Review: Josepha Sherman (ed) – Lammas Night

Lammas Night
Josepha Sherman (ed)

Lammas Night is a collection of short stories inspired by a Wizardly Ballad written by Mercedes Lackey. The foreword tells me that originally it was going to be a collection of songs based on what comes next, but it was deemed that it wouldn’t be salable.

I’m not sure why this book was salable, I’m certainly not going to read it again. Maybe it was the fact that Mercedes Lackey’s name was on the front cover, despite Josepha Sherman being the editor? Although Lackey always says writing novels isn’t really profitable enough to live on (she’s married to Larry Dixon, another fantasy author). When almost every short story follows the same pattern (that was set out in the original ballad) it’s predictable and boring. And of course there isn’t enough time to become properly attached to the characters during the course of a short story. I don’t think there was a single character that I wanted to hear more about.

A couple of the short stories bucked the trend and approached the ballad’s ending instead and what same next. In some cases, it seemed exactly like it was a follow on from someone else’s short story. But I found it hard to tell since there were so many different characters’ names floating around in my head.

I didn’t read this in one sitting, instead choosing to pick up another couple of novels in between. I borrowed it while we were on vacation from my Aunt and so it was intended as a leisure read. I can easily give this 3 stars for readability but would advise reading it over time so you don’t get bored. I didn’t hate any of the short stories due to the writing style, but I didn’t love any either.

Review: Renee Watson – Piercing Me Together

Piercing Me Together
Renee Watson

When you’re the scholarship token black girl in a white private college there are bound to be some tensions and a lack of good friends. Jade has plenty of opportunities in life, but not the ones she wants. The chance at another scholarship to College means that she’ll be mentored by a strong woman in the community, except that her mentor keeps standing her up.

Hmm, this wasn’t a bad novel, but I’m not sure it was exceptional either. I was putting off reading it because the cover wasn’t doing it for me, but I happened to feel like an easy read with a female protagonist. Jade shows some nice character progression for standing up for herself and getting a better feel for the world around her.

I wasn’t quite sure the purpose of her mentor and the meetings with the other mentees/mentors. I don’t understand this teenager, but I’m perhaps out of touch. Maybe it’s time I stopped reviewing these novels… but I don’t know what I would replace them with. These are the reads I need when my brain is completely zonked from work.

3 stars from me, but 4 stars for its intended audience. I think American teenagers who would like some better fiction that’s not a white, middle-class attractive chick will enjoy this novel. I feel like I’ve said that about another novel recently too:ย Leah on the Off Beat.

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

Review: James Dashner – Journal of Curious Letters (The 13th Reality)

The 13th Reality #1 – Journal of Curious Letters
James Dashner

Tick has received a letter promising him that he will be exposed to incredible danger unless he burns the letter. But if he burns it, many people will be harmed. Tick isn’t afraid to admit he’s a nerd, and he’s rather fond of solving puzzles, but will his best be enough?

Wow, this novel’s first half was incredibly slow. I did like the elements of problem solving, and that redeemed the novel somewhat. Then again, I’m sorry, but Sato’s pensive and rude emotional state did nothing for me. And almost meeting a sticky end didn’t even improve him! He didn’t feel like a real person. In fact, the whole novel was so plot based that we didn’t see any character development at all. Except for Tick but that was all described in terms of him finally standing up to the school Bully – not anything more important. And that stupid scarf! Ugh. The author harped back to it, but it turns out that no-one actually cares (surprise surprise).

I saw pale parallels between this novel and Harry Potter (um, also, the name Norbert???). A 13 year old bullied small boy gets a mystical letter, and then is eventually whisked away to somewhere odd by some equally odd people? Has this now become a mainstream trope? Except that of course Tick’s dad loves Tick enough to take him to far away places, and let Tick travel with crazy people. I do find that hard to believe – what right-minded parent of a 13 year old lets their kid wander like that especially after he has just been eaten?

I could see on Goodreads that this was quite a polarising book – people either loved it for the action or completely hated it for the flat characters. It is fitting then I think that I gave this 3 stars. Someone who doesn’t mind their characters completely predictable and boring but likes non-stop action once it starts will enjoy this novel.

Scholastic | 1st March 2018 | AU$17.99 | paperback

Review: Victoria Aveyard – Glass Sword

Glass Sword
Victoria Aveyard

Mare Barrow is back to being plain old Mare after the Red Guard’s audacious rescue and she knows what she wants to do next – hunt down the newbloods and then use them to kill Maven and kill his mother Elena. Having been burnt by Maven in the past, Mare doesn’t trust anyone. And can anyone trust Mare?

Oh yes! So remember how everyone was devastated by Sirus’ death in Harry Potter? I feel like the death in this novel of someone close to Mare should have triggered more of an emotional reaction from me, but I didn’t even flinch. Even when Mare succeeds at one of her major goals, I felt like it had happened too quickly for me to even appreciate it.

The ending to this novel would have been unacceptable if I didn’t have the next novel sitting on my shelf. Cliff hanger! But I still haven’t picked up King’s Cage. This novel wasn’t as breathtaking as everyone seems to feel. I actually read two other novels to completion while reading this one. I’m not sure what quite was wrong with it, it might have been Mare’s stubborn woe-is-me, I will never trust anyone again attitude for the whole novel.

What is with all the novels at the moment with admittedly kick-ass Princesses having to take their throne back for themselves? I’m thinking Ruined or Ash Princess here. Or The Selection, which I have not actually read. I’m sure there are more out there. Honestly after a while they all blur together.

I went to a Publisher get-together a couple of years back and received the first novel in this series as my free book. Then I recently got the third novel for review from the publisher but didn’t own the second novel. My fiancee bought it for me for our anniversary, and here I am reading it. A pity that I just found out that this is a quartet, and I’m not sure I’m interested in pursuing the series when I have so many other interesting things to read. 3 stars from me.

Review: Eleni Hale – Stone Girl

Stone Girl
Eleni Hale

Sophie has spent 3 days curled up in the shower away from her decaying dead mother. Now she has been removed from everything she knows and put into Foster Care. As the years wear on, Sophie’s experiences of Foster Care and her own personality deteriorate to the point where she has nothing left. Is there redemption for anyone?

The blurb suggests that there will be redemption, but there isn’t really. Sophie ends up being in worse and worse situations until there is no way out for her. But it’s not really Sophie’s fault. She is only 12 when she enters the system, and she doesn’t have a good grasp of right or wrong when she is thrown in the deep end.

I liked this novel for the way that it exposed the flaws in the Foster Care system. At the same time, I dreaded reading it, because who wants to know that an essential part of society (children) are being let down in this way? Although children might start out innocent, it is easy for them to blame themselves for whatever happened that lead to them being in care, and this means that they often believe that they deserve anything that happens to them.

I’m not entirely sure on the title of this novel. I’d rather have gone with ‘Rock Girl’, given that a name for pure speed is Rock. This novel is raw and painful to read – don’t read it if your own psyche is not feeling as stable as it could. I’d recommend it for older teenagers and young adults – the language, drug use and sex scenes are inappropriate for younger readers.

I wavered between 3 and 4 stars for this novel. When I looked at it on my to-be-reviewed pile, I had to think for a minute what it was actually about. But then again, I did read it mainly in one sitting, so it must have been entrancing at the time!

Penguin Random House | 30th April 2018 | AU$19.99 | 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 andย  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: 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: 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: 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: 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 Legionย 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 Corpselightย and The Fix as well, and would make the suggestion of Name of the Devil or babydollย 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