Review: Chris Carter – Gallery of the Dead

Gallery of the Dead
Chris Carter

Hunter is known to be brilliant at psychological evaluations and getting inside the Killer’s mind. With a new killer on the loose that seems to be creating fantastically horrible art with his victims, will Hunter be able to stop them before he creates a whole series?

Keep in mind that I have not read any of the first 8 books in this series. Thus I think I was missing some background information that could have been useful in helping me interpret Hunter’s particular personality traits. This was less about his ability to read criminal minds, and more about his ability to interpret weird clues. In the end though, the solution was pretty simple, and didn’t really need that much fancy interpretation. Try any of the Kendra novels or Sanderson’s Legion instead for that.

Again, my problem with this ‘Thriller’ / Detective novel was that I wasn’t given enough information to work things out for myself. I’m all for an insight into the perp’s brain (think The Admirer), but I need it with some suspense and fear for the main character as well. I had this problem with Corpselight and The Fix as well, and would make the suggestion of Name of the Devil or babydoll instead. There are so many other better options out there that I have read!

I finished reading this novel, but I think I wouldn’t have necessarily started (and finished) it on the same day it arrived had I known the ending. It was in the end a lot of flopping around during the text with no suspense. Also, a couple more victims would have been interesting. Morbid as that sounds, it IS just a novel. I wanted to know what other things The Artist might have done, given time. Did he want to collect a whole series of focal pieces?

I’m giving it 3 stars because of that relatively simple ending and lack of suspense. Also, all I seem to have done in this review is compare it to other novels, and that’s never a good sign for the uniqueness of the plot.

Simon and Schuster | February 2018 | AU$29.99 | paperback

Review: Will Boast – 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: 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 wasn’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 didn’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 I’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: Eka Kurniawan – Vengeance is Mine, All Others Pay Cash

Vengeance is Mine, All Others Pay Cash
Eka Kurniawan

After witnessing a violent rape, Ajo Kawir loses his ability to have sexual intercourse – even with the woman he wins for himself. His dingwallace just won’t come to the party, despite the efforts of his best friend. Will his bird ever wake up?

I can’t believe I read a novel all about one man’s inability to raise his dong. At the beginning I almost stopped reading, in fact I moved the novel into the ‘will not finish’ pile. But for some reason I then came back and finished it off. Maybe my curiosity about how Ajo Kawir was possibly going to get his pecker working again did me in.

Maybe the title lost something in translation. Yes, it’s the name of his truck, but uh, in the end, he doesn’t actually reach vengeance. And uh, most of the time no-one pays cash? Anyway, the rest of the prose was still pithy, and I commend the translator on a fantastic job.

I could have done without the ‘short cinematic bursts’. I much would have preferred if there was a nice linear story line. I expected that I would not enjoy a novel tagged pulp fiction, but it wasn’t too bad.

If you like novels where the main character is basically a Lollypop (if you know what I mean), this could be a novel for you. In hindsight, I think I shouldn’t have started reading it at all, but I did, and I finished it, so I’ll give it 3 stars.

Text Publishing | 31st July 2017 | AU$29.99 | paperback

Review: Anne Cassidy – NO VIRGIN

Anne Cassidy

Stacey Woods has been emotionally raped by someone she trusted. She has also been physically raped by his brother. After the perpetrators try to write it off as ‘adult fun’ she knows that she needs to do something to prevent others being hurt. This novel is her story.

Most people will know Anne Cassidy from Looking for JJ, which I gave 4 stars. The second in the series, Finding Jennifer Jones, I gave 3 stars to. I feel like such a betrayer for not really loving all of the writing, and not loving NO VIRGIN either. I can’t believe that this has a second novel. Perhaps the fact is that Anne Cassidy’s writing style doesn’t agree with me, no matter how compelling a circumstance she puts her characters in.

Shouldn’t I have more respect and love for a character who decides to get off her butt (eventually) and do something about having been raped? Rape is still something where the statistics are woefully under-reported. What I hate is that it’s almost always men raping women, and very few cases of same sex, or female perpetrator abuse. This novel doesn’t fail there for me, it fails because I never connected with Stacey or her best friend and I always felt distanced from the situation. Distancing yourself from reality is often a response to rape, and this could have been a deliberate choice by the author, but for me, it just didn’t work.

I am sure this is the third time I have reviewed NO VIRGIN (WordPress seemed to eat the other two?!?). I now can’t remember nearly enough details to properly review the novel. However, what I do remember is that it felt unsatisfying and upsetting, but not in a redeeming manner. 3 stars because I finished it, but it will be leaving the house ASAP.

