Review: Fleur Ferris – Seven Days

Seven Days
Fleur Ferris

The last thing Ben wants is to spend his school holidays with his tough cousin and some terrifying farm animals. He sets his timer to count down the seven days to leaving, but suddenly finds himself engrossed in solving a family feud that has been around for the last 100 years. Do the jewels exist?

I didn’t realise that this was a novel for younger teens, and so I initially found myself really disappointed in this latest novel by Ferris. However, once I realised the audience, I thought that it was actually pretty good!

Something that made me somewhat uncomfortable is the Uncle’s role as a counsellor. It made me get all sorts of wrong vibes, particularly as I’ve been reading a lot of abuse memoirs lately. I didn’t like the way that he approached the falling-out of the boys, and I felt like it was offensive the way that they just followed Ben home.

I would have bought that twist easily. Also, the ending was far too neat, but again, appropriate for the age group. I would have liked to see a little more about how it all broke down, but what’s a good book without a chase scene?

This comes as highly recommended teenage boy reading from me! It’s got action, it’s got a bad guy, and it’s got a (literally) kick butt kangaroo. Sure, there’s not all that much character development and some plot points are little inconsistent, but ultimately it’s a face-paced read. Ferris has found her niche in all-is-not-as-it-seems fiction, and it works. 4 stars from me.

Penguin | 3 May 2022 | AU$16.99 | paperback

Review: Juliet Marillier – Shadowfell series (Shadowfell, Ravenflight, The Caller) (N)

Shadowfell series (Shadowfell, Raven Flight, The Caller)

Juliet Marillier


Neryn has always been able to see the Good Folk and in her world this has always been dangerous. Once alone and in danger it becomes the only reason she survives. More than that it becomes key to discovering her little ability is more than she ever thought.

Shadowfell starts off quick, plunging us into the world from Neryn’s PoV. This remains consistent throughout the series that we work from Neryn’s view. There are brief interludes in the form of letters to from another character Flint, that provide extra information for the reader and layer extra world-building so that we as the reader have just a tiny bit of extra information to work with.

The journey to the titular Shadowfell feels perilous and honestly is an excellent example that not everyone is a camping/survival expert. Particularly not 15 year old girls. No matter how often they have had to forage before. This alone make it unique in the troubles Neryn has in just getting to her destination. The struggles feel realistic. There isn’t always a deus ex machina to get her out of the problem she stumbles into. Often it’s Flint who manages to find her then do the requisite nursing back to health. A bit of a turn around from the standard trope of the boy who gets injured/sick and is nursed back to health by the girl.

There is enough early set-up for Neryn’s journey and the reasoning for why going to Shadowfell makes sense. I would have liked a little more detail on why or how the kingdom has gotten to this point but given that it’s a young adult target that is probably too much to expect.

Raven Flight

Neryn has made it to Shadowfell and become a critical part of the rebel’s plan to free the country from the tyrannical King. She need to master her abilities, proving that she can indeed become a Caller.

Alot of Raven Flight is anchored in Neryn helping the rebels set up an early system and working relationship with the Good Folk. Demonstrating that a Caller is less a commander and more a intermediary that allows these conversations to happen in the first place.

This book also starts Neryn’s intentional learning in how to be a Caller with what are called the Guardians. Embodiment’s of the four cardinal directions and four elements. We saw the first, The Master of Shadows, in the first book though we didn’t really know it at the time. This book sees Neryn finding the Hag of the Isles and Lord of the North to continue her training. We also see more of Flint and Neryn’s romance that is not. Since they really don’t want to become entangled while trying to overthrow the Kind. Sensible if difficult, since feelings don’t listen.

Bit more of a struggle with this book since the pacing is a little choppy with the traveling and stopping to learn. The emotions that Neryn and more importantly Flint deal with are achingly real to read more than make up for that choppy pacing. We get to see a little more of what Flint deals with too in his spy role and how much that weighs on him. Again I wish we would could read more of the other side of this rather than the stock tyrant king.

The Caller

Neryn has one more Guardian to find to complete her training as a Caller. The White Lady, who is the most elusive. There also appears another who has a similar gift to Neryn as a Caller but no where near her level of ethics.

Time is running out and the presence of the other Caller makes it even harder for Neryn to reconcile that those she Calls will be in danger in a fight that they would otherwise abstain from.

