Review: Rebecca Yarros – Fourth Wing

Fourth Wing
Rebecca Yarros

Violet has been training to become a scribe like her father, rather than a dragon rider like her older sister, decreased brother and cold mother. At the last moment, Violet must pass the parapet and become a rider – where not all the riders will be chosen by dragons… and not all would-be riders will survive.

Character development? Not really. Amazing world-building? Yup, maybe! Fun storyline where you can’t decide whether you want the protagonist to live or die? 100%! Although I had no real prediction as to how it was going to go down, the ending was highly satisfying.

I’m not sure they are grumpy enough dragons (or that there’s enough dragon time)! I mean, when we get to the final parade in front of them, I felt like they could have incinerated a couple more of the cadets. If they aren’t going to choose them all, why not put the others out of their misery?

Winner! Another main character with a physical disability that doesn’t let it get in the way of what she wants to do (see also: A Curse so Dark and Lonely). Damn, girl! I guessed the ending just a couple of pages out from the end of the book and was 100% paranoid that the book was going to end before I confirmed it.

If you’re sensitive to, well, erotica, this might not be the book for you. Violet definitely spends a fair bit of time thinking about sex, and then it gets worse as you progress through the book! The first half is relatively safe though

For once it’s not a group of 15-16 year olds fighting it out, it’s actual adults. I really appreciated that aspect and it made the violence seem slightly less out of place? I think that the way young children are killed off in something like The Hunger Games very dystopian. It’s an uncomfortable thought to know that although that’s a fantasty world, in the real world children are dying right now anyway.

I couldn’t stop reading it and after some time has passed and the second book is published, I will be all there for a reread.

Hachette | 9 May 2023 | AU$32.99 | paperback

Review: Amanda Brown – The Prison Doctor

The Prison Doctor
Amanda Brown

“Dr Amanda Brown has treated inmates in the UK’s most infamous prisons – first in young offenders’ institutions, then at the notorious Wormwood Scrubs and finally at Europe’s largest women-only prison in Europe, Bronzefield. From miraculous pregnancies to dirty protests, and from violent attacks on prisoners to heartbreaking acts of self-harm, she has witnessed it all. In this memoir, Amanda reveals the stories, the patients and the cases that have shaped a career helping those most of us would rather forget.”

I’m always keen to read medical stuff. I’m not quite sure what I expected from this book though. I think I could have had more juicy medical stories in terms of ailments treated, rather than the somewhat introspective tone approach taken here. As the Prison Doctor says though, it’s not her job technically to judge based on the prisoners’ crimes, it’s up to her to treat their medical problems.

Perhaps reading this sharply on the heels of I am a Killer has desensitised me to crime and criminals? They did what they did, now they do their time. Sometimes I wonder whether death would be a kinder sentence, particularly with how many try to kill themselves or self-harm in horrifying ways. We have to remember though that this book only addresses some of the criminals in the system, and the doctor can’t possibly see everyone. That means there’s some people whose stories are hidden – and will continue to have this. I’m not going to pretend to be an expert in criminology.

Are my complaints going to prevent me from reading the next book in the series? Hmm, probably not. I wouldn’t bother purchasing this book though, I’d just find a copy at my local library or borrow from a friend. It’s an easier read, and I’m not judging it for that.

Review: Danny Tipping & Ned Parker – I am a Killer

I Am A Killer
What makes a murderer, their shocking stories in their own words
Danny Tipping & Ned Parker

“What motivates someone to take a life? How do murderers remember their lives and crimes? With unprecedented access to high-security prisons all around the country, the creators of Netflix’s I Am a Killer set out to get answers to these questions—by talking to the killers themselves. Most killers will die in prison, but each one speaks openly about their pasts and crimes. Each profile features exclusive photographs, documents, and commentary from the documentary producers to give a detailed and balanced account of the crime, leaving it up to readers to decide what was right.”

I haven’t seen the TV series, and probably never will. True crime isn’t popular in my household, except for what I read. Correction, TV just isn’t popular here. Anyway, I enjoyed reading this book because I didn’t have any backstory and I was able to appreciate both sides of the story without any dramatic editing.

The almost universal theme running through this book is that the most horrible of killers have terrible, abusive childhoods that set them up for failure. Many are also low IQ and have been taken advantage of at some point by people they trust. I didn’t read one story there that didn’t make me feel pretty sorry for the ‘killer’, because it’s clear why they were pushed the way they were. The sad fact is that systems will continue to fail, and children will continue to suffer, and murders will therefore keep happening.

