The Frugal Wizard’s Handbook for Surviving Medieval England
“A man awakes in a clearing in what appears to be medieval England with no memory of who he is, where he came from, or why he is there. Chased by a group from his own time, his sole hope for survival lies in regaining his missing memories, making allies among the locals, and perhaps even trusting in their superstitious boasts. His only help from the “real world” should have been a guidebook entitled The Frugal Wizard’s Handbook for Surviving Medieval England, except his copy exploded during transit. The few fragments he managed to save provide clues to his situation, but can he figure them out in time to survive?”
This is fun in some ways, but pretty stupid in others. I’m ok with carp diem! Ie. Fish the day. It’s not seize the fish, which is what John thinks/pretends it. One of the best things about these Secret Projects is that this one and Tress are filled with plenty of odd metaphors and random puns. My favourite!
What else positive can I say about this book? Well, Sanderson definitely seemed to have fun writing it. It still has his lyrical prose and multi-faceted characters. I mostly just feel sorry for John since he isn’t the brightest, but he does try to be likeable at times. I’d certainly lose my temper a bit if I ended up in his original home situation (which is gradually pulled out of the text slowly). He’s just too ‘meh’, and I couldn’t care enough in it or the premise of travelling down different dimensions to ‘time travel’.
Go on and bite me, but I didn’t like this novel. That’s not to say that I love everything in The Cosmere equally and was influenced by the fact that this is NOT a Cosmere novel. I just didn’t care for the topic or the narrator. Yes, I’ve read it twice now, but even just trying to explain the plot to my wife made me think ‘Woah, why am I reading this again?’ I don’t think I’m going to revisit it, unless I’m looking for a happily-ever-after that can be knocked over quickly.
Skandar and the Unicorn Thief
So it turns out that unicorns are real! And, they’re limited to just a single island, everyone wants one, and they eat meat and small fluffy animals. Oh yes, and spirit unicorns are deadly unicorns that mean that if you are meant to be a spirit rider, you will fail your entrance exam to unicorn school no matter how hard you study. Skandar’s sister didn’t get a unicorn and it almost broke her – it’s up to Skandar to carry on their father’s unicorn wishes.
Seriously, if the whole island is covered with wild unicorns, how can there be any furry creatures left? There are so many plot holes. So many. Oh look, a book that will teach you everything! Oops, lost it. Wooh, got past one enemy and now assume that I’m invincible! I was very disappointed in the end of both books, particularly the second one. Has Skandar just conveniently forgotten about the other unicorn that he keeps running into?
Other reviewers have commented that it’s so unlikely that the whole world would want to believe in unicorns and watch a race once a year that determines the ruler of the magical island. I’m telling you, those people can’t be Australians! In Victoria, Australia we have The Melbourne Cup, which is horses racing around a track – ‘the race that stops the Nation’. We even get a public holiday to celebrate it! So to me, the notion that a race stopped everyone from doing anything was pretty straightforward.
I was given the first book for review, and bought the second book as a 14th birthday gift. The teenager hasn’t been raised on a diet of Harry Potter (thank goodness), she prefers Tamora Pierce, Garth Nix and other EXCELLENT books. She said that Skandar was better than Percy Jackson, the books looked attractive and there was a gift solved (the age-old gifting problem). If you grew up with Harry Potter or Percy Jackson as a child then Skandar is a weak shadow and not worth it if you are now an adult reader. It’s fine for middle-grade and teens, but I wouldn’t rate it that highly. 3-stars from me, for the right audience.
Simon & Schuster | 28 April 2022 | AU$19.99 | paperback
Lori has been the fat girl, with an odd brother, for a long while. But she used to fit in with her artistic talents – then her mom went and uprooted their lives to find the best place for her brother. Can Lori swim? I liked this novel. Go fat girls who end up being ok with being fat. The evolution from fat girl to fat girl with a better attitude towards herself was nice! I love the claimback by Lori of being fat and being healthy not being mutually exclusive. The novel reminded me to some extent of The Learning Curves of Vanessa Partridge. The ending was pretty much as I expected but it was cute anyway.
Please Don’t Hug Me
I received this as an ARC eBook copy a long time ago but never got into it. I read the first chaper or so, and then got distracted by other physical books. In transperancy though, I did finally read it as an ebook from my local library! I didn’t find it particularly riviting again the second time either. I struggled with Erin just having a single goal of Schoolies and her writing letters to her brother who could be in jail? We don’t even know? Until we do know, and then, oh, I hate Erin’s psychologist. I much preferred Social Queue and the non-fiction Love and Autism (I read them in very quick succession).
Zoe’s made it out of highschool with only a few quirks in behaviour that are the direct result of bullying – most is ‘just’ her autism. Or actually, she’s still trying to get used to being a teenager with autism, but she knows that she wants to be a writer. I enjoyed this novel much more than Please Don’t Hug Me because autism is less of a disability and more of a character trait that makes Zoe really good at some things, and not others (just like non-disabled people). Zoe reasonated with me as a character who wasn’t sure of her attraction to other people, but was willing to try going on five new dates! Even if the results weren’t what we/she expected. I think this is a great novel to add to any teenager’s shelf who struggles with being their authentic self, and learning how to love as a neurodivergent human.
