Review: Brigid Kemmerer – A Curse so Dark and Lonely

A Curse so Dark and Lonely
Brigid Kemmerer

Harper hasn’t led a sheltered life in Washington, DC. Her mother is dying of cancer, and her older brother Jake is still determined to protect her, even though she’s able to look out for herself. When she tries to protect another girl, Harper instead finds herself sucked into Rhen’s world – Rhen the Prince who is trapped to repeat the autumn of his 18th year until a girl falls in love with him.

Three months is such a short time to fall in love with someone, yet Kemmerer avoided making them cliche into love at first sight. I liked the way she set it up with Harper knowing exactly what was going on, even if at first she didn’t want to believe. Harper doesn’t want to fall for Rhen and she’s such a strong protagonist that the reader doesn’t want her to either. We’d be ok if you chose Grey!

I’m not sure if Harper’s cerebral palsy was consistently approached in the latter half of the novel. In the beginning, it is quite obvious what her limitations are, and how far she is able to push herself. When the creature comes though, she seems a lot more stable. I’d have to reread to make certain (Oh what a problem, I’ll have to reread it!!)

I initially thought to myself that this would be just another Beauty and the Beast retelling. But no! The characters in this felt real enough to come off the pages, and weren’t your normal run-of-the-mill prince/princess. Not to mention that deliciously evil sorceress. What I was very sad about was the fact this this is a series? duo? I’m not sure. But I have to wait a whole year for the next one! The conclusion to this one was satisfying though, and I really felt like the last chapter could have been left out.

I was very keen on reading this novel when it came in the door, and I had read it within two days. My hopes were high due to my enjoyment of Letters to the Lost and Thicker than Water and I was not disappointed. I still need to read More Than We Can Tell, and you better believe I’m even more excited to get my hands on it now. 5 stars for this novel from me. Thanks Bloomsbury!

Bloomsbury | 4th February 2019 |AU$16.99 | paperback

Review: Brandon Sanderson – Alcatraz verses the Evil Librarians

Alcatraz verses the Evil Librarians
Brandon Sanderson

The Smedrys are blessed with Talents. Or cursed, depending on who you ask. Alcatraz Smedry has a powerful Talent that has meant that he has broken everything in his foster homes so far. When he receives a bag of sand for his birthday, this starts him on a quest with his very odd grandpa and a series of even odder cousins – with talents from falling to waking up ugly!

In these novels, Sanderson breaks all the writing conventions, especially the ‘fourth wall’. The author (Alcatraz) is writing these memoirs and is fully aware of how writers make novels and how to make readers cry out in anger! Particularly with meandering introductions to chapters or going off topic, or just generally being irritating. It’s a style of writing that is either going to drive you crazy or have you laughing out loud.

For example, in the fourth novel, Alcatraz versus the Shattered Lens, Alcatraz starts skipping chapters and labeling chapters odd things. He works his way through all of the writing conventions and mixes them around. He skips parts and pretends that the chapters just went missing!

Strangely for a Sanderson novel, I probably wouldn’t reread these ones urgently. I’m thinking I’m too old and jaded for these novels. I’m perfectly happy to accept writing conventions and roll with them. We all know how I feel about using stupid languages (see my scathing reviews of Munmun and Storm-Wake). I’m going to test them out on my 9.5 year old reader and see how she goes with them.

Review: Shea Ernshaw – The Wicked Deep

The Wicked Deep
Shea Ernshaw

Penny lives on an island outside a small town called Sparrow. 200 years ago, three sisters were drowned as witches. Since then, they have returned every year on June 1st, and stay for a few weeks to possess the bodies of girls and take their revenge by drowning boys in the village that betrayed them.

This was a nice, light book that was a pleasant time-filler. I appreciated that it was short and sweet, and a book that I could read once, and move on from (instead of a larger book, or a series, where I remain invested long after I’ve finished reading). The book felt, at least to me, as if it was split into three distinct sections that each had a different feel and that I enjoyed differently.

