Review: Jack Jordan – Before Her Eyes

Before Her Eyes
Jack Jordan

Naomi Hannah has been blind since birth, abandoned in a bus shelter and brought up in a loving family. She’s always felt alone, but at least safe in her little town. When she stumbles across a body in an alley, and the murderer caresses her, it starts a chain of reactions that steadily get more sinister. Who is leaving her alive at each crime scene, and why?

This novel put the creepy factor up high right from the beginning and it only got worse (or better?)! This is a true psychological thriller that caused me to shiver and make sure I had a good grip on myself (and my stomach). Some of the passages when Naomi were alone almost took my breath away.

Oh, the ending was perfect! I read the novel at a frantic pace for about two hours straight, holding out for an ending that would be satisfying and amazing. And it was everything I could have hoped for. Even possibly more than I could have hoped for. Go read it for yourself already!

This could have simply been a thriller and I would have enjoyed it, but having a disabled, black woman as the protagonist warmed this novel up from another run of the mill (but very good) crime novel to a great one with a diverse range of characters. Her unique perspective put me literally into her shoes. However, I could have had more insight into Lisa as the eventual explanation of her character didn’t exactly ring true for me.

Having finished the novel I can say that it was a totally engrossing read. Since I’ve read it, and I know the thrilling ending now I don’t think I’d reread it. But I think that if you’re a psychological thriller lover you are going to really enjoy this novel. 4 stars from me.

Allen & Unwin | 12th September 2018 | AU$29.99 | paperback

Review: Rachel Caine – Ash and Quill

Ash and Quill
Rachel Caine

Jess and his friends have escaped from the Alexandrian Library’s clutches, but instead find themselves trapped in the Burner hot-spot of Philadelphia. With the Library, the Burners and Jess’s family to contend with will there be a clear winner despite the sacrifices to be made?

I’m not sure if I have commented on this before, but I’m not sure how I felt about the interspersed writings of the Archivist and his lackeys. Did I really learn anything new? What was their effect on the novel’s progress? (maybe these questions are left over from marking literature reviews…) Nevertheless the rest of the writing is fine and you barely realise that you are turning pages at a rapid rate.

I think maybe this novel isn’t going to be amazing for everyone, it didn’t have quite the suspense of the first two. There is only so much fantastic writing you can do around a workshop before it gets a little repetitive. That being said, Caine keeps the novel moving at a cracking pace right until the cliffhanger final chapter.

I don’t actually see the ending coming. Jess and Dario are making all these hints, and I just don’t get it! Also, I wasn’t convinced by Dario being a so-called dark thinker like Jess. The character development is not particularly convincing either, with Jess still impulsive risk taker and Scholar Wolfe the grumpy old man. But that’s fine! I’m ok with them being the same, because the action is plenty exciting.

I read this really excitedly when it arrived in the mail over a year ago, then neglected to review it. This time I reread the first two novels  Ink and Bone and Paper and Fire and then leaped into this beauty! How could I give anything about libraries or books anything less than 5 stars? I’ll be keeping this one on my shelf and waiting impatiently until I can share it with the younger readers in my life.

Allen & Unwin | 27th September 2018 | AU$16.99 | paperback

Review: Asia Mackay – Killing It

Killing It
Asia Mackay

Lex Tyler is ready to go back to work, adorable baby Gigi at her side. There’s only one small problem – her job is killing people off for Platform Eight, a division of Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Her newest assignment is to infiltrate a group of London’s elite mummies with Gigi in order to kill off a Russian patriot.

I read about half this novel while waiting for the action to begin. I’m sorry, I just don’t find it that entertaining that she forgot nipple pads, and whether breast milk has DNA in it. I continued reading after a month or two had passed and still felt underwhelmed. The ending promised to have a little more action in it, but in the end it felt rushed and unfinished. I needed significantly more shadowing throughout the novel to feel convinced about the betrayals…

The sexist language and swearing doesn’t add anything to the story, it just made me cringe in revulsion. I fully understand that being a ‘Rat’ would be dominated by men with crude language, but I’m also certain that I’d rather Lex showed a bit more restraint with her own language at home!

