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: Lily Lindon – Double Booked

Double Booked
Lily Lindon

Georgina doesn’t want to get married. Or at least, she doesn’t think she does – she doesn’t like change. She’s happy with her same old routine dependable boyfriend, shared calendar and best friend SophieSlob. George’s a single night out at a gay bar as a favour to Sophie turns out to be an unexpected foray into revisting her musical roots and being not-straight. Cue chaos of Georginas’s life quickly deteriorating.

I was so invested in Georgina, and she felt like a real character with some interesting flaws. Most of the time I found myself genuinely laughing, rather than thking ‘what an idiot’. Let me say though that perhaps the reason I understood how Georgina treated her friends is because I viewed her through a lens of trauma. Georgina just doesn’t seem to have processed her own father’s death. Thus, her relationships and the horrible way she treats her family and friends is, if not justified, certainly understandable.

Being bisexual is no joke, even though the ‘B’ has been a part of LGBTIQA*+. We do have to talk about a little bit of privilage here – although Gina isn’t rich, she does have her mom to fall back to, she has a stable housing situation (with backups) and she also isn’t a person of colour. If you are looking for a protagonist who doesn’t already have these things going for her, then step past this novel.

I felt like everything was perfectly mapped out by the author. However, a couple of things just seemed a little too neat. Seriously, a wedding after all that? Trust me when I say that isn’t a spoiler. I also wasn’t 100% on board with how a panic attack was treated, and how open relationships / cheating were sort of ok-ed.

Well, I know how this novel turns out now, so I’m not sure I’d read it again. I’d recommend it for those who are perhaps considering their sexuality that are past Keeping You a Secret. Or, just wanting a fun story of finding your sexuality.

Head of Zeus | 30 August 2022 | AU$24.99 | paperback

Review: Shirley Marr – All Four Quarters of the Moon

All Four Quarters of the Moon
Shirley Marr

Peijing is not that sure about moving to Australia, but she knows that as long as her family is together it’ll be ok. She’s the dependable (and responsible) big sister for Biju and she’s determined to keep things steady. There’s a couple of problems though – Ma Ma is no longer dressing well, Ah Ma (grandmother) is forgetful and Ba Ba doesn’t know what to do when not working.

Interspersed with storytelling from Biju, the narrative moves smoothly through the first year of Peojing’s time in Australia. The prose is lyrical, and you can only hope that it’s an easy and enjoyable read for younger readers. It certainly was for me! I enjoyed it as something light and refreshing inbetween all the non-fiction I’ve been enjoying at the moment.

The novel reminded me of Tiger Daughter – but with a more satisfying ending! Also, although some themes are similar, to me, All Four Quarters of the Moon was more detailed and accessible. The transistion of moving to Australia, not fitting in well with the culture, and finding it difficult to let go of old traditions is compelling and meaningful. However, you can’t think that that’s it for the novel – it also touches on alcohol abuse and bullying.

I actually received an ARC for this novel, but somehow it slipped past my radar. I’d recommend it as suitable for any primary school-aged young person or as a read-aloud for parents. It’s not just about cultural differences, it’s also about friendships and family relationships. 4 stars from me.

Penguin Tina Gumnior | 5th July 2022 | AU$16.99 | paperback

Review: Donald Miller – Building a StoryBrand (S)

Building a StoryBrand
Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen
Donald Miller

“Donald Miller’s StoryBrand process is a proven solution to the struggle business leaders face when talking about their businesses… Building a StoryBrand does this by teaching readers the seven universal story points all humans respond to; the real reason customers make purchases; how to simplify a brand message so people understand it; and how to create the most effective messaging for websites, brochures, and social media. Whether you are the marketing director of a multibillion dollar company, the owner of a small business, a politician running for office, or the lead singer of a rock band, Building a StoryBrand will forever transform the way you talk about who you are, what you do, and the unique value you bring to your customers.”

