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.Β 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

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Review: Nick Lake – Whisper to Me

Whisper to Me
Nick Lake

Cass hears a voice. Just one, but that one tells her to hurt herself and not talk to other people, otherwise it will cause her dad to die. This causes her to hurt a boy she likes, so she writes him an incredibly long letter (email) in the form of this novel.

Sigh. I knew this novel wasn’t much chop from the very beginning. But a friend had said it was the best she had read while borrowing from my (limited) library. So I thought, ok, I’ll try it. It was the first couple of pages that put me off, honestly I’m not much of a list person, particularly in fiction novels. It better be useful, like in the start of me and you, but no, this one continued throughout the novel and it wasn’t useful.

There was no conclusion to that ending, and honestly, I was sick of it. I finished it, but that was it. Just a long email of apologising. Also, spoiler alert, no conclusion to the bad guys either.Β I’m not unwilling to read something else by this author, the writing style was engaging and I liked Cass’ characterisation well enough. But there was no resolution, and honestly the storyline was rambling (I know, I know, it’s the writing style of a teenager apologizing… over and over again).

I’m not even sure I can accept it for the mental illness content. Suggesting that ‘talk therapy’ can overcome hearing voices (even just the one voice Cass hears) is dangerous. As Cass finds out, when she stops taking her medication abruptly her self-preservation instincts go out the window. Honestly, I wouldn’t have been all that upset if she had died. Actually, that might have added some of the excitement I didn’t feel about Paris. Too much foreshadowing for so little actual action.

I do not recommend this novel. I wish I hadn’t wasted my time on it. I’d love to just give it 1 star, but I did at least finish it. So 2 stars it will have to be. I held out for hope of an ending, and nope, nothing there to redeem it.

Bloomsbury | 3rd May 2016 | paperback

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Review: Danielle Rollins – Breaking

Breaking
Danielle Rollins

Charlotte’s been at Boarding school for a long time, but she never seems to fit in. She’s surrounded by pretty people, pretty people who also happen to be super smart. Charlotte’s boring compared to her two awesome best friends – but they’ve committed suicide, and she hasn’t. Can Charlotte gain a bit of a spine and find out the answers?

Oh man, oh man. I thought I had made notes on this novel and how AWESOME it was. But apparently not, and now I’m faced with a blank text editing box. Not very inspiring. I liked Charlotte and her ‘humanity’, despite her calling herself boring. Nothing’s boring about someone who is soooo totally average! There’s always that sneaky thing she only hints about…Β  Just reading it was lovely and gripping, and the ending did not disappoint.

Others reviewers have mentioned that the flippant references to suicide put them off giving this novel full stars. Personally, I knew the whole time that there was something else going on, and that there was no way that Charlotte’s best friends had done that. Also, there are some tropes of the same kind – you know, character thinks that she is the most boring person ever, all of the girls only want ONE fabulous guy, everyone is jealous of everyone else – but honestly?

I’m liking the themes at the moment towards products and potions that can make people instantly beautiful. Think Charisma and another book I read a while ago that I can’t currently remember the name of. Makeup has been such a big part of most women’s lives and conforming to the norms. But what happens when everyone is pretty? That’s what I’d like to see played out next.

For this novel, I didn’t realise until somewhere near the end that it could be considered a prequel to Burning. But there is no need to read this one first, or indeed both of them (although I don’t know why you wouldn’t want to read them both!). I read Burning about a year ago now on vacation! I read Breaking just before I went. I guess now I’m going to be expecting to have a Rollins’ masterpiece before every vacation!

Bloomsbury | 1 September 2017 | AU$15.99 | paperback

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Review: Allison Rushby – The Fifth Room

The Fifth Room
Allison Rushby

Self-experimentation is the only way to get results… Or at least that’s what an international secret society of Doctors believes. Brilliant highschoolers are invited to take part in this self-experimentation, and are pitted against each other to win a prize of continuing their research. But its a challenge, they’re all brilliant, but how many of them are willing to go to the end?

Oh my! This book was amazing! I gobbled it so greedily, and then neglected to review it. But just sitting here writing this review is making me want to re-read it, that’s how good it was. Uh oh, it’s within reach, I might actually reread it now….

Is this a psychological thriller? I don’t know, but it had me on the edge of my seat. I wasn’t scared for myself at any point, and I wasn’t jumpy, so I’m not sure it’s a thriller. Nevertheless, I couldn’t put it down!

I know they set it up for a sequel, but I don’t care! It was amazing! The ending was just what I wanted. I didn’t really see it coming, and I found the final reveal to be entirely keeping with what we knew of Miri’s character. I don’t agree with all of her actions, but she’s certainly a believable character.

