Review: Lisa Jackson – After She’s Gone

After She’s Gone
Lisa Jackson

Cassie’s sister Allie has gone missing so Cassie checks herself out of the psychiatry ward to find her. Cassie is still suffering from nightmares and flashbacks, and doesn’t even know how to look after herself. If there was ever a girl in need of a Hero, it’s Cassie, Allie and their famous mother. Can they find Allie in time? Does Allie even want to be found?

Oh dear. This novel sat on my shelf for about 2 years before I picked it up. I just wasn’t feeling another strange disappearance or mystery after try not to breathe and Painkiller. That’s the problem with copy-cat authors that produce all the novels that are compared to Girl on the Train or The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I get that they must sell well, and thus it’s not really the authors’ faults they have to write that stuff as no doubt publishers pushing for it.

Um Hollywood glamour (or rather just hints at it being important but it’s really not) does not make a novel! Especially for someone who doesn’t really follow or understand Hollywood the way a homegrown North American might. I found myself completely and utterly confused most of the time (ringing any bells like Ankaran Immersion?). The protagonist was an unreliable narrator, which would have been fine if everything else in the plot hadn’t been jumbled up. And then the other characters were also confusing as hell with a healthy does of insanity themselves. There was no redemption for anyone. Anyone heard of counselling?

I ended up reading about 1/6 of the novel before I started skipping forwards to try to get to a meaty good bit! But alas, I found myself just skipping all the way to the end where, because I hadn’t actually connected properly to any of the characters, I was utterly indifferent to who the baddie was and was kind of hoping that they all died!

1 star from me. Don’t bother attempting it.

Hachette Australia | 1st February 2016 | AU$29.99 | paperback

Review: Benjamin Zephaniah – FACE

FACE
Benjamin Zephaniah

I’m a Gangsta yo, I’m a Gangsta! Wait, no, wrong novel. Martin gets by on his good looks and charm, trouble making his way effortlessly through the gangs at school. Accepting a ride with the wrong friend and getting into a police chase is bad news – bad news for his FACE.

Oh gosh. This was terrible. I skimmed the first half so I could get to where the FACE business actually happened. Then I was so disappointed in Martin’s eventual internal monologue about his face that I just dropped the book. I could have even dropped it in the pool, it was that terrible! The supporting characters might have actually had something to do in the second half of the novel, but I wasn’t waiting around to find out.

Nice to see a female character that won’t take no Shiz, but seriously, do you have to make it so darn obvious? Yes, we get it, she’s amazing and a ‘real woman’ but no need to keep drumming it in. Wow, she’s a human girl! And she too has feelings! I would hope that a teenage boy reading this novel could separate out the fact that if a girl has to act like that to get you to do the right thing, you’re doing something wrong!

I’m sure there is an audience out there for this novel, but it’s not me, and I’m pretty sure that it’s not other Australians (strangely enough given the publisher). It’s set in London with gangs, which is something that doesn’t feature in the current young Australian’s highschool years as far as I know! Maybe it is more prevalent in Sydney since I’m a Melbournite at the moment?

I couldn’t face Gansta Rap by the same author, so I’m not sure what made me think that I could go for this one. I took it along for holiday reading so I would at least attempt it. I’ll save you the trouble – don’t even attempt it. 1 star from me.

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

Review: Jesse Andrews – Munmun

Munmun
Jesse Andrews

In a world where your size is determined by your wealth, it’s dangerous to be poor – you could be eaten by a cat or your father could be trodden on by someone larger. Warner and his sister have to try to make it work, and the only way for Prayer to move up is to marry someone richer than her. Warner on the other hand has plenty of get-rich-quick schemes.

The storyline on this is quite decent, with quite a few plotlines to keep the reader entertained. Unfortunately, the narrative was a little scattered, and I think it could have benefited from Prayer’s perspective. Warner was so completely biased against the Bigs that the filtered narrative was difficult to follow and a bit unpleasant.

Something that irritatedme the wholetime was the runtogetherwords likethis. Why wasthis necessary? This was clearly a differentsci-fiworld and ifthese were intendedto highlightthis difference, they wereunnecessary. Anddid I mention that theywere annoying? So toothe interiorcommetary by Warner. Seehowyoulikeit!

I requested this novel without noticing that the author was the same as Me and Earl and the Dying Girl andΒ  The Haters. That should have warned me off it, but it didn’t because I was so intrigued by the concept. The writing style just couldn’t keep me, and I was reading just to get to the end. Now, about that ending. I wasn’t satisfied really. I understood his motives, and I really appreciated them, but in the end I don’t think it made a big difference that he rampaged for a while. Except that it made him feel better?