I listened to this book as an audio book. It seemed to take quite a while to get into it. For a book on building a story and getting you hooked into it, it really didn’t at all! It took a bit over an hour before it started picking up. Lucky for it, I was in the car on a long trip so I kept listening to it. The rest of the book was pretty good. There were a few slow points but overall it was really great.

It’s good to take a step back and look at your business and the story you are in with your clients. It helps define roles, where you are the guide and your clients are the heros. It does annoy me though when authors quote their website and market themselves within the book, which he does. This also goes against his own advice, of not making the reader the hero and flogging himself.

Looking beyond this though, the author does have some good points that you can take away and use for your business. It’s nice and short and didn’t drag on too much either. I recommend it to anyone who deals with customers/clients or is in business. 4 stars.

Review: Jimmy Soni – The Founders (S)

The Founders
The Story of Paypal and the Entrepreneurs Who Shaped Silicon Valley
Jimmy Soni

“Today, PayPal’s founders and earliest employees are considered the technology industry’s most powerful network. Since leaving PayPal, they have formed, funded, and advised the leading companies of our era, including Tesla, Facebook, YouTube, SpaceX, Yelp, Palantir, and LinkedIn, among many others. As a group, they have driven twenty-first-century innovation and entrepreneurship. Their names stir passions; they’re as controversial as they are admired. … The Founders is a story of iteration and inventiveness—the products of which have cast a long and powerful shadow over modern life. This narrative illustrates how this rare assemblage of talent came to work together and how their collaboration changed our world forever.”

I’m a little mixed on this review. There were some good parts and some bad. The book takes you through the whole journey of PayPal. I found it rather slow at the start. It gave the back stories for the main characters but I felt this could have been condensed a lot. The author wanted all of the PayPal employees to have their experience and share their story. At times I felt this wasn’t relevant and whole pages could have been cut out. In saying that, there were some funny parts and parts that you just had to keep reading to know more.

It picked up as it went. The book definitely went into a lot of detail. I felt that it could have ended differently, but it’s not like you can change what actually happened! Regardless, it still ended abruptly after four years had passed from the founding. It would have been nice to hear a bit more in the later years and what it looks like now.

If you are after a business book on the story of any startup in actual detail, this book nails that and is the book for you. The only downside is it drags on at times. 3.5 stars

Allen & Unwin | 1 March 2022 | AU$29.99 | paperback

Review: Megan Whalen Turner – The Thief

The Thief
Megan Turner

Gen has been rotting in a cell for what feels like forever. Caught for boasting about his thieving prowess, the only way he will escape is to be transferred – or perhaps there will be an impossible mission to undertake. Slung along with the magus’ apprentices and a body guard, Gen is sure he will go hungry on the way to the treasure (if it even exists).

I knew Gen was up to something, I knew it! This is definitely a novel about the journey, and not about character development. I don’t know why I was quite so invested in Gen – maybe because I just knew there had to be some reason behind everything that seemed to be reasonable at face value?

I wanted something physically small to take with me to read, and also wanted something light that didn’t require much brain power to enjoy. This book fit it perfectly, and I really enjoyed it. I actually think that I’m going to read it again in future, although the twists won’t be quite the same.

Imagine my horror at getting to the end, and then discovering there was a next book! Then, backflipping, because it appears this book is old (in book years at least – 1996!), and so all the other books already exist for me to read! I’m very excited to go and find the others, and very grateful that this book made its way to me so that I could discover a new author.

This is light, innocuous reading that’s suitable for perhaps ages 10+ depending on the maturity of the reader. There’s some violence, but it’s not gratuitous or particularly vivid (although Gen’s aches and pains following it are nicely described!). 4 stars from me.

Hachette | 1st March 2022 | AU$19.99 | paperback

Review: Mercedes Lackey – Beyond

Beyond
Mercedes Lackey

Duke Valdemar has always loved his land and his people. Forever watching out for the Emperor and his spies, Valdemar plans for the future – an escape to the West where the Empire does not yet reach. When he is summoned to the capital, it is up to him to deflect the Emperor’s interest from his home dutchy, and trust that the Plan can take place without him.

