Review: Lia Weston – You Wish

You Wish
Lia Weston

Thomas Lush can made your dreams come alive. You want to marry someone else? You need a fake graduation photo to show off to those one-up relatives of yours? Thomas and his business can do that for him. Thomas is happy just performing his photoshopped works of art, but there are darker things going on in the business that he will have to take off his headphones and grow up.

This was a wizbanger of a novel! I loved the concept and connected well with the main characters. To some extent, people already do this. I cropped a person out of a photo (it just wasn’t the photo I needed), and it didn’t look half bad. And I have NO art or photoshop skills. I’m certain there are businesses doing this already, but it’s more black market than what seems to be going on with Thomas’ work.

Imagination is totally all you need. I disagree that giving people what they want is wrong, and that it isn’t art. To create something that looks like it really happened, and for everything to look natural, is amazing. Why shouldn’t you have the chance to change the fact that the woman you married was actually sleeping with all of your groomsmen? The ones of dead kids growing up are a bit weird, but if it provides comfort for parents? This novel gently asks you how far your ethics are able to stretch.

Oh! The irony of that love story! How embarrassing. And yet so perfect. I’m not sure I saw the way the novel ended (hindsight is a beautiful thing, my readers), and the twist was excellent. Things worked out better than I possibly thought they could. This novel resonated through my bones and brain for a long time after I read it, that’s how much I loved it.

I’m giving this novel 5 stars, and lending it to my other reader friend to assess it. From the Publisher’s media sheet, I now know that this is Weston’s third novel, and that I need to get my hands on her other novels ASAP. This novel and Ready Player One would be at my top reads for 2018. Go get yourself a copy and ask yourself how far you could justify changing the past.

Pan Macmillan | 27th March 2018 | AU$29.99 | paperback

Review: Sebastien de Castell – SpellSlinger

SpellSlinger
Sebastien de Castell

Kellen needs to pass 4 trials in order to become a spellcaster. Unfortunately his magic is gone and his trickery could easily be revealed. But is magic all there is to the world?

Hmm, while I was reading this I was totally engrossed and couldn’t put it down due to the powerful plot. However when I think back on it some of the character development was completely see-through and unexciting. Unfortunately that’s what I’ve come to expect from HotKey Books. The novels don’t seem to be as refined in my opinion; I’m thinking of novels such as Fly on the Wall.

Kellen is also the name of a quirky protagonist in an older Mercedes Lackey novel. I think that also persuaded me that Kellen was a character worth reading about. Anyhow, you had to be attached to Kellen because there certainly wasn’t any airtime for other characters.

I think Kellen’s decision to help his sister was dangerous and will come back to haunt him later. Not to mention just leaving his parents to be disasterous clueless idiots. Adversity is the key to developing new skills so maybe Kellen will continue to brighten up. If you can kill any family member, surely you can kill more than one…

Plot twist! Kellen! You are awesome! Well most of the time, even if you are a bit clueless and you need that Daroman woman to set you straight. Aw, a terrifying squirrel cat familiar. Even if you aren’t supposed to get one Kellen. Maybe a squirrel cat is a sugar glider? Except I’m not sure those have such sharp teeth…

I had read in the beginning that this was a series, but the second book was due to be out October 2017. That’s how long this novel sat on my shelf, but I had actually lost it somewhere. Anyway, 4 stars from me and I need to get my hands on the other novels in the series.

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

Review: Colin Dray – The Sign

The Sign
Colin Dray

Sam’s cancer came back, and it literally took his voice away. After his operation, Sam’s angry and confused. Why him? His aunt keeps telling him that silence equates with being strong, but Sam doesn’t know what to think. When his aunt tells Sam and his younger sister that his parents are getting back together and they need to go to Perth, Sam is happy to sit back for the ride…

What confused me was why Sam didn’t just ‘speak up’ anyway. He could write, couldn’t he? Wasn’t he sneaky enough that his aunt wouldn’t notice? He was allowed to go to the bathroom by himself. He could have slipped someone a note. Why is it that when it is too late he finally does something? He’s not that dumb is he?

I think that the blurb made a really big deal of the bushfires but those really didn’t come into play until near the very end of the novel. Additionally, the cover tried to tell me a moral: ‘Sometimes even the best intentions can lead you down a very dangerous road’. Perhaps, perhaps, but I didn’t actually get that from the story. His aunt didn’t have the best intentions at mind in all. She only had her own intentions in mind, and that’s clear to the reader from the start. Not even the least bit of sympathy from me.

I hated how everyone just dismissed Leo’s disappearance. Couldn’t they see that things were a bit crazy? I think that he was murdered, but I didn’t have my suspicions confirmed or denied and that drove me crazy! I hate books with no endings, and lately that’s what I’ve been getting. Actually, that’s why I’ll only be giving this novel 3 stars.

Review: Becky Albertalli – The Upside of Unrequited

The Upside of Unrequited
Becky Albertalli

Molly has never found a boy that she could actually approach. But then when you’ve had 26 crushes, maybe you’re just in love with the idea of love? When her twin sister Cassie gets a new girlfriend who happens to come with a cute boy as a sidekick, Molly might actually make a move. But is it the right move?

