseas bars), that it spurts out in unexpected bursts of trauma. Sometimes I felt that if she was just a little bit less irrational she would be fine!

Some of the character dynamics made no sense to me. However, I think that the author went to a great lengths to include a wide range of relationships. Take for example the ?20? years of difference between Josie’s cousin Linda and her husband. Or the weird dynamics of Lanie and Adam. Adam should pay…

I did not feel satisfied with the ending. What penalty will Poppy pay for basically causing the death of Josie’s mother? Shouldn’t she pay for withholding evidence that could have exonerated some suspects before so much damage was done? Or for interfering with a person’s final belongings?

I think I will actually give this 4 stars, although I would have liked more hints so that I could work out the solution for myself.

Pan Macmillan | 8th August 2017 | AU$29.99 | paperback