Review: Jodi McAlister – Valentine

Jodi McAlister

Pearl and Finn (and Marie and Cardy) were all born on the 14th of February, and have suffered through countless Valentine’s Day celebrations together. After a horse appears and one of them disappears, it is time for Pearl to get her act together, both literally and figuratively.

I was left underwhelmed by this novel. There just seemed to be nothing outstanding about it. The characters were a bit wussy, I couldn’t get inside anyone’s heads and Pearl was an inconsistent narrator who was mainly irritating for me to read.

I thought that the premise of the novel sounded exciting, with four teenagers being born on one day, then being killed off. It turned out that mostly they weren’t even killed off! And the blurb promises me that the Unseelie want to kill the Valentine, but to me, most of the action seemed to happen from the Seelie side of things.

It was interesting to have a perspective that for once wasn’t the ‘it’ character. Much as Pearl would like to be the special one, she isn’t. That doesn’t stop her behaving stupidly about it though and being completely whiney. The worst part for me was the emotions seemed to be completely false, and the dialogue was stilted to boot.

The ending of this novel was mainly a relief. Yes, it’s the first in a series with a paranormal twist, but don’t feel compelled to read the rest when they finally appear. Try breathing under water for a similar teenage paranormal vibe, or maybe Haunt Me for more of a love story. Three begrudging stars from me.

Penguin Random House | 30th January 2017 | AU $19.99 | Paperback

Review: Stephanie Garber – Caraval

Stephanie Garber

Scarlett and Tella have been trapped on their father’s island for their whole lives. When one sister does something wrong, their father punishes the other. Scarlett longs to see the magic of Caraval, which her grandmother has always told stories about. On the eve of her marriage, Scarlett is granted the chance to see it.

What I liked about this novel was that there were multiple truths and lies for both Scarlett and the reader to unravel. However, it seemed that we could have benefitted from some of Tella’s point of view, because surely she had more insight than Scarlett. And I don’t think it would have wrecked the ending if it had been written sensitively. Also, despite what shouldn’t have been a linear narrative, that’s how it read because Scarlett couldn’t see in front of her nose.

The world building was fantastic. I could see the shops appearing out of the dark, but I couldn’t understand why they followed some of the rules of the game, and not others. Scarlett never spoke to me as a character, and that’s what let the novel down for me.

There was no conclusion here about what the next steps might be. I have to say that this novel was complete, yet I could have done with a bit more of epilogue – or perhaps none at all! That was just mean. Oh wait, there is a sequel…

I’m giving this novel 3 stars. It was easy for me to put down because I never really invested in Scarlett – she seemed too stupid for her own good. Listen to people when they give you advice ok??

Hachette Australia | 1st January 2017 | AU $24.99 | Paperback

Review: Jeff Giles – The Edge of Everything

The Edge of Everything
Jeff Giles

After Zoe chases her brother into the killing snow, and unexpectedly runs into a gorgeous, sexy man who is hell-bent on killing someone, her life changes. If things weren’t bad enough when her father died caving, it seems that the rest of her family is now falling apart.

The principle of this novel was nifty, but the execution lead to a very slow plot line that didn’t keep my attention very well. I picked it up several weeks apart, and eventually only finished it because the publication date was coming up!

What struck me was too much dialogue. The characters spent a lot of time talking to each other, and not much actually interacting. The exception to this was Jonah and Zoe, because touch was such a huge thing with Jonah.

I am disappointed that this is a series, as it could have come to a fantastic ending all by itself. The twist at the ending was a nice touch, but honestly it could have moved on. I mean, X could have done that without telling Zoe, and it would all be fine!

I’m giving this novel 3 stars for effort. Maybe the final copy is tighter in writing than my uncorrected proof. Lucky you, I’m holding a giveaway! You can read this novel for yourself and tell me I am an idiot for not loving it.

Bloomsbury | 1st February 2017 | AU $16.99 | Paperback

Review: Lindsay Smith – Dream Strider

Dream Strider
Lindsay Smith

Saved from a life of servitude, Livia can walk through dreams to use other people’s bodies. While this makes her a valuable operative in spying to protect her country, she is filled with doubts about how valuable she really is. When her newest mission detects the biggest threat yet, it is up to Livia to break through and save them from Nightmare.

The whole time I was reading this novel, I was disgusted with Livia and her character development. Come on girl, grow some spine! Oh wait, no, you have grown one… and you getting to that point was completely unexpected and unrealistic. The ‘Incident’ that is referred to the whole way through should help with this development, but I just felt frustrated rather than intrigued.

