Review: Sarah Lotz – The White Road

The White Road
Sarah Lotz

Simon does a terrifying crawl through a bared off cave where three people died beforehand. He wants to get footage of their bones, and wants to prove himself a decent climber after the fall that shattered his shoulder and ankle. His video footage goes viral, and he needs to top it. What better than Everest’s dead?

I couldn’t get behind this novel. I attempted to read it twice and at least got in about a quarter of the way before giving up this time. While the opening chapter puts you a bit on the edge of your seat, you know that he survives it because he writes the rest of the novel! It goes downhilll from there as Simon’s narration becomes increasingly erratic and we are introduced to more and more characters. I got sick of the frequent, gratuitous swearing that did nothing to endear me to Simon.

Additionally, I thought that for all his ‘brave’ climbing, Simon was a complete push-over. He was also irresponsible – you’re going to get stuck for sure, and you don’t care about the cost of the rescue party? I get that his family doesn’t care for him much, and that he feels like he doesn’t have an aim in life. That doesn’t mean that you should let your best-friend push you into climbing a mountain while he sits back home and counts dollars.

I stopped reading this novel and decided to release it into the wild. I (hopefully) have better things to read that I have brought with me, and I don’t want to waste my reading time on something that is not going to effectively distract me through very long hours of driving. I’m not really sure where I am going to source books when I have gotten through the ones in my luggage, but I will make do. The Australia Post guy back home said that he couldn’t deliver any more mail because the box was full! Oops, sorry bookies…

2 stars from me. Maybe the right audience who always wanted to read a fictional novel about the challenges of caving and Mount Everest, but I’d rather read a memoir of an Everest climber who has a decent story.

Hachette Australia | 16th May 2017 | AU$29.99 | paperback

Review: James Dashner – Journal of Curious Letters (The 13th Reality)

The 13th Reality #1 – Journal of Curious Letters
James Dashner

Tick has received a letter promising him that he will be exposed to incredible danger unless he burns the letter. But if he burns it, many people will be harmed. Tick isn’t afraid to admit he’s a nerd, and he’s rather fond of solving puzzles, but will his best be enough?

Wow, this novel’s first half was incredibly slow. I did like the elements of problem solving, and that redeemed the novel somewhat. Then again, I’m sorry, but Sato’s pensive and rude emotional state did nothing for me. And almost meeting a sticky end didn’t even improve him! He didn’t feel like a real person. In fact, the whole novel was so plot based that we didn’t see any character development at all. Except for Tick but that was all described in terms of him finally standing up to the school Bully – not anything more important. And that stupid scarf! Ugh. The author harped back to it, but it turns out that no-one actually cares (surprise surprise).

I saw pale parallels between this novel and Harry Potter (um, also, the name Norbert???). A 13 year old bullied small boy gets a mystical letter, and then is eventually whisked away to somewhere odd by some equally odd people? Has this now become a mainstream trope? Except that of course Tick’s dad loves Tick enough to take him to far away places, and let Tick travel with crazy people. I do find that hard to believe – what right-minded parent of a 13 year old lets their kid wander like that especially after he has just been eaten?

I could see on Goodreads that this was quite a polarising book – people either loved it for the action or completely hated it for the flat characters. It is fitting then I think that I gave this 3 stars. Someone who doesn’t mind their characters completely predictable and boring but likes non-stop action once it starts will enjoy this novel.

Scholastic | 1st March 2018 | AU$17.99 | paperback

Review: Gregg Hurwitz – Last Chance

Last Chance
Gregg Hurwitz

Chance Rain has made it through the last gasp of their plan to kill the Queen and free their home town. Too bad that the aliens can simply replace her with another. With the impregnated kids ready to hatch the next generation of invaders, Chance might be able to stop it – but it will cost him his life.

I received this, and then I literally gobbled it up for 3-4 hours. I knew that it would be good, having loved The Rains so much. I love the amount of thought that has gone into this novel. The stages of the invasion, the stages of the invaders themselves. The action happened so fast sometimes that I couldn’t breathe.

Alex, you two-timing teenager. I know there is an actual phenomenon of there being more marriage proposals after major catastrophes, due to emotions running high. But at the same time, Alex, didn’t anyone teach you about the rules of dating? You don’t shag two people at the same time, let alone two brothers.  

I hate to think of what happens next though. A population filled with kids no older than 18? All over the world? I mean, a lot have died off, but even the smart ones haven’t necessarily survived. Not to mention – how are all the countries to be saved, when originally the spread was via lots of meteors landing? So many skills would be lost.

I actually had this discussion with a Professor last night. Despite what the media says, many countries are now having negative population growth. This, combined with an aging population that needs more care, means that despite robots potentially taking over the world there will be plenty of jobs left. Humans have creativity, which might be our savior.

Go get your hands on this novel. I think I would even reread it, that’s how attached I got to the characters. 5 stars.

