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: Andrew Mayne – The Name of the Devil (Jessica Blackwood #2)

The Name of the Devil
Andrew Maine

Jessica Blackwood grew up in a house full of magicians – the real-world kind who can hide in plain sight using nothing but mirrors. Turning her back on it after a near death experience, Jessica now uses her talents off the books in her work as an FBI cop. When a Church seems to explore on its own accord, Jessica can find things with her instincts that noone else can.

If you haven’t read Angel Killer you will feel quite confused about what is happening, and what experiences Jessica already has. Go back and read it right now! I’ll be waiting right here for you, or possible be rereading it over your shoulder.

I loved the first novel in this series, and immediately contacted the publisher to see when the next would be out. Sadly, this was one of those novels that was published later in Australia than in the US, so I decided to wait. Instead, my partner bought me a copy for Christmas and I immediately started reading it then and there under the tree!

This novel is nifty because while it uses the ‘traditional’ magicians’ tricks to explain the unexplainable, some science also comes into it. Jessica’s unflinching strength of will could have been annoying, but instead it was consistent with the person I knew she was.

This reminds me of the Kendra novels, where the protagonist is also excellent at working out things from tiny cues that no-one else would ever pick up. As I said there, I like being given enough details that I could conceivably work it out for myself – even if I don’t know anything about crime solving.

5 stars from me. An engaging plot line, conceivable threats and an endearing and realistic main character whose no-nonsense approach to almost everything will excite you.

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Review: Emily Barr – The One Memory of Flora Banks

The One Memory of Flora Banks
Emily Barr

Flora has anterograde amnesia. The only things she can remember are the things that happened before she was 10, and had to have a tumour removed from her brain. Then she kisses a boy, and she can remember the kiss. She goes off her medication and goes out to explore life.

Flora, you’re a little naive, and I can understand why your parents want to protect you. Ok, so you are a lot naive. What is to say bad things haven’t happened? I’m not sure you would have remembered, and so as an unreliable narrator, we would never hear about it.

I almost cried in the last couple of chapters of this novel. My heart hurt! How could I not have seen this coming? Barr grabs your heart, tickles it gently, then next minute, boom!

I found myself so engrossed in the story that I couldn’t put it down. I wandered around the house reading it, feeling like I was the one with memory loss. What was it I was supposed to be doing again?

As a debut YA novel from Barr (she has written a number of adult novels already), this novel is screaming for you to read it, and for Barr to write more. For something that was tagged ‘just another typical YA’ by my (albeit non-reading) partner, this novel will grab you.

It’s rare a novel will draw me to tears and for that, I’m giving this one 5 stars. Perhaps I won’t reread it, but it was beautiful storytelling that I want you to go out and buy immediately. Or borrow a copy from the library – but try not to leave tears on the pages.

Penguin Random House | 3rd January 2017 | AU$19.99 | Paperback

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Review: Simon Holland – A Miscellany of Magical Beasts

A Miscellany of Magical Beasts
Simon Holland

Discover the spellbinding stories of sixteen favorite mythical creatures from around the world. Dragons and griffins through to mermaids and giants, this lovingly illustrated novel will be for you.

With gorgeous illustrations and catchy little bits of story about mythical creatures, this large format children’s book is going to suit a range of fantasy enthusiasts. Perhaps you aren’t ready to read a big book of mythology? Perhaps you just want to have a taster of it? This is the book for you.

Of course, my favourite part was bound to be about dragons, and there wasn’t enough detail here for me. But for a beginner, it’s a nice introduction.

This has got to be the perfect gift for the younger someone who wants to know more about mythology past JK Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. I’ll be giving it to a 7 year old beginning reader who is simply going to love it.

Bloomsbury | 20th November 2016 | AU $29.99 | Paperback

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Review: Jessica Watson & Dougal Macpherson – Introducing Teddy

Introducing Teddy
Jessica Watson & Dougal Macpherson

Teddy is keeping a big secret from Thomas, and Teddy is worried that Thomas won’t understand and might not like him anymore. Will Teddy be accepted as Tilly?

27158837There’s not very much I can write about a children’s novel so small. Oh, but how will I convey how impressed I am with this?

In a world where transgender individuals are gradually getting the rights they deserve, this novel is how to introduce children from a young age that some people aren’t born into the right bodies for their brains.

It’s sensitive, simple and something that younger readers (maybe grade 1 or 2) will be able to read by themselves (with adult guidance for the contents). The language is straight-forward, and the message of acceptance is clear.

With any children’s book, I’m not sure whether to recommend you buy it, or borrow it from the library as it may only get one read, depending on the age of your child. I received a paperback and a hard copy version, and I donated the hard copy one to my library. Well worth having in a collection of children’s books.

5star

Bloomsbury | June 2016 | $24.99 | Hardback

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Review: Alexander Weinstein – Children of the New World

Children of the New World
Alexander Weinstein

In the near future, social media implants are normal, and memories can be virtually implanted. Sex, souls and ass are currency and children can be deleted from life or have their insides fail. This collection of short stories is an eye-opening horror that will leave you thinking about the implications of technology long into the night.

