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 try 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

Review: Mercedes Lackey & Cody Martin – Silence

Silence
Mercedes Lackey & Cody Martin

Staci has just been booted by her step-mother so that she can live with her alcoholic mother instead. Even with the money from her father to hopefully

This is the first time in a while that I have read a Mercedes Lackey novel. After reading her latest Elemental Master and Valdemar novels, I sort of went on to discover better things like Brandon Sanderson! This is a duo work with Cody Martin and seems to be an older novel.

I really like the idea of elves with motorcycles and I always have! There’s a series of these that I have read before, and I thought I had read all of them in the universe. But nope! This is glorious number 9 in the SERRAted Edge series.

Ouch, in the end our elven hero didn’t turn out to be much of a hero, but that’s just the way things are with elves. They can’t help being that attractive! And Staci couldn’t help being helpless and vulnerable. She just wants to be loved! That’s pretty typical of a teenager. It would have been nice to have a bit more hope offered to Staci but this is an older style novel that really doesn’t have counselling as an option.

This was pretty decent quality older Mercedes Lackey and I really enjoyed reading it. 4 stars from me. It was great to have my library have a copy.

Review: Becky Albertalli – The Upside of Unrequited

The Upside of Unrequited
Becky Albertalli

Molly has never found a boy that she could actually approach. But then when you’ve had 26 crushes, maybe you’re just in love with the idea of love? When her twin sister Cassie gets a new girlfriend who happens to come with a cute boy as a sidekick, Molly might actually make a move. But is it the right move?

Oh Molly. Why you so stupid? Getting drunk every time a boy likes you. This is a novel of first love and stupid behaviour in the name of love, and I actually liked it! The prose was excellent, and I enjoyed having a protagonist who tried not to be too stupid, but then just was anyway. It actually endeared her to me more than anything else.

This novel reminded me of Alex, Approximately. They’ll never fall for the socially ostracized, nerdy boys that actually like them for the person they are. Come on girls, those people are the best! These novels always seem to happen over summer, which is something unimaginable in the cities I have lived it. The minute that summer starts, people either go away or are busy with family stuff (I guess because our Summer is over Christmas).

Sorry for this rather pathetic review. I read this novel months and months ago, and I remember enjoying it, but I don’t think it was something as special as blending in . Thus I will give it 4 stars.

Penguin Random House | 18th April 2018 | AU$19.99 | paperback

Review: Anna Day – The Fandom

The Fandom
Anna Day

Violet thinks that she is a Shrinking Violet and that there is nothing special about her. When she is catapulted into her favorite novel as the heroine and she is the only person who can get them home, Violet must stop shrinking and grow some balls (the author’s terminology, not mine)!

Nope, I didn’t buy the Violet – Alice connection. I really did feel that Alice was an ass. Seriously, 17 year old girl suddenly deciding that she’d like to stay in a violent fantasy world that has to eventually collapse? Idiot… I wanted more Katie time! Damn she was good. Way more an exciting character than Alice (and more deserving too).

I wonder how many shared dreams/comas there are in real life? It’s an interesting concept. I certainly dream pretty vividly, so it is possible. Perhaps out-of-body experiences? I have a non-fiction novel by a neuroscience on my shelf at the moment that perhaps will explore this idea more.

As the novel progressed, I found myself more and more confused. How exactly did this cross-over work? I’m not sure whether this is a spoiler or not, but you very quickly work out the double worlds at play. Sadly, I didn’t find that it created any suspense – the potential beeping of the hospital machines or anything else.

I really enjoyed this novel due to its fast pace, but I don’t think it is a reread for me. As other reviewers have noted, you get told the ending at the very beginning. I also always figured that they would come out ok at the end, and thus the ending wasn’t as exciting as it could be. 4 stars from me.

Chicken House / Scholastic | March 2018 | AU$16.99 | paperback

Review: Mary Watson – The Wren Hunt

The Wren Hunt
Mary Watson

Wren is chased once a year for her name. This year, she pledges, is the year she will no longer be frightened, and the year she will no longer be caught. Instead, the leader takes a slice of her hair, claiming the literal kill for himself. But there are other plans afoot – does Wren have a different destiny to fulfill?

It took me a while to get into this novel. The start was very slow, despite a chase scene. But the lead up to the chase scene destroyed the anticipation. The rest of the novel wasn’t as predictable though (except the love interest). Oh! Twist! I did not see that coming. This novel stands alone quite nicely, but I can tell it has been set up for a sequel. What will Wren do next? What does it all mean?

I felt Wren’s character was nicely defined, and her behaviour was very consistent despite the different environments she found herself in. Like her family, I also felt that she should have done more snooping, but for her own benefit.

I felt confusion about what had come before with the artist and her mother? And I also didn’t get any conclusions about some of Wren’s visions. I also would have liked some more information about her mother. Finally, I wanted to know more about why these archives were actually formed.

As you can see, this novel left me with a lot of questions. At the same time, it did conclude. For the terrible beginning I’m giving this three stars, but I would consider reading the next novel if there is one.

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

Review: Sara Bernard – Goodbye, Perfect

Goodbye, Perfect
Sara Bernard

Eden can depend on Bonnie for being there and holding her up. But now Bonnie has run away with her boyfriend, and Eden doesn’t know which secrets she should be keeping. As Bonnie gets further and further away from Eden, Eden is forced further into her lies. Can Eden bring Bonnie home without betraying her trust?

