Review: Leila Mottley – Nightcrawling

Nightcrawling
Leila Mottley

“Kiara Johnson and her brother Marcus are barely scraping by in a squalid East Oakland apartment complex optimistically called the Royal-Hi. Both have dropped out of high school, their family fractured by death and prison. But while Marcus clings to his dream of rap stardom, Kiara hunts for work to pay their rent—which has more than doubled—and to keep the 9-year-old boy next door, abandoned by his mother, safe and fed.”

I could not bring myself to finish this book. I felt pretty grimey while reading it, and I just couldn’t get the point of it. Everything was so passionate and big that I didn’t know what the actual important parts were. Oh no, Kia has to turn to prostitution. Yes, it’s a dangerous ‘job’. She feels like she has responsibility for the boy next door, yet doesn’t invite him into her own home? So like, paying twice the rent she needs to?

I felt like I was slogging through the book and I couldn’t bring myself to keep reading it. Did I just miss something when people were handing out awards for this book? It’s overly descriptive and filled with metaphors that go nowhere. There’s a certain something in describing a pool filled with dog poop, but it didn’t need to come back again and again to the spotlight. Even after the reader learns why the pool is important to Kiara, it still doesn’t make sense in the wider context of the novel.

Not everyone has a happy ending, and not everyone has choices in life. That being said, I just couldn’t keep reading this. The prose was too dense, and too many topics were being covered at once. I’m tagging this as ‘literature’ – I’m sure that at some point someone will want to read and critique it. Not me though, I’ve had enough. 1 star from me.

Bloomsbury | 7 June 2022 | AU$29.99 | paperback

Review: Brigid Kemmerer – Defend the Dawn

Defend the Dawn
Brigid Kemmerer

“The kingdom of Kandala narrowly avoided catastrophe, but the embers of revolution still simmer. While King Harristan seeks a new way to lead, Tessa and Prince Corrick attempt to foster unity between rebels and royals. But the consuls who control the Moonflower will not back down, and Corrick realizes he must find a new source for the lifesaving Elixir.”

I knew heading into this novel that it wouldn’t finish properly because this author has a bad habit of writing trilogies where the second book is a bit weak (A Curse so Dark and Lonely). I was willing to tolerate it, and I had even read the first book as an ebook (which is definitely not my preferred way of consuming written content). Alas, I was seriously disappointed in both the story and the ending.

Sometimes it seems like there is a female heroine just for the sake of having a ‘strong female lead’. It’s refreshing at least that Tessa isn’t magically able to fight like a banshee and she relies on her people skills to get ahead.

There are so many points when I had to suspend my disbelief. You’re telling me that just having someone on board is enough? Seriously, didn’t you guys do your homework? How did Tessa NOT see that coming? Wouldn’t you ask more questions?

As with another novel I read recently, the bad guys could more readily kill off the main populace – I don’t understand what they get out of those people living. If they complain so much about the ‘common people’ then surely it would be ok to let more of them die. I guess you need a few people to lord over, but I doubt you really need a whole city!

It’s now been a while since I’ve read this novel, and I’m not sure I can continue to read things by this author. I’ve been disappointed too many times in a row! Now to just remind myself to check the author before I request any nifty-looking fantasy YA novels. 3 stars from me.

Bloomsbury | 20 September 2022 | AU$16.99 | paperback

Review: Luke Rutledge – A Man and His Pride

A Man and His Pride
Luke Rutledge

Sean’s out and sexed up on Grindr – he’s proud to be gay, even if his family doesn’t like him for it. His job as a moderator is boring but pays the bills. When his three month relationship fails Sean is back on the market for meaningless sex. But is it what he wants in the long term? Do he have a plan?

I liked Sean! Poor guy. Honestly the title and the cover made me feel a bit worried about hating it, but I empathised with Sean quite well. I was the same as Sean when Australia decided to waste money on whether we should let gay people marry or not. There’s plenty of perspectives to choose from here, and the author has done a great job of illuminating just some of the problematic attitudes in Australia. I hope we’ve come a lot further than 2017, but I’m honestly not sure.

