Review: Gregg Hurwitz – Last Chance

Last Chance
Gregg Hurwitz

Chance Rain has made it through the last gasp of their plan to kill the Queen and free their home town. Too bad that the aliens can simply replace her with another. With the impregnated kids ready to hatch the next generation of invaders, Chance might be able to stop it – but it will cost him his life.

I received this, and then I literally gobbled it up for 3-4 hours. I knew that it would be good, having loved The Rains so much. I love the amount of thought that has gone into this novel. The stages of the invasion, the stages of the invaders themselves. The action happened so fast sometimes that I couldn’t breathe.

Alex, you two-timing teenager. I know there is an actual phenomenon of there being more marriage proposals after major catastrophes, due to emotions running high. But at the same time, Alex, didn’t anyone teach you about the rules of dating? You don’t shag two people at the same time, let alone two brothers.  

I hate to think of what happens next though. A population filled with kids no older than 18? All over the world? I mean, a lot have died off, but even the smart ones haven’t necessarily survived. Not to mention – how are all the countries to be saved, when originally the spread was via lots of meteors landing? So many skills would be lost.

I actually had this discussion with a Professor last night. Despite what the media says, many countries are now having negative population growth. This, combined with an aging population that needs more care, means that despite robots potentially taking over the world there will be plenty of jobs left. Humans have creativity, which might be our savior.

Go get your hands on this novel. I think I would even reread it, that’s how attached I got to the characters. 5 stars.

Penguin Random House | 2nd January 2018 | AU$19.99 | paperback

Review: Samira Ahmed – love, hate & other filters

love, hate & other filters
Samira Ahmed

Maya hides behind a lens, capturing life going by her. With her strict Indian Muslim parents guiding (and watching) her every step, is there any way she will be able to follow her own passion?

Hmm, where to start with this novel. Maya had a unique viewpoint, but one that anyone could relate with. We all have friends that our parents hate, or hobbies that they don’t approve of, and of course bullying to contend with. I started empathizing with Maya so much that at one point of the novel I was really worried for her safety!

This reminded me strongly of the vegan warrior with the butcher living next door (again, I can’t remember the name of this…). Maya should never fall for a non-religious football jock… But she does, of course! I wanted her to get the things she wanted out of life, even if it seemed impossible

If you loved 10 Things I Hate About Me or When Michael Met Mina, you will likely also love this novel. This novel is a worthy addition to the fears that Muslim people face around the world when they are constantly, unfairly, being tagged with the title of ‘Terrorist’. If you would rather read slightly less non-fiction, but still with a Muslim protagonist, may I also suggest The Truth About Peacock Blue or A Different Kind of Daughter?

I’m giving this 4 stars. Not enough intrigue for 5 stars, but an enthralling one nevertheless.

Allen & Unwin | 24th January 2018 | AU$19.99 | paperback

Review: Scot Gardner – SPARROW

SPARROW
Scot Gardner

Sparrow has been consigned to prison, sent out on boot camp with a bunch of crazies. When the boat just happens to explode, Sparrow makes his break for shore and freedom. But is freedom and isolation what he wants?

Flicking back and forth between Sparrow’s present and past, this novel had the potential to endlessly entertain a reader. Not me though. I couldn’t finish reading it. Sparrow’s constant internal monologue that was supposed to take the place of a spoken voice set me on edge.

It reminds me of Lord of the Flies, except it is just a wordless boy who has escaped into the forest with basically no survival skills. Sorry Sparrow, but I don’t feel sorry for you. I don’t empathize with you as a character. I much preferred Thirst, although it also lacked reality.

You want a nice novel with selective mutism? Perhaps the infamous So Much to Tell You, or the more recent A Quiet Kind of Thunder will take your fancy. Don’t bother with this novel. 1 star.

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

Review: Jennifer E. Smith – Windfall

Windfall
Jennifer E. Smith

Alice buys Teddy a lottery ticket that ends up being worth $140 million!! Surely it is just that Teddy’s luck has finally come through? But Alice loves Teddy, and its likely that they will stick together forever… Or will their trio of friends break apart under the strain of all those credit cards?

This novel has a nice range of character situations, but ultimately all of the characters end up blurring into one. Leo is gay, has relationship problems & isn’t sure about college. Alice is straight, can’t get the relationship she wants & ends up being unsure about college. Teddy is just off the rails and an idiot. Can’t you listen to the adults around you? Your friends? He just made me angry, and I only kept reading for Alice (who ended up being useless anyway).

