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

Review: Gregg Hurwitz – The Rains

The Rains
Gregg Hurwitz

Chance Rain is just a simple farm-boy with a love of science until the asteroids arrive. Then all the adults turn into zombies, and only children are safe – until they turn 18 of course. With a single adult left to guide them, and a Bully-boy to try to control, can the Rain brothers still make it through and come up with a solution to the invasion?

I was glopping through the mud and becoming numb to the spectacle of adults mapping the ground blindly right from the beginning. I could feel the fear sweat running down my spine. Plus, I loved that joke ‘Rain can only go in one direction – down!’. The the two brothers turn out to be the most hardy of all of the child survivors, but they don’t really know why.

What I didn’t understand was Eve and Chance’s relationship. If Eve was that into Chance, why wouldn’t she go on missions with him? And Chance’s relationship with Alex – well, I thought Alex was a bit of a manipulative survivalist. If the two boys in charge of looking after her are in love, of course they will put her needs first. Smart move.

I also don’t understand why they are so special. Wouldn’t there be kids somewhere else that have taken down a Queen? Or some towns that were smart enough to chop down the poisonous vines before they took over? I feel like there have got to be some parts of the world that are still safe such as Australia. No-one cares about Australia, including aliens most of the time.

I really thought that this novel might be a stand alone, but once again, I was disappointed. However, it looks like a duo, and for some reason, the back cover makes me think that the other one is already out. But how could that be when this one was given to me by publishers? Anyway, the conclusion of this one was quite ok, but then there was a cliffhanger introduced right at the end. If you haven’t picked up this novel yet (or even if you have), I’d recommend waiting until you have that second novel.


This was an unexpectedly good dystopian novel that deserves to be given a chance (haha). 4 stars from me.

Penguin Random House | 2nd January 2017 | AU$19.99 | paperback

Review: Garth Nix – A Confusion of Princes

A Confusion of Princes
Garth Nix

Khemri is Prince. But unfortunately, there are 999 other candidates for Emperor – and the rest are not as new to their roles as he is. With less than 2 years to prepare before the Emperor resigns, Khemri is asked to go on seemingly innocuous missions to prove his worth.

This is a usual good-quality Garth Nix novel that didn’t disappoint me. The main character Khemri certainly develops as a character, and it is interesting to see his progression/regression from Prince to person. Basically Khemri is ripped away from everything that is familiar, and then thrust into a world that not only does he have faulty information about, but also is out to kill him. The ending really came as a surprise to me. Wow!

I confess, I rescued this novel from a garbage bin. My copy was donated to the op-shop where I volunteer, and it was a rather badly beaten up ex-library copy, not even good enough to pass on for a book sale. Never fear though, it will now have a long and healthy life on my shelf.

You could consider this sci-fi, but it is very light sci-fi, perfect for a teenager to get into the genre for the first time. I confess that I am probably too old for this novel now, which is why I have starred this as both 4 and 5 stars. But if I need a light read, and Garth Nix is calling my name, this one might be it (or Eoin Colfer’s The Supernaturalists).

Review: Darren Groth – Exchange of Heart

Exchange of Heart
Darren Groth

Eve’s death has devastated Munro’s life to the point that he’s suffering flashbacks and anger on a daily basis. The voice in his head is constantly taunting him, and the only way to escape seems to be run all the way to Australia on student exchange. A volunteer placement at an assisted living placement shuts up Munro’s little voice some of the time, but can Munro silence it for good?

Hmm, I really wasn’t convinced by Munro’s story about Eve’s death, particularly as it was interspersed with the flashbacks he was having. I also felt that he was suffering from PTSD – why wasn’t anyone helping him with that? Yes, getting away from a situtation will help, but as Munro learns, it can’t fix all the problems.

I read this so long ago, probably when it first came out in July, especially as I had an ARC copy. Thus this review is not as in-depth as it should be. From what I remember, it gave me a lovely warm fuzzy feeling as I was reading. As I dipped back into the novel to refresh my memory, I remembered that there was a nice selection of supporting characters, and his love interest was believable.

I like that it’s not stacked full of ‘Australian vernacular’ like some novels that have an American protagonist. Something about having a protagonist from another country seems to make authors feel that they can get away with ‘G’day’ and a lot of things that regular Auzzies like me don’t even say. Groth is a native Australian.

It’s not a re-read for me, but it was a pretty RAD and AWESOME good book. 4 stars.

Penguin Random House | 31st July 2017 | AU $19.99 | paperback

Review: Katie Kennedy – Learning to Swear in America

Learning to Swear in America
Katie Kennedy

Yuri’s Doctoral work should win him a Nobel prize – it’s not like everyone can use physics to analyse antimatter to divert a meteor from destroying Earth. There’s only one small problem – he has to leave his native Russia and come to the USA, and he doesn’t speak the language. A local teenager he meets by chance might show him why the lives he can save are actually worth saving.