Various pieces fell together across the book, but some were so late I felt like it lessened the story. It didn’t have the effect of keeping me reading.  I didn’t like the ending. Then again, I’m not sure how I wanted it to end! I guess I wanted more for Lawrence, and I needed William to grow a bit more of a spine.

I’m not going to re-read this, but it was pretty good. I’d really recommend it for anyone who is gay and unsure of their identity, or any person in their life that needs to be reminded that as a gay person you often have to come out over and over again. Heteronormativity is still a problem. 3.5 stars from me.

Penguin Random House | 31 January 2023 | AU$32.99 | paperback

Review: Otto Rosenberg – A Gypsy In Auschwitz

A Gypsy In Auschwitz
How I Survived the Horrors of the ‘Forgotten Holocaust’
Otto Rosenberg

“Otto Rosenberg is 9 and living in Berlin, poor but happy, when his family are first detained. All around them, Sinti and Roma families are being torn from their homes by Nazis , leaving behind schools, jobs, friends, and businesses to live in forced encampments outside the city. One by one, families are broken up, adults and children disappear or are ‘sent East’. Otto arrives in Auschwitz aged 15 and is later transferred to Buechenwald and Bergen-Belsen.”

This is the first Holocaust book I have read that has a gypsy perspective at the heart of it. I think it is unfair however that it’s the ‘forgotten’ Holocaust, because it seems as if it was very similar to Jewish perspectives. The Holocaust was attrocious for any marginalised group in Nazi Germany, and I would hope people hadn’t forgotten about others who suffered.

These Holocaust books, no matter how horrifying, are history that I can appreciate reading (I can’t really say ‘enjoy it’ because the content is awful). I need my history to have people and compelling stories. That being said, there are many stories from this period of history that won’t have survived due to the sheer number of people murdered. I think that these books need to keep being written, and I will probably keep reading them all. They make me feel very grateful for the relatively peaceful life that we Westerners now have. COVID-19 is nothing compared to the Holocaust in sheer scale of human attrocities. Enough said.

It’s non-fiction, so there’s no need for me to give it any stars, but this is a good (but not outstanding) book to add to my catalogue that also includes The School that Escaped the Nazis, The Keeper of Miracles, Always Remember Your Name and The Dressmakers of Auschwitz.

Hachette | 9 August 2022 | AU$32.99 | paperback

Review: Tim Duggan – Killer Thinking (S)

Killer Thinking
How to Turn Good Ideas into Brilliant Ones
Tim Duggan

“Killer Thinking is the ultimate guide to creating, developing and recognising incredible ideas that will revolutionise the way you work, from the bestselling author of Cult Status. We need better ideas right now. Everywhere you look, there are growing problems that require fresh, creative thinking to help us solve. The good news is that anyone can learn to master the art of creativity to turn good ideas into brilliant ones.”

This book is exactly as it says, a step by step guide on how to turn good ideas into not just great but killer ideas! The author breaks down the steps into each chapter and gives you lots of business examples to relate to the steps. It’s very well written and kept me wanting to read more! There are also in real life practical questions to ask yourself at the end of each chapter to help get you started on coming up with your ideas. I always love great take-aways from books such as this, as well as a dot point summary at the end of each chapter that you can refer back to without needing to re-read the whole thing.

It’s refreshing to have some new and modern business examples that are not the mainstream, large corporations that are always referred to (Google, Apple etc). Some of the great examples discussed were Canva and Bumble. The author also wrote those stories in a way where you didn’t know what the company was or what their product was at the start. It made you follow their journey of coming up with the ideas and you can see how the process evolved (as well as trying to guess the company as you read on).

I love that the author is an Australian author and also referred to some good Australian businesses as well. The author also didn’t try to sell me their other book Cult Status, which a lot of authors do. But now I am keen to read his other book as well, as this was a great read. I’d recommend this book for anyone that is in the business industry or aspiring entrepreneurs. I’m not sure that it’s quite a re-read because I got what I needed from it from its summaries. 4.5 stars from me.