The lack of ethics in the other Caller was less a complete absence and just a lack of understanding. It was hard to comprehend he couldn’t see the Good Folk as actually people. But by the time he had come forth we’ve already had Neryn’s considerate approach as a standard expectation. The last book tied up a lot of the loose ends nicely in the story. We even get a little more detail on the other side even if it is just from direct observation. The queen and her adviser appear to be pieces of work. And the so called tyrant king appears to be more weak-willed than I would have expected given how the state of the world is attributed mainly to the king and not the royals in general. In the end we have a solid resolution to the story that is satisfying and show’s Neryn’s growth as a Caller and her considerate nature aligning well.

I read these 3 novels all in rapid succession. Marillier’s work has that tendency for me to be gripping enough that I want to read the next installment rather than wait. However even if i didn’t read them one after another they still would have been excellent reads to wait for. My main qualm with them was the one-sidedness of the story, there were clear instances of how the world got to this point. And the last book gave some excellent details about how it wasn’t always this way. But gosh I wanted more – to be fair Marillier does present multiple sides in her other book excellently which possibly set that expectation. That said, excellent young adult novels and they made for a relaxing set of evenings between reading other adult targeted works by Marillier. Solid 4-stars from me.

Review: Veronica Roth – Allegiant

Veronica Roth

Tris has shattered her Faction-based society, yet still finds herself under the thumb of a despotic ruler. When she is a given a chance to explore the world outside the fence, she takes it and runs, hoping that whatever is out there will calm her rage and allow her to forgive herself her wrongs. Tris has only just begun to realise what is happening when it is almost too late to right those wrongs…

The revelations of Insurgent come back to bite Tris in this novel. It seems like there is only one way to solve things when you are Tris – and that’s by irritating and hating the other people around you as much as possible. Tris is such a frustrating protagonist! Her self-destructive urges often just get everyone else into trouble, but she never learns.

I feel like this novel is in the same era as The Hunger Games. The heroine is spunky and rough, and always determined to ignore love as much as possible. The outside rules don’t mean anything in comparison to their own problems and rules. By trying to do what they think is best, they make a huge mess of things!

For the first time, we see both Tris’ and Tobias’ points of view. This novel left me feeling ambivalent. The first novel was worth rereading, but this one doesn’t hold the same appeal. Tris’ character development seems to have stalled and the great reveal has already happened. I didn’t feel anything much as more of the characters were killed off – and I still felt that if Tris was killed the novel wouldn’t have lost anything…

This is the third and final novel in the Divergent series that started with Divergent and Insurgent. I would strongly suggest that you DO NOT read this novel or the blurb without having first red the first two novels. Otherwise you will have significantly ruined the storyline as it builds. 4 stars from me. If you’ve read the first two, you’d better read this one for your peace of mind.

Review: Asia Mackay – Killing It

Killing It
Asia Mackay

Lex Tyler is ready to go back to work, adorable baby Gigi at her side. There’s only one small problem – her job is killing people off for Platform Eight, a division of Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Her newest assignment is to infiltrate a group of London’s elite mummies with Gigi in order to kill off a Russian patriot.

I read about half this novel while waiting for the action to begin. I’m sorry, I just don’t find it that entertaining that she forgot nipple pads, and whether breast milk has DNA in it. I continued reading after a month or two had passed and still felt underwhelmed. The ending promised to have a little more action in it, but in the end it felt rushed and unfinished. I needed significantly more shadowing throughout the novel to feel convinced about the betrayals…

The sexist language and swearing doesn’t add anything to the story, it just made me cringe in revulsion. I fully understand that being a ‘Rat’ would be dominated by men with crude language, but I’m also certain that I’d rather Lex showed a bit more restraint with her own language at home!

I really like the idea behind this novel which pokes fun at the problems women have at work after going back when they have had a baby. Lex meets them with ?style? and tries to smack preconceptions out of the boys’ heads. What could be worse than going back to killing after giving birth to a new life? This novel reminded me of The Thief of Light – the protagonist is a woman doing a man’s job better than him and paying the price for it.

I don’t understand why Lex is so relaxed about Will and Gigi being at home by themselves. If it’s so easy for her to break into houses better guarded than her own, wouldn’t she feel more anxious about hunting a Russian oligarch?

Anyway, this novel’s slow start/finish/entirety and crude conversations leads me to give it a 3 star rating. I’m certain I have read another novel similar to it, but better executed – does anyone else remember?

Allen & Unwin | 25th July 2018 | AU$29.99 | paperback

Review: Sarah Lotz – The White Road

The White Road
Sarah Lotz

Simon does a terrifying crawl through a bared off cave where three people died beforehand. He wants to get footage of their bones, and wants to prove himself a decent climber after the fall that shattered his shoulder and ankle. His video footage goes viral, and he needs to top it. What better than Everest’s dead?

