Review: Jack Jordan – Before Her Eyes

Before Her Eyes
Jack Jordan

Naomi Hannah has been blind since birth, abandoned in a bus shelter and brought up in a loving family. She’s always felt alone, but at least safe in her little town. When she stumbles across a body in an alley, and the murderer caresses her, it starts a chain of reactions that steadily get more sinister. Who is leaving her alive at each crime scene, and why?

This novel put the creepy factor up high right from the beginning and it only got worse (or better?)! This is a true psychological thriller that caused me to shiver and make sure I had a good grip on myself (and my stomach). Some of the passages when Naomi were alone almost took my breath away.

Oh, the ending was perfect! I read the novel at a frantic pace for about two hours straight, holding out for an ending that would be satisfying and amazing. And it was everything I could have hoped for. Even possibly more than I could have hoped for. Go read it for yourself already!

This could have simply been a thriller and I would have enjoyed it, but having a disabled, black woman as the protagonist warmed this novel up from another run of the mill (but very good) crime novel to a great one with a diverse range of characters. Her unique perspective put me literally into her shoes. However, I could have had more insight into Lisa as the eventual explanation of her character didn’t exactly ring true for me.

Having finished the novel I can say that it was a totally engrossing read. Since I’ve read it, and I know the thrilling ending now I don’t think I’d reread it. But I think that if you’re a psychological thriller lover you are going to really enjoy this novel. 4 stars from me.

Allen & Unwin | 12th September 2018 | AU$29.99 | paperback

Review: Christelle Dabos – A Winter’s Promise

A Winter’s Promise
Christelle Dabos

In a world that has been rent apart by a vengeful God, humans still exist on floating chucks of world – the ‘Arks’. Ophelia is from Anima, where the houses behave like their inhabitants and she can move through mirrors & read objects with a touch. Unexpectedly she is betrothed to Thorn from the Pole, a bleak icy wasteland with an implacable Court that is out to kill her.

Oh ouch! Those twists! Poor Ophelia. All I could think of was Shakespeare’s Hamlet, where the hapless Ophelia drowns herself. In comparison, this Ophelia is pretty spunky! I think she is quite brave for surviving in that toxic environment.

What else appealed to me about this novel? I enjoyed the plot line because I couldn’t predict what would happen next. That’s what’s good about this novel – it’s an entirely new world idea to me. Also I will always have a soft spot for people who can read objects.

Wow, reviewers are divided on this novel. Some label it derisive and misogynistic, others love it! I can see the opinions of both camps. To be clear, I read this novel in the English translation, and I am actually really keen to see the second novel translated. I’d even consider learning French to read it if I had no other choice.

That being said, I can certainly agree that Ophelia is mainly a pathetic creature who doesn’t stand up for herself at all. But it’s her role. Much as we all want women to stand up for themselves all the time, I don’t have a problem with a heroine that sneezes endlessly and feels lost. In a way it makes her more relatable. I look forward to some really solid character development in the second novel, otherwise I will be disappointed.

I’m giving this a 4 star review before I change my mind and give it 3 stars.

Text Publishing | 1st October 2018 | AU$22.99 | paperback

Review: Sam Hawke – City of Lies

City of Lies
Sam Hawke

Jovan was first poisoned when he was seven to train him to protect the Chancellor’s son. His older sister Kalina should have had the role, but she was too weak. With Jovan and Kalina’s Tashi killed by an unknown poison, and the same with the Chancellor, the city must change or die. A siege adds pressure to the already tight city and tensions run high.

What I wasn’t too convinced by was Kalina’s ‘secrets and lies’. I’m pretty sure that except near the end, Jovan knew most of her secrets. I do agree with Kalina that Jovan should back off sometimes, because she needs the right to look after herself for a change. The interplay between the siblings was really believable.

I was caught up in this novel the whole time I was reading it, and I didn’t want to put it down for anything. I was craving a good fantasy after rereading Elantris, and City of Lies hit the spot. A bit of understated magic, some fierce battles and some poison makes for an exciting, plot driven novel that left me feeling sad when I finished it (happy sad, just sad I had finished it so soon!).

I love the notion of being raised by your uncle and your mother. It is in fact considered heresy to raise your children with their biological father. If you are wanting a child, all you have to do is go through the curtains to find basically a sperm donor! This means that women hold a lot of the power in this society.