1: I have to say, I kept putting off reading this novel because the cover just didn’t appeal to me. If you check out the alternative cover on Goodreads, it is much more inviting, not to mention its hint of symbolism. 2: The blurb lied. Teddy doesn’t go on an adventure with Alice. They’re really parallel adventures. Why? Because Teddy is a selfish [redacted], and he doesn’t actually care about anything other than himself unless he wants something. And he wonders why everyone else wants something from him.

Note: Please tell people you love them! Why is it such a big deal? You can love someone, and then fall out of love and its perfectly ok. I knew Alice’s feelings would eventually come out anyway. How could she ever move on otherwise?

Alice, you stupid girl. I know your ‘heart can’t help it’, but why couldn’t you end up with the other boy? He was so much more decent a person, and honestly, better suited for your personality. 3 stars because I felt betrayed and the storyline was ultimately transperent.

Pan Macmillan | 26th April 2017 | AU$14.99 | paperback

Review: Nowhere Near You – Leah Thomas

Nowhere Near You
Leah Thomas

Ollie is out to see the world. Clad in his rock wool beanie to stop himself shorting out every electronic in sight, he’s going to document the stories of every weirdling out there Moritz is getting out to see the world too – and having people accept him, eyeless face and all.

So many lies! So many betrayals! So many twists! So much still unsaid! This novel was filled with excited Ollie chatter, and it filled me with his infectious glee as well. And of course, Moritz’s mainly calming influence. Two boys who grow up (at least a little bit), by facing the world. And just because they are different doesn’t mean that they don’t face the usual teenage problems like falling in love or learning how to deal with school

Oh why didn’t Ollie get to say goodbye? It was already too late after all. Except that ‘Stashe was still trying to hide the truth. Seriously dude, leave it already! The truth always outs, or something like that. That message forum was brilliant. I can’t wait to see what comes out of it. The internet is a wonderful thing.

Why did I wait so long to review this fabulous novel? Well, the problem was that it was the sequel to Because You’ll Never Meet Me, and I didn’t have access to a copy! I had started reading this one, but felt completely confused so I returned it. I got a local library membership recently and actually used it to read the eBook.

I want a sequel. Surely there is something for Ollie! It’s so unfair, but when is life? At least he should be able to keep himself occupied a little better… I’m giving this 5 stars, I was so taken by it. I have a friend I am going to lend it to asap as well.

Bloomsbury | 1st March 2017 | AU$15.99 | paperback

Review: Leah Thomas – Because You’ll Never Meet Me

Because You’ll Never Meet Me
Leah Thomas

Oliver and Moritz are two unlikely penpals. One has a strange allergy, yet affinity, to electricity. The other’s heartbeat is maintained by a pacemaker, so they can never meet. Although it takes a while for Moritz to warm up to Oliver, the two friends become fast friends – but will they still be able to share their secrets with each other?

I distinctly felt the two writing styles of Oliver and Moritz, and although at first I was worried about a text that consisted of letters the formatting ended up working well (i hate everyone but you got rejected from my bookshelf due to its text/email correspondence)). Even as the characters mature, the text styles stay different enough that it is obvious who is who.

This novel had me invested in the two characters and how they grew as people. At the same time as Oliver learning to focus, Moritz learnt how to reach out to people. I think more could have been made of the ‘superhero’ aspect, but at the same time, the novel was already well focused on their personal struggles. I kept expecting them to start writing a comic together though!

PS: There is a twist you won’t see coming AT ALL. Do tell me what you thought of it!

I can’t wait to read the second novel in this duo, Nowhere Near You. A road trip will be awesome! I put up with reading an eBook of this novel so that I could read its sequel ASAP. I’m giving this 4 stars for an interesting and intriguing storyline.

Review: Vic James – Tarnished City

Tarnished City
Vic James

Luke is now a different kind of prisoner – actually imprisoned on an island to await torture and very eventual death. His sister Abi is determined to free him – but who will she end up having to side with to get there? The Jardines are determined to have power, but how many of them are actually interested in it?

This is the same lovely mix of magic and slavery that I enjoyed in the first novel of this series, Gilded Cage. I waited impatiently for this novel, and I was not disappointed. What is it about these novels that draws me in?

I find the method of torture practiced on Luke to be interesting, and it’s great that Vic James has spent a lot of time developing a selection of different story lines. This is one of the few novels in which I actually enjoy the multiple perspectives because each character has a very distinctive ‘voice’.

When I returned to my main bookshelf to install this novel in its rightful place, I wanted to revisit the first novel immediately! But it has now been some time since I read this novel, and of course still more novels vie for my attention. In my opinion, the first novel might have been more exciting for action and daring, but this novel is filled with intrigue.

I’m giving this novel 5 stars for its gripping and sometimes unexpected plot, and also giving an appreciative mention to the interesting philosophical questions that it raises.