The first section of the book was confusing for me to read. Although the blurb stated that the three sisters did exist, the book itself didn’t make that clear until around 1/3 of the way in. This meant that I spent the first part of the book unsure if it was meant to be a mystery or a fantasy novel, and as I read the two types of books differently, it was hard to immerse myself in the story.

The middle third of the book was much better than the first, as I was able to commit to the story now that I had some idea of what was happening. I don’t have a whole lot to say on this section, apart from thinking it was well-written and reasonable, although not outstanding.

The final part of the book was by far the best. The progression of events forces Penny to make difficult decisions, and I really enjoyed reading through her reasonings. That said, it felt like Penny spent a lot of time pitying herself – which wasn’t fun or interesting to read through – and the ending was predictable. The enjoyment of this third section of the book was very dependent on already having formed a bond with the characters and being invested (at least somewhat) in their romance.

The romance in this book was pretty average. It begins in such a predictable manner that I already lost some interest before it had hit full steam. The trope of ‘a mysterious person saves the main character, and they instantly have a connection’ is so overused in books that it doesn’t interest me much anymore. It wasn’t terrible, but it was predictable and not very engaging. Their relationship also felt like it moved much too quickly, going from first meeting each other to falling in love in a few weeks, with not a lot of time spent on their interactions. That said, this was a very short book, and I feel that fleshing out the relationship too much could have made the book feel bloated.

Review:Mercedes Lackey – A Scandal in Battersea

A Scandal in Battersea
Mercedes Lackey

Christmas is an important season for people wanting to revisit their childhoods or live vicariously through the children of others. Nan and Sarah enjoy the season with Suki, John & Mary Watson and the indomitable Sherlock Holmes. But evil also likes to cross at this time of year, and as more husks of women show up everyone will be needed to combat the problem.

Ugh, take me back to the older style Elemental Master’s series! I don’t care that they were ‘just’ re-imagined fairy-tales. Yes yes, it’s important that the psychics and the clairvoyants (and Celtic Warriors) get airtime (readtime?) but give me some air elementals any day. None of the other Elemental Masters get more than one novel devoted to them, so why should Nan and Sarah (3 books and counting)?

I set myself up expecting to be disappointed by this novel, so I was a little surprised when it was readable and the plot was not completely transparent. That being said, Sarah and Nan are one-dimensional characters and I actually liked the ‘evil sorcerer’ and his brilliant ‘sidekick’. I was happy with the ending for these guys! Nan on the other hand – what were you thinking? Maybe some exercise would do you some good so that you can actually adequately channel your Celtic Warrior.

Consider this novel another addition to the latest so-so offerings from Mercedes Lackey and join me in hoping that she gets some of her mojo back soon. Perhaps a Five Hundred Kingdoms novel? 3 stars from me for this one. Don’t rush out and buy it, just let it come your way and don’t feel like you are missing out if you don’t get it.

Review: Mercedes Lackey – Aerie

Mercedes Lackey

Kiron has assisted with the union of Tia and Alta, yet things are not as simple as they seem. Despite the Great King and Queen uniting the lands, without a common enemy the common people are divided. While on patrol, Kiron spots a lone rider from the border town – unfortunately dead. Have the Magi returned?

Half the time Kiron acts very teenager-y and the rest of the time a bit childish! He spends a lot of time second-guessing himself and being grumpy. I’m not certain how many years have passed since the other novels, but I would guess at least 3-4, since there are a lot of new dragon wings (complete wings of 9). If he’s the chief of the Jousters, he needs to get a wriggle on!

There are a lot of missed connections in this novel, and parts where I felt like a sub-story had started, yet wasn’t completed. For example, the original ‘wing’ has a huge discussion on how to deal with the oldest Jousters, and they decide that a new wing is a great idea. But none of the shuffling is ever realised. We just jumped from this concept straight onto Kiron with a new wing finding the body.