They Hate Each Other
Jonah and Dylan have nothing in common. Nothing. Never. It’s why their friends are so determined that they will end up together – enemies to lovers. When they end up accidentally sleeping in the same bed, they decide to fake it until their friends get over it. But will Jonah and Dylan discover that they have more in common than they thought?
Is this too neat? I mean, it’s gonna be a teenage romance, so OF COURSE they will end up together. The author digs a little more deeply though into each of the boy’s home lives, and deals with some difficult topics including sexual harrassment, abuse, trauma and body image. It could be triggering for some people – don’t believe what TikTok tells you about the book, go and actually read the publisher’s website to be sure that it’s a book for you.
Reminicent of Lose You to Find Me, this book is a worthy additional to #ownvoices Queer novels. I’d put this near the top of my recommendation pile for someone with a young gay in their lives. It’s not always a comforting or comfortable read, but it is pretty good fun in parts. I couldn’t decide if I was on Team Dylan or Team Jonah – I love a great baked good, so I guess Dylan wins. Both are well-rounded characters that have been given unique quirks and flaws rather than being one-dimensional standins for “best practice gay boys”.
I ate this book up in a single afternoon, so it must have been good! On a couple of occasions I almost found myself crying for the characters. 5 stars from me, with a thought that after the storyline fades nicely in my head, I will want to reread it. Only time will tell.
Hachette | 9 May 2023 | AU$22.99 | paperback
Every Little Piece of my Heart
Sophie has been abandoned by her bestie, Freya. Sophie’s trying to deal with her chronic illness, having no friends at school and just generally feeling abandoned. When she receives a parcel with her name on it, she can’t wait to open it. But the parcel isn’t even for her, she needs to pass it on to someone she barely knows…
It’s nice to have a character with a chronic illness that makes it difficult for her to be a main character! It’s very unfair and biased that many heroes are strong or even just plain healthy when the reality is that many people live with unseen conditions. Spoons! So in a way that almost made this book redeemable, but not quite.
This book also suffered from multiple perspectives. I say suffered because I didn’t feel like it was done particularly well. Despite flipping through the four view points, each doesn’t add anything particularly new in my opinion. Ok ok, we see four different people but I don’t think that there’s enough depth that each seemed unique. Maybe it passes for teen fiction, but not YA fiction.
Average. So, so average. And the ending was terrible – was it left open for a sequel where there’s a big happy reunion? I mean, I finished it, but only because I was hopeful that the end would answer some big questions I had. It didn’t. If you love books with open endings, you’ll love this one. I’m giving it 3 stars, which is extremely generous of me.
Defy the Night
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.
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.
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
Take a Bow, Noah Mitchell
Noah is in love with his best friend… who he doesn’t even know the name of, and has only ‘met’ online. Well, if we’re being honest, it’s Noah’s only friend. Noah’s mum is desperate to have him participate in a musical theatre so it could be an in…
I unfortunately found this novel quite cringeworthy, and I struggled to keep reading it. I knew from the beginning that things weren’t going to go well for Noah! Was I ever so stupid in highschool?
I was so worried about what Noah’s big secret was to why he has no friends at school, but in the end I felt a bit letdown. I also felt tricked by Eli’s mom and her job – it didn’t seem to actually be all that relevant to the narrative in the end. Oh, and what about Alex just reporting back to Noah’s mother? That was a bit weird too.
It’s been a year or so since Anything but Fine, but unfortunately I didn’t feel like the author’s style has progressed much (or maybe the topic is too same-y). I look forward to seeing more #ownvoices work from this author, but I hope that he will continue to broaden his writing out of his own experiences and into new areas (not ballet or theatre that I feel are stereotypically gay).
I feel terrible writing such a negative review. I’m sure this novel will be reassuring to some gay teens, and maybe reinforce that parents aren’t always what they seem. For me though, I was disappointed and I’m only giving 3 stars. I’d recommend Camp or Jack of Hearts over this novel, or of course the debut by this author – Anything but Fine.
Penguin | 30 August 2022 | AU$19.99 | paperback
The Not So Chosen One
Lucy’s keeping her cool – she’s got homework, friends and needs to be at home on time. She just won’t think about the fact that she’s pregnant. To top it off, she’s suddenly been offered entry into the prestigious Drake’s College – but she doesn’t seem to have any magical abilities?
This book was fantastic… right until the last 10 pages or so. How can this book not have a sequel? Then I thought back along the book and went.. uh, enough plot holes, anyone? I received an ARC of this novel, but the ending made me so disappointed I couldn’t bring myself to review it. Maybe it was improved further before going to publication?
I liked Lucy, even if she was really quite an idiot at times. Seriously girl, get yo’sef together! She definitely could have done a better job at paying attention and putting clues together. Maybe she has baby brain? I could have done with a bit more in terms of context and some of the plot twists just seemed to be twists for the hell of it rather than actual useful storyline. That said, I was really realy invested in the ending!
I’m giving it 2 stars, although I considered giving it only 1 star. The ending is so terrible that you shouldn’t let yourself read this book unless a second is published. And I’d want that sequel to be published, not just ‘in writing’ before committing. I’m still sad about the ending…
Text Publishing | 5 July 2022 | AU$19.99 | paperback