I really like the idea behind this novel which pokes fun at the problems women have at work after going back when they have had a baby. Lex meets them with ?style? and tries to smack preconceptions out of the boys’ heads. What could be worse than going back to killing after giving birth to a new life? This novel reminded me of The Thief of Light – the protagonist is a woman doing a man’s job better than him and paying the price for it.

I don’t understand why Lex is so relaxed about Will and Gigi being at home by themselves. If it’s so easy for her to break into houses better guarded than her own, wouldn’t she feel more anxious about hunting a Russian oligarch?

Anyway, this novel’s slow start/finish/entirety and crude conversations leads me to give it a 3 star rating. I’m certain I have read another novel similar to it, but better executed – does anyone else remember?

Allen & Unwin | 25th July 2018 | AU$29.99 | paperback

Review: Laura Purcell – The Corset

The Corset
Laura Purcell

Ruth is in prison for murder and is awaiting hanging. Dorothea is a well bred woman with a fascination for phrenology (skull physiology that predicts character traits). When Dorothea sets out to map Ruth’s skull she is forced to decide whether she believes in Ruth’s truthfulness or her own ‘scientific’ mind.

The detailed gore at the beginning of the novel was cringe worthy and my feeling was that it was unnecessary. The torture might have been intended to make things feel Gothic and gloomy, but instead I just felt revulsion. I also couldn’t work out why I should care about David and Thomas. What were the men’s purposes in this novel?

It’s such a pity. The cover of this book was such that I expected a peacock to feature. Instead this felt a little like symbolism gone wild. The corset! The corset! And in the end, is it even what she thought it was? The reader and Dotty seem to move towards believing in magic, but the ending makes you questions that – and not in a good way.

About halfway through this novel I thought to myself that the ending would make or break the novel. I didn’t know what would constitute a good ending, but I knew it needed one. The ending I received however was disappointing and unsatisfying and made no sense to me. Will she recover? Was Ruth actually hanged?

Other reviewers are saying this is historical fiction, and I’m saying it might be. But there are plenty of other sources of historical fiction that are better focused and with better endings. 2 stars from me because I finished it, but I wish I hadn’t done so because it left a bad taste in my mouth.

Bloomsbury | 1st November 2018 | AU$29.99 | paperback

Review: Kate van Hooft – We See the Stars

We See the Stars
Kate van Hooft

Simon doesn’t say much. Anything, really. He’s quiet and has to count colours in order to keep the angries in. When his new teacher shows interest in him, and he makes friends with the peculiar Cassie he begins to speak. But will he choose the right things to say?

The blurb promises that Simon will have to hunt for his teacher, but the majority of the novel is really about getting to know Simon and understand his relationship with the world. I actually really enjoyed Simon’s unique perspective. It’s exactly how I would imagine thoughts to be of a mildly autistic child (in my limited, and purely academic knowledge that is). I liked each of the small parts that came together to understand his worldview, and how he saw other people and imagined his insides reacting to different situations.

What ended up frustrating me was that there were many unresolved questions and perhaps too many character relationships. I like that it is all through Simon’s perspective and therefore it wouldn’t be appropriate to expose everything, but I would have liked to know if his mother was even still alive!

I didn’t understand the ending. Up to that point, I had been able to take all of Simon’s quirks in stride and work out what was the ‘real world’ or just fantasy. But the last couple of (negative number) chapters confused me and left me feeling incomplete and unsatisfied with this novel.

The majority of this novel deserves 4 stars for its compelling and unique reading, but the ending takes down the novel as a whole to 3 stars. Please author, please consider writing me a better ending. I didn’t find solutions to all the problems I saw. A similar novel was The Sign which had an equally disappointing ending.

Allen & Unwin | 27th July 2018 | AU$29.99 | paperback

Review: Bernard Schaffer – The Thief of Light

The Thief of Light
Bernard Schaffer

Carrie is a rookie cop determined to become a Detective. Imagine her delight when it looks like a serial killer is once again on the loose in her tiny township. Assisted by the grumpy Chief Bill Waylon and the tortured Jacob Rein, can Carrie find the killer in time?