Oh Molly. Why you so stupid? Getting drunk every time a boy likes you. This is a novel of first love and stupid behaviour in the name of love, and I actually liked it! The prose was excellent, and I enjoyed having a protagonist who tried not to be too stupid, but then just was anyway. It actually endeared her to me more than anything else.

This novel reminded me of Alex, Approximately. They’ll never fall for the socially ostracized, nerdy boys that actually like them for the person they are. Come on girls, those people are the best! These novels always seem to happen over summer, which is something unimaginable in the cities I have lived it. The minute that summer starts, people either go away or are busy with family stuff (I guess because our Summer is over Christmas).

Sorry for this rather pathetic review. I read this novel months and months ago, and I remember enjoying it, but I don’t think it was something as special as blending in . Thus I will give it 4 stars.

Penguin Random House | 18th April 2018 | AU$19.99 | paperback

Review: Ernest Cline – Ready Player One

Ready Player One
Ernest Cline

Wade Watts has been hunting the ultimate prize in Oasis for almost as long as he has been alive. With little to live for in the real world, the VR world of Oasis, even if he can’t leave the home planet of School, is his proper place to be alive. With an excellent mastery of Lore, Watts has a chance to take the prize – but what will it cost him?

What doesn’t make sense to me is why he didn’t just live in his van the whole time. Why bother venturing out? Because honestly, the breakdown of the Stacks really didn’t seem to bother him much.

This is like an updated version of Gillian Rubenstein’s that has been made relevant to the takeover of VR technology. Or a different version of Game Runner where it is actually enjoyable! I assume that this kind of novel has taken control because of The Maze Runner‘s success (movie franchise and all). It has the potential to appeal to both young men and women, and that makes it an excellent YA novel. Good work Cline!

Actually, just looking at it makes me want to read it again. Good work Penguin #blinddatewithabook because I loved my blind date! See a cute picture of the wrapping on my Instagram. Penguin even express posted this to me so it would get here in time for Valentine’s day. Thanks Team!

 

Review: Will Boast – Daphne

Daphne
Will Boast

Daphne was a normal enough child but when she hit puberty she started to have odd paralysis fits. After being tagged for the morgue, Daphne’s life was sure to change – her paralysis fits were brought on by strong emotions, her own or anyone else’s nearby. Repetition is the only way she can survive, yet is that really a life?

Arg! I was left without real knowledge for whether this condition was a real life one, or just one that the author thought would be interesting to explore. The potential ‘science’ behind the disorder was explored to an extent but again, there was nothing concrete about it. At least novels with Selective Mutism give support resources, as do any novels detailing mental illnesses.

The author seemed to be going for symbolism, such as Biscuit and the man-blob. I felt confused though, and distracted from the rest of the story. It really didn’t fit in. The man-blob had his own part to play, but honestly the inevitable death of Biscuit (I promise this isn’t a spoiler, it’s obvious once you read about him) did nothing for me. I’d never formed an attachment to him, and Daphne didn’t seem to either (because she can’t possibly get attached to anything). Oh! And poor Hidalgo! Really author? That was just cruel and unnecessary.

I was utterly unsatisfied by the ending. I didn’t see how she could possibly survive for that long! Patterns and repitition are excellent… but they can only take you so far. Perhaps some actual counselling rather that going to a Doctor who would rather put you through tests to see your limits? Imagine what a marriage breakdown could do or the death of Brook or her mother. I wouldn’t have blamed her for her ways out.

I started this novel eagerly, giving it 4 stars out of the gate because of the interesting premise of Daphne’s disorder. Then, it downgraded to 3 stars when I realised that the writing style was not going to perk up and it was going to continue to be a hybrid stream-of-consciousness. Finally, the ending did me in and put it down to 2 stars, as did the lack of resources on the condition. Don’t waste you time on it.

Allen & Unwin | 21st February 2018 | AU$27.99 | paperback

Review: Anna Day – The Fandom

The Fandom
Anna Day

Violet thinks that she is a Shrinking Violet and that there is nothing special about her. When she is catapulted into her favorite novel as the heroine and she is the only person who can get them home, Violet must stop shrinking and grow some balls (the author’s terminology, not mine)!

Nope, I didn’t buy the Violet – Alice connection. I really did feel that Alice was an ass. Seriously, 17 year old girl suddenly deciding that she’d like to stay in a violent fantasy world that has to eventually collapse? Idiot… I wanted more Katie time! Damn she was good. Way more an exciting character than Alice (and more deserving too).

I wonder how many shared dreams/comas there are in real life? It’s an interesting concept. I certainly dream pretty vividly, so it is possible. Perhaps out-of-body experiences? I have a non-fiction novel by a neuroscienceย on my shelf at the moment that perhaps will explore this idea more.

As the novel progressed, I found myself more and more confused. How exactly did this cross-over work? I’m not sure whether this is a spoiler or not, but you very quickly work out the double worlds at play. Sadly, I didn’t find that it created any suspense – the potential beeping of the hospital machines or anything else.