I received this novel as a Christmas present because I had enjoyed Kit Alloway’s Dreamfire and Dreamfever. Sadly, this novel didn’t offer the same rich world building and atmosphere. Those two dreaming books are ‘real-world’, yet the threats seemed more deadly. Walking in dreams is obviously something that can be written well, or written poorly. This novel is not one for me.

I appreciated that sneaky twist at the end, but felt that there wasn’t enough leading up to it. Additionally, it wasn’t really clear how the armies could have possibly saved anything. I can’t say too much here without giving it away, but seriously? No way that could happen, even with the Tunnelers’ help.

This ‘espionage’ novel as it calls itself reminds me of Embassy Row, and not in a good way. I’m excited by secrets, but only if they make sense and I get a backstory as to why they are important to me as a reader. The same goes for confusing dreams and memories.

3 stars from me. I was so hopeful that it would improve, and then at the ending? The last couple of paragraphs couldn’t save the novel.

Review: Keri Arthur – Winter Halo

Winter Halo
Keri Arthur

Tiger has been hiding out with her ghosts, but she has to save some children before she has any rest. After her hideout is destroyed, Tiger must depend on others who loath her and outright hate her to complete her new mission.

Maybe I missed something major by not having read the first book in the series. I felt like I had been dropped into a very slow plot that nevertheless didn’t build anything for me, and then the second half couldn’t get my attention despite moving more quickly.

No no no no no! The blurb gets it all wrong. It implies that Tiger cares about the women who are being attacked within Winter Halo – that’s far from the truth! While she has a desire to protect everyone, she isn’t worried about those women in particular.

In this dystopian sci-fi fantasy, I’m not sure why anyone has a will to live. The vampires are outside, and I think that was more of a plot point than anything else. Give me more killing and gore, and less chatting.

Strike me as really strange, but I think I’d be ok with having a chip in my wrist that contains all my useful data – so long as its secure. Honestly, someone stealing my wallet would have pretty much all that information anyway, and surely a chip is safer? But I digress…

I’m giving it 3 stars, again because I’m feeling generous and it is rather unique. There’s nothing inherantly wrong with it, it’s just too filled with dialogue and

Hachette | 1st December 2016 | AU $19.99 | Paperback

Review: Kathleen Duey – Skin Hunger

Skin Hunger
Kathleen Duey

Sadima is born with gifts, despite the presence of a false Magician who kills her mother and steals what things of value the family has. Brought up by her strict father and loving brother, her mind gifts with animals are of use – but also dangerous. Generations later, Hahp is being trained as a true Magician in the most brutal way possible. Survival is key, nothing else matters.

764861The interlocking character storylines at first seem like they have nothing in common. For the majority of the novel, you wonder why the author has even paired the two together, but eventually it becomes clearer and this is very apparent by the second book. The blurb on the novel put me off reading it for a long time – but not long enough with no release date of the final novel available!

The writing technique here of swapping between the vastly different perspectives of each character works beautifully. I would get caught up in one character, only to have the perspective change. No sooner had I gotten attached again, it swapped back!

I could see the dripping corridors, the bright marketplace, and perhaps even the bonds binding Franklin and Somiss irrevocably together. I wanted more, more more and couldn’t put the novel down.

Warning! Despite my glowing review, I would hold off on reading this novel. This is the first novel in a trilogy and has been around for more than 10 years. Despite this, the third novel in the trilogy has not been published, and the publishing company and Duey’s editor could not give me a review date. By all means, if you see a copy somewhere, buy it, but don’t start reading it!


Review: A.F. Harrold & Levi Pinfold – The Song From Somewhere Else

The Song From Somewhere Else
A.F. Harrold & Levi Pinfold

Frank is bullied by Noble, who is anything but noble. When Nick, stinky, ostracised Nick, comes to her rescue, it seems unkind (despite being unwise) to not at least spend some time in his company. At his house, Frank hears music that she can’t ignore… but it comes from a most unexpected place.

29785301A fantasy twist on a bullying story, Frank is a character that you will love and want to protect in the beginning. By the end, you might wonder a bit where her spunk has come from, but I personally think it rubbed off from Nick. An innocuous missing cat can start off a range of interworld connections that lead to a better end than could have been imagined.

Oh, did I mention that it’s a beautiful hard cover that has an equally attractive dust jacket, and includes illustrations? I admit, I mainly looked at the illustrations before I got too caught up in the story to pay attention. I think I’d like to go back and look at them now though.

This is what I wanted Little Bits of Sky to be. It’s a whimsical but compelling novel that is suitable for younger readers, but has a splash of creepy just for good measure! I’m giving it 4 stars – I think it could be a great Christmas gift for someone who enjoys both fantasy and teenage fiction.