Of course, anything that involves size makes me think of The Sin Eater’s Daughter. It’s not the same concept at all, but that novel is worth checking out. Or maybe Ready Player One where it is also very difficult to move socio-economic status. I don’t highly recommend this novel, but I will give it three stars because I think other people who aren’t going to be irritated by the writing style will enjoy it.

Allen & Unwin

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: Anita Selzer – I Am Sasha

I Am Sasha
Anita Selzer

This is a fiction novel based on the true story of the author’s grandfather. He was safe during the Nazi occupation of Poland because his mother hid him in plain sight by turning him into a girl.

I was really looking forward to this novel, but then I couldn’t get into it. I expected that most of the novel would be during the time that Sala was pretending to be a girl, but instead it was split into about half-half. I honestly never felt like he was in danger. He was never with a group of people who were ordered to drop their pants and half the time they were in hiding where he wasn’t even in contact with people. As far as I could tell, the worst risk was the people who had known his mother and that his mother was Jewish.

I wanted more of a narrative and less reliance on Sala’s internal (boring) monologue. I much would have preferred it if I could see the outside world more. Although the concept certainly holds up, and this novel was based on the author’s family history, I felt like I wasn’t firmly enough into Nazi Poland to understand what was going on. I felt myself having to draw on my reading from Nazi Germany and I feel that that was a let down from this novel. It could have been used to really educate people about the differences between Poland and Germany during the war. Also, the fact that I understood the concept of the ‘gentiles’ was taken for granted by the author (I didn’t really know). Were they just wealthy people who weren’t Jewish? Were they people who had planted the right bribes?

Anyway, I didn’t end up finishing this novel. At this point in time I have so many novels demanding my attention that unless I am caught up in it, it is unlikely that I will come back. I don’t think it’s necessarily the novel’s personal fault, I think that it and I just didn’t get along. Others may enjoy it, so I’ll give it a generous 3 stars.

Penguin Random House | 2nd April 2018 | AU $17.99 | 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: Will Weisser – Ankaran Immersion

Ankaran Immersion
Will Weisser

Evie and her brother have been separated from their tribe – and now Hunter is very sick with something that only the Tainted can cure. Will Evie be able to help her brother in time? Or will her hatred of the Tainted get in her way.

I found myself quite confused a lot of the time and I struggled to follow the point of the novel. The blurb led me to believe that it was all about Evie and Hunter, but in fact it focussed just as much on Ono/Aurio and the struggle of wills. I was left feeling confused about the aim of the novel. Did this novel want me to sympathise with Evie and conclude that the strand was evil? Or did it ask me to set that aside and see the positives of the strand? I’d lean towards the former, but I couldn’t work out why it was relevant to me (despite the maps suggesting that this was a future world of our own).

I was enjoyably surprised by the quality of the prose in this novel and the detailed world building. However, I was left with many questions: What is an Int? Are they real poeple? What makes a virus a virus? I really couldn’t understand what was going on for a lot of the time with the strand and the resultant mess. It is rare that novels allow tech to take over the world (although The Matrix springs to mind), and I often struggle to understand why the tech lets the humans live at all.

To sum up – Evie developed as a character, but a lot of it was difficult to follow because just as I was starting to understand her, the perspective started flicking erratically between Hunter, Evie and Ono. Then I felt like I was getting some real knowledge out of Hunter, but I couldn’t understand what was wrong with him in the first place (and didn’t really ‘get’ why he became what he was). And Ono had the potential to answer my questions about the strand, but it really didn’t come through clearly.

This novel did keep me entertained, just not as well as SpellSlinger (I read them concurrently). I’m giving it 3 stars for its readability. I’m not really sure what audience it would be best suited to however. I previously interviewed the author, and I think it would be worthwhile keeping an eye out for his future novels.

Review: Mercedes Lackey & Cody Martin – Silence

Silence
Mercedes Lackey & Cody Martin

Staci has just been booted by her step-mother so that she can live with her alcoholic mother instead. Even with the money from her father to hopefully

This is the first time in a while that I have read a Mercedes Lackey novel. After reading her latest Elemental Master and Valdemar novels, I sort of went on to discover better things like Brandon Sanderson! This is a duo work with Cody Martin and seems to be an older novel.

I really like the idea of elves with motorcycles and I always have! There’s a series of these that I have read before, and I thought I had read all of them in the universe. But nope! This is glorious number 9 in the SERRAted Edge series.

Ouch, in the end our elven hero didn’t turn out to be much of a hero, but that’s just the way things are with elves. They can’t help being that attractive! And Staci couldn’t help being helpless and vulnerable. She just wants to be loved! That’s pretty typical of a teenager. It would have been nice to have a bit more hope offered to Staci but this is an older style novel that really doesn’t have counselling as an option.

This was pretty decent quality older Mercedes Lackey and I really enjoyed reading it. 4 stars from me. It was great to have my library have a copy.

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