Review: Rachel Caine – Ash and Quill

Ash and Quill
Rachel Caine

Jess and his friends have escaped from the Alexandrian Library’s clutches, but instead find themselves trapped in the Burner hot-spot of Philadelphia. With the Library, the Burners and Jess’s family to contend with will there be a clear winner despite the sacrifices to be made?

I’m not sure if I have commented on this before, but I’m not sure how I felt about the interspersed writings of the Archivist and his lackeys. Did I really learn anything new? What was their effect on the novel’s progress? (maybe these questions are left over from marking literature reviews…) Nevertheless the rest of the writing is fine and you barely realise that you are turning pages at a rapid rate.

I think maybe this novel isn’t going to be amazing for everyone, it didn’t have quite the suspense of the first two. There is only so much fantastic writing you can do around a workshop before it gets a little repetitive. That being said, Caine keeps the novel moving at a cracking pace right until the cliffhanger final chapter.

I don’t actually see the ending coming. Jess and Dario are making all these hints, and I just don’t get it! Also, I wasn’t convinced by Dario being a so-called dark thinker like Jess. The character development is not particularly convincing either, with Jess still impulsive risk taker and Scholar Wolfe the grumpy old man. But that’s fine! I’m ok with them being the same, because the action is plenty exciting.

I read this really excitedly when it arrived in the mail over a year ago, then neglected to review it. This time I reread the first two novels  Ink and Bone and Paper and Fire and then leaped into this beauty! How could I give anything about libraries or books anything less than 5 stars? I’ll be keeping this one on my shelf and waiting impatiently until I can share it with the younger readers in my life.

Allen & Unwin | 27th September 2018 | AU$16.99 | paperback

Review: DM Cain – The Phoenix Project

The Phoenix Project
DM Cain

This world of violence is only a small step from our own. Religion has been blamed for terrorism and driven underground, and prisons are bursting at the seams. The only solution is to reduce the number of prisoners and getting them to kill each other for spot is a logical solution. Charged with a deadly crime, Raven punishes himself again and again with no hope of salvation.

This novel opens with a bloody fight scene that positions the reader to empathise with Raven while at the same time wondering why he has killed before. Although the blow by blow of the fight is written slightly awkwardly, the feeling behind it is strong enough to seep through the action and encourage the reader to keep going!

This is a bloodier, more brutal criminal punishment than that explored in Day 7 and Cell 7. I rather like this novel more because it is more detailed and meaty, with a protagonist who has sinned, but is ready to redeem himself eventually.

Ah yes. Raven is a tortured, depressed prison inmate who nevertheless cannot stop fighting for his life. His despondency seeps through the pages and his self-harm (extreme trigger warning) is painful to observe. I felt myself wondering what choices I would have made, and whether I would be as strong as Raven.

This novel comes with an optional epilogue, as the ending within the novel is quite abrupt. I liked being given the option to read it or not, because I can’t decide how I feel about it. I like there to be a concrete ending, even if it is not a happy one. Go purchase this book for yourself, and then decide whether you too want to read the epilogue.

I read this novel a long time ago, and remember that I loved it so much that I gave it 5 stars. Then I neglected to review it, and let it just sit there on the review pile for a year (or more!). So this review is actually written based on my re-read, and it was worth the time.

Review: Brandon Sanderson – Elantris

Elantris
Brandon Sanderson

Serene has arrived in Kae to discover that her husband to be has died, but that her marriage is still valid. Determined to make the most of it, she decides to bait the harsh religious gyorn to keep helpful occupied. At the same time, her would-be husband is not dead, instead he is afflicted with the curse of Elantris

I allowed myself to reread this one to put me in the right frame of mind to write a review. Knowing (vaguely) what would happen next didn’t stop me from being on the edge of my metaphorical seat. Ah! Serene! Why don’t you see what is in front of your face? I had forgotten the wonderful nuances that Sanderson build into this novel, and discovering them again was almost as pleasant as the first time.

Sanderson builds a unique world where magic is possible – just not very probable now that Elantrians get sick but don’t die instead of transforming into radiant Gods. It of course has Sanderson’s flare for never designing the same magic system more than once, and his characters are trying to jump off the page. I couldn’t put it down and found myself trapped reading it longer than I should have been.

