Review: Garth Nix – FROGKISSER!

FROGKISSER!
Garth Nix

Princess Anya always gets the responsibility of cleaning up after her sister’s messes. Unfortunately, she’s also trying to avoid her step-step father killing her off and taking the throne. When her step-step father makes yet another one of her sister’s wooers a frog, it’s up to Anya to save the day.

Who wouldn’t love a plucky heroine who really just wants to sit in her library and study sorcery? Oh wait, maybe that’s just me. No! I don’t think so. Nix has once again created a strong female character with a set of unique character flaws. She’s young enough to be appealing to young readers, but there are some in-jokes in the novel that teenagers would enjoy too.

I’m going to be handing over my copy of this novel to a 16 year old keen Garth Nix reader to see what he thinks. Is this novel particularly new and exciting? Is it adding something exciting to the genre of fairytales? Maybe is all I can say. It is certainly better than some of the other offerings out there, and if you like Garth Nix, you will probably still love this novel.

What you can’t see from the cover image is the glorious fluorescent yellow page edges. Check out my instagram to see them. It almost makes me want to put the book back-to-front on my bookshelf so that it can stand out!

I can see where this novel could easily become a series – there is reference to an overall set of Rules after all. But this novel was perfect in itself. This novel is far better than the other recent Nix novel, Newt’s Emerald, but not as good asย Clariel or Goldenhand. I’m giving it 4 stars, although I would consider reading it again should a sequel appear.

Allen & Unwin | 22 February 2017 | AU $19.99 | Paperback

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Review: Elly Blake – FrostBlood

FrostBlood
Elly Blake

17-year old Ruby is a FireBlood in a world of passionless FrostBloods. After the King’s soldiers kill her beloved mother and stick her in prison for a year, Ruby is ready for revenge. Even if that revenge comes by way of making friends with some renegade FrostBloods and plotting to melt the throne (literally).

The language in this was passionless. For a novel about fury and rage being key to power, the text itself didn’t inspire that in me. Perhaps there was too much detail for me? It felt like clinical observation by Ruby the whole time. Ruby’s reponse to ‘Die in pain’ was too cold and clinical to something that was spat out in fear.

There wasn’t enough of a twist in this novel for me. It was more like a slight turning of the head, and more could have been done with it. The same went for the cruelty of the King – please tell me less about it, and show me more. I couldn’t have cared less whether Ruby died or not, and that’s not a good characteristic to have in a main character.

For a comparative novel, I’d suggest Blackthorn and Grim because there is a similar theme of revenge vs healing going on in there. If you’re looking for a very similar magic offering, perhaps Red Queenย or the Poison Study trilogy could be up your alley.

I’d recommend it for teenage readers, rather than YA readers despite the ‘heated kisses’ because there isn’t enough depth and surprise to hold an older reader’s attention in my opinion. 3 stars from me.

Hachette Australia | 1st January 2017 | AU $19.99 | Paperback

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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: Wolf Hollow – Lauren Wolk

Wolf Hollow
Lauren Wolk

Annabelle is a quiet sort of girl, happy to travel along in life with her friend Ruth, going to school and being educated. Once Betty comes to town though, everything changes. Betty isn’t nice, or kind – she seems set on killing someone. When she disappears, somehow it becomes Annabelle’s job to keep the local loner alive.

Let me start out by saying that the cover did not fill me with joy. I can’t resist reading any words that come past my nose, so I fully expected that something good would come from it. Instead, despite being promised that she would ‘earn her keep’, her role turned out to be useless.

Annabelle is ok as a character, and her actions in her relationships with her parents are believable. However, I had problems with the way she treated the bullying because it was clear that bodily harm was going to occur. If she had spoken up quicker, a lot less misery would have occurred.

This novel was far too slow to keep my interest. I struggled to pick it up, and it was far too easy to put it down again. Although the pace sped up in the last couple of chapters it was too late to redeem the novel for me.

Although I was erring on the side of 3 stars after finishing the novel, writing this review has crystallized it as only 2 stars. I just couldn’t love it, or Annabelle. Others have compared this to ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ but I think this is weaker by far.

Penguin Random House | 3rd May 2016 | AU $16.99 | Paperback

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Review: Stephanie Garber – Caraval

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

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Review: Amy Lukavics – the Women in the Walls

the Women in the Walls
Amy Lukavics

Lucy’s life should have been one of luxury – living on an estate with a long history and almost limitless parties, homeschooled to keep away from the ‘common people’. Lucy’s mother is dead though, and her Aunt has just wandered off into the woods. Then her cousin starts hearing voices and her life rapidly gets more confusing.

I was afraid of this novel to start off with. What could be more creepy than dead people whispering in the walls? Then I realised that Lucy wasn’t the one hearing the voices, and it distanced me from the whole situation. I couldn’t bring myself to care about Margaret – although Lucy professed to be worried about her, she didn’t do anything. The threat of discovery for Lucy’s ‘little secret’ surely could have been enough to get her sent away to those colleges she was obsessed with?

For a 17 year old, Lucy sure spooked pretty easily. I tried to suspend my disbelief, but I just couldn’t hold on to it. Ok, so you’re homeschooled and lived isolated on this estate for your whole life. But really? You’re just going to accept that the police haven’t been called? Don’t you have access to a phone? It seems to me like there really is more that you should have done.

The finale? I was hoping it would redeem the whole novel, but it simply failed to conclude or give evidence of why spending time reading this novel was worth it. Maybe an epilogue could have saved it? Don’t get me wrong, I love an unhappy ending, but this one needed a bit more flare.

I’m giving this two stars, although I really wanted to give up on it. I invested in those first couple of chapters as wanting something exciting to happen, then spent the rest of the novel feeling cheated. I wouldn’t recommend this one.

Simon & Schuster | September 2016 | 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: 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’sย Dreamfireย andย 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’tย save the novel.

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Review: Emily Barr – The One Memory of Flora Banks

The One Memory of Flora Banks
Emily Barr

Flora has anterograde amnesia. The only things she can remember are the things that happened before she was 10, and had to have a tumour removed from her brain. Then she kisses a boy, and she can remember the kiss. She goes off her medication and goes out to explore life.

Flora, you’re a little naive, and I can understand why your parents want to protect you. Ok, so you are a lot naive. What is to say bad things haven’t happened? I’m not sure you would have remembered, and so as an unreliable narrator, we would never hear about it.

I almost cried in the last couple of chapters of this novel. My heart hurt! How could I not have seen this coming? Barr grabs your heart, tickles it gently, then next minute, boom!

I found myself so engrossed in the story that I couldn’t put it down. I wandered around the house reading it, feeling like I was the one with memory loss. What was it I was supposed to be doing again?

As a debut YA novel from Barr (she has written a number of adult novels already), this novel is screaming for you to read it, and for Barr to write more. For something that was tagged ‘just another typical YA’ by my (albeit non-reading) partner, this novel will grab you.

It’s rare a novel will draw me to tears and for that, I’m giving this one 5 stars. Perhaps I won’t reread it, but it was beautiful storytelling that I want you to go out and buy immediately. Or borrow a copy from the library – but try not to leave tears on the pages.

Penguin Random House | 3rd January 2017 | AU$19.99 | 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 Skyย 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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