29243630The short stories lapped in with each other, the world felt complete and despite the short stories being, well, short, I felt satisfied after reading each one. I’m not sure that I would be able to comfortably read a whole novel of this, nor what storyline could go with it. There is just so many disparate things happening that it seems impossible to get

I want to suggest this novel for others to read, and perhaps lend it to a friend or two, but I’m also hesitant because I’m not sure most people are going to be accepting of most of the ideas. It’s out there alright, and I think it should be read. It’s another level of “1984” (with the same sort of Big Brother ideas).

Oh, I wasn’t sure whether to give this 4 stars or 5 stars. Normally I wouldn’t go in for a book of short stories, but it really was fantastic.

4star

Text Publishing | 1st December 2016 | AU $22.99 | Paperback

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Review: Garth Nix – Goldenhand

Goldenhand
Garth Nix

Another Dead threat is coming. Despite the reestablishment of order in the Old Kingdom, the Dead still threaten. As a Northern clanswoman travels urgently to warn the Abhorson of the Witch With No Face, the Dead do anything to prevent her reaching it.

30327443Sabriel has always been an established Abhorson in my eyes, but here we see Lirael grow into what she should be. When she returns to the Glacier where she grew up, it is obvious that there has been some serious character growth coming on. We get to see more of that in this novel too, as well as Sameth (who I hold a personal soft spot for) and Nick.

The ending came very suddenly. I didn’t expect them to survive! Or that it would be such a close thing. The rest of the novel isn’t quite as nail-biting, but you will still not want to put it down.

What I never understood at the end of Abhorson was why Lirael didn’t just remake the charter sending of The Disreputable Dog? She still has the figurine, and I’m certain she still knows how to create things with Charter Magic (in fact, she makes use of Charter Skins). Just bringing it up, since in the ending chapters of this novel some interesting things take place 😉

What I was not ok with was the cover of this novel. Instead of Lirael looking the way I imagined, she instead had a meaty face and a dorky cloak (although I recognise the emblem, obviously). From what I spotted on GoodReads, there are other more beautiful covers that perhaps I would have preferred. Anyway, this one was a complimentary copy, so I shouldn’t be complaining too loudly. It is the story that matters inside of course.

5 stars from me. It prompted me to reread a section of Lirael, which can only ever be a good thing. Garth Nix, please keep writing.

5star

 

Allen & Unwin | 28 September 2016 | AU $24.99 | Paperback

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Review: Garth Nix – Clariel

Clariel
Garth Nix

Clariel is miserable in her new city life. She doesn’t understand why she should have to go to finishing school – really she just wants to run away to the forests somewhere. When she isn’t being used to reach the King by her ambitious GoldSmith mother, she is identifying Free Magic. Little does she know that the magic might take hold of her instead.

20662728This novel lets its main character develop the way I would want, but could have left a bit more time for other characters to put their own 2 cents in. I would have liked to have more of everything, the world as it was many years before the rest of the series, and the state of society.

Isn’t it the story of life that if people just spoke to each other and stopped trying to keep secrets, everything would work out far better? I could see so many spots that if people had just stopped, not touched and then talked some deaths could have been averted!

Am I too old for this novel? Never! Certainly, the themes here seem quite trivial in comparison to those in Sabriel for example. Gracious! I just tried to link to my review, and it turns out I have never written one! Take my word for it, you need to own these. I think Clariel offers a good entry point into the series, but take it with a grain of salt as only so much can happen in such a comparatively short novel.

I received this for my birthday this year. I had, in fact, requested it from Alland & Unwin a long, long time ago when I first started reaching out for review copies from publishers. Since then, it had sort of sat at the back of my mind with wanting! I received Nix’s newest Abhorson novel, Goldenhand, and knew I had to read Clariel first.

I love the Abhorson series, of which Lirael is my favourite. It’s easy to tell why when she’s a librarian with spunk! In fact, I’ve got a baby name based on their names. Needless to say, I’ll be giving this 5 stars. Why are you still here reading my review? Go and buy it already!

5star

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Review: Robert Cole – The Ego Cluster

The Ego Cluster
Robert Cole

Ethan has discovered genes that seem to create the basis of the human Ego, and so could help change the world for the better. Unfortunately, being able to edit the Ego isn’t likely to make the company he works for money, so the project is abandoned. Ethan is determined that his research is worth something more, and he is willing to give up everything to do it.

31389312Bad guys never give up do they? This novel offers a satisfying plot with twists that I certainly didn’t see coming. Bam! Nothing like having sociopaths on the loose. Even if some successful scientists are likely also sociopaths. The ultimate question is whether removing those genes will be sustainable and what might happen next.

Some people have tagged this as science fiction, but it’s really not the case. It’s more future fiction or an apocalyptical future. The things that are happening in this novel? It’s happening now, albeit not in such a structured or successful way. But gene editing will get there, and it’s not unlikely that we will discover genes that are responsible for how humans interact with each other (although it will probably be more than 6).

I had a definite advantage having a science background. There’s a lot of jargon here for you to absorb, but it is absolutely worthwhile. If you enjoyed Sapient for the science, you will love this novel. If you enjoyed Ken Kroes novels for their environmental awareness, this novel is going to be for you as well.

Let me say that I was divided between giving this novel 4 or 5 stars. Some of the text didn’t flow smoothly for me in the beginning, and some of the interactions were messy. This problem was probably heightened for me by the fact that I was reading an ebook, never my first choice. Let me say now that I would buy a paperback version of this novel, so I’m thinking I’d better go with 5 stars.

5star

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