I’m not sure how convinced by this novel I was. I wanted to get more of a sense about Eden’s background, but I appreciated that the author didn’t want to make a big deal out of it, because the whole novel was really about how far you would go to keep a secret. There were touches of romance between Eden and Connor, and attempts to explore the sometimes complicated nature of families, but most of the novel was focussed on Eden’s stubbornness. I never felt a real breakthrough in her personality, despite the softening she displayed later.

There could have been more action to keep my attention in the first part of the novel. I never felt like Eden was going to tell, so I didn’t feel much of a problem as Bonnie got further and further away from her home. I got to page 36 and commented to my partner that nothing seemed to have happened yet.

Something that you are told about frequently in foster care training, or as a psychiatric patient, is that you have to warn people that you can’t actually keep things a secret – if keeping the secret will harm them, or others, you are required to tell someone who can act to keep the person in question safe. Teenagers find this hard to understand, probably due to peer pressure & influence.

I felt pretty betrayed at the end honestly. I don’t know how I felt about the whole Jack-Bonnie situation either. I agree that he was in a position of power, and that he shouldn’t have abused that power. How could Bonnie be so naive? She seemed to have plenty of book-smarts, but no common sense. Not to mention the lack of responsibility of the school. Oh! And I wasn’t convinced that Jack was ‘grooming’ Bonnie. I agree that he probably didn’t feel the same star-struck love for her, but he might not have been a paedophile. Consent is a tricky thing – make sure you are both consenting ADULTS before doing anything…dodgy.

I’m giving this 4 stars.

Pan Macmillan | 13th February 2018 | AU$16.99 | paperback

Review: Short Stories, Because You Love to Hate Me (ed. Ameriie)

Because You Love to Hate Me
Editor: Ameriie

Leave it to the heroes to save the world—villains just want to rule the world. In this unique YA anthology, thirteen acclaimed, bestselling authors team up with thirteen influential BookTubers to reimagine fairy tales from the oft-misunderstood villains’ points of view.

I confess, I read the first two short stories and almost gave up on the whole anthology. Neither were in a style I enjoyed. A book of short stories was never going to be my favourite read. You will remember from the time that I was more enamored with Mercedes Lackey that I read a lot of short stories. I usually like to use them to pick out some new authors to test out, but honestly at the moment I still have novels left over from last year to review and it’s just not going to happen.

I recognised two of the authors here – Adam Silvera (They Both Die in the End) and Nichola Yoon. I wouldn’t say that any short stories really shone out as amazing, but my pick would be Julian Breaks Every Rule by Andrew Smith. Let’s just say it has a lot in common with Breaking Butterflies. I wouldn’t want to ruin the underlying theme of it.

Honestly, I’m actually really envious that these vloggers got to request specific topics for their short story. Maybe I should start vlogging about my books? But I’m more of a writer of reviews. If you asked me to do this, I think I’d choose a reimagining of a dragon fairytale, clearly. Maybe the dragon from The Hobbit?

Let’s give this 4 stars, which is pretty generous from me for a book of short stories. Worth reading if you love fairytales, don’t mind short stories and are looking for some new authors to read.

Bloomsbury | 1st September 2017 | AU$14.99 | paperback

Review: Megan Frazer Blakemore – The Firefly Code

The Firefly Code
Megan Frazer Blakemore

Old Harmonie is a utopian community where almost all diseases have been cured, and children at the age of 13 are granted access to their special talent. But is everything as good as the children have been taught?

I didn’t always understand Mori’s motivations. I actually wondered at the beginning if her own parents or Ilana had somehow coerced her into taking Ilana into her secret place. Or can it be excused by the power of ‘beautiful people’ to get what they want? I find it so funny how Mori can think that Ilana must be a ‘natural’ because she looks perfect. Dude! Everyone knows that natural genetics for humans doesn’t always turn out well. If someone is a ‘natural’, it’s likely that they don’t look perfect – they will resemble their parents more than Ilana does hers. Also, she should also totally blame her parents for her eyeball problems.

Looking for a YA version of this novel? Read Breaking and Burning by Danielle Rollings. Or perhaps Because you’ll never meet me. Playing around with genetics is so dangerous. We don’t even always get it right with mice – and it’s scary to think that scientists in poorly regulated countries such as China are already performing human cloning and no doubt some serious genetic engineering. It’s the ethics that always makes things complicated. How far is too far?

This novel has real potential for introducing younger readers to important genetic concepts. I’d set it at maybe age 10 up, just because the ideas behind changing people’s very genetic makeup is a hard one to grasp. They may also struggle with the idea that adults don’t always tell the truth, and that adults don’t always know everything. Being able to read the words and being able to understand the concepts are two different things.

Oh dear. This novel has made me want to read Sapient or The Ego Cluster again (PS: I did just reread Sapient – so good!). If only I had a printed copy of The Ego Cluster! I’ve just gotten a fancy copy of my PhD bound, so maybe I could do the same for it… Better ask the author (and see if he has written any more fantastic novels yet). I’m giving this 4 stars. It gets off to a really slow start, but certainly ‘heats up’ towards the end. And it has a sequel coming. Sigh. Why always with sequels? At least it mostly concluded properly.

Bloomsbury | 1st December 2017 | AU$14.99 | paperback