Pantera Press | 3 May 2022 | AU$29.99 | paperback

Review: Seth Stephens-Davidowitz – Don’t Trust Your Gut (S)

Don’t Trust Your Gut
Using Data to Get What You Really Want in Life
Seth Stephens-Davidowitz

“Big decisions are hard. We consult friends and family, make sense of confusing “expert” advice online, maybe we read a self-help book to guide us. In the end, we usually just do what feels right, pursuing high stakes self-improvement—such as who we marry, how to date, where to live, what makes us happy—based solely on what our gut instinct tells us. But what if our gut is wrong? Biased, unpredictable, and misinformed, our gut, it turns out, is not all that reliable. And data can prove this. In Don’t Trust Your Gut, economist, former Google data scientist, and New York Times bestselling author Seth Stephens-Davidowitz reveals just how wrong we really are when it comes to improving our own lives.”

This is not a business type book that I normally read, but it was really interesting! The introduction is a little long and slow – mostly because it has a lot of sports which I’m not interested in. Once the book starts and gets into it though, the data is really interesting. It’s so hard to trust any data that’s on the internet, so it’s nice to have it in a book and a well presented format that is really accessible for everyone (and hopefully reliable!).

The author is a really good storyteller and uses the data in a presentable format. Although it’s a really interesting book, it doesn’t have anything to really take away and apply to life decisions, despite the cover saying you will “make better choices”. Yes there is data on what makes people happy, but I believe that this is going to change depending on the person.

It’s not a self help book with key takeaways to use everyday but the book is a fascinating and entertaining read. I recommend it – 4 stars from me.

Bloomsbury | 5 July 2022 | AU$29.99 | paperback

Review: Alice Ryan – There’s Been a Little Incident

There’s Been a Little Incident
Alice Ryan

Molly runs. Molly travels. Molly brings the life to the party. Molly is running away from death. She’s run off again – this time we aren’t sure where, but we will track her down!

This novel was.. average. I kept reading it because I expected something to happen. I was hopeful the ending might redeeem it, but I was disappointed. It potters along throwing out tidbits about Molly’s life, and the life of her siblings/aunts/uncles/cousins and poor ?brother? who is far away in Australia. Come on! It’s not forever away any more! And I don’t see why they need to track down Molly at all. I received no sense of closure when the book was finished.

I received this as an ARC so I already felt invested like I should enjoy it. Sadly, it let me down. I hate books with multiple perspectives, and I hate books with inserted text messages / poems / songs. This book had both and I don’t think either of them added anything! The multiple perspectives weren’t awful, but because I didn’t really care about whether they found the main character (Molly – she could be dead for all I cared), I didn’t care about each of their own minature stories.

There’s an attempt at a twist as a young nurse has gone missing, but it’s not really enough to catch anyone’s interest. It does eventually entwine with the rest of Molly’s family, but it doesn’t seem to have very much significance. If you asked me, they are all just running around crazily and could probably benefit from some paid psychological help.

Ugh. 2 stars because I finished it, but don’t waste your time. I’m really not sure who this novel would appeal to.

Head of Zeus | 1 November 2022 | AU$29.99 | paperback

Review: Brigid Kemmerer – Defy the Night

Defy the Night
Brigid Kemmerer

Tessa Cade makes adrenaline-filled supply runs to dying individuals in the Wilds. The Kingdom is threatened by a fever that noone knows the cause of, and only moonflowers can cure it. The rich, of course, have more moonflower elixir than they need. The poor are dying, and the King and his cruel brother don’t care.

I found the illnesses that weren’t the fever particularly interesting. It seems like the moonflowers were good for the fever – but that was it! So Tessa’s experience as an apothecary was useful in more than one regard. I find it so hard to believe that people are still buying solutions that are useless – but I guess some people need to buy hope (COVID19 quacks anyone?)

