Review: Jenn Bennett – Alex, Approximately

Alex, Approximately
Jenn Bennett

Bailey has just moved in with her dad, in the town that her online heartthrob just happens to live in. After she gets a job at the only local job place, she instead finds herself trying to deal with the most irritating boy alive, with no time to stalk down the enigmatic Alex.

This novel just wasn’t breathtaking. It’s a typical love story where the girl moves cities to near her online boyfriend… without telling him. Then she wants to stalk him to find him in real life. Instead, she happens to meet the most annoying boy in the world. Then of course, it all turns out exactly as you would expect with no cliffhangers or doubt.

I like this novel because it covered some important topics as well as just fulfilling a typical teenage romance. It touched on cyber safety and not giving away your private details online. It also covered sexual activity safety, and the proper (although awkward) interactions to make sure that each partners is ready for sex. That really made up a lot of the humour of the novel since Bailey blushed so easily!

This is firmly in the YA category thanks to its frank discussion of drugs and sex. What I wasn’t sure about was how accurate the depiction of Alex and her father was. I get that he’s not a very strict parent but it seems like she really could get away with murder. Likewise, he’s not very observant. Drug use in this novel has an impact on the two main characters, but it had a satisfactory outcome. A very sad satisfactory outcome, but that was just the way it ended up.

I don’t know anything about California but seems like the weather is awesome and the beaches sound at least a bit like Australian breaches, where there is real sand. However, the West Coast versus the East Coast thing leaves me a bit confused. Anyway for a person who isn’t a beach person, the relevant interactions were great.

Guys, I failed miserably at reviewing this novel in a timely manner. I had jotted down some rough notes for myself, but saved them under the title ‘Alex, Absolutely’! So of course, when I went looking for the novel on GoodReads without my hard copy in front of me… well, I couldn’t find it until now. Past me had given it 3 stars, so I’ll stick with that rating.

Simon & Schuster | 1st April 2017 | AU$17.99 | 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: 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: Jake Halpern & Peter Kujawinski – Edgeland

Jake Halpern & Peter Kujawinski

The Drain is designed to take the rich dead through to the afterlife. No-one knows what is actually beyond the drop, but when a death boat accidentally takes a funeral payment with it, Alec and Wren fall in. If they are ever to get out of the Drain they will have to understand its problems and its secrets,

Wren is a plucky heroine that seems to be afraid of nothing except perhaps another betrayal. Alec on the other hand seems a bit wussy to me (which is perfectly ok), but he toughens up and becomes a character you can empathise with. They don’t really know what to expect next, and so neither does the reader.

This reminded me of Nightfall, honestly, which shouldn’t be surprising, as it’s by the same authors. Another novel by them is Dormia, which is also a decent read. But why aren’t they working on the inevitable sequel to Nightfall? There was certainly more there to be explored as well.

I’ll be keeping this novel on my shelf as a 4-star winner. I know some other readers who might enjoy it, and I’d love to get the opportunity to lend it out to them! For a ‘Hot Key’ book, it was very good. I’ve had bad experiences with them before, such as fly on the wall, but these authors kept me much better entertained.

Allen & Unwin | 1st August 2017 | AU $16.99 | paperback

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