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: Megan Jacobson – the build-up season

the build-up season
Megan Jacobson

Iliad is named for a war, and she has a war going on inside her. Growing up in a home suffering from domestic violence, Iliad has been kicked out of five boarding schools and is now on her last leg of year 12 – successfully failing most of her units against art. Getting a dreamy boyfriend will solve all her problems… or will it?

Oh Ily, you are so clueless sometimes! And it’s not all about you. But I think her mother and nan made the wrong decision sending her away. Clearly she has PTSD, and although it might help to get away from triggering scenarios, it’s not going to heal her – therapy would have been the right thing to do. Domestic violence is currently coming under a lot of scrutiny in Australia, so at least we can hope this improves, even in the remote community that Ily seems to live in.

By the author of the breathtaking yellow comes another breathtaking novel that almost made me cry… Oh ok, I did actually shed at least one tear. And it wasn’t even at the end! It was right in the middle when I didn’t know what would happen. I honestly would have been ok with any ending, because I wanted the author to just keep writing.

I can’t think of anything I didn’t enjoy about the novel. I connected with Ily, I didn’t see everything coming and there was the right amount of emotional jerking. Oh, only one minor complaint. Ily should have blocked the mobile number, not just deleted it from her phone. Also, the blurb is inaccurate and gives away the last 3/4 of the novel.

As a young adult novel, this included tasteful sex scenes that should highlight to young readers the difference between a thoughtful lover and an asshole. Also, safe sex even when it is spontaneous. Ahh. A well written novel. A very happy reader. Just what I needed.

Why are you still reading this review? Go buy a copy.

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

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Review: Adam Silvera – They Both Die at the End

They Both Die at the End
Adam Silvera

Mateo doesn’t leave his house for fear of death – the Death Call could come any time between 12am and 3am. But when the Call finally comes, he realises that there are worse things than death – like not actually living the life you have been given. Rufus on the other hand has been living the hard hand that life has given him and isn’t ready to die lying down.

I’m not really sure why there were so many perspectives included. I didn’t really need to know anything about the actual people who make the Death Calls. It’s just a job like any other. And actually, so maybe the book lied a little bit. And for a while, I was really irritated by why the book kept jumping perspectives for other people who have gotten the Death Call. But now I realise that the author was setting up for the ending, where we have faith that the author will do what he says he will.

I’d actually like having a death call. It’d be awesome to know that you have a last day! And I certainly wouldn’t be able to live in regret beforehand. The premise here is hard because both of the boys have so much potential ahead of them and it’s ‘unfair’ that they will die. But it’s not like the Call makes it happen!

Nit picking here, but there is a slight discrepancy in time left near the end – they only have 2 hours not 3! As a side note to make this a bit more of a paragraph, I don’t understand potentially going to jail for something that is already inevitably going to happen. Ah well. It’s not up to me, and Peck was a bit crazy really. That’s the power of not getting a Death Call, but I’d say that they could lead to a lot of quadriplegics from things you could die from, but know you won’t.

I’ve tagged this novel as queer fiction, but it is very gentle queer fiction. The main thing is that Adam Silvera has a strong history of writing gay fiction, particularly in his other novel ‘History is All You Left Me’. I actually have that novel sitting on my shelf, but didn’t get past the first page, which I realise now may just have been due to an inability to concentrate, not a reflection of the quality of the novel.

I quivered between giving this novel 3 or 4 stars. I hated the ending, because it lied to me! But then, the more I wrote this review and reflected on the novel, the more I realised it was actually pretty good! So 4 stars.

Simon & Schuster | September 2017 | AU $17.99 | paperback

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Review: Orlagh Collins – No Filter

No Filter
Orlagh Collins

Em’s been exiled to her grandmother’s house after her mother goes too far. Liam feels like he’s been exiled from his family and that he doesn’t fit in. A chance meeting on the beach, bonding over a run-in with the law, and the stage is set for two teens to fall in love. Although they aren’t supposed to…

Hmm, not sure how I feel about the title of this one. Seemed to me that more could have been made of the ‘Instagram’ idea. Once Em was away from the social media, she hardly seemed to think about it. The same with the lies. Oh no, she lied about babysitting! Let’s be honest, a large proportion of teenagers have lied to go to a crazy party. Em, you aren’t special.