I’m surprised they managed to catch the killer as they were so busy swearing at each other and cracking stupid jokes. I never got Carrie’s motivation for being a cop and her naivety and bright-eyed shine weren’t authentic. It seemed to me that there was a huge focus on the previous child serial killer, but I struggled to work out what the gory details really were.

It swapped unpredictably through the perspectives and I don’t get why that was useful. I didn’t get any additional insight from the Chief. The only one that was useful was from Rein, that dark tortured soul that the book’s worth rides on! Otherwise Carrie’s inauthentic babbling would have done the job.

It was tense but I lost hope early on. I fully expected more deaths to take place. 3 deaths wasn’t nearly enough. The ending was a let down. All that chasing and it turns out to be the 2nd person they tried. I expected more. I knew everyone would survive.

I just noticed that this is the first book in a series with Rein. I wouldn’t expect Rein to feature again – after all he’s lost an important appendage! I wouldn’t be averse to reading another novel by this author, I’m just not sure I can put up with Carrie being so bright and bubbly (and insensitive in her own way).

3 stars from me. If you’re looking for serial killers, try Find You in the Dark or the Kendra novels.

Penguin Random House | 20th August 2018 | AU$32.99 | paperback

Review: Christelle Dabos – A Winter’s Promise

A Winter’s Promise
Christelle Dabos

In a world that has been rent apart by a vengeful God, humans still exist on floating chucks of world – the ‘Arks’. Ophelia is from Anima, where the houses behave like their inhabitants and she can move through mirrors & read objects with a touch. Unexpectedly she is betrothed to Thorn from the Pole, a bleak icy wasteland with an implacable Court that is out to kill her.

Oh ouch! Those twists! Poor Ophelia. All I could think of was Shakespeare’s Hamlet, where the hapless Ophelia drowns herself. In comparison, this Ophelia is pretty spunky! I think she is quite brave for surviving in that toxic environment.

What else appealed to me about this novel? I enjoyed the plot line because I couldn’t predict what would happen next. That’s what’s good about this novel – it’s an entirely new world idea to me. Also I will always have a soft spot for people who can read objects.

Wow, reviewers are divided on this novel. Some label it derisive and misogynistic, others love it! I can see the opinions of both camps. To be clear, I read this novel in the English translation, and I am actually really keen to see the second novel translated. I’d even consider learning French to read it if I had no other choice.

That being said, I can certainly agree that Ophelia is mainly a pathetic creature who doesn’t stand up for herself at all. But it’s her role. Much as we all want women to stand up for themselves all the time, I don’t have a problem with a heroine that sneezes endlessly and feels lost. In a way it makes her more relatable. I look forward to some really solid character development in the second novel, otherwise I will be disappointed.

I’m giving this a 4 star review before I change my mind and give it 3 stars.

Text Publishing | 1st October 2018 | AU$22.99 | paperback

Review: DM Cain – The Phoenix Project

The Phoenix Project
DM Cain

This world of violence is only a small step from our own. Religion has been blamed for terrorism and driven underground, and prisons are bursting at the seams. The only solution is to reduce the number of prisoners and getting them to kill each other for spot is a logical solution. Charged with a deadly crime, Raven punishes himself again and again with no hope of salvation.

This novel opens with a bloody fight scene that positions the reader to empathise with Raven while at the same time wondering why he has killed before. Although the blow by blow of the fight is written slightly awkwardly, the feeling behind it is strong enough to seep through the action and encourage the reader to keep going!

This is a bloodier, more brutal criminal punishment than that explored in Day 7 and Cell 7. I rather like this novel more because it is more detailed and meaty, with a protagonist who has sinned, but is ready to redeem himself eventually.

Ah yes. Raven is a tortured, depressed prison inmate who nevertheless cannot stop fighting for his life. His despondency seeps through the pages and his self-harm (extreme trigger warning) is painful to observe. I felt myself wondering what choices I would have made, and whether I would be as strong as Raven.

