Review: Vikki Wakefield – Ballad for a Mad Girl

 

Grace has always been the funny, daring girl who leads her pack of friends. After she experiences what feels like a near-death experience while performing a dare, her life rapidly degrades and she no longer seems to be herself. No-one knows what to do with her…

And how does everyone not notice anything wrong with her? If she looks like a junkie, why is she not being sent more sternly to a hospital? To a counsellor? Even if she refuses to go, the fact that her self-preservation is completely out of whack doesn’t explain why people are blind, deaf and dumb.

OK, so it might be considered ‘creepy and thrilling’, but I’m not buying it was ‘brilliant’ or ‘poignant’. The author dragged me along, thinking that there was some fantastical supernatural something at work, but instead… And it was all a dream. Or actually, all a hallucinogenic/schizophrenic mess. Or maybe not. Who even knows? Grace doesn’t, and neither does the reader.

The is nothing wrong with the writing, the characterisation or the style of this novel. Unfortunately the storyline became more and more confused (both for the reader and Grace) and just ended up making me feel unsatisfied. And why on earth does she forgive Amber? Like hello, didn’t she just get you into that prank where you thought you were going to die?

I feel like I have read something similar before, with someone having hallucinations that could be explained away rationally, but I cannot remember the name of the novel at all. Anyone have any suggestions?

2 stars from me. I finished reading it, but I felt cheated. Towards the end, I started getting bad feelings and then the conclusion sealed the nail in its coffin. I’m not going to be recommending this novel.

Text Publishing | 29th May 2017 | AU$19.99 | paperback

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Review: Barbara Bourland – I’ll Eat when I’m Dead

I’ll Eat when I’m Dead
Barbara Bourland

Cat’s boss has died in a locked storeroom with a huge slab of ribbon next to her. Deemed to have stemmed from an eating disorder, it was just a heart attack. That locked door prompts a investigation by a cop looking for promotion, and bam! Cat is suckered in to doing her own research.

This was like eating a really bad, stale peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I chewed my way patiently through the first 1/4 of the book, sitting through honestly a quite boring backstory and the party lives of Cat, Bess and some random other person they went to school with. Then, I got some tasty jelly, where we got into the crux of the investigations into the murder and a bit of development of a on-again off-again relationship between Cat and the detective. AND THEN, someone forgot to put the peanut butter in. The next 1/4 was simply Cat and Bess being swaddled around with Cat hating the experience and Bess being pretty happy about it. Then there’s another bit of bread of nothing even really happening until the end. I didn’t care about Cat or Bess enough for it to matter at that point.

Maybe part of the problem with this novel was this promised to be a bit of an expose on the women’s fashion industry which promotes thin women that buy expensive clothes. Instead, I found a main character that professed to follow these views, then failed to follow any of them. Sure, the magazine promotes American made fashion, then promotes ecologically and ethically sound wares, but to an extent it is all lip service.

A story of socialites that could have potentially had their comeuppance. If you’re doing lines of cocaine, smoking pot on a regular basis and having a flirting affair with heroin, I can’t feel that sorry for you. I appreciated that Cat insisted on using condoms when having wild, random sex, and was pretty vocal about the fact, but it couldn’t redeem the novel.

What’s with the title? They don’t have a problem with eating as far as I can see, there is a different Problem with a capital P. In fact, I recently stated my opinion on a new YA novel that I think has the same title, which promises to be much more exciting. Honestly, when this one came in the mail, I thought it was that book and got excited. That was enough for me to start reading it anyway, and I shouldn’t have wasted my time.

Women’s fiction with a hint of crime? I think it was sold to me as a bit more attractive than that, otherwise I never would have touched it in the first place. Don’t waste your time on this one. 2 stars because I finished it in the hopes of it improving.

Hachette Australia | 16th May 2017 | AU$29.99 | paperback

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Review: Ezekiel Boone – Skitter

Skitter
Ezekiel Boone

Spiders have taken over the world. Hatching secretly from Peru and other hot spots, they have infected people until their bodies are pulled apart by the spiders hatching inside them. LA is a gonner, and India and China are suffering. No mention of Australia though, so maybe that is just fine.

This was a disappointment of a book. Not only was I frustrated by the constantly changing perspectives that only built a tiny picture of what was happening, the ending was not an ending. Oh my goodness. I’ve just realised that this was the second book. So that means I can expect a third book, so I should just accept the ending. Well, I can tell you reading the first novel probably wouldn’t have made any difference to my non-enjoyment of this one.

It could have been more creepy. But honestly, thanks to the changing perspectives, I never got attached enough to anyone to actually care whether they lived or died. Maybe if a kid that was being protected died? Many people find spiders creepy, but I’m not one of them. Ok, I don’t like big hairy shapes just dropping down on me randomly, but I can remove them ok from the house.