I love how Yuri analyzes scientifically everything that goes on in his head. It reminds me of how I read everything that passes by me too. Yuri’s English isn’t that great, but he certainly can speak a language beyond what is offered. I love Yuri’s stubborn nature, and how he sticks to his goals. And how brilliant he is! How one boy can have so much knowledge, and yet know so little, astounds me.

NB: You won’t actually really be learning how to swear in America(n). The swear words here are very mild, and still perfectly suited to teenagers that are sensitive to swearing in novels.

There’s lots more young adult novels coming out now about the importance of science, particularly astrophysics, including The Square Root of Summer and Stargazing for BeginnersMost people think of Newton’s apple when they think about physics – but there is so much more to it! Physics is the beginning of time-travel, and once we have explored the current natural world (think biology and chemistry), it’s important to examine more of things outside of earth.

I swear to you that I previously reviewed this novel, but apparently it has been eaten by something. So, I just had to reread a little bit of it to make sure it was as good as I had previously thought it to be. I realised then that I had gobbled it up on the first sitting, and didn’t remember all of the fabulous punch-lines as well as I could. 5-stars from me. Don’t let its plain cover fool you – it hides an entrancing storyline inside.

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

Review: Julie Israel – Juniper Lemon’s Happiness Index

Juniper Lemon’s Happiness Index
Julie Israel

Juniper’s big sister died, and now Juniper can only keep going by writing down one good thing that happened to her each day. When she finds a letter and loses one of her index cards with a big personal secret on it, the search for it will consume her and influence other aspects of her life.

Isn’t it a bit see-through that the main character falls for a guy totally outside the range of ‘norm’? For some reason, the ‘bad guys’ and the ‘wild guys’ always attract women. The heart wants what it can’t have? Anyway, it was totally predictable for who Paige would end up with, which made it a little more boring.

I wanted more substance, even with the touches on domestic abuse and suicidal thoughts. Give me more details! Make me really feel like I am there in the situation. As it was, I felt too distanced from the action, and it made me not as keen on this book as I could have been.

I let this novel sit for quite a while. A very long while, given that it was published in July and it’s now September! It didn’t help that I was out of the mood of writing reviews and instead just gobbling up novels. The title reminded me a bit of The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake. Also, sure, Juniper Lemon was the main character, but was it important to put it in the title? But I digress…

I didn’t cry in this novel, despite it potentially being heart-wrenching, but it was a good enough read nevertheless. Maybe almost 4 stars? I didn’t put it down while I was reading it anyway. Maybe I am suffering from a case of having read too many YA novels back to back, and getting really picky about them! I look forward to more novels from the author.

Penguin Random House | 3rd July 2017 | AU $17.99 | paperback

Review: Karen M McManus – One of Us is Lying

One of Us is Lying
Karen M McManus

Five students walk into detention, but only four emerge. That student has been murdered – and there are four easy marks for the likely murderer. All of them have something to hide which might damage their careers and lives forever. But who is guilt? Who would stoop to murder to hide their secrets?

This novel was satisfyingly sneaky. The reader just keeps waiting for the penny to drop – and it never does! There’s hints of things that are awry, but I found myself always expecting one of the five suspects to make a mistake. It’s told from their point of views, but many other novels can successfully hide secrets from the reader by suppressing the thoughts of the character (such as in Breaking).

I think that the police can’t possibly be as dumb as they are always made out to be. Yes, yes, you have a very convenient scapegoat, but due diligence still says that they should be doing their jobs. Maybe I just don’t understand it because in Australia police generally have well defined roles, and I’d like to hesitate a guess that they might have less cases like this to deal with?

Despite this novel being of the general YA variety, it took me some time to pick up and read it. I picked this up, and then I put it down. It took me two attempts at reading it before I really got into it. I struggled a little with keeping the characters straight in the beginning, but I eventually worked it out. I think that’s what put me off picking it up in the first place, and also the cover reminded me of The Leaving, which I really didn’t enjoy. Sorry for judging you by your cover, novel!

Sorry to everyone who isn’t interested in YA novels. I’m STILL getting through the backlog from when I was finishing my PhD (you can call me Dr. Rose now), and I tended to read ‘easy novels’ that I could read and digest rapidly. Anywho, I still have at least 15 reviews to come from novels I have already read (I’m writing this review in late November btw), and the majority are YA.

Penguin Random House | 29th May 2017| | AU $17.99 | paperback