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

Review: Kerry Drewery – Day 7

Day 7
Kerry Drewery

At the last moment, Martha Honeydew has been pardoned from Cell 7, because the true killer stepped forth – just as they had always planned. Unfortunately, that’s when the plan stops working because Martha is still a target, and so is everyone she is close to. Will justice be able to be served for anyone?

Honestly, my enthusiasm for this novel waned over time. After reading Cell 7, I was very excited for what could come next. Cell 7 had what I think was a unique approach to crime, even if it was flawed! Day 7 departed from Cell 7 in offering a range of methods for punishing wrong-doers. These are once again flawed towards people that have money being able to push the judgement, and in fact this is used to Martha’s advantage.

I like the understated cover, it reminds me of James Bond films, which traditionally start with Bond looking down the barrel of a gun. This novel doesn’t have quite as much action as all that though. It tries, but with one character in a cell, and the other hidden to avoid being hunted, it’s difficult to have anything other than words exchanged.

Oh Martha, why can’t you just be sensible and stay out of the way? Her sometimes childish behavior, which I wouldn’t expect from someone who has been on death row, put me off her as a heroine. Isaac on the other hand seemed way too laid back about death. Maybe it is possible to lose too much?

I will need to read Final 7, which should be the concluding novel of this trilogy (but you never know). Although Day 7 wasn’t as awesome as Cell 7, I would still like to find out what the conclusion is for Martha and Isaac. Because of this, I will grant this novel 4 stars rather than 3 stars. Funnily enough, the consensus on Goodreads is the same!

Allen & Unwin | 30th August 2017 | AU$19.99 | paperback

Review: Richard Roxburgh – Artie and the Grime Wave

Artie and the Grime Wave
Richard Roxburgh

Artie is always being bullied, along with his rather unfortunately-named pal, Bumshoe. While a shout of ‘Rabbits’ often distracts his dumb tormentors, this time it seems like Artie has gotten into more trouble than he can cope with. With Mary, Funnel-Web and Budgie on his tail, he needs to make things happen… fast.

31927285In the tradition of ‘The Day My Bum Went Psycho’ and ‘The Adventures of Captain Underpants’, this novel contains bums, snot and disgusting boys! If you have a reader that is into that kind of thing, they are going to love this novel.

The action is fast-paced, and the characters such strong caricatures that they will leave some sort of impression in your mind. If you have a weak stomach, and aren’t fond of snot or poop, this probably won’t be for you. There’s bodily fluids flying everywhere!

Honestly, it’s not my kind of novel at all, I didn’t request it to my knowledge. I wouldn’t have read this when I was younger, and the only reason I read this was because I knew my brain would be dead and incapable of digesting good literature after a hard day at work.

Let’s give it 3 stars, and know that there is a deserving audience out there that will enjoy this novel.

3star

Allen & Unwin | 12th September 2016| AU $16.99 | Paperback

Review: Matthew J. Kirby – Assassin’s Creed Last Descendants

Assassin’s Creed Last Descendants
Matthew J. Kirby

Cole wants to exonerate his dad of a crime, and he thinks the answer might be in his DNA. The Animus offered to him by the IT guy at school might give him access to his dad’s memory of the day. Unfortunately, instead Cole gets caught up with finding the Trident of Eden – and being hunted down by both Assassins and the Templars.

28691917The novel’s characters didn’t fill out for me. I remember Sean’s name. That’s it. I had to recheck the blurb to remember the other characters, even the ‘main’ character, Cole.

This read really oddly to me. The story felt empty, with a plot that played out very simply. I can’t explain my feelings exactly, but for me, I think this novel was too opaque to work. As far as I can see, it is written for the very specific audience of people who have played the video game of this.

I don’t know how this fits into the Assassin’s Creed universe, but other reviewers have talked passionately enough about how epic the video games are, and how epically well this novel fits into the universe. I’d strongly advise checking out some other reviews on this one.

This is aimed at YA readers officially, but to me it was more of a teenage fiction novel. There just wasn’t enough depth in any of the characters, and the hints of romance and violence that would make it necessary to classify this as a YA novel were not big enough.

I’m certain this novel has a place somewhere, it’s just not with me. Maybe for fans of the game that don’t recognise reading as a valid past-time? I wouldn’t recommend it for a strong reader, it doesn’t have enough sustenance for them. I”m giving it 3 stars – well written, but just not compelling.

3star

Scholastic | 1st September 2016 | AU $19.99 | Paperback

Review: Michael Adams – Skyfire

Skyfire
Michael Adams

DARE to dream. Seven recipients on seven continents have just won the experience of a lifetime (and 1 million dollars). They’re leaders as teenagers in their fields – math, crime fighting or marine biology! Little do they know that something more sinister might be going on.

27804000I really liked the nifty symbols and I think the author had a lot of fun coming up with them. It likely took a bit of research on his behalf, and it shows nicely. I’m loving the Signmaker and I think lots of teenage readers are going to be able to get into this novel.

