Review: Garth Nix – FROGKISSER!

FROGKISSER!
Garth Nix

Princess Anya always gets the responsibility of cleaning up after her sister’s messes. Unfortunately, she’s also trying to avoid her step-step father killing her off and taking the throne. When her step-step father makes yet another one of her sister’s wooers a frog, it’s up to Anya to save the day.

Who wouldn’t love a plucky heroine who really just wants to sit in her library and study sorcery? Oh wait, maybe that’s just me. No! I don’t think so. Nix has once again created a strong female character with a set of unique character flaws. She’s young enough to be appealing to young readers, but there are some in-jokes in the novel that teenagers would enjoy too.

I’m going to be handing over my copy of this novel to a 16 year old keen Garth Nix reader to see what he thinks. Is this novel particularly new and exciting? Is it adding something exciting to the genre of fairytales? Maybe is all I can say. It is certainly better than some of the other offerings out there, and if you like Garth Nix, you will probably still love this novel.

What you can’t see from the cover image is the glorious fluorescent yellow page edges. Check out my instagram to see them. It almost makes me want to put the book back-to-front on my bookshelf so that it can stand out!

I can see where this novel could easily become a series – there is reference to an overall set of Rules after all. But this novel was perfect in itself. This novel is far better than the other recent Nix novel, Newt’s Emerald, but not as good as Clariel or Goldenhand. I’m giving it 4 stars, although I would consider reading it again should a sequel appear.

Allen & Unwin | 22 February 2017 | AU $19.99 | Paperback

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Review: JP Delaney – The Girl Before

The Girl Before
JP Delaney

First there was Emma, who died a lonely death at the bottom of the stairs. Then there is Jane, trying to recover from the death of her baby and the loss of her high paying job in a house that seems too good to be true. Is it the house that killed Emma? Or is it Edward? Jane needs to find out, but the truth might kill her.

The parallels between the women that Edward can see to exploit are really nicely pulled out by the author so that they are on the edge of the reader’s consciousness as well. And then as the two storylines collide, it’s that not even those things are as they seem.

This novel warns you that Jane will be the next one to die, but it lets itself gradually unfold who the killer might be. Mid-way through the book when I sat down to write myself some notes about it, I couldn’t decide if I wanted her to die or not. I could see how the perfection would work either way!

Now that, that was a killer ending. Perfect. It wasn’t what I expected, but I was satisfied nevertheless. You think you know the characters, and then BAM they turn on you, and themselves. In hindsight, Jane and I both should have noticed these things.

On a more personal note, I think I’d actually love living in a house like that one. So long as I can have books somewhere (ok, so they’d need to be hidden away neatly), I’d like it. The neatness would appeal to me. Someone who saw my house right now wouldn’t agree with me, but truely, I do like things to be neat.

I couldn’t put the novel down, and devoured it in just under 3 hours. The set up as perfect, and the last third of the book even more riveting than the rest. It’s creepy and scary, but I think you’d still be ok to sleep after reading it after dark.

Hachette Australia | 1st February 2017| AU $32.99 | Paperback

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Review: Vic James – Gilded Cage

Gilded Cage
Vic James

In Britain, there are the Equals and the slaves. All regular humans must spend 10 years slaving for the Equals, who play their own political games and couldn’t care less about the lives that are outside their own.

There’s nothing gilded about that cage. Nope. This novel follows a family who accidentally get split apart, with the teenager son going to a hard work-camp and the rest of the family going to a comparatively easy Estate job. I got very attached to Luke but couldn’t care less about Abi. Simple, idiotic girl.

I actually quite liked Silyen and despised the other brothers. Ok, so he’s a tad brilliant, and a large patch of rude and arrogant, but there’s something going on inside his mind that is not obvious to everyone else. He hides things, but he’s obvious about it and not sneaky like the rest of the Skilled/Equals.

I finished reading this novel breathlessly. I was hoping so hard for a standalone novel that wasn’t going to leave me hanging unhappily until the sequel came. This one had the potential, but in the end it seems to be part of a series. So, I’d advise buying a copy, but not reading it yet – you’ll just be setting yourself up for a cliffhanger ending that will torment you!

I’m giving it 5 stars, and hoping that when the next novel comes out I have time to reread this one first to refresh my memory for all the twisty turns in it.

Pan Macmillan | 1st February 2017 | AU $16.99 | Paperback

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Review: Sara Barnard – A Quiet Kind of Thunder

A Quiet Kind of Thunder
Sara Barnard

Steffi doesn’t talk and Rhys can’t hear. Thrown together because Steffi has a passing grasp of sign language, their friendship is something that might widen Steffi’s world – or perhaps make her life harder…

Ah, the depiction of first love is fantastic here. They are both equally awkward, and yet Barnard doesn’t make it contrite and irritating. Instead she seems to let it grow organically out of friendship. There is a matter of fact discussion and depiction of sex, and its not overly squeamish, yet still gets to the heart of the matter.

