Review: Jodi McAlister – Valentine

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

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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

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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.

4star

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

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Review: Peadar Ó Guilín – The Call

The Call
Peadar Ó Guilín

It’s bad luck for Nessa that she has twisted legs from Polio. It’s even worse when she finds out on her birthday that she is going to be faced with The Call at some point – dragged into the dark world of the Faery Folk that were banished from Ireland years ago. There, she must survive a day without the Folk finding and torturing her. The odds aren’t good, 1 in 10 returns. And with people in the ‘real world’ also trying to kill her, Nessa has even less chance of surviving.

31565971Who doesn’t love an underdog? Nessa is going to fight for what she has, and pretend she doesn’t care about everything else. Her legs aren’t going to stop her, when her mind is sharp. Her mind ends up being the thing that can save her. Other reviewers have picked on her being a character trope, but I didn’t have an issue with that. I appreciated that Nessa couldn’t see her own faults until it was to late – she couldn’t be too self-sacrificing after all.

The gruesome testimonies alluded to in the novel are backed up by the changing perspectives on the novel. Normally it would irritate me, but the majority of the time, the character then died so they didn’t have to bother me again! And the only person I might have wanted to hear from more than once? Well, he gets a second chance to an extent.

I can’t wait for the second novel of this to happen. I want to know what on earth will go on next! Or perhaps, under earth! The ending leaves it nice and open, and yet satisfying at the same time. I’m not sure I love it enough to reread it, but it was really good and I would advise going out to buy yourself a copy ASAP.

In fact, I am lucky enough to own TWO copies of this novel – one just came in the mail today from Scholastic (the final cover) and an early copy from David Fickling Books. I’m not really sure who to thank, but it was super good! I can’t wait to share it with other people. 4 stars from me.

4star

Scholastic | 1 September 2016 | AU $19.99 | Paperback

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Review: Jaclyn Moriarty – A Corner of White

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A Corner of White
Jaclyn Moriarty

Madeleine and Elliot are from totally different worlds, one of which has forgotten the existence of the other. At first glance, their lives are hard by today’s standards, and things are upset. Little does the reader know simply how upset that is!

8661987This novel started so slowly and got so confusing at times that I couldn’t work out what was going on. I struggled to get into it, and found myself easily distracted. Near the end, I was finally hit with a shock of ‘wow’, but it only lasted a couple of pages.

A hint of history, for those of us who aren’t fabulous at history, but I’m not exactly certain how they fitted into the muddled text. Added bonus facts about Isaac Newton? Yes please. Jack thinking he is Byron? Really confusing in what I thought was the real world.

I wanted the different characters to grow tangibly, but I’m not sure they ever did. Madeleine and Elliot both make the same discoveries about themselves, through their communications. But I don’t think I really felt it happening, the rest of the text left me too confused.

The last surreal novel I read, In the Skin of a Monster, polarised me far more than this one – I hated it! aCoW at least had a sense of order, and I could understand the distinct worlds. Even the overlapping was reasonable, and I could cope with that. I think this novel could have been told just through letter to make it even more obscure!

From the blurbs at the back of my copy of the novel, Moriarty is a specialist in interesting forms of fantasy fiction. I’m not sure how tempted I am to read those other novels, although a couple involve schools, which usually gets me excited.

I’m really not sure how I felt about this novel. I’m going to give it a solid 3 stars, and get started on the next. I wasn’t enthralled enough to give it 4 stars.

3star

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Review: Isobelle Carmody – Alyzon Whitestarr

Alyzon Whitestarr
Isobelle Carmody

Alyzon is the most boring member of her family. She isn’t artistic, she doesn’t play an instrument and she doesn’t have any interesting physical features. One day she is hit on the head, and wakes up with her senses overwhelmed by smells, real and dubious. She’s a response to a sickness that takes over spirits, and they’re after her… and her sister.

1961314I forget how much I like this novel every time I put it away on the shelf, and then when I pick it up I just can’t stop reading it. It’s fascinating to think that special extensions of senses are just evolution. Let me evolve that way! I wish I had abilities like this. But I wouldn’t want to be able to smell the rotting meat of infected people.

