Review: Amy Tintera – Allied

Allied
Amy Tintera

Em has finally freed Olivia and it looks like Ruina belongs to the Ruined again. But is that what the survivors want, when kingdoms such as Lera have far better pastures? Victory does not mean the same thing to Em and Olivia, and as the war with the other Kingdoms continues, each of them is going to have to make an impossible choice.

This novel is full of action, action, action. The battle scenes and killings almost seem non-stop. Talking might be Em’s preferred way of negotiation but with Olivia on the loose it’s just not possible! Cas gets some airtime, and Galo and Aren finally are forged into full characters with their own thoughts and motivations.

We get a bit more of a perspective from characters other than Em this time, but sometimes I wished I hadn’t! It did add to the suspense in some parts but in other parts I felt like the forewarning made it too predictable. Go and read this novel and find out for yourself!

When this novel arrived I had to stop myself from diving in straight away. When I read Avenged (the second novel) a short while ago, I had wanted to reread Ruined, but just couldn’t wait. This time, I reread the first two and was enveloped in Amy Tintera’s world just as firmly as before. This series is deserving of its 5-star rating.

Allen & Unwin | 24th April 2018 | AU$16.99 | paperback

Review: Sebastien de Castell – SpellSlinger

SpellSlinger
Sebastien de Castell

Kellen needs to pass 4 trials in order to become a spellcaster. Unfortunately his magic is gone and his trickery could easily be revealed. But is magic all there is to the world?

Hmm, while I was reading this I was totally engrossed and couldn’t put it down due to the powerful plot. However when I think back on it some of the character development was completely see-through and unexciting. Unfortunately that’s what I’ve come to expect from HotKey Books. The novels don’t seem to be as refined in my opinion; I’m thinking of novels such as Fly on the Wall.

Kellen is also the name of a quirky protagonist in an older Mercedes Lackey novel. I think that also persuaded me that Kellen was a character worth reading about. Anyhow, you had to be attached to Kellen because there certainly wasn’t any airtime for other characters.

I think Kellen’s decision to help his sister was dangerous and will come back to haunt him later. Not to mention just leaving his parents to be disasterous clueless idiots. Adversity is the key to developing new skills so maybe Kellen will continue to brighten up. If you can kill any family member, surely you can kill more than one…

Plot twist! Kellen! You are awesome! Well most of the time, even if you are a bit clueless and you need that Daroman woman to set you straight. Aw, a terrifying squirrel cat familiar. Even if you aren’t supposed to get one Kellen. Maybe a squirrel cat is a sugar glider? Except I’m not sure those have such sharp teeth…

I had read in the beginning that this was a series, but the second book was due to be out October 2017. That’s how long this novel sat on my shelf, but I had actually lost it somewhere. Anyway, 4 stars from me and I need to get my hands on the other novels in the series.

Allen & Unwin | 26th April 2017 | AU $19.99 | paperback

Review: Mercedes Lackey & Cody Martin – Silence

Silence
Mercedes Lackey & Cody Martin

Staci has just been booted by her step-mother so that she can live with her alcoholic mother instead. Even with the money from her father to hopefully

This is the first time in a while that I have read a Mercedes Lackey novel. After reading her latest Elemental Master and Valdemar novels, I sort of went on to discover better things like Brandon Sanderson! This is a duo work with Cody Martin and seems to be an older novel.

I really like the idea of elves with motorcycles and I always have! There’s a series of these that I have read before, and I thought I had read all of them in the universe. But nope! This is glorious number 9 in the SERRAted Edge series.

Ouch, in the end our elven hero didn’t turn out to be much of a hero, but that’s just the way things are with elves. They can’t help being that attractive! And Staci couldn’t help being helpless and vulnerable. She just wants to be loved! That’s pretty typical of a teenager. It would have been nice to have a bit more hope offered to Staci but this is an older style novel that really doesn’t have counselling as an option.

This was pretty decent quality older Mercedes Lackey and I really enjoyed reading it. 4 stars from me. It was great to have my library have a copy.

Review: Anna Day – The Fandom

The Fandom
Anna Day

Violet thinks that she is a Shrinking Violet and that there is nothing special about her. When she is catapulted into her favorite novel as the heroine and she is the only person who can get them home, Violet must stop shrinking and grow some balls (the author’s terminology, not mine)!

Nope, I didn’t buy the Violet – Alice connection. I really did feel that Alice was an ass. Seriously, 17 year old girl suddenly deciding that she’d like to stay in a violent fantasy world that has to eventually collapse? Idiot… I wanted more Katie time! Damn she was good. Way more an exciting character than Alice (and more deserving too).

