Review: Darren Groth – Exchange of Heart

Exchange of Heart
Darren Groth

Eve’s death has devastated Munro’s life to the point that he’s suffering flashbacks and anger on a daily basis. The voice in his head is constantly taunting him, and the only way to escape seems to be run all the way to Australia on student exchange. A volunteer placement at an assisted living placement shuts up Munro’s little voice some of the time, but can Munro silence it for good?

Hmm, I really wasn’t convinced by Munro’s story about Eve’s death, particularly as it was interspersed with the flashbacks he was having. I also felt that he was suffering from PTSD – why wasn’t anyone helping him with that? Yes, getting away from a situtation will help, but as Munro learns, it can’t fix all the problems.

I read this so long ago, probably when it first came out in July, especially as I had an ARC copy. Thus this review is not as in-depth as it should be. From what I remember, it gave me a lovely warm fuzzy feeling as I was reading. As I dipped back into the novel to refresh my memory, I remembered that there was a nice selection of supporting characters, and his love interest was believable.

I like that it’s not stacked full of ‘Australian vernacular’ like some novels that have an American protagonist. Something about having a protagonist from another country seems to make authors feel that they can get away with ‘G’day’ and a lot of things that regular Auzzies like me don’t even say. Groth is a native Australian.

It’s not a re-read for me, but it was a pretty RAD and AWESOME good book. 4 stars.

Penguin Random House | 31st July 2017 | AU $19.99 | paperback

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Review: Angela Slatter – Corpselight

Angela Slatter

Verity has unexpected drownings in daylight and her not-dead mother to contend with, oh, and she’s just had a baby. But never mind, she’s just got to keep pressing forwards. With family coming out of the woodwork faster than she can keep track, can Verity protect her immediate family and keep her Normal partner happy?

I’d like to know, even with Wanda’s magic, why Verity is up and about after such a traumatic birth pretty much 2 days later. Any baby that comes out in the space of an hour is going to rip some serious damage. Or maybe the time passed faster than I thought, which it might have because I had no sense of timing throughout the whole novel.

I don’t really understand Verity’s role. Why does she feel this compulsion to help out the Weyrd? Maybe that is something that is covered in the first novel, but she continually keeps ‘fixing things’ for them, despite them abandoning her, which is a major theme of this novel. Also, does she get paid for this role? I have trouble understanding how she normally functions. I resisted reading this novel because I knew it was a sequel, but I honestly think that that is the least of its problems.

It’s a struggle to finish this novel, and I’m still not sure I will. The pacing is incredibly slow, and the storyline very predictable. Everything always overlaps in these novels, and so once one ‘puzzle’ is solved, the rest fall in line for the reader, if not Verity. I have other attractive things to read instead, and it’s a serious backlog because I just discovered a stash of novels I had wondered where they got to, but couldn’t find them.

Honestly, all the f-words? They don’t do anything for me. Verity uses them so often that their potential impact is negligible. Using more sparingly, they might actually convey a sense of urgency. There’s some nice lines that could have been worth laughing about, such as Verity’s daughter not liking decanted breast milk! Yet they are delivered so flatly that my reaction was more meh, nice try.

I’m giving this 2 stars. Surely it appeals to some audiences, but it just doesn’t appeal to me. Summing up: it was too slow, too laced with pointless cuss-words (and I’m not a puritan!) and too predictable. I’d recommend as a light read, although not fantasy based, Turbo Twenty-Three.

Hachette Australia | 11th July 2017 | AU $32.99 | paperback

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Review: Katie Kennedy – Learning to Swear in America

Learning to Swear in America
Katie Kennedy

Yuri’s Doctoral work should win him a Nobel prize – it’s not like everyone can use physics to analyse antimatter to divert a meteor from destroying Earth. There’s only one small problem – he has to leave his native Russia and come to the USA, and he doesn’t speak the language. A local teenager he meets by chance might show him why the lives he can save are actually worth saving.