The story build slowly, I was excited to have any sort of breakthrough on control, but the focus on the US kinda wrecked it for me. People speaking Japanese and losing things in translation is fine, but you couldn’t work that out better? You’re going to use the magical Spanish Protocol, and it’s not even going to work? Idiots…

I’ll give it 2 stars because it was not particularly fabulous. I’m not interested in reading the next, or the previous book. I can’t think of who is going to love it right now, but I guess it’s ok to fill in time. Just don’t have high expectations.

Hachette Australia | 1 May 2017| AU$16.99 | paperback

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Review: Robin Storey – An Affair with Danger

An Affair with Danger
Robin Storey

Will is held up in an armed robbery, and can no longer think straight. His life as a lawyer should have prepared for the court to stand witness, but instead he finds himself falling for the perp’s girlfriend, Frankie. What follows is an affair that is perhaps a little dangerous.

The author gets points for making the novel potentially race along, skipping years where necessary to make the plot move. What redeemed this novel a little was the writing style, and the gentle nature of the male protagonist. He wasn’t all macho, which made it a refreshing change from other romance novels. Not to mention it was a MALE protagonist, which is rare in this genre.

This was a throwaway novel. It’s nothing special, I’m sorry to say. Where it fails is that it didn’t leave me with a sense of having gained anything in reading it. I didn’t get attached enough to the characters, I didn’t learn anything particularly pertinent about being a lawyer. It left me feeling lukewarm, with the romance/affair not being ‘throbbing’ enough to keep my attention.

This author did send me this novel off her own bat, and has spent a very unfair amount of time waiting for this review. I also interviewed her back in 2016. It makes me wish I could have gotten more out of the novel and given it a more positive review. I’m going to give it a lower end of a 3 star review, because I did finish reading it.

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Review: Emily Fridlund – History of Wolves

History of Wolves
Emily Fridlund

Linda lives in an ex-commune with parents who love her, but are a bit off-handed with their parenting. School isn’t perfect either, being labeled a commie and a freak. But it’s not like she is interested in school anyway. The chance to make some money and babysit the new neighbour’s kid seems the perfect idle escape.

Sold as a ‘Coming of Age’ novel, I honestly don’t know why I kept reading this novel. Linda doesn’t even make a choice, as promised in the blurb. She just wanders along in her own life, with no absolution and no explanations.

For me, it was not obvious that Paul was sick, until he was really sick and sleeping a lot. Kids get sick right? Linda takes him out in the forest and he seems like a perfectly normal boy to me. A quick google didn’t tell me how long a child is likely to last in his condition, but 4 years seems like a long time to survive.

Again, this novel had flicking back and forwards in time, making me feel slightly sick and very confused! Why should I care about your current life Linda? Why should I care about your behaviour towards Lily and the teacher? Why should I care about anything in this novel?

I understand that this novel is trying to expose at least some of what goes wrong in Christian Scientist lives – they believe that if you don’t think you (or anyone else) is ill, you will survive. I could also argue the same for other religions where blood transfusions are not permitted etc. I think for this novel to have worked on me, I needed the connection to be more explicit.

I hoped and hoped for this novel’s redemption, but it never happened. I’m even hesitating to give 2 stars, even though I finished it. Choose something else. If you want another novel with death and lies, pick Wolf Hollow, even though I didn’t love that one much either.

Hachette Australia | 1st January 2017 | AU $29.99 | Paperback

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Review: Wolf Hollow – Lauren Wolk

Wolf Hollow
Lauren Wolk

Annabelle is a quiet sort of girl, happy to travel along in life with her friend Ruth, going to school and being educated. Once Betty comes to town though, everything changes. Betty isn’t nice, or kind – she seems set on killing someone. When she disappears, somehow it becomes Annabelle’s job to keep the local loner alive.

Let me start out by saying that the cover did not fill me with joy. I can’t resist reading any words that come past my nose, so I fully expected that something good would come from it. Instead, despite being promised that she would ‘earn her keep’, her role turned out to be useless.

Annabelle is ok as a character, and her actions in her relationships with her parents are believable. However, I had problems with the way she treated the bullying because it was clear that bodily harm was going to occur. If she had spoken up quicker, a lot less misery would have occurred.

This novel was far too slow to keep my interest. I struggled to pick it up, and it was far too easy to put it down again. Although the pace sped up in the last couple of chapters it was too late to redeem the novel for me.

Although I was erring on the side of 3 stars after finishing the novel, writing this review has crystallized it as only 2 stars. I just couldn’t love it, or Annabelle. Others have compared this to ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ but I think this is weaker by far.

Penguin Random House | 3rd May 2016 | AU $16.99 | Paperback

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Review: Amy Lukavics – the Women in the Walls

the Women in the Walls
Amy Lukavics

Lucy’s life should have been one of luxury – living on an estate with a long history and almost limitless parties, homeschooled to keep away from the ‘common people’. Lucy’s mother is dead though, and her Aunt has just wandered off into the woods. Then her cousin starts hearing voices and her life rapidly gets more confusing.