There’s a little baby short story that is a companion for Elantris as a compliment to let the readers know what occurred within Elantris at the final showdown. Don’t get your hopes up, it really is very short and sweet. Sanderson has said that eventually he will write a sequel to Elantris, but even if he never does, Elantris is excellent all the same.

This one well and truly earned its five stars. I reread it and it didn’t disappoint, and it has only wakened my desire to reread my other Sandersons. I lent this book to a friend, and it changed her whole policy on star giving to books. She realised how wonderful Sanderson’s works really are!

Review: Scott Westerfeld – Impostors

Impostors
Scott Westerfeld

Frey and Rafi are identical twins and thus should do everything together. Instead, they are never seen in the same room – Frey is trained as a body double for Rafi, just because Rafi was born 26 minutes earlier. When a hostage is needed to secure the help of a nearby city, Frey is sent out and Rafi is hidden. But their father has other plans in mind than just that…

Despite being in the same world as Tally Youngblood’s Uglies/Pretties/Specials (and Extras), Impostors is well and truly its own novel. The world has moved on and the technology has significantly advanced. Imagine a world where even the dust is spying on you! Rafi is trained to kill, but has her own personality trapped in there.

I only forgive this novel for being the first in a trilogy because I knew from the very beginning that Westerfeld pretty much ALWAYS writes trilogies (Afterworlds is an exception). Additionally, this novel rounds out very nicely, and didn’t disappoint with its ending.

Unfortunately, this novel features the same trope as a couple of others I have read recently, including Ruined, Glass Sword and Ash Princess. The heroine always falls for the prince(s) and gets into trouble while / for doing so. I’m going to think positive thoughts to myself that Westerfeld was probably already writing it before those novels got popular…

I’m giving this novel 5 stars for its amazing characters and world building. Also, Westerfeld was my hero before Sanderson.

Allen & Unwin | 12th September 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: Nathan Ripley – Find You in the Dark

Find You in the Dark
Nathan Ripley

Martin has a slightly disturbing hobby of hunting down the missing bodies of women hidden by serial killers. Not to mention that he is married to a woman who’s sister’s body was never found. When his informant suddenly starts wanting recognition and threatens blackmail, Martin decides to give up his hobby. But it’s too late – someone else has recognised him and they want him to escalate his behaviour to killing.

This book was entrancing and meaty and I lost quite a lot of my day to it! This novel had just the right edge to it in terms of creepiness. I found myself drinking it in in small sittings because I had to process what had just happened. It kept me awake thinking about it. It raises questions – do serial killers always act on their urges? Is it something you can treat?

The use of several perspectives made this novel had me sitting on the edge of my seat. The author got it just right with my sympathy for the main character so that I never suspected or interpreted him as a dangerous creep. That poor detective! Sandra’s instincts are awesome, but Martin is just too smart. Sometimes I felt like her brain and analytical nature was overplayed, particularly in her relationship with Chris.

Go get your sneaky hands on this novel and let it keep you up late at night. It’s going to have to wanting to double check your doors are locked and that you brought something in your handbag to ward off attackers.

Text Publishing | 2nd April 2018 | AU$29.99 |paperback

Review: Andrew Mayne – Black Fall (Jessica Blackwood #3)

Black Fall
Andrew Mayne

Jessica is an FBI agent with a difference – her training as a Magician and her knowledge of tricks is the reason for her placement at Quantico with three other technonerds. When a long dead scientist starts predicting natural disasters, it’s up to Jessica to debunk the predictions.

I was pretty excited about the missing town! How was this one going to be explained? And of course there was a fantastic explanation! The other parts about the set up of the underground rooms seemed predictable and boring in comparison. Because I knew Jessica could solve any problem, it wasn’t exciting anymore.

There was very little Jessica-development and a lot of racing around with nothing to show for it. A couple of potential dinner dates and a couple of potential friendships. Oh and a couple of close calls on death, but nothing that her oldest brilliant buddy can’t fix.

I’m not sure this novel had the same pizzazz as the first two novels (Angel Killer and Name of the Devil). It all happened too quickly and I found it difficult to trace the clues for myself. I’ll still give it 5 stars, but it’s heading down towards 4 stars. I’m going to keep reading the series in the hope that it will return to its awesomeness.