I knew I needed to read this novel, and then I found myself reading it in one setting because I enjoyed it so much. Something about the pacing, the characters, the individuality of telling a novel through including seamlessly incorporated texts, handsigns and emails – brilliant.

Social anxiety is something that is getting better coverage in all areas of fiction. This is not the first novel I have read that includes a protagonist who is a selective mutist. So Much To Tell You might be the first teenage novel that approached the topic, while The Things I Didn’t Say  is a more YA novel that approaches the question of love as well.

I’ve going to give this lovely novel 4 stars. I liked Beautiful Broken Things, and I’m really looking forward to more from this author.

As is understandable, Sara Barnard is a busy lady! I’ve got two interview questions that she was kind enough to answer for me though 🙂

Sex is something you’ve explored quite frankly in A Quiet Kind of Thunder? Why is that?

I try to approach everything I write about honestly, and I don’t think sex should be any different. I’m not interested in sugarcoating or romanticizing anything. With sex, I think young people are given enough of that as it is, and that’s confusing enough already. It’s not all soft sheets, pastel colours and fireworks! And I think teens deserve to see that reflected in their fiction.

Could you give us a hint into anything about your next novel?

It’s all under wraps at the moment, but I will tell you that friendship plays a major role again.

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Review: Brian Jay Jones – George Lucas, A Life

George Lucas, A Life
Brian Jay Jones

George Lucas was born to an average family and was expected to follow in his salesman father’s footsteps. Instead, Lucas survived a horrific car crash, went to film school and created the iconic Star Wars.

For an unauthorised biography, this was pretty damn good! I found myself quoting weird things I learnt about George Lucas for ages afterwards. When I went to see Rogue One in the cinemas, I could pick out points that I knew Lucas wouldn’t have wanted Disney to do.

It was quite slow going at times and I picked it up and put it down over the course of about a week. I needed time to digest each of the facts. In fact, I found myself wishing I knew more about the other filmmakers that are referenced in the novel, and experienced more films. I haven’t even see Jaws, which was a friendly rivalry between Steven and George.

I wouldn’t reread it, I in fact passed my copy on to my father who partially started my own love of Star Wars. If you have a Star Wars lover in your family, and you have no idea what to get them, this novel offers you the perfect solution to your problems.

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Review: Sara Shepard – The Amateurs

The Amateurs
Sara Shepard

Aerin’s sister Helena disappeared 5 years ago, yet she can’t let go that there was something that she missed. When she calls in the help of amateur detectives from Case Not Closed online, they might be able to see the mystery through and solve some of their own issues at the same time.

Seneca! I love you! And best of all, your characterisation is very human and not as if you are a saint. I could have had more of you, and way less of all the other characters who mainly seemed to be concerned with who they were kissing next. That’s not to say that Seneca didn’t also have that problem, but she seemed to have her feet firmly on the ground and some guts to go with it.

I had trouble keeping all the characters apart in my mind. Honestly, the bar hopping and sheer amount of money that these people were throwing around… So Seneca seems to be the only one with real-world problems, and the rest are just crazy spoilt rich kids. Even Maddox, with his rags-to-sexy story.

This is a fantastic beginner psychological crime novel. Ok, so you aren’t going to be able to solve the case by yourself at all, there aren’t nearly enough details. But you will enjoy the suspense and the ending should blindside you. The blurb warns you, and there are some plot holes that might hint you towards it, but in the end it’s not clear what is going on.

I knew nothing of Shepard’s other novels, but they could be worth checking out. The price on this novel is a steal – buy it for a mature teenager or young adult in your life, and I’m pretty sure they will love you for it. I’m giving it 4 stars – that ending was fantastic and I wanted to read more. I’ll be looking for the next novel in the series to read.

Allen & Unwin | 23rd November 2016| AU $6.99 | Paperback

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Review: Janet Evanovich – Turbo Twenty-Three

Turbo Twenty-Three
Janet Evanovich

Stephanie Plum is a bounty hunter and flybynight private investigator. After a HR officer turns up frozen solid, coated with chocolate and nuts, Stephanie has her work cut out for her to try and track down some criminals and not eat all the icecream on the way there.

Ok, so Stephanie is pretty dumb. And her friends are even dumber (except that sexy beast of Ranger). They are all caracatures of American cliches with an equally cliched environment. Seriously? Filming naked in the streets is pretty easy to get away with… and so is naked bungie jumping.

For being the ‘Newest Stephanie Plum’ novel, in a series of 23!! … Oh. I was saying that I had no idea what the significance of this title is. Now I do. Do I care? Hmm, not sure I do. The vibrant green and purple of the cover and the peppy blurb got me excited for the novel and didn’t give too much away.