This reminds me strongly of The Last Thirteen (reviews of #2 and #3 here). These novels are designed for reluctant readers, particularly teenage boys. They are designed to be full of action, plot driven and with cliff hangers to encourage the reader to get the next. I’m not sure how I feel about the concept myself – committing teenagers to buying six more novels after this one.

If you are looking for something with a bit more substance to offer your reader, might I suggest the Alex Rider series? Now those have a stronger plot line and some character development that you can sink your teeth into.

I’m giving this novel an official 3 stars from me, but I think for the intended audience it would be 4 stars. The intended audience seems to be 12 year old boys – I’m certianly not one of those, nor have I ever been one!

3star

Scholastic | 1st September 2016 | AU $7.99 | Paperback

Review: Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan & Deborah Biancotti – Swarm

Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan & Deborah Biancotti
Swarm

The Zeroes have created a place of their own – a night club where each can explore their powers in a safe zone. Yet they are set to be invaded by others who are running from Swarm, a Zero with a lust for power. While the Zeroes are set to disperse, it’s possible that they would be safer toegther – who should they trust?

30172827I felt somewhat frustrated by the ending. Nate, why? Anon, why? This made no sense at all. Sure, they’ll fix things somehow, but why did they do that? Perhaps someone else who has read it can give me a more informed opinion for why on earth the ending worked.

It’s neat to think about each Zero changing the direction of their focus (Crash has done this from right near the beginning). I really feel sorry for Scam, something that has been set up from the first novel – his power seems only bring harm. That being said, every one else has that potential, but they haven’t noticed it before.

This is like a teenage / young adult version of Brandon Sanderson’s Steelheart, MitosisFirefight and Calamity (Epics). If you enjoyed those, there is a good chance you will enjoy these, although the characters here are a lot younger. These novels have the advantage of giving the reader more than one perspective. The premise of Superpowers can be dealt with in a variety of ways and you can see that here.

I’m giving this 5 stars, just like its predecessor ‘Zeroes‘. There’s no need to have read the first, but it’s such a good read that you should totally go and buy it right now, and this one, so that you can read them in one fell swoop.

5star

Allen & Unwin | 28th September 2016 | AU $19.99 | Paperback

Review: Antonio Simon, Jr – The Gullwing Odyssey

The Gullwing Odyssey
Antonio Simon, Jr

Marco the messenger boy really tries to stay out of trouble. When he is instead swept up into impersonating an ambassador, things in his life get far, far more troublesome than he could have ever imagined.

18310045This novel had some fantastic laugh out loud parts that I couldn’t help sharing with my partner. And then she laughed as well. I really enjoyed it for those moments, and the language twists and the sheer absurdity of the fights that take place.

Light fiction that I just couldn’t put down. I’m not going to profess that it has no ‘deeper issues’, but sometimes you just want to read something to chill and enjoy. This novel is it.

Did I mention that it has dragons? And that they are personified just like humans? And that I love dragons? I felt like I could have done with more from their perspective, but you know what? I was too busy laughing to pay too much attention.

Some of the text just seemed a bit clunky (I feel like this is my favourite way of describing a novel at the moment). The main thing was that some of the storyline elements weren’t wrapped up nicely throughout the novel. For example the contents of the package. I can’t say more without giving anything away… Perhaps this is something that will be explored in the other novels of the Gullwing Series.

I’m giving this 3 stars. Or 4 stars. I can’t decide. It’s not ‘average’, but it’s not ‘outstanding’ either. Undecided.

4star

Review: Andy Mulligan – Liquidator

Liquidator
Andy Mulligan

Liquidator is an amazing new sports drink that people just can’t resist drinking. It’s more addictive than Coca Cola and Coffee, and billed as being good for you! When a couple of kids stumble over the truth, they find themselves facing life and death situations, not just for themselves.

25464528So we’ve got a couple of kids are in high school and they all manage to intertwine into facing off the guys that are in charge of Liquidator. You see more and more characters being added to the visible ‘cast’, and yet you aren’t overwhelmed because the story is moving too quickly for that to happen!

What got me really really grumpy about this novel was that it wasn’t clear which person was speaking without reading the chapter headings. That being said, the different perspectives work really well and make it more are a unisex novel. There’s no romance as a refreshing highlight and it’s just generally a feel-good novel about what difference teenagers can make.

Something else that annoyed me was that it was all about Jamie Song. I didn’t understand why this one person could make such big difference. Even if they didn’t have his photos and he didn’t survive, I don’t think it would have made a huge difference to what happens at the concert. I mean of course they wanted to save him but any of the other records they had would have made a difference. Perhaps this was just a reflection that you need a human face to make a difference.

It was fascinating how the author brought together all the different story lines. I’m going to give it three stars from me, maybe an almost 4. I kept reading because even though I could see how the different plot points were going come together, I couldn’t believe how quickly they were happening.

I’ve got someone in mind that will enjoy this novel and that’s a teenage boy. Target genre right there! It’s action packed, any teen could get hooked. I couldn’t imagine a sequel for this but if it was to happen I would hope it would be as our interesting and complex as this was.

3star