I couldn’t get behind this novel. I attempted to read it twice and at least got in about a quarter of the way before giving up this time. While the opening chapter puts you a bit on the edge of your seat, you know that he survives it because he writes the rest of the novel! It goes downhilll from there as Simon’s narration becomes increasingly erratic and we are introduced to more and more characters. I got sick of the frequent, gratuitous swearing that did nothing to endear me to Simon.

Additionally, I thought that for all his ‘brave’ climbing, Simon was a complete push-over. He was also irresponsible – you’re going to get stuck for sure, and you don’t care about the cost of the rescue party? I get that his family doesn’t care for him much, and that he feels like he doesn’t have an aim in life. That doesn’t mean that you should let your best-friend push you into climbing a mountain while he sits back home and counts dollars.

I stopped reading this novel and decided to release it into the wild. I (hopefully) have better things to read that I have brought with me, and I don’t want to waste my reading time on something that is not going to effectively distract me through very long hours of driving. I’m not really sure where I am going to source books when I have gotten through the ones in my luggage, but I will make do. The Australia Post guy back home said that he couldn’t deliver any more mail because the box was full! Oops, sorry bookies…

2 stars from me. Maybe the right audience who always wanted to read a fictional novel about the challenges of caving and Mount Everest, but I’d rather read a memoir of an Everest climber who has a decent story.

Hachette Australia | 16th May 2017 | AU$29.99 | paperback

Review: James Dashner – Journal of Curious Letters (The 13th Reality)

The 13th Reality #1 – Journal of Curious Letters
James Dashner

Tick has received a letter promising him that he will be exposed to incredible danger unless he burns the letter. But if he burns it, many people will be harmed. Tick isn’t afraid to admit he’s a nerd, and he’s rather fond of solving puzzles, but will his best be enough?

Wow, this novel’s first half was incredibly slow. I did like the elements of problem solving, and that redeemed the novel somewhat. Then again, I’m sorry, but Sato’s pensive and rude emotional state did nothing for me. And almost meeting a sticky end didn’t even improve him! He didn’t feel like a real person. In fact, the whole novel was so plot based that we didn’t see any character development at all. Except for Tick but that was all described in terms of him finally standing up to the school Bully – not anything more important. And that stupid scarf! Ugh. The author harped back to it, but it turns out that no-one actually cares (surprise surprise).

I saw pale parallels between this novel and Harry Potter (um, also, the name Norbert???). A 13 year old bullied small boy gets a mystical letter, and then is eventually whisked away to somewhere odd by some equally odd people? Has this now become a mainstream trope? Except that of course Tick’s dad loves Tick enough to take him to far away places, and let Tick travel with crazy people. I do find that hard to believe – what right-minded parent of a 13 year old lets their kid wander like that especially after he has just been eaten?

I could see on Goodreads that this was quite a polarising book – people either loved it for the action or completely hated it for the flat characters. It is fitting then I think that I gave this 3 stars. Someone who doesn’t mind their characters completely predictable and boring but likes non-stop action once it starts will enjoy this novel.

Scholastic | 1st March 2018 | AU$17.99 | paperback

Review: Gregg Hurwitz – Last Chance

Last Chance
Gregg Hurwitz

Chance Rain has made it through the last gasp of their plan to kill the Queen and free their home town. Too bad that the aliens can simply replace her with another. With the impregnated kids ready to hatch the next generation of invaders, Chance might be able to stop it – but it will cost him his life.

I received this, and then I literally gobbled it up for 3-4 hours. I knew that it would be good, having loved The Rains so much. I love the amount of thought that has gone into this novel. The stages of the invasion, the stages of the invaders themselves. The action happened so fast sometimes that I couldn’t breathe.

Alex, you two-timing teenager. I know there is an actual phenomenon of there being more marriage proposals after major catastrophes, due to emotions running high. But at the same time, Alex, didn’t anyone teach you about the rules of dating? You don’t shag two people at the same time, let alone two brothers.  

I hate to think of what happens next though. A population filled with kids no older than 18? All over the world? I mean, a lot have died off, but even the smart ones haven’t necessarily survived. Not to mention – how are all the countries to be saved, when originally the spread was via lots of meteors landing? So many skills would be lost.

I actually had this discussion with a Professor last night. Despite what the media says, many countries are now having negative population growth. This, combined with an aging population that needs more care, means that despite robots potentially taking over the world there will be plenty of jobs left. Humans have creativity, which might be our savior.

Go get your hands on this novel. I think I would even reread it, that’s how attached I got to the characters. 5 stars.