I was afraid of this novel to start off with. What could be more creepy than dead people whispering in the walls? Then I realised that Lucy wasn’t the one hearing the voices, and it distanced me from the whole situation. I couldn’t bring myself to care about Margaret – although Lucy professed to be worried about her, she didn’t do anything. The threat of discovery for Lucy’s ‘little secret’ surely could have been enough to get her sent away to those colleges she was obsessed with?

For a 17 year old, Lucy sure spooked pretty easily. I tried to suspend my disbelief, but I just couldn’t hold on to it. Ok, so you’re homeschooled and lived isolated on this estate for your whole life. But really? You’re just going to accept that the police haven’t been called? Don’t you have access to a phone? It seems to me like there really is more that you should have done.

The finale? I was hoping it would redeem the whole novel, but it simply failed to conclude or give evidence of why spending time reading this novel was worth it. Maybe an epilogue could have saved it? Don’t get me wrong, I love an unhappy ending, but this one needed a bit more flare.

I’m giving this two stars, although I really wanted to give up on it. I invested in those first couple of chapters as wanting something exciting to happen, then spent the rest of the novel feeling cheated. I wouldn’t recommend this one.

Simon & Schuster | September 2016 | AU $19.99 | Paperback

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Review: RJ Bailey – Safe From Harm

Safe From Harm
RJ Bailey

Sam Wylde is a Protective Officer for the rich and famous. With army combat experience behind her and a few bonus skills, Sam must try to protect those she is working for, while also protecting her own family.

This novel was a disappointment. It could have been written as a psychological thriller and been much more effective while still using the same plot points. As it was, the slow pacing and flashbacks/flashforwards destroyed the novel and any hope of me enjoying it.

Sam strikes me as quite dumb really. She doesn’t question anything she should perhaps should, despite being ‘the best in the business’. Being aware of what could go wrong should be able to save her right? Or maybe the point the author is trying to make is that it is impossible to foresee anything correctly.

I’m giving this two miserable stars. Although I am not a connoisseur of novels that have a self-trained woman as a person protector, I don’t think that this one is a good one. Look elsewhere for someone to ‘keep you safe from harm’.

Simon & Schuster | 1st February 2017 | AU $29.99 | Paperback

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Review: Julia Lawrinson – before you forget

before you forget
Julia Lawrinson

Amelia lives for her Art and her best friend Gemma. Sure, her teacher hates what she does, but she still has her parents intact. Her dad’s memory seems to have been going down hill since she started high school though, and lately it has gotten much worse.

I was utterly disappointed in this novel. There’s no true picture of what was ‘special’ about Amelia before this point in time. I’ve read plenty of novels that have the tortured artist as the main character, and this is just another of them.

I can’t believe Amelia just ignores everything that is going on with her best friend. How could she possibly miss that? How can she be so self-centred when her friend is in danger? Not to mention her crazy behaviour regarding Poppy. She seriously wasn’t thinking there. For a 17 year old, unless I am absolutely out of touch, she’s an incapable idiot.

This novel was not ‘ultimately uplifting’, it was a joke of a novel which perhaps tried to tackle too many issues at once without giving any of them the treatment they deserved. The part of this novel that I appreciated the most was the delicate friendship that developed between Will and Amelia. There wasn’t any ‘insta-love’, and Amelia appeared to have her head on straight for once.

I’ll give it 3 stars because I’m feeling generous and it wasn’t a complete failure as I finished reading it without too much complaint. There are better things out there though, and I’d suggest unbecoming as a start for memory loss, and Scars or hold still for a tortured artist.

Penguin Random House | 30 January 2016 | AU $19.99 | Paperback

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Review: e. lockhart – fly on the wall

fly on the wall
e. lockhart

Everyone is different, or pretends to be different at Gretchen’s high school. Gretchen herself feels ordinary, and doesn’t know how to talk to boys. A misguided wish to be a fly on the wall of the boys’ lockerroom means that she’s going to learn more about boys than ever before.

30323804I hated Gretchen’s inner monologue. I hated it when she was human and it interfered with me actually being able to grasp the situation around her. Things were slightly better when she was a fly, because she tended to have fully coherent thoughts, but it was still painful.

Boys have gherkins, girls have biscuits? Seriously. She’s going to spend a week checking out ‘gherkins’, she might as well call them penises. If you’re an artist, you should be ok with that! Maybe it was some sort of cute high school quirk, but I wouldn’t pick gherkins any day of the week.

So maybe this is entirely a huge teenage romance, and it’s cool that nothing else goes on, but I wanted more substance. Who cares about her grades? Who cares about her parents? Who cares about any of this? It’s all about those cute boys she’s giving ratings to their asses.

GoodReads is split on the verdict about this novel. I’m weighing in with 2 stars. It’s readable, but seriously don’t waste your time on it.

2star

Bonnier | 23rd November 2016 | AU $16.99 | Paperback

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