I wonder how many shared dreams/comas there are in real life? It’s an interesting concept. I certainly dream pretty vividly, so it is possible. Perhaps out-of-body experiences? I have a non-fiction novel by a neuroscience on my shelf at the moment that perhaps will explore this idea more.

As the novel progressed, I found myself more and more confused. How exactly did this cross-over work? I’m not sure whether this is a spoiler or not, but you very quickly work out the double worlds at play. Sadly, I didn’t find that it created any suspense – the potential beeping of the hospital machines or anything else.

I really enjoyed this novel due to its fast pace, but I don’t think it is a reread for me. As other reviewers have noted, you get told the ending at the very beginning. I also always figured that they would come out ok at the end, and thus the ending wasn’t as exciting as it could be. 4 stars from me.

Chicken House / Scholastic | March 2018 | AU$16.99 | paperback

Review: Mary Watson – The Wren Hunt

The Wren Hunt
Mary Watson

Wren is chased once a year for her name. This year, she pledges, is the year she will no longer be frightened, and the year she will no longer be caught. Instead, the leader takes a slice of her hair, claiming the literal kill for himself. But there are other plans afoot – does Wren have a different destiny to fulfill?

It took me a while to get into this novel. The start was very slow, despite a chase scene. But the lead up to the chase scene destroyed the anticipation. The rest of the novel wasn’t as predictable though (except the love interest). Oh! Twist! I did not see that coming. This novel stands alone quite nicely, but I can tell it has been set up for a sequel. What will Wren do next? What does it all mean?

I felt Wren’s character was nicely defined, and her behaviour was very consistent despite the different environments she found herself in. Like her family, I also felt that she should have done more snooping, but for her own benefit.

I felt confusion about what had come before with the artist and her mother? And I also didn’t get any conclusions about some of Wren’s visions. I also would have liked some more information about her mother. Finally, I wanted to know more about why these archives were actually formed.

As you can see, this novel left me with a lot of questions. At the same time, it did conclude. For the terrible beginning I’m giving this three stars, but I would consider reading the next novel if there is one.

Bloomsbury | 1st March 2018 | AU$14.99 | paperback

Review: Short Stories, Because You Love to Hate Me (ed. Ameriie)

Because You Love to Hate Me
Editor: Ameriie

Leave it to the heroes to save the world—villains just want to rule the world. In this unique YA anthology, thirteen acclaimed, bestselling authors team up with thirteen influential BookTubers to reimagine fairy tales from the oft-misunderstood villains’ points of view.

I confess, I read the first two short stories and almost gave up on the whole anthology. Neither were in a style I enjoyed. A book of short stories was never going to be my favourite read. You will remember from the time that I was more enamored with Mercedes Lackey that I read a lot of short stories. I usually like to use them to pick out some new authors to test out, but honestly at the moment I still have novels left over from last year to review and it’s just not going to happen.

I recognised two of the authors here – Adam Silvera (They Both Die in the End) and Nichola Yoon. I wouldn’t say that any short stories really shone out as amazing, but my pick would be Julian Breaks Every Rule by Andrew Smith. Let’s just say it has a lot in common with Breaking Butterflies. I wouldn’t want to ruin the underlying theme of it.

Honestly, I’m actually really envious that these vloggers got to request specific topics for their short story. Maybe I should start vlogging about my books? But I’m more of a writer of reviews. If you asked me to do this, I think I’d choose a reimagining of a dragon fairytale, clearly. Maybe the dragon from The Hobbit?

Let’s give this 4 stars, which is pretty generous from me for a book of short stories. Worth reading if you love fairytales, don’t mind short stories and are looking for some new authors to read.

Bloomsbury | 1st September 2017 | AU$14.99 | paperback

Review: Libba Bray – The Diviners

The Diviners
Libba Bray

Evie O’Neill has freed herself inadvertently from her boring old hometown of Ohio by telling too much of the truth. Now in New York, she has the run of the town – but Naughty John is on a occult killing spree that she has to prevent.

I got almost half-way through this novel, and nothing had happened. No-one I cared about was in real danger, and the Beast didn’t actually feel like a real threat for ‘normal’ people. From what I read from the blurb I think the myriad of characters eventually team up? But I didn’t see any of that, and instead I found myself again wondering why I cared about anyone’s outcome.

Let’s be honest here. I was probably never going to like a novel that was set in the 1920s, where the main character was a drunk flapper girl who didn’t appreciate the gift she had. I like a touch of the supernatural as much as the next person, and I realise that not everyone has morals when using a gift. But honestly? Evvie is an idiot.

I received the third novel of this series for review from Allen and Unwin, but I will not be reading it. Don’t waste your time on this novel either. DNF – 1 star.