I’m not sure I could read the whole series of these. It’s filled with lighthearted humour and unbelievable escapades and was indeed difficult to put down. But there wasn’t any substance that made me reach for more, and there was no need to read any of the others to enjoy it.

I’m going to be generous and give it 4 stars. It’s not a reread, but it was so funny and irreverant that I couldn’t help laughing out loud in places. I’d lend it to a friend who needed a pick-me-up.

Hachette | 15th November 2016 | AU $29.99 | Paperback

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Review: Kathleen Duey – Skin Hunger

Skin Hunger
Kathleen Duey

Sadima is born with gifts, despite the presence of a false Magician who kills her mother and steals what things of value the family has. Brought up by her strict father and loving brother, her mind gifts with animals are of use – but also dangerous. Generations later, Hahp is being trained as a true Magician in the most brutal way possible. Survival is key, nothing else matters.

764861The interlocking character storylines at first seem like they have nothing in common. For the majority of the novel, you wonder why the author has even paired the two together, but eventually it becomes clearer and this is very apparent by the second book. The blurb on the novel put me off reading it for a long time – but not long enough with no release date of the final novel available!

The writing technique here of swapping between the vastly different perspectives of each character works beautifully. I would get caught up in one character, only to have the perspective change. No sooner had I gotten attached again, it swapped back!

I could see the dripping corridors, the bright marketplace, and perhaps even the bonds binding Franklin and Somiss irrevocably together. I wanted more, more more and couldn’t put the novel down.

Warning! Despite my glowing review, I would hold off on reading this novel. This is the first novel in a trilogy and has been around for more than 10 years. Despite this, the third novel in the trilogy has not been published, and the publishing company and Duey’s editor could not give me a review date. By all means, if you see a copy somewhere, buy it, but don’t start reading it!

4star

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Review: A.F. Harrold & Levi Pinfold – The Song From Somewhere Else

The Song From Somewhere Else
A.F. Harrold & Levi Pinfold

Frank is bullied by Noble, who is anything but noble. When Nick, stinky, ostracised Nick, comes to her rescue, it seems unkind (despite being unwise) to not at least spend some time in his company. At his house, Frank hears music that she can’t ignore… but it comes from a most unexpected place.

29785301A fantasy twist on a bullying story, Frank is a character that you will love and want to protect in the beginning. By the end, you might wonder a bit where her spunk has come from, but I personally think it rubbed off from Nick. An innocuous missing cat can start off a range of interworld connections that lead to a better end than could have been imagined.

Oh, did I mention that it’s a beautiful hard cover that has an equally attractive dust jacket, and includes illustrations? I admit, I mainly looked at the illustrations before I got too caught up in the story to pay attention. I think I’d like to go back and look at them now though.

This is what I wanted Little Bits of Sky to be. It’s a whimsical but compelling novel that is suitable for younger readers, but has a splash of creepy just for good measure! I’m giving it 4 stars – I think it could be a great Christmas gift for someone who enjoys both fantasy and teenage fiction.

4star

Bloomsbury | 1st December 2016 | AU $24.99 | Hardback

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Review: Guillermo del Toro & Daniel Kraus – Trollhunters

Trollhunters
Guillermo del Toro & Daniel Kraus

Having a memorial to your dead old uncle in your livingroom is a bit odd. Even worse so when your dad, Jim Sturges Sn. keeps 10 locks on the front door and steel shutters on the windows. Jim Sturges Jr. has enough to worry about without trolls actually coming out from the drains in the gym lockers…

31846469Plenty of ooze, vomit, snot and gore in this novel, but with epic illustrative depictions that make you feel like you are right there on the scene. Yes, some parts of it were completely overboard, but I just rolled with it. It had the immediacy of action that I missed from Artie and the Grime Wave, and theoretically the same amount of gross.

Read this as episodic awesomeness that you won’t necessarily see coming. Please, please, please don’t read anything else online about it or I think you will ruin the storyline for yourself. For me, I didn’t see a lot of what there was to happen and that made it all the more exciting to experience things with the unlikliest of heros.

This is coming to Netflix (or is already there?), and you can bet I’m going to have at least a try of watching it with my partner. I think that this could make a powerful, enjoyable storyline and I look forward to sharing it with a non-reader. It’s made by Dreamworks and I generally love everything Dreamworks (Kung Fu Panda! How to Train Your Dragon!), so I’ve got high hopes.

Ah ha! That ending was perfect and satisfying. And yet… this is the first novel in the series! Am I going to pick the second novel? Maybe… it depends on what other options are there. I’m giving this novel 4 stars because I couldn’t put it down despite being tired and overdue for my nap.

4star

Allen & Unwin | 23rd November 2016 | AU $16.99 | Paperback

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