I don’t know whether I agree with Death Row (it’s something that has been outlawed in Australia since 1973), but I agree that abusive people should have /something/ permanently done to them. Whether that’s sterilisation for male paedophiles or a retribution / equal ‘payback’, it’s probably a good thing I’m not involved in making laws!

I picked up this book as a sneaky 50c book from the library rejects pile. I’ve started a tutoring gig once a week, and it happens to be in the library. So far I’ve scored 2x Brandon Sanderson, an Isobelle Carmody and a couple of other nice grabs. And I still have another 6 months of tutoring to go! I can’t wait to see what else I get to get my hands on.

Review: Eliza Hull – We’ve Got This

We’ve Got This
Stories by Disabled Parents
Eliza Hull

“How do two parents who are blind take their children to the park? How is a mother with dwarfism treated when she walks her child down the street? How do Deaf parents know when their baby cries in the night? In We’ve Got This, twenty-five parents who identify as Deaf, disabled or chronically ill discuss the highs and lows of their parenting journeys and reveal that the greatest obstacles lie in other people’s attitudes. The result is a moving, revelatory and empowering anthology.”

I read this non-fiction right on the back of Kay Kerr’s Love & Autism as part of my local library’s promotion for Diversity Month. I found it fascinating how many of the stories featured Queer people. I loved that! At the same time, I possibly felt too seen. This novel forced me to confront some of the assumptions I’ve made about people with disabilities.

I still feel a bit iffy having read it. Some parents I felt that it was totally ok that they had kids (not that I need to ok them having kids!) and others I found myself really uncomfortable. I guess I should identify as ‘a person with a disability’ because I have a mental illness, but I don’t think I’m disabled. While I’ve come to terms with my own problems and identity, I would never want to pass them on to someone else. Medically, I still feel like some disabilities that are heritable are perhaps too cruel. I am seeing many more discussions of how miscarriage is more common and how crippling that can be to potential parents. Is not wanting to avoid miscarriages, still-births and infant deaths not reasonable?

It’s a good thing I try not to judge books by their covers because ugh, look at that thing! It makes it seem like a mass-printed cheap paperback when in fact that’s doing it a disservice. My suggestion is to just jump in, and if the first chapter doesn’t appeal to you, skip to the next one. It’s non-fiction, so no-one is judging you for somehow missing a main character (like in those multi-perspective giant fantasy novels).

I feel undecided about this review. I’ve been brutally honest about my feelings, but I also don’t want to discount other people’s beliefs and feelings too. Please take my review as it is meant, not as offensive.

Review: Erik J. Brown – Lose You to Find Me

Lose You to Find Me
Erik J. Brown

Tommy has been working as a server in a Retirement Village in the hopes of getting a decent reference letter to enrol at the culinary school of his dreams. He’s got his head down despite his sadistic boss and has a good chance of success. But then Gabe shows up – the boy that Tommy realised he was gay for – but Gabe doesn’t remember Tommy…

You just have to laugh at the puns in the blurb. Go on, I’ll wait while you go look. On this occasion, the blurb doesn’t give too much away! Phew. I remembered how much I enjoyed All That’s Left at the World, and the swift shift by this author to a new area was just fine with me. I read it the moment it came in the door.

Tommy! Yes! Go you! Don’t stand for that crappy behaviour. I mean, watch what you are doing with the knives, but don’t tolerate mixed-signals from someone who isn’t right for you. This resonated back to me with Take a Bow, Noah Mitchell where we see the catfisher’s side (is that even a term?).

I particularly liked the sidestory of Tommy’s best friend too. I did wonder what part of the USA this was in, since they seemed to be getting drunk pretty often, and I had a feeling that was a bit of a no-no in most places / hard to organise before college? Ah well, the drinking definitely reminded me of the Australian culture.

This is a fantastic addition to #ownvoices fiction. Ok, so the premise could be a little more exciting, but I still loved it and couldn’t put it down. I’m giving it 4 stars because I don’t think it’s a reread for me. It was still great fun though – even if I could have gone a few more puns!

Hachette | 9 April 2023 | AU$19.99 | paperback

Review: Kay Kerr – Love & Autism

Love & Autism
Kay Kerr

“‘Love has always intrigued me, in part because I have carried for a long time a feeling that I am doing love wrong.’ Through the intimate writing of critically-acclaimed autistic author Kay Kerr, Love & Autism presents an uplifting celebration of neurodivergent love, the search for it and a deeper look into the lives of autistic Australians.”