Bloomsbury | 1st December 2016 | AU $24.99 | Hardback

Review: Kendare Blake – Three Dark Crowns

Three Dark Crowns
Kendare Blake

Katherine the Poisoner, Arsinoe the Naturalist and Mirabella the Elementalist have been doomed to murder each other for the sake of the crown since they were children. The Poisoners have held the island council for many years, but now it could be time for a change with Priestesses wanting their favourite candidate for the throne to win at any cost.

30240773Personally, I think the blurb on GoodReads gives far too much away. You start to get inklings of something being wrong with this generation of Queens as you are reading, and to have them all knocked away before you even start reading would be a serious detriment to your enjoyment of the novel.

I couldn’t decide which Queen I liked the best! I of course felt sorry for Katherine, because she was being poisoned all time and was sickly. But was that just because she was the first Queen introduced in the novel? I’d be interested to hear about the author’s reasoning for which perspectives to display in each order.

The first third of this novel wasn’t riveting enough for me. I couldn’t work out when the dying would occur. Hint, it doesn’t occur in this novel, it might occur in the second (or third, I’m not clear on how many novels will be in this series). I was left with more questions than answers and some intriguing theories about why each of the Queens had odd behaving powers.

I’m not sure there is quite enough depth in there for a re-read, but it certainly has potential if the next novel is as good. 4 stars from me.

4starPan Macmillan | 1st October 2016 | AU $16.99 | Paperback

Review: Garth Nix – Goldenhand

Garth Nix

Another Dead threat is coming. Despite the reestablishment of order in the Old Kingdom, the Dead still threaten. As a Northern clanswoman travels urgently to warn the Abhorson of the Witch With No Face, the Dead do anything to prevent her reaching it.

30327443Sabriel has always been an established Abhorson in my eyes, but here we see Lirael grow into what she should be. When she returns to the Glacier where she grew up, it is obvious that there has been some serious character growth coming on. We get to see more of that in this novel too, as well as Sameth (who I hold a personal soft spot for) and Nick.

The ending came very suddenly. I didn’t expect them to survive! Or that it would be such a close thing. The rest of the novel isn’t quite as nail-biting, but you will still not want to put it down.

What I never understood at the end of Abhorson was why Lirael didn’t just remake the charter sending of The Disreputable Dog? She still has the figurine, and I’m certain she still knows how to create things with Charter Magic (in fact, she makes use of Charter Skins). Just bringing it up, since in the ending chapters of this novel some interesting things take place 😉

What I was not ok with was the cover of this novel. Instead of Lirael looking the way I imagined, she instead had a meaty face and a dorky cloak (although I recognise the emblem, obviously). From what I spotted on GoodReads, there are other more beautiful covers that perhaps I would have preferred. Anyway, this one was a complimentary copy, so I shouldn’t be complaining too loudly. It is the story that matters inside of course.

5 stars from me. It prompted me to reread a section of Lirael, which can only ever be a good thing. Garth Nix, please keep writing.



Allen & Unwin | 28 September 2016 | AU $24.99 | Paperback

Review: Garth Nix – Clariel

Garth Nix

Clariel is miserable in her new city life. She doesn’t understand why she should have to go to finishing school – really she just wants to run away to the forests somewhere. When she isn’t being used to reach the King by her ambitious GoldSmith mother, she is identifying Free Magic. Little does she know that the magic might take hold of her instead.

20662728This novel lets its main character develop the way I would want, but could have left a bit more time for other characters to put their own 2 cents in. I would have liked to have more of everything, the world as it was many years before the rest of the series, and the state of society.

Isn’t it the story of life that if people just spoke to each other and stopped trying to keep secrets, everything would work out far better? I could see so many spots that if people had just stopped, not touched and then talked some deaths could have been averted!

Am I too old for this novel? Never! Certainly, the themes here seem quite trivial in comparison to those in Sabriel for example. Gracious! I just tried to link to my review, and it turns out I have never written one! Take my word for it, you need to own these. I think Clariel offers a good entry point into the series, but take it with a grain of salt as only so much can happen in such a comparatively short novel.

I received this for my birthday this year. I had, in fact, requested it from Alland & Unwin a long, long time ago when I first started reaching out for review copies from publishers. Since then, it had sort of sat at the back of my mind with wanting! I received Nix’s newest Abhorson novel, Goldenhand, and knew I had to read Clariel first.

I love the Abhorson series, of which Lirael is my favourite. It’s easy to tell why when she’s a librarian with spunk! In fact, I’ve got a baby name based on their names. Needless to say, I’ll be giving this 5 stars. Why are you still here reading my review? Go and buy it already!