Penguin Random House | 2nd January 2018 | AU$19.99 | paperback

Review: Kerry Drewery – Day 7

Day 7
Kerry Drewery

At the last moment, Martha Honeydew has been pardoned from Cell 7, because the true killer stepped forth – just as they had always planned. Unfortunately, that’s when the plan stops working because Martha is still a target, and so is everyone she is close to. Will justice be able to be served for anyone?

Honestly, my enthusiasm for this novel waned over time. After reading Cell 7, I was very excited for what could come next. Cell 7 had what I think was a unique approach to crime, even if it was flawed! Day 7 departed from Cell 7 in offering a range of methods for punishing wrong-doers. These are once again flawed towards people that have money being able to push the judgement, and in fact this is used to Martha’s advantage.

I like the understated cover, it reminds me of James Bond films, which traditionally start with Bond looking down the barrel of a gun. This novel doesn’t have quite as much action as all that though. It tries, but with one character in a cell, and the other hidden to avoid being hunted, it’s difficult to have anything other than words exchanged.

Oh Martha, why can’t you just be sensible and stay out of the way? Her sometimes childish behavior, which I wouldn’t expect from someone who has been on death row, put me off her as a heroine. Isaac on the other hand seemed way too laid back about death. Maybe it is possible to lose too much?

I will need to read Final 7, which should be the concluding novel of this trilogy (but you never know). Although Day 7 wasn’t as awesome as Cell 7, I would still like to find out what the conclusion is for Martha and Isaac. Because of this, I will grant this novel 4 stars rather than 3 stars. Funnily enough, the consensus on Goodreads is the same!

Allen & Unwin | 30th August 2017 | AU$19.99 | paperback

Review: Richard Roxburgh – Artie and the Grime Wave

Artie and the Grime Wave
Richard Roxburgh

Artie is always being bullied, along with his rather unfortunately-named pal, Bumshoe. While a shout of ‘Rabbits’ often distracts his dumb tormentors, this time it seems like Artie has gotten into more trouble than he can cope with. With Mary, Funnel-Web and Budgie on his tail, he needs to make things happen… fast.

31927285In the tradition of ‘The Day My Bum Went Psycho’ and ‘The Adventures of Captain Underpants’, this novel contains bums, snot and disgusting boys! If you have a reader that is into that kind of thing, they are going to love this novel.

The action is fast-paced, and the characters such strong caricatures that they will leave some sort of impression in your mind. If you have a weak stomach, and aren’t fond of snot or poop, this probably won’t be for you. There’s bodily fluids flying everywhere!

Honestly, it’s not my kind of novel at all, I didn’t request it to my knowledge. I wouldn’t have read this when I was younger, and the only reason I read this was because I knew my brain would be dead and incapable of digesting good literature after a hard day at work.

Let’s give it 3 stars, and know that there is a deserving audience out there that will enjoy this novel.


Allen & Unwin | 12th September 2016| AU $16.99 | Paperback

Review: Matthew J. Kirby – Assassin’s Creed Last Descendants

Assassin’s Creed Last Descendants
Matthew J. Kirby

Cole wants to exonerate his dad of a crime, and he thinks the answer might be in his DNA. The Animus offered to him by the IT guy at school might give him access to his dad’s memory of the day. Unfortunately, instead Cole gets caught up with finding the Trident of Eden – and being hunted down by both Assassins and the Templars.

28691917The novel’s characters didn’t fill out for me. I remember Sean’s name. That’s it. I had to recheck the blurb to remember the other characters, even the ‘main’ character, Cole.

This read really oddly to me. The story felt empty, with a plot that played out very simply. I can’t explain my feelings exactly, but for me, I think this novel was too opaque to work. As far as I can see, it is written for the very specific audience of people who have played the video game of this.

I don’t know how this fits into the Assassin’s Creed universe, but other reviewers have talked passionately enough about how epic the video games are, and how epically well this novel fits into the universe. I’d strongly advise checking out some other reviews on this one.

This is aimed at YA readers officially, but to me it was more of a teenage fiction novel. There just wasn’t enough depth in any of the characters, and the hints of romance and violence that would make it necessary to classify this as a YA novel were not big enough.

I’m certain this novel has a place somewhere, it’s just not with me. Maybe for fans of the game that don’t recognise reading as a valid past-time? I wouldn’t recommend it for a strong reader, it doesn’t have enough sustenance for them. I”m giving it 3 stars – well written, but just not compelling.


Scholastic | 1st September 2016 | AU $19.99 | Paperback