Review: Brandon Sanderson – Elantris

Elantris
Brandon Sanderson

Serene has arrived in Kae to discover that her husband to be has died, but that her marriage is still valid. Determined to make the most of it, she decides to bait the harsh religious gyorn to keep helpful occupied. At the same time, her would-be husband is not dead, instead he is afflicted with the curse of Elantris

I allowed myself to reread this one to put me in the right frame of mind to write a review. Knowing (vaguely) what would happen next didn’t stop me from being on the edge of my metaphorical seat. Ah! Serene! Why don’t you see what is in front of your face? I had forgotten the wonderful nuances that Sanderson build into this novel, and discovering them again was almost as pleasant as the first time.

Sanderson builds a unique world where magic is possible – just not very probable now that Elantrians get sick but don’t die instead of transforming into radiant Gods. It of course has Sanderson’s flare for never designing the same magic system more than once, and his characters are trying to jump off the page. I couldn’t put it down and found myself trapped reading it longer than I should have been.

There’s a little baby short story that is a companion for Elantris as a compliment to let the readers know what occurred within Elantris at the final showdown. Don’t get your hopes up, it really is very short and sweet. Sanderson has said that eventually he will write a sequel to Elantris, but even if he never does, Elantris is excellent all the same.

This one well and truly earned its five stars. I reread it and it didn’t disappoint, and it has only wakened my desire to reread my other Sandersons. I lent this book to a friend, and it changed her whole policy on star giving to books. She realised how wonderful Sanderson’s works really are!

Review: Scott Westerfeld – Impostors

Impostors
Scott Westerfeld

Frey and Rafi are identical twins and thus should do everything together. Instead, they are never seen in the same room – Frey is trained as a body double for Rafi, just because Rafi was born 26 minutes earlier. When a hostage is needed to secure the help of a nearby city, Frey is sent out and Rafi is hidden. But their father has other plans in mind than just that…

Despite being in the same world as Tally Youngblood’s Uglies/Pretties/Specials (and Extras), Impostors is well and truly its own novel. The world has moved on and the technology has significantly advanced. Imagine a world where even the dust is spying on you! Rafi is trained to kill, but has her own personality trapped in there.

I only forgive this novel for being the first in a trilogy because I knew from the very beginning that Westerfeld pretty much ALWAYS writes trilogies (Afterworlds is an exception). Additionally, this novel rounds out very nicely, and didn’t disappoint with its ending.

Unfortunately, this novel features the same trope as a couple of others I have read recently, including Ruined, Glass Sword and Ash Princess. The heroine always falls for the prince(s) and gets into trouble while / for doing so. I’m going to think positive thoughts to myself that Westerfeld was probably already writing it before those novels got popular…

I’m giving this novel 5 stars for its amazing characters and world building. Also, Westerfeld was my hero before Sanderson.

Allen & Unwin | 12th September 2018 | AU$19.99 | paperback

Review: Laura Sebastian – Ash Princess

Ash Princess
Laura Sebastian

Princess Theodosia has been a captive since she was six and is Princess in name only. Brought out on State occasions dressed sumtiously but with an ash crown, Theo is punished for any uprisings by her people. When she is offered the chance to escape, she can’t decide whether to stay or go.

I found this novel lacking and predictable. Of COURSE she’s going to fall for an inconvenient guy. OF COURSE she’s suddenly going to gain a backbone. Theo is a perfectly fine protagonist, but she’s just not believable. Her behaviour, particularly when she betrays someone close to her, is just repulsive. I couldn’t get behind her quick changes in personality and pathetic excuses either.

Perhaps I can say something positive about the world-building. I certainly could imagine the confines of Theo’s room, with the Shadow’s niches all around, but the world outside that was opaque. Perhaps this was deliberate on the author’s part to make the reader feel like they too were trapped in the castle. I’d like to give the benefit of doubt here, since otherwise the scenery was nice.

It’s a 3 star novel for me. I have just reread Amy Tintera’s Ruina series which has a similar princess/prince storyline, and honestly it is far better executed! Go and get your hands on Ruina (and its sequels) and don’t bother with Ash Princess.

