Review: Anne Cassidy – NO VIRGIN

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,Β 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

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.Β 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!Β 

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

Review: Emily Barr – The Truth and Lies of Ella Black

The Truth and Lies of Ella Black
Emily Barr

Ella has just been ripped out of school and taken to her dream destination, Rio. Unfortunately, her parents won’t let her out of their sight and she knows there’s a big secret they are keeping from her. She’s keeping her own secrets, like how she just put a hammer through a fledgling’s head…

It had the potential to be a thriller, but thanks toΒ The One Memory of Flora Banks, I was primed the whole time for something interesting to be going on with Ella’s brain. And it turned out that there really wasn’t anything that exciting. That romance? Pathetic. Oh, star-crossed lovers etc etc. I’ll tell you all my secrets, and you will return them. Yeah sorry, but one sorrow does not cancel out another, and it doesn’t seem like Ella even took anything on board.

I polished this novel off very quickly, but in the end I didn’t really feel very satisfied by it. Does Ella actually understand herself better? Is she still a selfish, horrible person? It’s not Bella that is at fault, it’s Ella through and through that is entitled and a cry-baby.

On that note, I found the take-over of Ella by Bella completely unrealistic and repetitive. Is she that bloody naive? I thought maybe she had some strange version of multiple-personality disorder. But no no, it’s just simple repression. Ella talking to herself just comes across as strange, particularly her thoughts of suicide vs her preservation instinct.

The more I write this review, the less I like the novel. I’ll give it 3 stars because I didn’t struggle to finish reading it. Not highly recommended.

Penguin Random House | 2nd January 2018 | AU $17.99 | paperback

Review: Jake Halpern & Peter Kujawinski – Edgeland

Edgeland
Jake Halpern & Peter Kujawinski

The Drain is designed to take the rich dead through to the afterlife. No-one knows what is actually beyond the drop, but when a death boat accidentally takes a funeral payment with it, Alec and Wren fall in. If they are ever to get out of the Drain they will have to understand its problems and its secrets,

Wren is a plucky heroine that seems to be afraid of nothing except perhaps another betrayal. Alec on the other hand seems a bit wussy to me (which is perfectly ok), but he toughens up and becomes a character you can empathise with. They don’t really know what to expect next, and so neither does the reader.

This reminded me of Nightfall, honestly, which shouldn’t be surprising, as it’s by the same authors. Another novel by them isΒ Dormia, which is also a decent read. But why aren’t they working on the inevitable sequel to Nightfall? There was certainly more there to be explored as well.

I’ll be keeping this novel on my shelf as a 4-star winner. I know some other readers who might enjoy it, and I’d love to get the opportunity to lend it out to them! For a ‘Hot Key’ book, it was very good. I’ve had bad experiences with them before, such as fly on the wall, but these authors kept me much better entertained.

Allen & Unwin | 1st August 2017 | AU $16.99 | paperback

Review: Darren Groth – Exchange of Heart

Exchange of Heart
Darren Groth

Eve’s death has devastated Munro’s life to the point that he’s suffering flashbacks and anger on a daily basis. The voice in his head is constantly taunting him, and the only way to escape seems to be run all the way to Australia on student exchange. A volunteer placement at an assisted living placement shuts up Munro’s little voice some of the time, but can Munro silence it for good?

Hmm, I really wasn’t convinced by Munro’s story about Eve’s death, particularly as it was interspersed with the flashbacks he was having. I also felt that he was suffering from PTSD – why wasn’t anyone helping him with that? Yes, getting away from a situtation will help, but as Munro learns, it can’t fix all the problems.

I read this so long ago, probably when it first came out in July, especially as I had an ARC copy. Thus this review is not as in-depth as it should be. From what I remember, it gave me a lovely warm fuzzy feeling as I was reading. As I dipped back into the novel to refresh my memory, I remembered that there was a nice selection of supporting characters, and his love interest was believable.

I like that it’s not stacked full of ‘Australian vernacular’ like some novels that have an American protagonist. Something about having a protagonist from another country seems to make authors feel that they can get away with ‘G’day’ and a lot of things that regular Auzzies like me don’t even say. Groth is a native Australian.

It’s not a re-read for me, but it was a pretty RAD and AWESOME good book. 4 stars.

Penguin Random House | 31st July 2017 | AU $19.99 | paperback

Review: William Sutcliffe – We See Everything

We See Everything
William Sutcliffe

London has been cut off from the world, and is under constant surveillance from drones that are waiting to strike out the terrorists within.Β The ordinary people living there can’t work out why they are living in squalor, while the ruling class still has access to luxuries like cigarettes. Set to observe another teenager, a drone pilot gradually gets too close to his target.

The novel opens with a boy picking berries to sell. l made an instant connection with him – that I gradually lost as the novel progressed. The other protagonist, the drone pilot, I absolutely understood, but again, I didn’t care about him either. This novel overall felt flat to me, just like the 2D characters.

The ending of this novel was supremely unsatisfactory. I guess what it may have been trying to say is that life moves on, regardless of what occurred in the past. I wasn’t expecting a happy ending at all, but I was expecting something… more? Everything seemed dull, and the explanations still fell flat. The war-torn landscape didn’t resonate with me.

From the Acknowledgements, it seems like this novel is a fictionalised account of theΒ Gaza Blockade/War(s). I would have preferred that it was actually set in Gaza – I didn’t find the idea of a tiny bit of London being shut off from the rest of the world very convincing. London is considered a hub, and Gaza certainly is/was not.

It’s a good attempt at exposing the uselessness of war, but I don’t think it goes far enough in making direct comparisons. I like the fact that it is more up-to-date than the majority of war novels that focus on the Jewish Holocaust, but I went into it expecting future fiction, and instead got a weird hybrid that didn’t tick any of my enjoyment boxes. 2 stars from me.

Bloomsbury | 1st December 2017 | AU $16.99 | paperback