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

Review: Becky Albertalli – Leah on the Off Beat

Leah on the Off Beat
Becky Albertalli

Leah is ready to ride out her senior year of school and cruise into the college that she has a full scholarship to. But she expected to have all of her friends together – and when they start breaking up into smaller groups and losing relationships due to distance, Leah finds herself out of step with the beat.

I think I would have actually benefited from reading ‘Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda’ first. I just ignored the fact that this novel was the sequel because it looked awesome, and I really enjoyed the Upside of Unrequitedย (actually receiving this one pushed me to review that one). I then felt like I never connected properly with the characters and that it seemed like they were just wandering through Leah’s life.

I honestly found myself expecting more actual drumming in this novel rather than dramas. The closest it gets to her drumming is the band showing up at the rehearsal house – and then the guy who lives there is having a breakdown!

I love the way Leah owns the way she looks. Although she occasionally mentions her weight, you don’t get the feeling that she’s self-conscious about it. She isn’t afraid of squashing anyone – all she is concerned about is that being bisexual will alienate her from her group.

If you are looking for a teenage fiction with a non-typical protagonist (not a straight, thin, middle-class white girl) then this could be a novel for you. I read it all in one sitting and I didn’t regret it! I’m giving it 4 stars as I found it above average but not spectacular.

Penguin Random House | 30th April 2018 | AU$17.99 | paperback

Review: Brandon Sanderson – Wax and Wayne (Mistborn #4, #5 and #6)

Mistborn – Wax and Wayne
Brandon Sanderson

This is a combined review of the three Wax and Wayne novels that are set in an era after the original three Mistborn novels (Mistborn, The Well of Ascension, The Hero of Ages). The Mistborn trilogy was actually the first set of Brandon Sanderson novels I ever read, so I had high hopes for these follow-on novels (please don’t laugh at my very old reviews). However, unusually for a Sanderson novel, I was kind of disappointed so I didn’t review them immediately.

The Alloy of Law’s first chapter was the best! I could have heard far more about Wax’s old life rather than his new one. It is interesting to return to the same stomping grounds of the original trilogy 300 years later, where technology has actually happened despite, or perhaps because of, the scarcity of magic. This is something rare for a fantasy series, although my beloved Ruined certainly has magic and technology battling it out. However, the city that Wax sees and the one he fights for frustrates me. Burn it all down and try again! And that bloody uncle of his…

Wax’s slow romance burns a little brighter in the second novel Shows of Self. This novel moved quickly due to Wax’s insistence on doing everything himself. Kandra tactics and the way Kandra have moved on from the original Mistborn series is explored in depth here, and some very surprising information comes to light. It’s nice to have a ‘God’ who actually responds, even if it is sometimes not in the way you expect…

The eventual conclusion of this series in The Bands of Mourning finally plays out the showdown of Wax and his uncle that readers have been anticipating from the beginning of the trilogy. The relative expansion of the physical world of the Mistborn saga allows Sanderson more scope for future novels (although I hope that is not the main reason for doing it). In addition, we also get a look at more Allomancy and Feruchemy which is the part of these novels that I am actually always excited about.

I’m actually going to give these 4 stars… Shock horror! I never expected to downgrade a Sanderson from a 5 stars, but these just lacked the awesome storyline and connectable characters of his latest stuff eg. Legionย or Steelheart. Don’t worry, I’m still going to be getting my hands on the latest novels in his epics (even if I’ll never forgive him for taking time off to work on that stupid Wheel of Time epic…)

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: Kaethe Schwehn – The Rending and the Nest

The Rending and the Nest
Kaethe Schwehn

95% of the world’s population was wiped out unexpectedly – and those left behind have had to make a life out of scavenging Piles to get the simple things that they need. The little community some of the survivors have put together has been functioning smoothly enough for 3 years, but the birth of inanimate objects from otherwise fertile women upsets the status quo.

This novel just got stranger and stranger, and I actually really enjoyed that. First there’s the strange Babies, and then there is a Zoo with a self-made savior. Then there is Mira and her conflicting personality traits and trusts. Despite feeling like I didn’t get to know the characters very well from Mira’s warped perspective, I didn’t actually want to know anything about the others so that I could better understand what Mira was going through.

I was reminded of The Rains in a positive manner. Strange how different people can respond differently to the end of the world. For a young adult version tryย How To Bee. Or of course, there is NK3 which is a terrible version of this!

The cover says it’s ‘A Novel’. Um, what else would it be? I always think a little less of a novel that uses that sort of language to ‘sell itself’. It could instead be billed as a novel that asks the reader hard questions within the veil of storytelling. How do we know the truth about ourselves and others? Is there any truth anywhere?

Phew. I loved the Acknowledgements that said thank you to her agent who said it needed another 20k words! There was a moment towards the end where lesser writers would have just stopped writing – and I would have demoted the novel to 3 stars. Instead, I’m giving it 4 stars for keeping me eagerly reading for whatever could happen next.

Bloomsbury | 1st March 2018 | AU$24.99 | paperback

Review: Sebastien de Castell – SpellSlinger

SpellSlinger
Sebastien de Castell

Kellen needs to pass 4 trials in order to become a spellcaster. Unfortunately his magic is gone and his trickery could easily be revealed. But is magic all there is to the world?

Hmm, while I was reading this I was totally engrossed and couldn’t put it down due to the powerful plot. However when I think back on it some of the character development was completely see-through and unexciting. Unfortunately that’s what I’ve come to expect from HotKey Books. The novels don’t seem to be as refined in my opinion; I’m thinking of novels such as Fly on the Wall.

Kellen is also the name of a quirky protagonist in an older Mercedes Lackey novel. I think that also persuaded me that Kellen was a character worth reading about. Anyhow, you had to be attached to Kellen because there certainly wasn’t any airtime for other characters.

I think Kellen’s decision to help his sister was dangerous and will come back to haunt him later. Not to mention just leaving his parents to be disasterous clueless idiots. Adversity is the key to developing new skills so maybe Kellen will continue to brighten up. If you can kill any family member, surely you can kill more than one…

Plot twist! Kellen! You are awesome! Well most of the time, even if you are a bit clueless and you need that Daroman woman to set you straight. Aw, a terrifying squirrel cat familiar. Even if you aren’t supposed to get one Kellen. Maybe a squirrel cat is a sugar glider? Except I’m not sure those have such sharp teeth…

I had read in the beginning that this was a series, but the second book was due to be out October 2017. That’s how long this novel sat on my shelf, but I had actually lost it somewhere. Anyway, 4 stars from me and I need to get my hands on the other novels in the series.

Allen & Unwin | 26th April 2017 | AU $19.99 | paperback