Pan Macmillan | 24th April 2018 | AU$16.99 | paperback

Review: Lexi Freiman – Inappropriation

Inappropriation
Lexi Freiman

Ziggy is going to have a great time at her new prestigious private girls’ school. With a feminist mother, a mild-mannered father and a holocaust-surviving grandma, you’d think Ziggy was full of personality. But she is just looking for her niche and a way to fit in.

I got a couple of chapters in, but I couldn’t work out the purpose of the novel. What was I gaining from wading through the psyche of Ziggy? If I wanted to read something written in a thick literary and nuanced style, I would have picked up an adult fiction novel. I had nothing else to read where I was, but I still put it down.

The cover promises me “You’ll laugh out loud and squirm and wince”… Well, I certainly squirmed and winced at the terrible ‘literary style’ of writing and irritating protagonist. Then it tells me “You sure won’t put it down”. Well, I did, and I felt such revulsion when I discovered it back on my reading shelf that I had to review it immediately to get it OUT.

I’ve tagged this under teenage, because the protagonist is teenager, but honestly I can’t think of a teenager who would be interested in reading it. The 19 year old who is currently perusing my bookshelves put it down in disgust as well, just from the blurb!

Don’t waste your money or your time. Resist its brilliant red cover and run for the hills. Choose anything else to read rather than this. 1 star.

Allen & Unwin | 1st August 2018 | AU$29.99 | paperback

Review: Robert Muchamore – Killer T

Killer T
Robert Muchamore

Harry and Charlie might as well come from different sides of the world. Harry’s a displaced well-off European in the USA while Charlie’s a rock bottom USA native with a history of blowing things up. Harry has a fascination with the Media his whole life, and in Charlie he sees an opportunity to get a fabulous story…

Charlie and Harry form a symbiosis of true love that has to stand the test of time and misunderstandings. Harry’s persistence and Charlie’s brilliance make the novel gritty rather than touching, and actually make you feel like you are experiencing life with them. What more could I ask from a novel?

This is what the future will be! I have little faith in people to do the right things, and the idea of a world where different flu viruses threaten the population every day is exciting. I don’t have a problem with population control, but viruses that pick off the young aren’t really the right way to go about it. This novel was the one I wanted NK3 to be, and takes The Ego Cluster that one step further.

I actually enjoyed the jumps forward in time and alternative perspectives. It enabled Machamore to cram more into the novel and leave it as a standalone. Yay, a standalone novel that for once actually still provided a concrete conclusion and didn’t leave me thinking that the author wanted another book deal.

My finace was completely put off by the cover of my ARC copy, but I reassured her that the inside was far more exciting! I had difficulty predicting what would come next, and that’s what I need in a novel at the moment. I’m giving this novel 4 stars. I don’t think there is enough depth for me to reread, but I couldn’t put it down.

Allen & Unwin | 29th August 2018 | AU$19.99 | paperback

Review: Hayley Lawrence – Inside the Tiger

Inside the Tiger
Hayley Lawrence

Bel needs a social cause to support for a project at school. Rather than following in her father’s footsteps to promote harsher penalties for murderers, she chooses to write to a prisoner in the notorious Thailand ‘Tiger’ prison. Little does she know that she’s going to get in deeper than she imagined…

Bel is a likeable character, but it does feel a bit like ‘insta-love’. She falls really quickly for a boy she knows nothing about. I find it noble that she doesn’t care what Micah has done, but at the same time – wake up! Your own life should have tipped you off that nothing is what it seems.

I could have had more opinions from characters other than Bel. Bel seems to feel so sorry for herself all the time because she has a single parent who is busy all the time. I’m sorry, you have some really great friends and you’ve had this Christmas every year! Although Bel learns to speak up for what she wants, in the end she’s a pushover who somehow connives people into doing what she wants.

The ending is just as it should be. Good work Lawrence – it might not have been the ending we wanted, but it was the one we needed (I can’t remember what that’s from, but it’s a cliche sort of morning. It’s nice not to have a sugar coated ending.

I’m giving this 3 stars. I can’t say I was enthralled by it, but it wasn’t a bad read. It provides an interesting teenage insight into one of the toughest prisons in the world, with the most antiquated penalties.

Penguin Random House | 3rd September 2018 | AU$19.99 | paperback

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.