Pan Macmillan | 12th September 2017 | AU$19.99 | paperback

Review: Ruth Lauren – Prisoner of Ice and Snow

Prisoner of Ice and Snow
Ruth Lauren

Valor is heartbroken without her sister, so badly that she is determined to rescue her sister from a prison that no-one has escaped in over three hundred years. Valor is sure that her love for her sister will be enough – and her plan will surely succeed. But what will happen next?

This novel was a wussy one. It revisited old tropes of a sister being wrested away unfairly because of a crime she didn’t commit, and then her sibling doing something equally ‘awful’ in order to be sent there so that they can escape. And then it turns out, surprise surprise, that there is someone else working there who could potentially help them!

Although there was potential for action, it seemed like all the plans Valor had in place were too predictable to succeed. Somehow, the guards just happened to be a lot stupider than the last 300 years? Valor herself is fine, but there are plenty of other strong female protagonists that you can get behind in other, better novels.

I left this novel far too long to review after reading it, and I now don’t remember as much as I should. Slightly off topic, but why is ‘Valor’ as a name always just with an ‘o’, but ‘valour’ as in the personality trait has an ‘ou’? I’m well aware that the Americans use the ‘o’ and Australians use ‘ou’, but it still makes no sense! 

I’m not going to be looking out for another novel in this series. This one was tolerable, but nothing special. If you are looking for this trope, try Gilded Cage and Tarnished City. I’ll give it 3 stars because it did at least try to keep my attention.

Bloomsbury | 1st April 2017 | AU$12.99 | paperback

Review: Kerry Drewery – Day 7

Day 7
Kerry Drewery

At the last moment, Martha Honeydew has been pardoned from Cell 7, because the true killer stepped forth – just as they had always planned. Unfortunately, that’s when the plan stops working because Martha is still a target, and so is everyone she is close to. Will justice be able to be served for anyone?

Honestly, my enthusiasm for this novel waned over time. After reading Cell 7, I was very excited for what could come next. Cell 7 had what I think was a unique approach to crime, even if it was flawed! Day 7 departed from Cell 7 in offering a range of methods for punishing wrong-doers. These are once again flawed towards people that have money being able to push the judgement, and in fact this is used to Martha’s advantage.

I like the understated cover, it reminds me of James Bond films, which traditionally start with Bond looking down the barrel of a gun. This novel doesn’t have quite as much action as all that though. It tries, but with one character in a cell, and the other hidden to avoid being hunted, it’s difficult to have anything other than words exchanged.

Oh Martha, why can’t you just be sensible and stay out of the way? Her sometimes childish behavior, which I wouldn’t expect from someone who has been on death row, put me off her as a heroine. Isaac on the other hand seemed way too laid back about death. Maybe it is possible to lose too much?

I will need to read Final 7, which should be the concluding novel of this trilogy (but you never know). Although Day 7 wasn’t as awesome as Cell 7, I would still like to find out what the conclusion is for Martha and Isaac. Because of this, I will grant this novel 4 stars rather than 3 stars. Funnily enough, the consensus on Goodreads is the same!

Allen & Unwin | 30th August 2017 | AU$19.99 | paperback

Review: Emily Barr – The Truth and Lies of Ella Black

The Truth and Lies of Ella Black
Emily Barr

Ella has just been ripped out of school and taken to her dream destination, Rio. Unfortunately, her parents won’t let her out of their sight and she knows there’s a big secret they are keeping from her. She’s keeping her own secrets, like how she just put a hammer through a fledgling’s head…

It had the potential to be a thriller, but thanks to The One Memory of Flora Banks, I was primed the whole time for something interesting to be going on with Ella’s brain. And it turned out that there really wasn’t anything that exciting. That romance? Pathetic. Oh, star-crossed lovers etc etc. I’ll tell you all my secrets, and you will return them. Yeah sorry, but one sorrow does not cancel out another, and it doesn’t seem like Ella even took anything on board.

I polished this novel off very quickly, but in the end I didn’t really feel very satisfied by it. Does Ella actually understand herself better? Is she still a selfish, horrible person? It’s not Bella that is at fault, it’s Ella through and through that is entitled and a cry-baby.

On that note, I found the take-over of Ella by Bella completely unrealistic and repetitive. Is she that bloody naive? I thought maybe she had some strange version of multiple-personality disorder. But no no, it’s just simple repression. Ella talking to herself just comes across as strange, particularly her thoughts of suicide vs her preservation instinct.

The more I write this review, the less I like the novel. I’ll give it 3 stars because I didn’t struggle to finish reading it. Not highly recommended.

Penguin Random House | 2nd January 2018 | AU $17.99 | paperback