I wanted something comfortable to read that I wouldn’t need to review (since I’m still behind)… So I reread Joust and Alta, then Sanctuary (oops, I haven’t reviewed that one either). My memory of this novel was a bit rusty, I just haven’t read it as many times as the others. And no wonder why! There’s not enough dragon training here for me, and too much politics and self-doubt. I seem to remember this originally being a trilogy, and then turning into a quartet. You don’t need to read this novel to enjoy the others, and I personally found it a let down.

Review: Raymond E. Feist – King of Ashes

King of Ashes
Raymond E. Feist

The Fire kingdom has been betrayed an decimated. But a Prince may have survived… Hatu, Hava and Donte are being raised in the way of the Hidden assassins, and Hatu has to constantly hide both his affection for Hava and his fire red hair. In the mean time, a blacksmith’s apprentice is getting ready to perform his Masterwork and go out into the world.

The thing for me about this novel was the pacing. It was just so incredibly slow! I figured that the three perspective would end up together eventually, but that ‘eventually’ wasn’t until the end of the novel (trust me, I haven’t spoiled it for you). The multiple perspectives worked against the suspense in this novel. Despite the blurb being very keen to state that there is a price on Hatu’s head, and the Hidden ones ulterior motives, I didn’t feel a sense of danger.

I actually liked the blacksmith the most. He was portrayed as a simpleton for the most part (not worldly etc) but he wasn’t as gullible as he might have seemed. His character didn’t ring true for me – why didn’t he go back to the town if he was so concerned? And in the end, I didn’t see his place in the bigger picture at all.

I was surprisingly disappointed in this novel. Raymond Feist is a huge name in fantasy and so I was really excited to be lucky enough to receive a review copy. Maybe this set up my expectations to be too high. It was easy to be bogged down in the details of life and not see what the novel was trying to set up. The whole novel feels like a set up for the last chapter – maybe the action will occur in book 2?

I’d read the second novel in this series, but I wouldn’t reread this one. There wasn’t enough depth or foreshadowing for me. I found myself constantly comparing it to The Way of Kings by Sanderson and finding it lacking.

HarperVoyager | 5th April 2018 | AU$39.99 | hardback

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: Sam Hawke – City of Lies

City of Lies
Sam Hawke

Jovan was first poisoned when he was seven to train him to protect the Chancellor’s son. His older sister Kalina should have had the role, but she was too weak. With Jovan and Kalina’s Tashi killed by an unknown poison, and the same with the Chancellor, the city must change or die. A siege adds pressure to the already tight city and tensions run high.

What I wasn’t too convinced by was Kalina’s ‘secrets and lies’. I’m pretty sure that except near the end, Jovan knew most of her secrets. I do agree with Kalina that Jovan should back off sometimes, because she needs the right to look after herself for a change. The interplay between the siblings was really believable.

I was caught up in this novel the whole time I was reading it, and I didn’t want to put it down for anything. I was craving a good fantasy after rereading Elantris, and City of Lies hit the spot. A bit of understated magic, some fierce battles and some poison makes for an exciting, plot driven novel that left me feeling sad when I finished it (happy sad, just sad I had finished it so soon!).

I love the notion of being raised by your uncle and your mother. It is in fact considered heresy to raise your children with their biological father. If you are wanting a child, all you have to do is go through the curtains to find basically a sperm donor! This means that women hold a lot of the power in this society.

The blurb reminded me of Three Dark Crowns, where one of the children is trained from birth to be immune to poisons – but the first choice in poisoner is deadly. Anything to do with eating also reminds me of The Sin Eater’s Daughter and of course the popular Poison Study.

Uh oh. I didn’t realise that this was a first in a series, because the ending was so darn satisfying all by itself! I’m giving this one 4.5 stars, as it was almost good enough to read again.

Penguin Random House | 30th July 2018 | AU$32.99 | paperback

Review: Brandon Sanderson – 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: 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