Review: Amy Tintera – Allied

Allied
Amy Tintera

Em has finally freed Olivia and it looks like Ruina belongs to the Ruined again. But is that what the survivors want, when kingdoms such as Lera have far better pastures? Victory does not mean the same thing to Em and Olivia, and as the war with the other Kingdoms continues, each of them is going to have to make an impossible choice.

This novel is full of action, action, action. The battle scenes and killings almost seem non-stop. Talking might be Em’s preferred way of negotiation but with Olivia on the loose it’s just not possible! Cas gets some airtime, and Galo and Aren finally are forged into full characters with their own thoughts and motivations.

We get a bit more of a perspective from characters other than Em this time, but sometimes I wished I hadn’t! It did add to the suspense in some parts but in other parts I felt like the forewarning made it too predictable. Go and read this novel and find out for yourself!

When this novel arrived I had to stop myself from diving in straight away. When I read Avenged (the second novel) a short while ago, I had wanted to reread Ruined, but just couldn’t wait. This time, I reread the first two and was enveloped in Amy Tintera’s world just as firmly as before. This series is deserving of its 5-star rating.

Allen & Unwin | 24th April 2018 | AU$16.99 | paperback

Review: Lia Weston – You Wish

You Wish
Lia Weston

Thomas Lush can made your dreams come alive. You want to marry someone else? You need a fake graduation photo to show off to those one-up relatives of yours? Thomas and his business can do that for him. Thomas is happy just performing his photoshopped works of art, but there are darker things going on in the business that he will have to take off his headphones and grow up.

This was a wizbanger of a novel! I loved the concept and connected well with the main characters. To some extent, people already do this. I cropped a person out of a photo (it just wasn’t the photo I needed), and it didn’t look half bad. And I have NO art or photoshop skills. I’m certain there are businesses doing this already, but it’s more black market than what seems to be going on with Thomas’ work.

Imagination is totally all you need. I disagree that giving people what they want is wrong, and that it isn’t art. To create something that looks like it really happened, and for everything to look natural, is amazing. Why shouldn’t you have the chance to change the fact that the woman you married was actually sleeping with all of your groomsmen? The ones of dead kids growing up are a bit weird, but if it provides comfort for parents? This novel gently asks you how far your ethics are able to stretch.

Oh! The irony of that love story! How embarrassing. And yet so perfect. I’m not sure I saw the way the novel ended (hindsight is a beautiful thing, my readers), and the twist was excellent. Things worked out better than I possibly thought they could. This novel resonated through my bones and brain for a long time after I read it, that’s how much I loved it.

I’m giving this novel 5 stars, and lending it to my other reader friend to assess it. From the Publisher’s media sheet, I now know that this is Weston’s third novel, and that I need to get my hands on her other novels ASAP. This novel and Ready Player One would be at my top reads for 2018. Go get yourself a copy and ask yourself how far you could justify changing the past.

Pan Macmillan | 27th March 2018 | AU$29.99 | paperback

Review: Ernest Cline – Ready Player One

Ready Player One
Ernest Cline

Wade Watts has been hunting the ultimate prize in Oasis for almost as long as he has been alive. With little to live for in the real world, the VR world of Oasis, even if he can’t leave the home planet of School, is his proper place to be alive. With an excellent mastery of Lore, Watts has a chance to take the prize – but what will it cost him?

What doesn’t make sense to me is why he didn’t just live in his van the whole time. Why bother venturing out? Because honestly, the breakdown of the Stacks really didn’t seem to bother him much.

This is like an updated version of Gillian Rubenstein’s that has been made relevant to the takeover of VR technology. Or a different version of Game Runner where it is actually enjoyable! I assume that this kind of novel has taken control because of The Maze Runner‘s success (movie franchise and all). It has the potential to appeal to both young men and women, and that makes it an excellent YA novel. Good work Cline!

Actually, just looking at it makes me want to read it again. Good work Penguin #blinddatewithabook because I loved my blind date! See a cute picture of the wrapping on my Instagram. Penguin even express posted this to me so it would get here in time for Valentine’s day. Thanks Team!