Review: Rachel Caine – Ash and Quill

Ash and Quill
Rachel Caine

Jess and his friends have escaped from the Alexandrian Library’s clutches, but instead find themselves trapped in the Burner hot-spot of Philadelphia. With the Library, the Burners and Jess’s family to contend with will there be a clear winner despite the sacrifices to be made?

I’m not sure if I have commented on this before, but I’m not sure how I felt about the interspersed writings of the Archivist and his lackeys. Did I really learn anything new? What was their effect on the novel’s progress? (maybe these questions are left over from marking literature reviews…) Nevertheless the rest of the writing is fine and you barely realise that you are turning pages at a rapid rate.

I think maybe this novel isn’t going to be amazing for everyone, it didn’t have quite the suspense of the first two. There is only so much fantastic writing you can do around a workshop before it gets a little repetitive. That being said, Caine keeps the novel moving at a cracking pace right until the cliffhanger final chapter.

I don’t actually see the ending coming. Jess and Dario are making all these hints, and I just don’t get it! Also, I wasn’t convinced by Dario being a so-called dark thinker like Jess. The character development is not particularly convincing either, with Jess still impulsive risk taker and Scholar Wolfe the grumpy old man. But that’s fine! I’m ok with them being the same, because the action is plenty exciting.

I read this really excitedly when it arrived in the mail over a year ago, then neglected to review it. This time I reread the first two novels  Ink and Bone and Paper and Fire and then leaped into this beauty! How could I give anything about libraries or books anything less than 5 stars? I’ll be keeping this one on my shelf and waiting impatiently until I can share it with the younger readers in my life.

Allen & Unwin | 27th September 2018 | AU$16.99 | paperback

Review: Kate van Hooft – We See the Stars

We See the Stars
Kate van Hooft

Simon doesn’t say much. Anything, really. He’s quiet and has to count colours in order to keep the angries in. When his new teacher shows interest in him, and he makes friends with the peculiar Cassie he begins to speak. But will he choose the right things to say?

The blurb promises that Simon will have to hunt for his teacher, but the majority of the novel is really about getting to know Simon and understand his relationship with the world. I actually really enjoyed Simon’s unique perspective. It’s exactly how I would imagine thoughts to be of a mildly autistic child (in my limited, and purely academic knowledge that is). I liked each of the small parts that came together to understand his worldview, and how he saw other people and imagined his insides reacting to different situations.

What ended up frustrating me was that there were many unresolved questions and perhaps too many character relationships. I like that it is all through Simon’s perspective and therefore it wouldn’t be appropriate to expose everything, but I would have liked to know if his mother was even still alive!

I didn’t understand the ending. Up to that point, I had been able to take all of Simon’s quirks in stride and work out what was the ‘real world’ or just fantasy. But the last couple of (negative number) chapters confused me and left me feeling incomplete and unsatisfied with this novel.

The majority of this novel deserves 4 stars for its compelling and unique reading, but the ending takes down the novel as a whole to 3 stars. Please author, please consider writing me a better ending. I didn’t find solutions to all the problems I saw. A similar novel was The Sign which had an equally disappointing ending.

Allen & Unwin | 27th July 2018 | AU$29.99 | paperback

Review: Christelle Dabos – A Winter’s Promise

A Winter’s Promise
Christelle Dabos

In a world that has been rent apart by a vengeful God, humans still exist on floating chucks of world – the ‘Arks’. Ophelia is from Anima, where the houses behave like their inhabitants and she can move through mirrors & read objects with a touch. Unexpectedly she is betrothed to Thorn from the Pole, a bleak icy wasteland with an implacable Court that is out to kill her.

Oh ouch! Those twists! Poor Ophelia. All I could think of was Shakespeare’s Hamlet, where the hapless Ophelia drowns herself. In comparison, this Ophelia is pretty spunky! I think she is quite brave for surviving in that toxic environment.

What else appealed to me about this novel? I enjoyed the plot line because I couldn’t predict what would happen next. That’s what’s good about this novel – it’s an entirely new world idea to me. Also I will always have a soft spot for people who can read objects.

Wow, reviewers are divided on this novel. Some label it derisive and misogynistic, others love it! I can see the opinions of both camps. To be clear, I read this novel in the English translation, and I am actually really keen to see the second novel translated. I’d even consider learning French to read it if I had no other choice.

That being said, I can certainly agree that Ophelia is mainly a pathetic creature who doesn’t stand up for herself at all. But it’s her role. Much as we all want women to stand up for themselves all the time, I don’t have a problem with a heroine that sneezes endlessly and feels lost. In a way it makes her more relatable. I look forward to some really solid character development in the second novel, otherwise I will be disappointed.

I’m giving this a 4 star review before I change my mind and give it 3 stars.