Review: Anne McCaffrey – Crystal Singer

Crystal Singer
Anne McCaffrey

Killashandra Ree dreamed of being a diva after ten years of concentrated training. In her final presentation, she’s told she’ll never be anything but a backup singer – so instead she decides to become a Crystal Singer. Few people that land on Ballybran leave, but Killashandra doesn’t care – she just wants to keep singing for her career.

Sitting here reviewing this in fact months after I have read it, I am tempted to read it again. It’s like a much better version of another set of singing novels I attempted a long, long time ago. I don’t seem to have reviewed it, but I think the author was someone Modeste?

Killashandra is a powerful heroine who takes what she wants, even if she tends to be a bit blindsided sometimes. As usual, the protagonist is strongly gifted in something else to make the world revolve around her. She has to work for it though sometimes.

I found the character development in this novel very powerful. I think that without it, this novel would have fallen flat on its face. The environment/world building is quite good, but there is only so much description that you can take about rocks. I also thoroughly enjoyed the descriptions of her training – I only wish I could sing rocks!

I confess, this is the first McCaffrey novel I have ever read! And here I am loving dragons. I will now try to make time to get my hands on her other novels and read them. This novel receives 4 stars from me.

Review: Angela Slatter – Corpselight

Corpselight
Angela Slatter

Verity has unexpected drownings in daylight and her not-dead mother to contend with, oh, and she’s just had a baby. But never mind, she’s just got to keep pressing forwards. With family coming out of the woodwork faster than she can keep track, can Verity protect her immediate family and keep her Normal partner happy?

I’d like to know, even with Wanda’s magic, why Verity is up and about after such a traumatic birth pretty much 2 days later. Any baby that comes out in the space of an hour is going to rip some serious damage. Or maybe the time passed faster than I thought, which it might have because I had no sense of timing throughout the whole novel.

I don’t really understand Verity’s role. Why does she feel this compulsion to help out the Weyrd? Maybe that is something that is covered in the first novel, but she continually keeps ‘fixing things’ for them, despite them abandoning her, which is a major theme of this novel. Also, does she get paid for this role? I have trouble understanding how she normally functions. I resisted reading this novel because I knew it was a sequel, but I honestly think that that is the least of its problems.

It’s a struggle to finish this novel, and I’m still not sure I will. The pacing is incredibly slow, and the storyline very predictable. Everything always overlaps in these novels, and so once one ‘puzzle’ is solved, the rest fall in line for the reader, if not Verity. I have other attractive things to read instead, and it’s a serious backlog because I just discovered a stash of novels I had wondered where they got to, but couldn’t find them.

Honestly, all the f-words? They don’t do anything for me. Verity uses them so often that their potential impact is negligible. Using more sparingly, they might actually convey a sense of urgency. There’s some nice lines that could have been worth laughing about, such as Verity’s daughter not liking decanted breast milk! Yet they are delivered so flatly that my reaction was more meh, nice try.

I’m giving this 2 stars. Surely it appeals to some audiences, but it just doesn’t appeal to me. Summing up: it was too slow, too laced with pointless cuss-words (and I’m not a puritan!) and too predictable. I’d recommend as a light read, although not fantasy based, Turbo Twenty-Three.

Hachette Australia | 11th July 2017 | AU $32.99 | paperback

Review: Kendare Blake – One Dark Throne

One Dark Throne
Kendare Blake

Ascension Year has begun in earnest, and now the three sisters must stop showing off their strengths and get down to the business of killing one another. While MIrabella and Arsinoe have made some truces, it’s Queen Katherine that has started leading the race. Too bad that she could be corrupting the rest of the island.

This novel. Mmm. I once again had serious problems keeping the Queens and their abilities and all their hanger-ons straight as separate people. Yes, they had distinctly different names, but it didn’t actually help me much. I couldn’t work out the character transformations from one novel to the next either. What confused me was whether there are actually two poisoners now, or whether Katharine is just lying to herself? Theoretically the sets of talents only come in threes, right? Katharine is certainly changed, but I’m not sure if she is a true poisoner.

The plot felt like it didn’t move at all, and that the characters were never in real danger despite them apparently always organising to kill each other. I wouldn’t have felt that sad had any of them died. I was always waiting for more details, or more to happen. The plot felt thin. Perhaps if this wasn’t a trilogy (multi-part series even?), then the author could have been able to add more meat to the novel.

There are more exciting novels out there in this theme, unless you are super keen to see three sisters taking each other apart – with the permission and promotion of their families! Otherwise I feel that you could probably get away with reading another accession story where the wrong child (usually a cruel one) gets the throne.

I’ve already invested time into the series, and so it’s likely that when the next book comes out, if it is sent to me for review I will read it. But I won’t be buying the book for myself, which is why this is just receiving an average 3 stars.

Pan Macmillan | 26th September 2017 | AU $16.99 | paperback