Allen & Unwin | 3rd January 2017 | AU$16.99 | paperback

Review: Jennifer E. Smith – Windfall

Jennifer E. Smith

Alice buys Teddy a lottery ticket that ends up being worth $140 million!! Surely it is just that Teddy’s luck has finally come through? But Alice loves Teddy, and its likely that they will stick together forever… Or will their trio of friends break apart under the strain of all those credit cards?

This novel has a nice range of character situations, but ultimately all of the characters end up blurring into one. Leo is gay, has relationship problems & isn’t sure about college. Alice is straight, can’t get the relationship she wants & ends up being unsure about college. Teddy is just off the rails and an idiot. Can’t you listen to the adults around you? Your friends? He just made me angry, and I only kept reading for Alice (who ended up being useless anyway).

1: I have to say, I kept putting off reading this novel because the cover just didn’t appeal to me. If you check out the alternative cover on Goodreads, it is much more inviting, not to mention its hint of symbolism. 2: The blurb lied. Teddy doesn’t go on an adventure with Alice. They’re really parallel adventures. Why? Because Teddy is a selfish [redacted], and he doesn’t actually care about anything other than himself unless he wants something. And he wonders why everyone else wants something from him.

Note: Please tell people you love them! Why is it such a big deal? You can love someone, and then fall out of love and its perfectly ok. I knew Alice’s feelings would eventually come out anyway. How could she ever move on otherwise?

Alice, you stupid girl. I know your ‘heart can’t help it’, but why couldn’t you end up with the other boy? He was so much more decent a person, and honestly, better suited for your personality. 3 stars because I felt betrayed and the storyline was ultimately transperent.

Pan Macmillan | 26th April 2017 | AU$14.99 | paperback

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: Gwyneth Rees – Libby in the Middle

Libby in the Middle
Gwyneth Rees

Libby is the middle. She’s the average sister out of three, doomed to always sit in the middle of the car back seat. When she moves to a new town, Libby just wants to fit in – but will that be possible around her family’s secrets?

From the intermittent parts of this novel that I have read, Libby is a nice enough 8th grader who is just really pliable when it comes to helping her big sister out. After I read the first chapter out loud, I then missed a bunch of chapters up to chapter 8. However, it seemed like nothing had even happened in the novel! This is not a fast-paced enough novel for me.

The 8 year old reader in my household decided that this was a good novel for her to read independently. It does contain some content that I would consider inappropriate for her age group (eg. stealing, lying, getting together with a boyfriend your parents don’t approve of). However, I believe it is the first novel she has ever read that contains NO PICTURES so I’m not going to be picking on her choice too much.

This novel was deemed “My review so far – AWESOME!” by my younger reader, so I’ll be giving it 4 stars. She did say it wouldn’t be a reread, so that takes it out 5 stars. I guess I might have to come up with baby Dragon eggs or something!

Bloomsbury | 1st January 2018 | AU$12.99 | paperback

Review: Ruth Lauren – Prisoner of Ice and Snow

Prisoner of Ice and Snow
Ruth Lauren

Valor is heartbroken without her sister, so badly that she is determined to rescue her sister from a prison that no-one has escaped in over three hundred years. Valor is sure that her love for her sister will be enough – and her plan will surely succeed. But what will happen next?

This novel was a wussy one. It revisited old tropes of a sister being wrested away unfairly because of a crime she didn’t commit, and then her sibling doing something equally ‘awful’ in order to be sent there so that they can escape. And then it turns out, surprise surprise, that there is someone else working there who could potentially help them!

Although there was potential for action, it seemed like all the plans Valor had in place were too predictable to succeed. Somehow, the guards just happened to be a lot stupider than the last 300 years? Valor herself is fine, but there are plenty of other strong female protagonists that you can get behind in other, better novels.

I left this novel far too long to review after reading it, and I now don’t remember as much as I should. Slightly off topic, but why is ‘Valor’ as a name always just with an ‘o’, but ‘valour’ as in the personality trait has an ‘ou’? I’m well aware that the Americans use the ‘o’ and Australians use ‘ou’, but it still makes no sense! 

I’m not going to be looking out for another novel in this series. This one was tolerable, but nothing special. If you are looking for this trope, try Gilded Cage and Tarnished City. I’ll give it 3 stars because it did at least try to keep my attention.

Bloomsbury | 1st April 2017 | AU$12.99 | 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