As always, the characters come alive even from the single perspective of Alyzon. This is helped by the fact that we get all of Alyzon’s extended senses telling us (and her) things that other people wouldn’t notice. I like that there is a varied cast, not everyone is boring and mainstream. This reflects the fact that people are different on the inside, even if you can’t see it.

People on GoodReads seem really divided about it. Some hate it, call it boring and awful. Others love it. I can agree that it is often wordy, but it’s part of the story! How else can Alyzon talk about her extended senses? Perhaps it is people reading it as adults. To me, this is a perfect teenage novel, just as it was when I was younger.

I was inspired to read this again because it’s coming out from Ford Street Publishing this year! And when I spoke to Isobelle Carmody (about 3 times in the space of a week), she said she felt like she hadn’t finished with the world of Alyzon. Never mind that Isobelle tends to not want to let go of any of her characters (uh hum, Obernewtyn).

5 stars from me. Did you really expect anything else?

5star

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Review: Kathryn Barker – In the Skin of a Monster

In The Skin of a Monster
Kathryn Barker

Alice’s twin sister killed people in their local school. Since she was identical to Alice, people can’t see Alice for who she is, they can only see her deadly sister. When Alice is swept up into a dream world, things get even more complicated, and it’s no longer clear what is going on.

25380845DON’T READ THE BLURB. It will trick you into thinking that this novel is straightforward. Instead, you need to go into it with a mind blasted wide open, with the ability to let it stretch further. This is one very strange novel.

I would have liked a more concrete approach to dealing with things. Swapping between the different perspectives was more confusing that I would have liked. I just couldn’t grasp anything that was going on. Nevertheless, the dream-scape set up is amazing and well described. The author appeared to think of everything that could possibly exist in it – bubbles of people, monsters, everything else!

It was quite compulsive reading, despite its faults. Did I actually like Alice? No, most of the time I thought she was an idiot. Did I really understand what happened? Goodness no. Did I keep reading anyway? Yes. I ended the novel feeling completely disorientated and annoyed. Even after running over the plot with my partner, I couldn’t work out what the point of the whole novel was.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that this novel is going to expose great secrets of a person who looks like a murderer. Yes, killing people causes a great lasting impact, but people do recover. I don’t think this shows enough recovery. Mainly it shows people being stupid.

I can only think negatives about how Alice punishes herself for being like her sister. She’s committed to a mental institution for 3 years. I can understand the guilt she feels, but at the same time it should have been obvious to her that it’s not her fault and that she isn’t the same person. This got even more confusing for me as time went on, because it wasn’t clear whether Alice had demented thinking caused by the incident, or it was from the beginning. Just because you are identical to someone doesn’t mean you have to live like them.

I don’t know whether to suspend my disbelief for the story or not. In fact, unlike other novels I have read in this genre, this novel is not fiction that would fit into the everyday run of things. The attempts at making this fit into the Australian landscape fail miserably.

I mainly just came away from this very confused. There are other novels that are more awesome than this one. If you want to give this one a go, go right ahead. But if you’re looking for something with a convincing dreamscape, I’d be going for something like Dreamfire – I gave it 5 stars, go and try it out.

2star

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Review: Cassandra Clare & Holly Black – The Copper Gauntlet

The Copper Gauntlet
Cassandra Clare & Holly Black

Call never seems to find any rest – unless he’s at school. When he has to return home for the holidays, he finds his father more set against school than ever, and a set of chains in the basement. Trust is something that seems to be fluid and bought and sold to the highest bidder. Call thinks he knows what he’s doing – everyone else thinks he is mad!

25613630Call and the other characters still didn’t seem to progress much. Aaron does grow a little, in that he wants to protect others not just have them protect him. But he doesn’t seem as smart as he does in the first novel. Not to mention poor Tamara gets sidelined.

There’s some underhand backbiting, and some potential treachery, but for me, these didn’t ring true. Surely they are old enough not to fight like 5-year-olds over a broken toy?

The ending was a little bit of a surprise, I really didn’t expect what happened! The Magisterium seemed a bit like a dumb hulking beast though, with more secrets than anyone could ever have. Hoping for a happy ending seems impossible.