Text Publishing | 1st October 2018 | AU$22.99 | paperback

Review: Scott Westerfeld – Impostors

Impostors
Scott Westerfeld

Frey and Rafi are identical twins and thus should do everything together. Instead, they are never seen in the same room – Frey is trained as a body double for Rafi, just because Rafi was born 26 minutes earlier. When a hostage is needed to secure the help of a nearby city, Frey is sent out and Rafi is hidden. But their father has other plans in mind than just that…

Despite being in the same world as Tally Youngblood’s Uglies/Pretties/Specials (and Extras), Impostors is well and truly its own novel. The world has moved on and the technology has significantly advanced. Imagine a world where even the dust is spying on you! Rafi is trained to kill, but has her own personality trapped in there.

I only forgive this novel for being the first in a trilogy because I knew from the very beginning that Westerfeld pretty much ALWAYS writes trilogies (Afterworlds is an exception). Additionally, this novel rounds out very nicely, and didn’t disappoint with its ending.

Unfortunately, this novel features the same trope as a couple of others I have read recently, including Ruined, Glass Sword and Ash Princess. The heroine always falls for the prince(s) and gets into trouble while / for doing so. I’m going to think positive thoughts to myself that Westerfeld was probably already writing it before those novels got popular…

I’m giving this novel 5 stars for its amazing characters and world building. Also, Westerfeld was my hero before Sanderson.

Allen & Unwin | 12th September 2018 | AU$19.99 | paperback

Review: Robert Muchamore – Killer T

Killer T
Robert Muchamore

Harry and Charlie might as well come from different sides of the world. Harry’s a displaced well-off European in the USA while Charlie’s a rock bottom USA native with a history of blowing things up. Harry has a fascination with the Media his whole life, and in Charlie he sees an opportunity to get a fabulous story…

Charlie and Harry form a symbiosis of true love that has to stand the test of time and misunderstandings. Harry’s persistence and Charlie’s brilliance make the novel gritty rather than touching, and actually make you feel like you are experiencing life with them. What more could I ask from a novel?

This is what the future will be! I have little faith in people to do the right things, and the idea of a world where different flu viruses threaten the population every day is exciting. I don’t have a problem with population control, but viruses that pick off the young aren’t really the right way to go about it. This novel was the one I wanted NK3 to be, and takes The Ego Cluster that one step further.

I actually enjoyed the jumps forward in time and alternative perspectives. It enabled Machamore to cram more into the novel and leave it as a standalone. Yay, a standalone novel that for once actually still provided a concrete conclusion and didn’t leave me thinking that the author wanted another book deal.

My finace was completely put off by the cover of my ARC copy, but I reassured her that the inside was far more exciting! I had difficulty predicting what would come next, and that’s what I need in a novel at the moment. I’m giving this novel 4 stars. I don’t think there is enough depth for me to reread, but I couldn’t put it down.

Allen & Unwin | 29th August 2018 | AU$19.99 | paperback

Review: Margot McGovern – Neverland

Neverland
Margot McGovern

Kit has almost killed herself in her efforts to get home to Neverland, the place of her childhood storytelling. She’s forced herself to forget the night her parents died in the hopes of maintaining her childhood fantasies. Her psychiatrist uncle is determined to help her heal, but is Kit too stubborn for her own good?

I actually never fell for the protagonist of this novel. I thought she was a selfish b**** that never thought for anyone but herself. In fact, I felt like she undermined their healing, and that was just cruel. I also didn’t in the least appreciate the interspersion of the ‘fairytales’ throughout an ok real action novel.

Burying the past is never a good idea. I loved the symbolism of Kit taking her love interest to the centre of the island and likened it to a bookaholic handing their favourite novel to a potential partner and getting them to read it. However, this also made her easier to manipulate, and in the end I hated her.

I didn’t agree with the premise of Neverland – who ever thought of putting a psychiatric hospital for teenagers on a freaking island? I could imagine that the isolation and fresh environment could be healthy, but I also know that it probably wasn’t all that positive that people COULD JUST LEAP OFF A CLIFF!

I barely finished this novel. I was hoping for redemption at the end, so I did finish skimming to the end. But I wouldn’t recommend this novel at all. It was overall quite mood-dampening and had no satisfying ending that redeemed it in my mind. 1 star. Don’t waste your time or your heartstrings on this novel.

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

Review: Karen Gregory – Skylarks

Skylarks
Karen Gregory

Joni’s family struggles to pay the rent and Joni wants to keep her family together. All she wants is to send her little brother to camp by working more hours at the library, but the invasion of the region’s rich girl Annabel is going to disrupt more than that plan.

Oh Joni, why are you so blind? Why are you so stubborn? Why can’t you just let things go and see further than the end of your nose? You certainly don’t fly higher because your feet are firmly on the ground and your head is either fixed on them or glaring into someone’s face.

I was frustrated by Joni’s attitude towards everything in life. I appreciated her concern for her little brother and her disappointment in the rest of her family, but I just feel irritated and angry that she didn’t actually think about what those things might mean.