What’s unique about this book? It has multiple, nuanced perspectives of people with autism in Australia. What are the strengths and weaknesses of autistic people when it comes to love? It turns out – a lot of things. The most important part for me was how each of these people learnt to love themselves, even despite or because of loving others. It’s not just romantic love, it’s also love for a family and a friend. Love is diverse, just as autism is diverse.

If you don’t identify as autistic but perhaps have autistic tendencies this may be a confronting read. The author states that it’s actually quite rude to say that ‘you’re on the spectrum’ if you aren’t actually diagnosed, but that doesn’t mean that it’s wrong for some of what you read about to resonate with you.

I never did finish reading ‘Please Don’t Hug Me’ (I received an ARC eBook) because I hate eBooks. … I have to admit that I read Love & Autism as an ebook! I was scrolling through my Borrow Box from my local library and it turns out that it’s diversity month or something. This caused me to stumble onto this, and a couple of other non-fiction in this genre.

I’m really enjoying non-fiction at the moment, so expect a few more reviews from me. It’s strange because I’ve always been a fiction/fantasy reader because I’d rather not know about what bad things are happening around me in the real world. Maybe it’s time to strike a happy medium? I at least know that the ‘main character’ will survive if the author is alive!

Review: Adam Silvera – The First to Die at the End

The First to Die at the End
Adam Silvera

Orion has been waiting to die his whole life from a heart condition, surrounded by people who love him. Valentino has been waiting his whole life to live and love free. A chance meeting in Times Square, and the two are suddenly End Day buddies but only one of them gets a fateful call. There’s one question: Can Death-Cast actually predict when someone will die, or is it just an elaborate hoax?

That twist! At the end! Woah! Not what I was expecting (even if I harboured a little hope in my head). I can’t say anything about it otherwise it’ll all be ruined. Is it creepy to want to know more about the Heralds? Now I vaguely want to reread the original (They Both Die at the End) in this series to see if I’ll learn anything extra about how long Heralds last etc.

I could have done without the perspectives of Matteo and Rufus, honestly. I get that this is a prequel, but it didn’t need to link together! Just hearing about the beginning of Death Cast was awesome. Does the author even know how Death Cast works? Will the Silvera’s readers ever find out?

I can’t speak for the authenticity of the Puerto Rican perspective, but from what other readers have been saying, it’s lovely to have some more gay boys of colour! More representation in Queer literature? Sign me up.

I requested this from the publisher, but wasn’t selected as a reviewer this time. I instead requested both the audiobook and the ebook from my local library. Neither is my preferred format, but I was very keen to read it! I received access to the audiobook first, and listened to it while I put dirt in gardenbeds (don’t let anyone tell you that growing your own veggies is cheap, not even The Smart Veggie Patch!). I enjoyed that it had three different readers and it made it extremely easy for even a distracted reader like me to follow along.

I’ll continue along enjoying Silvera’s excellent novels that include the What if it’s Us duology. I’ll give this one four stars – I’m not convinced it’s an immediate re-read for me, but it was still pretty good!

Simon & Schuster | 4 October 2022 | AU$19.99 | paperback

Review: Prudence Wheelwright – The Flying Nurse

The Flying Nurse
Prudence Wheelwright

“Prue Wheelwright is still in her thirties but she’s already had a fascinating, action-packed career. As a nurse and midwife she has worked in remote Australia as well as parts of the world that are remote to Australia, thanks to her work with Médécins sans Frontières. From treating patients at the most basic bush hospital in Ethiopia to looking after members of the Saudi royal family in Riyadh to the work she has just begun with the Royal Flying Doctor Service, Prue has seen the extremes of humanity and has the stories to prove it. Above all this is the story of a woman who is passionate about her work – that work just happens to be in a profession that means she puts her heart on the line, every single day. And she wouldn’t change a thing.”

Is this allowed to be a memoir when its author is still so young? Prue packs a lot into these pages and I am keen to read more! This seems like part 1 of her career, and I can’t wait to read more. There’s plenty of variety in her stories and the opportunities that she’s taken up are mind-boggling in their differences. From letting her mom pick nursing (or teaching) as a career for her, Prue has thrived in the unique environments she’s found herself in.