I love how Yuri analyzes scientifically everything that goes on in his head. It reminds me of how I read everything that passes by me too. Yuri’s English isn’t that great, but he certainly can speak a language beyond what is offered. I love Yuri’s stubborn nature, and how he sticks to his goals. And how brilliant he is! How one boy can have so much knowledge, and yet know so little, astounds me.

NB: You won’t actually really be learning how to swear in America(n). The swear words here are very mild, and still perfectly suited to teenagers that are sensitive to swearing in novels.

There’s lots more young adult novels coming out now about the importance of science, particularly astrophysics, including The Square Root of Summer and Stargazing for BeginnersMost people think of Newton’s apple when they think about physics – but there is so much more to it! Physics is the beginning of time-travel, and once we have explored the current natural world (think biology and chemistry), it’s important to examine more of things outside of earth.

I swear to you that I previously reviewed this novel, but apparently it has been eaten by something. So, I just had to reread a little bit of it to make sure it was as good as I had previously thought it to be. I realised then that I had gobbled it up on the first sitting, and didn’t remember all of the fabulous punch-lines as well as I could. 5-stars from me. Don’t let its plain cover fool you – it hides an entrancing storyline inside.

Bloomsbury | 1st August 2017 | AU $12.99 | paperback

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Review: Garry Disher – Under the Cold Bright Lights

Under the Cold Bright Lights
Garry Disher

Alan Auhl has come out of retirement to look into cold cases. He’s got himself a flock of needy cases at home, and is bound to run into some more at work. With a soft heart but an inability to express himself, will Auhl be able to see justice done?

Ugh, I spent this novel reading it in a sort of daze of disbelief. To start with, I didn’t really connect with the main character, and the style of writing just didn’t take me into the novel. And then, funnily enough, the protagonist talks about reading a book with no discernable plot-line. This one was just the same!

It’s nice to have a home-grown novel, for once I actually know the distances between the places that are mentioned. By the end of the novel though, I started running out of room in my head for place names and everything.

I find it hard to believe that a psychological expert could still make such statements about child sexual abuse being ‘made up’ by the child. Children rarely make things up as serious as that – unless they have been subjected to it, they probably don’t know even what it means to be sexually abused. That’s why it’s important to teach children the real names of genitals and so forth.

Is this the sort of novel that needs a sequel? I’m not really sure. All I can tell is that Alan honestly doesn’t seem to have much to live for, or much of a drive for life, and so he doesn’t care about how the ‘right’ outcome occurs. I’m giving this 2 begrudging stars. I felt like I had to finish it because I requested it, but honestly I shouldn’t have wasted my time.

Text Publishing | 30th October 2017 | AU $29.99 | paperback

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Review: Julie Israel – Juniper Lemon’s Happiness Index

Juniper Lemon’s Happiness Index
Julie Israel

Juniper’s big sister died, and now Juniper can only keep going by writing down one good thing that happened to her each day. When she finds a letter and loses one of her index cards with a big personal secret on it, the search for it will consume her and influence other aspects of her life.

Isn’t it a bit see-through that the main character falls for a guy totally outside the range of ‘norm’? For some reason, the ‘bad guys’ and the ‘wild guys’ always attract women. The heart wants what it can’t have? Anyway, it was totally predictable for who Paige would end up with, which made it a little more boring.

I wanted more substance, even with the touches on domestic abuse and suicidal thoughts. Give me more details! Make me really feel like I am there in the situation. As it was, I felt too distanced from the action, and it made me not as keen on this book as I could have been.

I let this novel sit for quite a while. A very long while, given that it was published in July and it’s now September! It didn’t help that I was out of the mood of writing reviews and instead just gobbling up novels. The title reminded me a bit of The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake. Also, sure, Juniper Lemon was the main character, but was it important to put it in the title? But I digress…

I didn’t cry in this novel, despite it potentially being heart-wrenching, but it was a good enough read nevertheless. Maybe almost 4 stars? I didn’t put it down while I was reading it anyway. Maybe I am suffering from a case of having read too many YA novels back to back, and getting really picky about them! I look forward to more novels from the author.