The blurb reminded me ofย Three Dark Crowns, where one of the children is trained from birth to be immune to poisons – but the first choice in poisoner is deadly. Anything to do with eating also reminds me of The Sin Eater’s Daughter and of course the popularย Poison Study.

Uh oh. I didn’t realise that this was a first in a series, because the ending was so darn satisfying all by itself! I’m giving this one 4.5 stars, as it was almost good enough to read again.

Penguin Random House | 30th July 2018 | AU$32.99 | paperback

Review: Robert Muchamore – Killer T

Killer T
Robert Muchamore

Harry and Charlie might as well come from different sides of the world. Harry’s a displaced well-off European in the USA while Charlie’s a rock bottom USA native with a history of blowing things up. Harry has a fascination with the Media his whole life, and in Charlie he sees an opportunity to get a fabulous story…

Charlie and Harry form a symbiosis of true love that has to stand the test of time and misunderstandings. Harry’s persistence and Charlie’s brilliance make the novel gritty rather than touching, and actually make you feel like you are experiencing life with them. What more could I ask from a novel?

This is what the future will be! I have little faith in people to do the right things, and the idea of a world where different flu viruses threaten the population every day is exciting. I don’t have a problem with population control, but viruses that pick off the young aren’t really the right way to go about it. This novel was the one I wanted NK3 to be, and takes The Ego Cluster that one step further.

I actually enjoyed the jumps forward in time and alternative perspectives. It enabled Machamore to cram more into the novel and leave it as a standalone. Yay, a standalone novel that for once actually still provided a concrete conclusion and didn’t leave me thinking that the author wanted another book deal.

My finace was completely put off by the cover of my ARC copy, but I reassured her that the inside was far more exciting! I had difficulty predicting what would come next, and that’s what I need in a novel at the moment. I’m giving this novel 4 stars. I don’t think there is enough depth for me to reread, but I couldn’t put it down.

Allen & Unwin | 29th August 2018 | AU$19.99 | paperback

Reivew: Nichola Yoon – Everything Everything

Everything Everything
Nichola Yoon

SCID, or severe combined immunodeficiency, is very rare, yet its sufferers are famous. Maddy has her whole house locked off from the world and sees just her nurse, Carla, and her mother. One day, a boy moves in next door, and Maddy knows she’s about to get her heart broken.

Ooh, this has the twist of The One Memory of Flora Banks, and the love story of Tin Heart. Maddy is a lovable protagonist who you want to just hug – but of course you aren’t supposed to. I admired her determination and self-awareness, and her ability to still put others beyond her own safety. However I was surprised by her lack of general knowledge, as I felt that she could have learnt more information despite being trapped inside a bubble.

This certainly comes under the heading of Young Adult fiction due to the tastefully written sex scene and the themes of parent betrayal and domestic abuse. At the same time, the author treads lightly enough that it isn’t abrasive and adds nicely to the story line.

This was a thoroughly enjoyable diversion on a 15 hour plane flight. I was very excited to find it at a garage sale for the grand total of $1. I could have sworn that I had read “The Sun is Also a Star” but it turns out I haven’t read that one either.

I’m giving this novel 4 stars. I wasn’t enraptured as I could have been as I was able to put it down in the middle of reading it, but it belongs on my shelf as a comfort read.

Review: Patricia Briggs – Mercedes Thompson series

Mercedes Thompson series
Patricia Briggs

Mercedes Thompson, or Mercy to her friends, is a VW mechanic who just happens to have a werewolf for a roommate and a pack of werewolves for back neighbours. She also happens to be able to turn into a Coyote. Somehow she manages to get herself into multiple scrapes with vampires, the Government and the Fae despite wanting a quiet life.

I gobbled up 4-5 of these novels without taking notes on each one, so this is a group novel review. The picture to the left is actually the first novel in the series that I didn’t actually read (I just grabbed one off the shelf in a hurry and didn’t even realise it was part of a series). No matter, the novel stood well alone.