I was particularly tickled by Prue’s descriptions of her time in Riyadh, which is in a very strict Muslim country. Imagine not being able to treat your patients because they are royalty! Not to mention her creative approach to clothing under the Abaya or niqab in public places…

What I enjoyed about this book compared to Frontline Midwife, was that the author didn’t seem to hold the view that everyone should be able to, and should aim to, have children. It’s also interesting to have another view of Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors without Borders) and how the experiences are similar yet literally countries apart. I’d highly recommend this book as a must-read for anyone considering nursing as a career. I’ve got a niece in mind to give this book to!

It seems to me that medical professionals are some of the most valuable people world-wide. As an educator, I’d like to argue that education is the way forward but basic medical care perhaps has to come first. I’m going to keep living vicariously through these medical memoirs (The Combat Doctor, Frontline Midwife, Aussie Midwives) and know that there is no way I could be a nurse.

Hachette | 29 March 2023 | AU$34.99 | paperback

Review: Jodi McAlister – Can I Steal You for a Second?

Can I Steal You for a Second?
Jodi McAlister

Amanda is keen to get over her last relationship – surely a break in a house full of other women and a single Romeo is the way to go? She has nothing to lose and everything to gain from a potential relationship. Or maybe she’ll find love? There’s two Dylans to choose from after all!

Mandie is such a sympathetic character. She has low self-esteem and her list of things that she is good at does at least get a little longer during the course of the book. Unfortunately, I didn’t really feel like she had made real progress. She’s definitely just fallen for a person too quickly. Being trapped with someone during COVID lockdowns in Melbourne forces quick relationships (a great example is 56 days if you are looking for a psychological thriller).

I think that the author creates understandable characters but I am left wanting more substance. I know it’s just ‘fluffy romance’ and I should be grateful for non-Caucasian, non-heteronormative relationships at all, but I wanted to see more convincing character growth in general. The marketing brief is so proud that the author is a Lecturer, rather than ‘just’ a romance writing – but I still expected more.

This book is to be read in parallel with Here for the Right Reasons. I actually think you should read this one first, as there would be less spoilers that way (but of course there’s still a happily ever after). I’ve read another romance book from this author (Valentine), and it’s clear the author has a ‘type’. But the end of this one promises that there will also be a Lily and Murray book. WHY? Move on, deliver me a new story!

I’m giving this four stars, which is perhaps a bit generous. I did definitely have some real laugh out loud moments (not a spelt-out lol) and there were several bits where I needed to share the text with someone else! Worth reading, but perhaps not worth owning unless you want to relive reality TV during a lockdown more than once.

Simon and Schuster | 5th April 2023 | AU$22.99 | paperback

Review: Alexa Hagerty – Still Life with Bones

Still Life with Bones
GENOCIDE, FORENSICS, AND WHAT REMAINS
Alexa Hagerty

“An anthropologist working with forensic teams and victims’ families to investigate crimes against humanity in Latin America explores what science can tell us about the lives of the dead in this haunting account of grief, the power of ritual, and a quest for justice. Working with forensic teams at mass grave sites and in labs, Hagerty discovers how bones bear witness to crimes against humanity and how exhumation can bring families meaning after unimaginable loss. She also comes to see how cutting-edge science can act as ritual—a way of caring for the dead with symbolic force that can repair societies torn apart by violence.”

Sections of this book were haunting. The sheer number of atrocities that have occured under government rule and the ones that are still happening today is almost overwhelming. The people trying to identify their deceased murdered loved ones is heart rending. As Hagerty says, there is no way that all the bones can be identified with the amount of (wo)manpower in the job, and the funding problems and pushbacks of current politicians. It should be a powerful reminder that the story being told is always the one told by those who have gained power – maybe one day a different group of leaders will emerge who make identifying the genocide victims a priority but don’t expect it.

I don’t really know what I expected from this book. Perhaps I was looking for some more scientific / gruesome details. Someone in one of my classes this week showed me a picture of a toe they’d received for molecular testing. I’m always curious about the science, but this book is by a social anthropologist, not a anatomy major! That being said, there were still some interesting points to consider. I really enjoyed the descriptions of how Hagerty drew the stories from the families, and yet she was able to convey the utter shock of accidentally snapping a bone in the next breath.

I’d love to read more by this author – particularly if she starts writing fiction! That being said, this book is honestly horrifying. Humans shouldn’t be able to do that to other humans and get away with it. If reading this book prevents even a single murder, that would be fantastic. If it encourages someone to learn more about forensics and history, that’s also amazing. I highly recommend this non-fiction for anyone who has an interest in history, genocides and forensics.

Hachette | 14th March 2023 | AU$32.99 | paperback