Penguin Random House | 3rd July 2017 | AU $17.99 | paperback

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Review: Karen M McManus – One of Us is Lying

One of Us is Lying
Karen M McManus

Five students walk into detention, but only four emerge. That student has been murdered – and there are four easy marks for the likely murderer. All of them have something to hide which might damage their careers and lives forever. But who is guilt? Who would stoop to murder to hide their secrets?

This novel was satisfyingly sneaky. The reader just keeps waiting for the penny to drop – and it never does! There’s hints of things that are awry, but I found myself always expecting one of the five suspects to make a mistake. It’s told from their point of views, but many other novels can successfully hide secrets from the reader by suppressing the thoughts of the character (such as in Breaking).

I think that the police can’t possibly be as dumb as they are always made out to be. Yes, yes, you have a very convenient scapegoat, but due diligence still says that they should be doing their jobs. Maybe I just don’t understand it because in Australia police generally have well defined roles, and I’d like to hesitate a guess that they might have less cases like this to deal with?

Despite this novel being of the general YA variety, it took me some time to pick up and read it. I picked this up, and then I put it down. It took me two attempts at reading it before I really got into it. I struggled a little with keeping the characters straight in the beginning, but I eventually worked it out. I think that’s what put me off picking it up in the first place, and also the cover reminded me of The Leaving, which I really didn’t enjoy. Sorry for judging you by your cover, novel!

Sorry to everyone who isn’t interested in YA novels. I’m STILL getting through the backlog from when I was finishing my PhD (you can call me Dr. Rose now), and I tended to read ‘easy novels’ that I could read and digest rapidly. Anywho, I still have at least 15 reviews to come from novels I have already read (I’m writing this review in late November btw), and the majority are YA.

Penguin Random House | 29th May 2017| | AU $17.99 | paperback

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Review: William Sutcliffe – We See Everything

We See Everything
William Sutcliffe

London has been cut off from the world, and is under constant surveillance from drones that are waiting to strike out the terrorists within. The ordinary people living there can’t work out why they are living in squalor, while the ruling class still has access to luxuries like cigarettes. Set to observe another teenager, a drone pilot gradually gets too close to his target.

The novel opens with a boy picking berries to sell. l made an instant connection with him – that I gradually lost as the novel progressed. The other protagonist, the drone pilot, I absolutely understood, but again, I didn’t care about him either. This novel overall felt flat to me, just like the 2D characters.

The ending of this novel was supremely unsatisfactory. I guess what it may have been trying to say is that life moves on, regardless of what occurred in the past. I wasn’t expecting a happy ending at all, but I was expecting something… more? Everything seemed dull, and the explanations still fell flat. The war-torn landscape didn’t resonate with me.

From the Acknowledgements, it seems like this novel is a fictionalised account of the Gaza Blockade/War(s). I would have preferred that it was actually set in Gaza – I didn’t find the idea of a tiny bit of London being shut off from the rest of the world very convincing. London is considered a hub, and Gaza certainly is/was not.

It’s a good attempt at exposing the uselessness of war, but I don’t think it goes far enough in making direct comparisons. I like the fact that it is more up-to-date than the majority of war novels that focus on the Jewish Holocaust, but I went into it expecting future fiction, and instead got a weird hybrid that didn’t tick any of my enjoyment boxes. 2 stars from me.

Bloomsbury | 1st December 2017 | AU $16.99 | paperback

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Review: Emery Lord – the start of me and you

the start of me and you
Emery Lord

Paige only dated her first boyfriend for two months before he drowned. Her life is filled with pitying looks from sympathetic strangers – which she doesn’t feel like she deserves. When she decides that this year is the year to get her life going forwards again, she makes a list of increasingly unlikely things to do.