This sort of feels like a ‘questing’ novel. All Call ever seems to do is head to the Magisterium, then immediately go back out again! There wasn’t any of the learning/teaching that went on in the first book to make me super interested and happy.

I’m not saying give this novel a miss by any means. In fact, I think you should get out there and read it for yourself. Once again though, I found myself waiting desperately for the next novel – I don’t want to wait a whole year!

Did this novel take me as strongly as the first one, The Iron Trial? No, sadly it didn’t. It simply didn’t have the same personality when I read it myself, rather than being read to by a talented voice-over. But I kept reading it. I don’t know why, but I did. That’s what makes it 4 stars not 3.

4star

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Review: Amanda Hocking – Crystal Kingdom

Crystal Kingdom
Amanda Hocking

Bryn is exiled from the life she knew before. With her lover and friends left behind, she’s faced with her oldest enemy and needs to come to terms with the wider world. That world involves all of the other troll tribes – some of whom will be friendly, and others who are against the side of ‘right’.

25574705While the conspiracy is deeper than it seems, it wasn’t obvious why I should should care about it. Having a terrifying overlord is bad, but without actual threats to people I cared about, meh, I didn’t care. That being said, the depth of plot turns and the like was very nice, and kept me guessing.

The fighting scenes in this were perhaps the worst part of the novel. It felt very dry, and I didn’t feel even a shred of emotional angst over Bryn potentially being harmed. The dialogue between Bryn and various troll leaders was far more convincing, and I liked the way that Bryn and Ridley interacted.

I would say that the style on this is similar to the last book – sometimes I was too busy reading the words and terminology to really get into the story. It didn’t push me along, rather I found myself dragging myself further. I did eventually get into the plot, but I probably could have put it down at any point.

Although this would like to bill itself as a romance, I certainly didn’t get any sort of ‘triangle’ happening. Sure, there were some wayward kisses, but those are bound to happen when people are under stress. The sex scene in it is textbook simple, and if not for that inclusion, I’d be firmly placing this in the teenage fiction category.

The ending just wraps things up too neatly. Yes, some people die, but honestly, I wasn’t very attached to them. Or if I was, it was obvious why they couldn’t be allowed to live. All things peachy. Hint – don’t read the blurb, or you’ll find yourself reading half of the plot and being mislead as to the contents of the novel.

I found this novel disappointing, but I think that it could resonate well with those enjoying urban fantasy that has a mystery element to it. For me, the style wasn’t to taste, and so I don’t think I’ll be purchasing any more novels by this author – although I remain able to be won over.

Find it on:
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Review: Amanda Hocking – Frostfire

Frostfire
Amanda Hocking

24059777Bryn’s job is to rescue her people that have been placed in human homes to generate revenue for their real parents. But her dream is to be part of the elite guard protecting the royals – made difficult by the fact she’s just a little bit odd compared to everyone else.

At first it isn’t obvious what is special about Bryn. But Hocking gently guides the reader, until bam! You know what she is, who she likes, and everything else in between. Except the writing was poor. This felt dry, and not too well written. I simply couldn’t get into the story. There wasn’t enough feeling attached to the Bryn for me. She felt like a placeholder just put there to be different, and let the story revolve around her.

The romance element in this novel that I was promised in the blurb, and the chance of her to ‘lose her heart’, are slim as far as I can see. I wasn’t buying the touching romance, in fact it just felt like a set up. Can’t she keep a hold of herself? She’s going to live a while longer right?

This novel felt incomplete at the end. It felt like it was waiting for a sequel – and it fact, it has a sequel so that’s not so bad. But! It just didn’t feel complete, and had I needed to wait to read the sequel, it’s possible I never would have picked it up.

I received this novel free in preparation for reading and reviewing (plus interviewing!!!!) the newest novel in this trilogy, Crystal Kingdom. The boss has said I can’t read it until I’ve done these reviews, so here I am.

Nothing special to see here folks, a 3 stars from me. But when you combine it with the second novel in the series, things do improve. Stay tuned for that review.

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