I liked Duke Valdemar and I didn’t have any objections to the second perspective of his sister-in-law. The opening pages make it seem as if Delia will have a big role to play, but as yet, she hasn’t achieved anything major during the novel. The Duke on the other hand has his nose poked in everywhere, and is devious to boot! His compassion and humility could read as trite, but his approach to life is always consistent.

This is the first Lackey novel I have read for a while. After reading the Collegium Chronicles, The Herald Spy and Family Spies (so bad, I didn’t even review it) I felt burnt out and disappointed. Lackey seemed to be pumping out weaker novels that didn’t follow her original pattern of duology/trilogy and were poorly edited, written and unnecessarily wordy. Thankfully, Beyond breaks that pattern in being a well-written first novel. I hope it is a trilogy and not a pentology.

The second book in the series is due to be published this year, and I await it with bated breath and the hope that it is equally as good as this one. We will see. 4 stars for this novel.

Review: Kathy Reichs – Temperance Brennan Series (books 1-8)

Temperance Brennan Series (books 1-8)
Kathy Reichs

“Dr. Temperance “Tempe” Brennan is a forensic anthropologist, who investigates human remains at crime scenes where the flesh is too degraded for a coroner to obtain evidence (victims of arson, mutilation, advanced decomposition, etc.). She is a native of the Carolinas and one of only fifty board-certified forensic anthropologists in North America.”

Let’s hear it for a middle-aged, moderately attractive, highly skilled scientist. One of the best parts about these novels is that Tempe is highly flawed and quite relatable. I love the science that is inherent in everything she does, and I have a morbid interest in death in all its forms!

Let it be said that the only reason I decided to read these is because I enjoyed the TV series “Bones”. The reason I stopped watching Bones is very much like the reason I stopped reading these – they became repetitive. I mean sure, it’s a different victim and a different death measure, but overall the theme is the same. Temperance always catches the bad guy, and her sidekicks are always telling her she knows nothing.

These did make good retelling stories when asked to fill a silence in the car! My only problem was that I wasn’t sure how much of it was likely or true. For example, there is a case where the victim has been removed from Mt Everest in an icey form! There is a ‘Death Zone’ which is just colourful from all the jackets of people who have frozen to death there… Likely? Maybe (yes it is, and you can check out this link for more!).

I’ll give these 3-4 stars – once I started each novel, I had a compulsive need to keep reading it, but I wouldn’t go and reread them now that I know who the bad guy is!

Review: Jodi McAlister – Here for the Right Reasons

Here for the Right Reasons
Jodi McAlister

Cece James has worked hard to get out of her foster care system background. It’s so hard though, when you work from day to day and don’t have any financial or family support. She has her two closest friends, but no ‘man’ to look after her either. When she drunkenly applies to a dating show, she’s horrified and then relieved, to be accepted – she needs the cash to survive the Pandemic.

This is another novel I sort of gulped down on a plane trip. I polished it off between Melbourne and Perth, so I know it was around a 2-3 hour read for me. Something nice and light, fluffy and not too much hard brain work required! Let’s just say that I could see the ending coming by a mile off, but still kept reading and still was a little surprised by the end!

Something that didn’t make that much sense to me was the way that they were locked in the Convent. If she didn’t know if she was being paid, how was her rent outside the set being paid for? Did it just auto-deduct? Or was it paused because this was the first lockdown and renters were getting extensions on their payments? Anyway…

Perhaps you know someone who loves The Bachelor or Married at First Sight. If you enjoy those, you’re going to definitely enjoy this one! It had reminiscent vibes for me as Love Plus One and now I want to go and reread that novel too! Maybe I’m feeling jetlagged, but I’m giving this 4 stars.

 

Simon & Schuster | 1st July 2022 | AU$19.99 | paperback