The ‘sectors’ in this novel unfortunately just remind me of The Hunger Games. It seems super weird to me that a city would be set out as sectors, let alone a whole kingdom. Anyone else feel that way? I never really got a clear picture in my head about how it worked, or how large they were. The Royal sector was probably small, because Tessa and Wes could cover it in a night? Or was I misinterpreting how time works there

No! Stop! Before you read the blurb, or have a glance at the next novel, don’t do it! You’ll ruin some of the fabulous suspense that’s in this novel. If I was the King, I’m not sure I’d have bought Tessa or Corrick’s stories. I think he’s right to not trust anyone!

I read this as an ebook on my phone (not my preferred format) because I had received the second book for review. I wasn’t feeling up for a long series read, and I’ve previously been disappointed (and didn’t even finish/review) the second book by Kemmerer of the A Curse so Dark and Lonely series. Imagine my disgust when I realised this is yet another trilogy! 4 stars only then, not 5, because I don’t trust the author to finish their story satisfactorily.

Review: Kevin Christopher Snipes – Milo and Marcos at the End of the World

Milo and Marcos at the End of the World
Kevin Christopher Snipes

Milos and Van have been besties forever. It doesn’t matter to Milos that she’s sworn off organised religion, and it doesn’t matter to Van that Milos is a bit of a religious pariah. When Marcos walks back into their lives, Van is excited and Milos feels betrayed. How dare this boy who made him feel the wrong things be back? As they get closer and closer, the world begins to end – coincidences pile up, and leave Milos asking – does God hate gays?

What was good about this novel was the internal anguish of Milo trying to reconcile his homosexuality and his religious beliefs. It’s impressive how much internalised homophobia Milo had even after a single summer of feeling feelings for the wrong gender. Milo is very distressed, but also an idiot.

I felt so hard for Marcos! And personally, I never would have forgiven Milos for being a dirtbag. Milos continually proves that he is unreliable and a bit of an ass, yet Marcos is trying to make something of his life. Nup. Wasn’t sold on the ending because of this either.

I listened to this book as an audiobook borrowed from my library. The reader was pretty good, and my conure who is fond of male voices came and tried to sit on my phone the whole time I was listening. However, I was surprised by how long this novel was. I think that some of it (particularly the ‘Milo is a good Presbyterian boy’ repeated line) could have been skipped.

Uh, was anyone else a bit thrown by the ending? It all just seems too neat. Also, ‘making love’ – really? In a teenage novel? I know a little about the logistics of this, and it’s not really as simple as all that. If you’re looking for a book that unpacks a bit of the intersection between homosexuality and religion, this could be for you. If you’re looking for a more realistic gay romance, try Anything but Fine or Jack of Hearts. 3-4 stars from me.

Review: David Towsey – Equinox

Equinox
David Towsey

Christophor is a witch-hunter at the end of his career. He’d like a nice quiet ending with no excitement. It’s not to be though, as he is sent out on the hunt again after a child has their eyes replaced with teeth. Alexander is just along for the ride, but he eventually gets pulled into helping Christophor with the hunt.

The concept of this novel was so cool! I loved the premise that each human body had two completely separate people in it. You go through the day as one person, and then your night-sister takes over while your mind sleeps. Thus your two halves never meet, and can live almost completely separate lives. It leads to crazy things – you might have an affair with one person, but then after you sleep your day-sister wakes up with someone else’s husband there!

Naturally, because Christophor is the night-brother we have the first perspective from, I felt way more invested in ‘him’ rather than Alexander (day-brother). I then thought that Alexander was a bit of a twit! Which is perhaps what the author wanted me to think. It was interesting to see the two perspectives, even if I didn’t really understand why Alexander put up with his night-brother.

I’d had a friend review it before me reading it, and they said the book was average. Why? The ending was poor. Very poor. It felt rushed and uninteresting. There wasn’t much in the way of an explanation for the magic system in the novel, and so the ending felt forced and too extravagant. Thus, I’m only giving this 2 stars even though I finished it.

Bloomsbury | 2 August 2022 | AU$29.99 | paperback