This novel comes with an optional epilogue, as the ending within the novel is quite abrupt. I liked being given the option to read it or not, because I can’t decide how I feel about it. I like there to be a concrete ending, even if it is not a happy one. Go purchase this book for yourself, and then decide whether you too want to read the epilogue.

I read this novel a long time ago, and remember that I loved it so much that I gave it 5 stars. Then I neglected to review it, and let it just sit there on the review pile for a year (or more!). So this review is actually written based on my re-read, and it was worth the time.

Review: Lisa Ireland – The Shape of Us

The Shape of Us
Lisa Ireland

The WON forums are a haven of fat women all desperate to lose weight to improve something in their lives. What starts as impersonal interactions online quickly turns into a fast friendship between four women – but will life get in the way of their happiness? Will the group be able to lose weight?

The author has managed to make four very different women all equally interesting to read about. The mix between internet posts and insight within each woman’s head is done well and doesn’t detract from the storyline. The internet posts hold the different perspectives together. I felt like I got to know them all as people and this made it easier to sympathise with them even when they made choices that I myself didn’t agree with.

The dialogue, particularly Mezz’s, feels stilted and awkward at times. It doesn’t seem to read like a real person would say it. At other times I felt like I wasn’t convinced by their interactions and insight when they were together. Somehow, they are almost saintly when dealing with each other’s problems and forgiving rude posts! The only breakdown of this was the Jewels-Josie interaction which felt rushed and unnecessary amongst the rest of the drama.

The end comes up very rapidly. I felt irritated by the fact that we didn’t see a lot of the character development that must have occurred between the climax of the novel and the final chapter (I can’t say more without it being a spoiler). It’s sort of like the author was told that the old ending didn’t have enough drama, and that a catastrophe needed to occur to sell the novel.

I read this novel twice with a year gap in between! I hadn’t reviewed the novel right after I read it the first time, I think because I had read the mother’s promise and both novels came to similar conclusions. This is a light read, and under normal circumstances I wouldn’t recommend a reread. There isn’t enough substance – this is more of a poolside read. It is fiction after all, so I would suggest A.J. or Shauna’s novel/books for a realistic weightloss book. For an actual how-to guide, try Do you really want to lose weight? or Diet and Weight Loss Lies.

I’m giving this novel 4 stars, with the caveat that there are some things you need to overlook before you can enjoy it fully.

 

Guest Reviews from Kyria #2

Remember last year when I had a guest stay with me for 11 days and she read a bunch of book and reviewed them for me? Well, she’s back and in 7 days she read all these novels. Take it away Kyria!

Akarnae

The start of the book didn’t do it justice. It felt jumpy and confusing, because the book went to the effort of explaining and describing a situation that the character would be in, only to pull her out of it almost directly afterwards. This continued throughout the book to some extent, although never as bad as in the beginning; there were parts that felt jumpy or rushed.

However, after making it through the beginning, the book got much better and by the end of it I was really interested in what was going to happen; so much so that I might have to buy the sequel. 4 stars

The Ash Princess

If there’s one word for this book, it’s mediocre. It had a great idea, but the book didn’t live up to expectation. The idea of different ‘personalities’ that the character had, depending on who she needed to be (Thora vs Theodesia) seemed more like a way to hide a jarring personality change that instead should’ve been written into the book in a much slower, and careful way. The only way that combination of submissive and powerful would have worked is if she had been Theodesia the entire time, choosing instead to act as Thora when she needed. However, this isn’t what happened; instead, it seemed to happen over the span of a few pages, when she decides to reclaim her name, and her kingdom, and not be broken anymore. It’s reasonable that a decision like this could be made in a moment, but there should have been more happening before this, of her slowly gaining confidence, instead of just jumping on an opportunity she’s been beaten away from her entire life. 3 stars

The Bone Queen

This book was definitely not one of the best books I’ve ever read. By the time I was halfway through, I was barely skimming through it, and only because I hate leaving books unfinished. The book started out solid, however, the first change of POV started the downhill spiral than this book went on. Starting with a character who knew nobody meant that there wasn’t a bombardment of names to remember, but this changed once we left his point of view. Already, this meant that I was disinterested in half of the book, because I couldn’t understand who was doing what. The other part of the book was really good… until the two sides inevitably met up, and brought along all the name problems.