This novel was engaging, powerful and awesome! I’m not sure that it was quite on the same level as When We Collided or The Names They gave Us though. I wasn’t expecting to see another novel from Emery Lord so soon, and I worry about the push by someone to churn out too many novels.

It seems like teenagers constantly forget that other people have feelings! Was I ever like that? Everyone makes mistakes, especially when they don’t know what first love looks like. The heart leads everyone so falsely! Not to mention the dangers of keeping a journal.

I enjoyed reading about Paige, but I did wish that there was a little more substance to her. It’s hard to explain, but she didn’t feel as real to me as some other characters. I also would have benefitted from a bit more about the motivations of the other characters, but it’s hard to see that in a first-person narrative.

Past me, you’re a terrible person. All I can remember after having left this review too late is that it left me wanting to cry in parts, and to celebrate in others. That’s ok! I’ll just pick it up and flick through it…. several hours later. Oops? I reread it. I guess that gives it 5 stars… but I’d recommend reading her other two novels first if you have limited reading time.

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

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Review: Krystal Sutherland – A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares

A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares
Krystal Sutherland

Esther Solar is cursed by Death. So is the rest of their family – eventually their phobias will kill them. So far, Esther has avoided learning what her phobia is, but she’s got a very long list of what might become a full blown phobia. An unexpected relationship blooms when she decides to face each phobia one by one – and maybe it’s not Death that’s causing all the problems.

I loved this novel so much. I loved Our Chemical Hearts by this author, and couldn’t wait to receive and read this one. I wasn’t expecting it to come so quickly after I requested it. I was in the final stages of submitting my PhD, and I still made time to read it. Ahhh. So worth it.

Facing your fears can be really difficult, and facing them with a mental illness in tow is even harder. Jonah and Esther’s relationship allows them to both make progress, even with the hang-ups they still hold from Primary School! I loved Esther as a character, and I liked the way the other characters weren’t defined by their illnesses – because they were defined as their curses instead.

I’m not sure it is fair to let the problem of love to be a phobia. I think that blurb lies to me! And also, it set me up for expecting the whole thing to be a bloody romance, when the novel was much more than that. Not to mention the pastel pink tinting of the cover. Trust me, just ignore the cover and dive straight into the novel.

Wow, this novel fits so much in. Anxiety, addiction, selective mutism (eg. A Quiet Kind of Thunder and The Things I Didn’t Say), abuse, the whole shebang! Love, love, love. I admit, even though I had a half-written review here waiting for me to finish, I did do a little rereading… So 5 stars from me.

Penguin Random House | 28th August 2017 | AU $19.99 | paperback

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Review: Karen Dionne – The Marsh King’s Daughter

The March King’s Daughter
Karen Dionne

Helena was born 2 years into her mother’s captivity, but she doesn’t know anything else. She adores her father, and it is not until he kills a visitor that she realises she needs to escape. Many years later, it is her father’s turn to escape – and he will stop at nothing to get at Helena and her daughters.

At the age of 12, Helena meets the outside world for the first time but finds herself in a place that seems to have aged over 50 years over night. She doesn’t know what to do with any of the rules, and struggles to fit into anything, not helped by her grandparents spending all the money left over from her ‘telling her story’ to magazines. When she finds a man who appreciates her, she is too afraid to tell her past.

This thoroughly reminded me of Baby doll, which is another abduction novel. But in that case, it is the mother who escapes in order to save her daughters. And The Marsh King’s Daughter is far more gritty and painful. It feels much more real, less like fantasy and more like painful reality.

This is a thriller? Well, I’m not so sure. I thought that the outcome was basically foretold for me. Things got a little tense towards the end, but it was ok. It would have been cool to have more from the kids and husband.

I’m giving this 4 stars. I really enjoyed it and snaffled it up. I think the only thing that kept me from giving it 5 stars was that there wasn’t as much suspense as I was lead to expect. But go into it expecting some interesting facts about living from the land and hunting as well as a well told abduction tale.

Hachette Australia | 1st June 2017 | AU$29.99 | paperback

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