I really enjoyed this novel due to its fast pace, but I don’t think it is a reread for me. As other reviewers have noted, you get told the ending at the very beginning. I also always figured that they would come out ok at the end, and thus the ending wasn’t as exciting as it could be. 4 stars from me.

Chicken House / Scholastic | March 2018 | AU$16.99 | paperback

Review: Mary Watson – The Wren Hunt

The Wren Hunt
Mary Watson

Wren is chased once a year for her name. This year, she pledges, is the year she will no longer be frightened, and the year she will no longer be caught. Instead, the leader takes a slice of her hair, claiming the literal kill for himself. But there are other plans afoot – does Wren have a different destiny to fulfill?

It took me a while to get into this novel. The start was very slow, despite a chase scene. But the lead up to the chase scene destroyed the anticipation. The rest of the novel wasnโ€™t as predictable though (except the love interest). Oh! Twist! I did not see that coming. This novel stands alone quite nicely, but I can tell it has been set up for a sequel. What will Wren do next? What does it all mean?

I felt Wren’s character was nicely defined, and her behaviour was very consistent despite the different environments she found herself in. Like her family, I also felt that she should have done more snooping, but for her own benefit.

I felt confusion about what had come before with the artist and her mother? And I also didnโ€™t get any conclusions about some of Wren’s visions. I also would have liked some more information about her mother. Finally, I wanted to know more about why these archives were actually formed.

As you can see, this novel left me with a lot of questions. At the same time, it did conclude. For the terrible beginning Iโ€™m giving this three stars, but I would consider reading the next novel if there is one.

Bloomsbury | 1st March 2018 | AU$14.99 | paperback

Review: Sara Bernard – Goodbye, Perfect

Goodbye, Perfect
Sara Bernard

Eden can depend on Bonnie for being there and holding her up. But now Bonnie has run away with her boyfriend, and Eden doesn’t know which secrets she should be keeping. As Bonnie gets further and further away from Eden, Eden is forced further into her lies. Can Eden bring Bonnie home without betraying her trust?

I’m not sure how convinced by this novel I was. I wanted to get more of a sense about Eden’s background, but I appreciated that the author didn’t want to make a big deal out of it, because the whole novel was really about how far you would go to keep a secret. There were touches of romance between Eden and Connor, and attempts to explore the sometimes complicated nature of families, but most of the novel was focussed on Eden’s stubbornness. I never felt a real breakthrough in her personality, despite the softening she displayed later.

There could have been more action to keep my attention in the first part of the novel. I never felt like Eden was going to tell, so I didn’t feel much of a problem as Bonnie got further and further away from her home. I got to page 36 and commented to my partner that nothing seemed to have happened yet.

Something that you are told about frequently in foster care training, or as a psychiatric patient, is that you have to warn people that you can’t actually keep things a secret – if keeping the secret will harm them, or others, you are required to tell someone who can act to keep the person in question safe. Teenagers find this hard to understand, probably due to peer pressure & influence.

I felt pretty betrayed at the end honestly. I don’t know how I felt about the whole Jack-Bonnie situation either. I agree that he was in a position of power, and that he shouldn’t have abused that power. How could Bonnie be so naive? She seemed to have plenty of book-smarts, but no common sense. Not to mention the lack of responsibility of the school. Oh! And I wasn’t convinced that Jack was ‘grooming’ Bonnie. I agree that he probably didn’t feel the same star-struck love for her, but he might not have been a paedophile. Consent is a tricky thing – make sure you are both consenting ADULTS before doing anything…dodgy.

I’m giving this 4 stars.

Pan Macmillan | 13th February 2018 | AU$16.99 | paperback

Review: Angelo Surmelis – the dangerous art of blending in

the dangerous art of blending in
Angelo Surmelis

Evan has been trying to fit into society and his family his whole life. But with violence at home, and the knowledge that he kissed a boy in summer at Bible camp, Evan is probably never going to manage it. As his life goes from barely tolerable to horrific, Evan has to decide how he is going to shape his life from here.

I didn’t understand the obsession with money, except as a way of having more control over Evan. Evan’s father seemed like a sensible enough man, even if he was trapped by what the Greek community told him was normal.

Oh Gods. This novel ripped me apart. While reading it, I felt like my heart was going to break, and when I finished it, I felt like I needed a cuddle from my own partner to remind me that not all of the world is filled with idiots.

This novel powerfully tackles domestic abuse (from a female perpetrator, no less) and coming out as gay in a community that doesn’t understand it. It brought back memories of my own high school years, and the experiences I have heard from many other Queer people.ย I loved the authenticity of this novel, which came from it being written based on the experiences of the author. That a person had to go through that as a child, well, it brings me to tears.

How much actually happens in this novel? I spent a lot of the novel anticipating what Evan’s mother was going to do to him next, and not as much paying attention to the action. That anticipation and climax is what lets me give this novel 5 stars.

Penguin Random House | 12th February 2018 | AU$19.99 | paperback