I’m giving this novel 5 stars, and strongly recommending you go and get yourself a copy. As we approach Christmas (it’s after my birthday, I can start mentioning it now), this would be the perfect gift for the aspiring high-school doctor (or undergraduate student) or teens in favour of thrillers with captivating storylines.

Scholastic | 1 September 2017 | AU$16.99 | paperback

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Review: Victoria Carless – the dream walker

the dream walker
Victoria Carless

Lucy is 16 and ready to flee from Digger’s Landing, where the fish no longer bite and the dogs are covered with fleas. Her mother drowned herself and her father is desperate. Lucy wants to just get out of town and go to university, but her best friend is bailing in order to earn money

This is set in a ‘small Queensland fishing hamlet home to fifteen families, a posse of mongrel dogs, and Parkers Corner Store (no apostrophe and nowhere near a corner).’ Apart from some descriptive language that drove me crazy after a while (just say it already!), there was nothing good about this novel.Β I never connected to Lucy, or felt like I got into her friendship with Polly or her ?complicated? boyfriend relationship.Β 

The dreams come into this novel as an interesting plot point, where Lucy can help other people in her life from what she learns in dreams. Plenty of other dreamwalkers to read about: Dream FireΒ or Dream Strider. Don’t waste your precious reading time.

I couldn’t finish this novel. It was just so slow and boring. I barely remember reading the first part honestly, so I had trouble coming up with my own blurb. 1 star. Don’t bother.

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Review: Irfan Master – Out of Heart

Out of Heart
Irfan Master

Adam is the darkness, joined only to the rest of the world by a thread, bound within his own drawings and head, barely speaking. His sister doesn’t speak, and neither does his mother or grandfather. After his grandfather dies and donates his heart to William, William becomes a fixture in Adam’s house and life.

This novel felt disjointed and fast. Somehow, 7 months passed and I didn’t notice. There’s hardly enough pages in there for any details. Trying to fit in an abuse/transplant/love/damage storyline was too much, and instead I was left feeling cheated about the whole lot.

I felt disconnected from Adam, and couldn’t even get excited about the fact that he grew a spine somewhere between his childhood (where it wasn’t his fault and it was safer not to have one) and now. Simply, even the violent scenes left me cold, because the prose wasn’t compelling, and I felt distant the whole time. So did Adam, but it’s hard for me to care to keep reading….

The word plays that Adam uses could have been used even more effectively, or perhaps some more images that he drew. Anything! I actually really loved the idea of what he drew on the trains, but it wasn’t clear at all what the point was – if you can only see it from 24 floors in the air! That being said, yet another tortured artist student novel right here.

Does Farah not go to school? What’s wrong with doing dot-to-dots? How long has it been? School seems to feature so little in anything, despite readers listening through a set of school parent-teacher meetings. What are the two jobs Adam’s mom works? How does Adam get to work on time? Where do they live?

Something I hate, and maybe it’s just because I perhaps need glasses, is when thoughts or memories in a novel are included in a special type of script that isn’t just printed text. It almost guarentees I will dislike the novel,

Nothing remarkable to see here. There wasn’t enough substance, it took me about 1 hour to read it, and I didn’t feel like I had gained anything after it because I hadn’t become attached to the characters. I’m giving it 2 stars – I’m not feeling that kindly about it because I have many other novels to read that are (hopefully) way more exciting. I think I need to be more wary of Hot Key books (such as Fly on the Wall), no matter how intriguing they sound.

Allen & Unwin | 28th June 2017 | AU$16.99 | paperback

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Review: Emery Lord – The Names They Gave Us

The Names They Gave Us
Emery Lord

Lucy is used to going to Christian Camp every summer with her Pastor father and enjoys being part of the family. Her life seems pretty perfect, right up until the moment her mother’s cancer comes back and her boyfriend decides to ‘take a break from her’. As one of her mother’s last wishes, Lucy finds herself as a counselor at a camp for troubled teens instead where she’s going to discover a family history she never knew existed and find out more about herself than she ever could have imagined.

The ending! Oh the ending. It should have been more bittersweet, but it wasn’t. Actually, it was just a tad cloying? And I would have appreciated a little more closure. I can say that the rest of the novel was not leading up to that at all. I think this is a problem I had with Lord’s first book too… Perhaps I should have anticipated it more, but I am warned for next time now (and there had better be a next time)!

I really like Lucy’s character, although I could have had a few more juicy details in general. I initially didn’t get along with her, but warmed up to it. Maybe I could have had a bit more of Jones too. Insta-love drives me bananas sometimes, but due to the other themes of the novel I was buying it in this case. Lucy needed some comfort, and Jones could provide it.