Maybe the author tried for too many twists in this novel. I felt like Emerald’s home situation wasn’t all that special, and by the time anything more was revealed I had basically tuned out. There are plenty of other novels that are more hard hitting than this – think Caramel Hearts or the breaktaking yellow (expect a review of Megan Jacobson’s new novel soon).

‘But nobody told them they weren’t supposed to fall in love’ – why not? Are they going to be incestual? That’s about the only real reason I could think of for why they shouldn’t fall in love.Β I think the novel’s ‘punchline’ came too late for me to care about it.

Kudos to Liam for being a sensible sort of bloke, despite the what I would call ‘excessive’ drinking.Β Safe sex scene alert. That makes this novel fit firmly into the Young Adult category, as do the drugs and alcohol. Em is an idiot. There, I said it. I thought she was an unlovable main character for her idiocracy.

This was an unsolicited novel from Bloomsbury as far as I can see from my records, but as it’s YA I probably would have picked it for myself to read anyway. Honestly though? I’m getting a bit sick of YA romance. 3 stars from me. I hovered between a 3 and 4, but now I’ve written the review, I’m thinking it was 3 stars. Plus I was able to put it down and read it across two nights.

Bloomsbury | August 2017 | AU $14.99 | Paperback

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Review: Kathleen Duey – Sacred Scars

Sacred Scars
Kathleen Duey

Sadima is desperate to escape from life in a cave, and she longs to have a better relationship to Franklin, one more like when they first met. It’s not to be though as Franklin becomes more enamoured with Somiss and his students. Many generations later, Haph is trying to survive learning dangerous magic with dangerous teachers – with only one student to come out on top… Unless Haph can make some changes to the trust issues running rampart in the school.

I left this novel impossibly long to review… But I have a very good reason/excuse! This is a trilogy, and I’ve owned the first two books (Skin Hunger) for at least 5 years I think. I picked them up from the op-shop as a steal, assuming that the third book must have been published. But no! The author seems to have dropped off the end of the earth for the last couple of years, despite apparently there being a release date for the last book. I emailed the publishers and lo and behold, it’s a mistake. No release date in sight.

Once that third novel is finally published, I’m going to reread these from the beginning, they are that good! So I’ve giving it 5 stars but I wouldn’t suggest you read it until the third one is finally published! Get your hands on a cheap second hand copy, but don’t read it! For goodness sake, don’t read it! But absolutely chase up the publishers (Simon and Schuster) to make sure that it eventually happens. For your reference: ISBN 9780689840982.

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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: Teri Terry – contagion

contagion
Teri Terry

Shay saw Callie the day she disappeared. But it’s years later by the time Shay realises that she might remember something important, something that could help Kai to find his sister Callie. With a strange epidemic crossing the continent, Shay and Kai need to be careful to find Callie… or maybe she will find them first.

I felt so cheated by this book! Trilogy, grumble, grumble. Doesn’t anyone ever write a decent stand alone novel these days? I even bet that when the second in this trilogy comes out, it won’t have the blood red page edging of this first novel, so it doesn’t match the rest! Sure, the author has written other trilogies, but honestly! How hard it is to write a fantastic standalone novel.

IΒ hated, hated, hated that I tricked myself. I was happily reading along for at least a quarter of the novel, thinking that Shay (Sharona) was embarrassed by HIS name. So then when Kai came along, and Shay wasn’t sure if Kai was into HIM, I was thinking ‘Yay, two gay characters that aren’t even making a big deal out of it, this is how fiction should read’. Then I suddenly realised that Shay was a GIRL. And I cracked it and got really grumpy and frustrated at the novel. There was so much potential there, and it seemed like the environment was what it should be. Ugh.Β 

I honestly didn’t get much of a sense of ‘suspense’ or ‘thrill’ from this novel. I guess after my initial mistake, I was no longer attached to the characters.Β It’s exciting to read a novel that isn’t set in the US, and instead is limited to England and surrounds. However, you would expect a bit more to be made of the presumably more scenic bike rides and so forth that Kai and Shay get to do.

3 stars. I disappointed myself on this one on two counts: the main character wasn’t gay and it was the first of yet another trilogy. Another plague novel? I’ve seen it done better.

Hachette Australia | 1st May 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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