This is a fun set of novels because I wasn’t ever really sure what would happen next, and Mercy was a funny and engaging protagonist that resonated with me. Nothing like having a no-nonsense mechanic as a heroine. It reminds me of Mercedes Lackey’s Elves on the Road universe but seems to be a lot funnier with a better focus on the semi-human protagonist (but let’s admit that there is less substance to Briggs’ work).

I’ll give these novels a rousing 3 stars. If I owned them, I’d probably keep them on the shelf as light reading when I couldn’t be bothered with something that needed a brain and offered simple entertainment.

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: Helen Hoang – The Kiss Quotient

The Kiss Quotient
Helen Hoang

Stella Lane can come up with a formula to unite very disparate data points and predict customer purchases. However, her mathematics skills have not equipped her for when one person becomes a relationship of two. Her critical analysis of the situation has only one answer – pay someone to train her in the language of love.

This was a HOT romance novel filled with unexpected touching moments of both kinds! I devoured it in one afternoon, eagerly voyeuring into Stella and Michael’s burgeoning relationship. Stella is developed as a fantastic non-typical character that is full of life and her own strong personality. Michael is not quite as well explored, but the author exposes enough of him (pun intended!) for the reader to properly appreciate him.

I can fully understand Stella’s point of view. Being touched by people (even your family) can be very intimate, and at times it can feel like there is an invisible, painful friction when you are interacting with them when you feel vulnerable or perhaps don’t like them.

I’m not normally a F/M romance reader as I’m more interested in F/F ones such as Something True (did I mention there is a new Karelia Stetz-Waters novel coming out????). But this novel was an excellent exception – I really enjoyed it and I think it deserves 4 stars. May everyone find their Michael who respects them and treats them like a God(dess).

Allen & Unwin | 13th June 2018 | AU$29.99 | paperback

Review: Nelika McDonald – Deeper than the Sea

Deeper than the Sea
Nelika McDonald

Theo is hiding just a single secret from her adopted daughter Beth. But that single secret is going to catch up with her, and Theo will be ripped from Beth’s side. Both of them are adrift at sea at the mercy of the courts for something that Theo did 16 years ago. Will they be united?

Sometimes I think that laws are made to be broken. Seriously, I get that a 16 year old isn’t necessarily a full adult. But at the same time, someone should have asked Beth how she felt, and let Theo talk to her. How could Theo talking to her possibly put her at risk? Beth is old enough to look after herself, in many countries she would have children of her own already, or could even be going to college!

I didn’t get the importance of the woman that jumped off the cliff. I feel like there was some sort of symbolic meaning there, but I didn’t get it.

Again, I brought this novel with me on vacation thinking that it would be a flop and so I’d be happy to leave it behind when the time came. However it ended up being way more engrossing than I thought it would be. Sigh. I hope I can find it a good home here in a Little Free Library.

About half-way through this novel I thought to myself that it was going to be either a semi-failure of 3 stars, or a really solid 4.5 stars, but it was going to come down to the ending. And I was not disappointed by it! It is worthy of 4 stars for a satisfying and perfect ending after a thrilling build-up.

Pan Macmillan | 1st July 2017 | AU$29.99 | paperback

Review: Alyssa Palombo – The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence

The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence
Alyssa Palombo

Simonetta is the most beautiful girl in Genoa, and the most beautiful woman in Florence. Drawn from her little hometown by a promised happy marriage, Simonetta looks forward to expanding her mind and enjoying the life of a true woman. But is all in Florence as it seems? What does the artistย Botticelli have in mind for her?

I thoroughly enjoyed the Violinist of Venice, and I was very excited to see this novel from the same author come in the mail. Palombo did not disappoint, offering up another historical novel that carefully wove rare facts of history with a well written lyrical story. I could see Simonetta posing for Botticelli’s famous works and her steadfast gaze as she withheld her desires.

This was a sweet romance that was a easy and enjoyable holiday read. It didn’t require my jetlagged brain to do anything much and the pace was very slow and steady. Normally this would irritate me but I didn’t want something that I couldn’t put down. The rhythmic flow of the prose and Simonetta’s own grace made it easy to drop in and out.

I actually hope that perhaps the author will write of Michelangelo, but that would possibly overlap with this novel because the two artists shared a patron. 4 stars to this one, and it will follow me on my 15 hour flight home.

Pan Macmillan | 26th April 2017 | AU$29.99 |paperback