I initially started reading the novel, and then dreaded continuing, because sadly my experience with strongly Christian folks is negative. Or perhaps I just don’t have enough of it, and read too much about how the Salvation Army, which I used to look up to, refuses to provide help to Queer people. Anyway, off topic. Don’t go into this novel with preconceptions, they’re probably going to be incorrect.

I really enjoyed this novel in the end and had a lot of trouble putting it down. It’s not surprising really, since I loved Lord’s first novel, When We Collided. I think WWC remains my favourite, but this novel is well worth a read too. I’m going with 4 stars, but it is a possible re-reader.

Bloomsbury | 1st June 2017 | AU $17.99 | Paperback

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Review: Jenny McLachlan – Stargazing for Beginners

Stargazing for Beginners
Jenny McLachlan

Meg has wanted to be an astronaut her whole life, and it seems like she is finally going to get the chance to see the NASA headquarters. Only problem is, Meg’s mum is heading off to an importance cause, and is leaving Meg’s little sister in Meg’s nervous hands. Will Meg be able to band together with her support team to survive?

I feel like this novel is just another in a series trying to encourage girls into STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) fields. The last I read, The Square Root of Summer gets more points from me for including more science! That being said, there are plenty of areas of science that need more exploring. Both of the protagonists are hard workers, and each faces their challenges bravely.

There was lots of lovely variety in the characters provided in the text, and even non-scientists should find someone they connect with! Ok, so it’s a little bit of a comedy of errors for the mix-up of the ‘mentoring group’, and that made the interactions feel slightly forced, but it does warm up to the task of giving them all some air-time to be individuals (as much as you can with a first-person perspective narrator).

What is it with parents going off and leaving their kids alone these days? And not just alone, but with younger siblings to look after? I’m looking at you, Raging LightΒ and Beautiful Liar? There is an element of what could be suspense in this novel, but the end seems foretold anyway as the tone of the rest of the novel points in that direction.

I’m not sure this has anything particularly new to offer the genre, but it’s en enjoyable read nevertheless. 4 stars because it’s going to stay at home with me on my bookshelf, rather than roaming the wider worlds.

Bloomsbury | 1st June 2017 | AU $14.99 | Paperback

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Review: Bren MacDibble – How to Bee

How to Bee
Bren MacDibble

The bees have been killed and now only the bravest children pollinate the fruit trees by hand. It’s hard work, and only a select few are chosen. Peony’s mother thinks that the way forward is in the city, Peony knows that her place is with the other Bees.

In a future fiction, it’s possible this is going to become common place. Bees are dying out, and despite things such as the somewhat ill informed flower planting schemes by ?cereal? companies, unless we pick up our game with killing bees with pesticides and so forth. A world without fruit would be pretty miserable.

I liked the ending a lot. I liked the whole novel, but truely, the ending was fantastic. I loved how Peony stuck to her beliefs and her family. That girl knows what is important! It’s something that more people in the world could afford to learn…

I’m not going to suggest that this is a YA novel. There’s just not enough depth for that, and it’s not a reread so that’s why it’s not getting 5 stars from me. But it carries a very important message, it improves the current knowledge of young people. I could see it as an early highschool novel, and I’d love it a lot more than some other ‘Australian classics’ they stick teenagers with.

Allen & Unwin | 26th April 2017 | AU$16.99 | paperback

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Review: JC Burke – The Things We Promise

The Things We Promise
JC Burke

During the height of the HIV and AIDs epidemic in the 1990s, Gemma is blissfully ignorant of any health issues that could be going on in her home town of Sydney. Her worst concerns are who she will hang out with school and what kind of hairdo she is going to have her brother Billy do for her formal.

I’ll be the first to say that a lot of the language in the novel is offensive. It’s particularly offensive to gay people, eg. “limp-wristed, pillow-biting, doughnut punching bum bandit”. Which, given the subject matter, I’m not surprised that it’s targeted so negatively. But I also appreciated the hard feelings and accuracy of that. It felt ‘real’.

The problem some reviewers had with this novel was that it was horrifically offensive to a variety of people. While I agree that it is, I also accept that this novel is an accurate snapshot of the early 90s, where this sort of language, beliefs and behaviour was common. If you are easily offended and can’t understand the setting of the novel (such as a slavery novel with ‘nigga’ in it), this novel is not for you.

It’s an interesting way of approaching the early years when very few people knew about HIV and how it was transmitted. It paints a picture of how miserable things really were from a personal perspective, not just a sheer number of people who were infected as a sterile statistic.

I’m giving this three stars. It took me a while to warm up to it, and despite eventually enjoying it, it seemed a little forced at times.

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

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