The exciting parts of the book were always good; when something interesting was happening, it was well-written, and I was interested. However, these parts seemed to be few and far between as I entered the second half of the book, instead filled with pages and pages of meaningless filler that didn’t add much to the storyline. It was around this part where I just began skipping the filler and reading only the more exciting parts; and while there was some storyline that I missed, the only noticeable difference from ignoring a significant part of the book was one change in location.
This had the potential to be a great book, but sadly fell short. 1 star

The Phoenix Project

This was an amazing book! I was hooked from start to finish. It was unpredictable; but not in a bad way. Instead of being able to guess what was going to happen from the very beginning, the book went in directions I wouldn’t have expected. The character progression felt natural, and I could really understand his actions, and why he did them.
There was only one part of this book that I didn’t particularly like, and it was relatively minor. The relationship between two of the characters felt a bit rushed; they went from barely knowing each other, to disliking each other, to being friends in a way that felt much too fast for my taste. 5 stars

Elantris

Wow. Just wow. This book legitimately blew me away. I usually have trouble keeping up with a book as it goes through separate storylines; one always seems much more interesting than the other. However, this wasn’t the case at all for this book. Both storylines had me equally interested, because they both brought something new to the table, instead of one half being the necessary but boring part. The author clearly focused on making sure that the book was well-written, and was interesting all the way through, instead of knowing what he wanted to happen, and just finding a way to get there. I started this book in the afternoon, so I inevitably stayed up late to finish it. However, usually when I’m up late to finish a book, I wish it were shorter so that I could get all the enjoyment out of it, but still go to bed earlier. This was absolutely not the case for this; I wanted the book to continue forever, even if it meant I wouldn’t go to sleep for the next few weeks.

The book did a great job at constantly keeping the reader in suspense. There were unexpected twists all throughout the book, which kept me constantly on my toes. I also appreciated that they made sure not to give the surprises away too soon. The two main characters spent so much time together, with one of them not knowing who the other was, that it constantly frustrated me. However, it also kept me reading to wait for the sweet moment when everything would be revealed.

The only negative that I have with the book is that a little more backstory would have been nice. I understand why the book started out on such a vital part, but it meant that as a reader, I was unaware of the relationships that the prince had to the other characters, so it meant that I didn’t have much to expect from when he revealed himself. 5 stars

A Chronicle of Chaos

Absolutely great book. The first part of the book played with suspense really well; I never knew what was going to come out of the relationship. It kept me hooked from the second I started reading. Throughout the book, the character development of the demon was done perfectly. I didn’t think it would’ve been possible for a genuine character development to take a demon into… a not-demon, but it felt genuine the entire time. This also happened with the main character, although there was less development because he hadn’t started off at as extreme a position.

I feel like the quality dropped near the end of the book, when Anathema became human. It felt less exciting, especially compared to earlier in the book. The transition between the relationship of the characters also felt unnatural; Chaos went from hating Anathema to instantly risking everything for him. I understand that this was done because he realised Anathema loved him back, but it still seemed unrealistic, and a bit of a jump. That said, because the rest of the book was so spectacularly done, I kept interest the entire time, because I really felt invested in the characters. 4.5 stars

The Traitor’s Game

This was a solid book. It had a great storyline, and was written well for the most part. The major let-down of the book was the predictability. I could’ve guessed a significant part of the storyline from the very beginning, which ruined a lot of the book for me. There was also one part of the book that I found very confusing, after she found the blade, where it wasn’t made clear what she had actually done with it. I understand that this was for a big reveal later on, but as a reader it just left me confused and wondering if I’d skipped a page.
The character development was also all over the place; especially the character of Trina, who went from hating Kestra to wanting to be friends in the blink of an eye. Kestra was also very predictable. Although she made a few decisions that I thought were genius, and hadn’t expected, a lot of her personality focused on her (extremely predictable) relationship with Simon.

That said, it was enjoying to read, and would definitely be a good choice for a light book you don’t want to think too much about. 3.5 stars