Once again, being gay is something to be frowned upon and it overshadows the rest of the novel, which I thought was actually more important. People losing jobs and their housing is a big problem, and it’s not often explored in young adult fiction. I always hope for novels that could reflect a teenager’s life and this one had the beginnings of it.

A confession to be made that it has been at least 2 months since I read this novel and so it has become a bit hazy in my head. However past me gave it 3 stars, so I’m going to roll with that rating.

Bloomsbury | 1st July 2018 | AU$16.99 | paperback

Reivew: Nichola Yoon – Everything Everything

Everything Everything
Nichola Yoon

SCID, or severe combined immunodeficiency, is very rare, yet its sufferers are famous. Maddy has her whole house locked off from the world and sees just her nurse, Carla, and her mother. One day, a boy moves in next door, and Maddy knows she’s about to get her heart broken.

Ooh, this has the twist of The One Memory of Flora Banks, and the love story of Tin Heart. Maddy is a lovable protagonist who you want to just hug – but of course you aren’t supposed to. I admired her determination and self-awareness, and her ability to still put others beyond her own safety. However I was surprised by her lack of general knowledge, as I felt that she could have learnt more information despite being trapped inside a bubble.

This certainly comes under the heading of Young Adult fiction due to the tastefully written sex scene and the themes of parent betrayal and domestic abuse. At the same time, the author treads lightly enough that it isn’t abrasive and adds nicely to the story line.

This was a thoroughly enjoyable diversion on a 15 hour plane flight. I was very excited to find it at a garage sale for the grand total of $1. I could have sworn that I had read “The Sun is Also a Star” but it turns out I haven’t read that one either.

I’m giving this novel 4 stars. I wasn’t enraptured as I could have been as I was able to put it down in the middle of reading it, but it belongs on my shelf as a comfort read.

Review: Mindy Klasky – The Glasswrights’ Apprentice

The Glasswrights’ Apprentice
Mindy Klasky

Rani’s artistic skills mean that her Merchant parents have sacrificed their life savings to transfer her to the Glasswrights for training and a better place in life. Rani is the bottom of the apprentices but she follows her tasks diligently enough. When she tries to prevent the Prince’s assassination she unwittingly allows for his murder – on the run she has to solve problems so that she can be free once again.

Oh dear. The protagonist Rani was a bit of an ignorant idiot. There were so many clues there that she didn’t pick up. And also her determination to get to her brother got a bit old after a while. She knows what life is like out there now, and yet she continues along stupidly. I rather liked it when she returned to her Merchant roots! Also, surely she’s young enough to disguise herself as a boy. It’s not like they have photographs of her!

I’m not sure why I enjoyed this novel, because I agree with other reviewers that Rani was a total idiot. But perhaps that’s her grab. For once we don’t have a brilliant protagonist who foils attempts and saves the day. Instead, we have some other smart and wily characters who are perfectly capable of getting themselves into (and out of) trouble. Rani must have the touch of the Gods on her as well, because she’s just so stupid and can’t wriggle out of things by herself – other people have to make sacrifices for me.

This is a nifty novel I picked up at my sister-in-law’s house (right after reorganising her whole bookshelf). Unfortunately, she didn’t have the second novel in this series! The novel is from the 2000s, so I don’t like my chances of finding the second novel. 3 stars from me.

Review: Victoria Aveyard – Glass Sword

Glass Sword
Victoria Aveyard

Mare Barrow is back to being plain old Mare after the Red Guard’s audacious rescue and she knows what she wants to do next – hunt down the newbloods and then use them to kill Maven and kill his mother Elena. Having been burnt by Maven in the past, Mare doesn’t trust anyone. And can anyone trust Mare?

Oh yes! So remember how everyone was devastated by Sirus’ death in Harry Potter? I feel like the death in this novel of someone close to Mare should have triggered more of an emotional reaction from me, but I didn’t even flinch. Even when Mare succeeds at one of her major goals, I felt like it had happened too quickly for me to even appreciate it.

The ending to this novel would have been unacceptable if I didn’t have the next novel sitting on my shelf. Cliff hanger! But I still haven’t picked up King’s Cage. This novel wasn’t as breathtaking as everyone seems to feel. I actually read two other novels to completion while reading this one. I’m not sure what quite was wrong with it, it might have been Mare’s stubborn woe-is-me, I will never trust anyone again attitude for the whole novel.

What is with all the novels at the moment with admittedly kick-ass Princesses having to take their throne back for themselves? I’m thinking Ruined or Ash Princess here. Or The Selection, which I have not actually read. I’m sure there are more out there. Honestly after a while they all blur together.

I went to a Publisher get-together a couple of years back and received the first novel in this series as my free book. Then I recently got the third novel for review from the publisher but didn’t own the second novel. My fiancee bought it for me for our anniversary, and here I am reading it. A pity that I just found out that this is a quartet, and I’m not sure I’m interested in pursuing the series when I have so many other interesting things to read. 3 stars from me.