Review: Sascha Rothchild – blood sugar

blood sugar
Sascha Rothchild

Ruby is facing a lineup of four photos – each one is of a person is dead, and she’s responsible for three of them. She doesn’t feel any guilt, so why should she be prosecuted? And she didn’t kill the one that she’s most likely to stand trial for…

This book unfolds slowly and juicily in a way that you can’t help think the same way as Ruby about each of the deaths. She’s so smart, and so not a serial killer! It’s very difficult for me to write a review, because I don’t want to spoil anything. You’ll be happy to know that the blurb doesn’t really give much away, so you will be guessing along with the police.

Look at that lovely jacket art. Provided that you’ve not read the summary on Goodreads (which gives waaayyy too much away) you’ll be like me – wondering why it’s called blood sugar. You won’t be disappointed. Ruby’s fragmented narrative is reliable yet skewed at the same time. The navel gazing she does is interesting, and left me thinking about whether anyone else has been getting away with murder in regular life! I’d have to think so.

There’s a bit of specific legalese here that some readers might be able to pick apart better than I. I was so attached to Ruby that I was too busy digesting her justifications to do anything except keep reading. The time perspective jumped around a bit, but I tolerated it quite well because I was entirely stuck into the story.

If you enjoy a thriller but hate jump scares and the feeling that the murderer might live next door, this novel is for you! The murders are all in the past, and so it feels perfectly ok to be reading this in the dark past your bedtime. I feel a strong need to share this novel with everyone! Go buy a copy, and then buy one for a friend so that you can both discuss it together. I’m giving it 5 stars, and when I’ve forgotten the plot enough I’ll read it again.

Hachette | 26th April 2022 | AU$32.99 | paperback

Review: Guy Raz – How I Built This (S)

How I Built This by Guy Raz

“Award-winning journalist and NPR host Guy Raz has interviewed more than 200 highly successful entrepreneurs to uncover amazing true stories… In How I Built This, he shares tips for every entrepreneur’s journey: from the early days of formulating your idea, to raising money and recruiting employees, to fending off competitors, to finally paying yourself a real salary. This is a must-read for anyone who has ever dreamed of starting their own business or wondered how trailblazing entrepreneurs made their own dreams a reality.”

I read this as an audiobook and it was absolutely amazing! It helped that the author read it as the way he told the stories was just brilliant. It’s jam packed full of founder/CEO/business owners stories of how they got where they are today – the good, the bad, the boring and the ugly parts. A lot of business books only tell the success stories. I love that this book didn’t just show the successes but was just the truth of how they got there.

The author did an absolutely amazing job of the story telling, which in itself makes the book. It is structured in chapters where each chapter has a point that those stories relate to, but it’s hardly a theory book. It’s the stories told in really awesome ways that keep you on the edge of your seat. If you are an entrepreneur or in business, you will find something there that is relatable to you.

The author does run a podcast, but is not like other authors that spend half the book selling their business product to you. His podcast business is relatable because he would be unable to write this book without it, but it’s not sold to you.

5 stars normally means a reread. But I’m unsure if I need to hear the stories again. It was totally still deserving of 5 stars though! If business is what you want to do in your life – it’s a must-read for daily inspiration and small business tips that make a difference.

Review: Carly Nugent – Sugar

Sugar
Carly Nugent

Persephone (not pronounced like telephone) was diagnosed with diabetes straight after her father’s funeral – she almost fell in the grave! She’s certain that the two events are connected somehow, and if she can solve it, maybe life will make sense.

There is a trend at the moment to have characters off screen who (may) have committed suicide. If this is something that triggers you, you probably should avoid this novel. I found the subject to be treated sensitively and without blame. There is also a physically abusive relationship in the novel.

This author absolutely nailed the book’s atmosphere. I could feel the sweat and heat of the bushfire season, and the sticky sweetness of Persephone’s diabetes. It provided a beautiful counterpoint to Growing Up in Flames, which I hadn’t enjoyed.

I empathized and recognized the teenage angst that leaked out of these pages. I perhaps didn’t understand the c*** word use, and why it’s relevant to Persephone. Since Alexander Manson is in the blurb, you’d think he’s important (he isn’t). Persephone’s complicated other relationships ring very clearly though.

I thought it was very interesting how Persephone contemplated the end of the world and that she’d be one of the first to die – unless it was a zombie scenario, she’d be the first person out there to be bitten. This resonated deeply with me, due to the Holocaust books I have read recently where once the supplies of insulin run out the unfortunate diabetics die quickly.

I’d highly recommend this to teenagers who need to understand someone with diabetes or the sheer unfairness of life. It reminded me a little of A Series of Small Maneuvers. I don’t think I’ll reread it, but I might be surprised. 4 stars from me.

Text Publishing  | 29th March 2022 | AU$19.99 | paperback

Review: Erik J Brown – All That’s Left in the World

All That’s Left in the World
Erik J Brown

The superflu has wiped out 99% of the population. Pockets of people remain, some clustered, and some on their own. Jamie’s cabin-in-the-woods is well appointed and isolated, and Jamie is alone to contemplate life. When Andrew stumbles into the cabin, Jamie suddenly has to look after someone else – and maybe begin to care for someone he never thought would matter.

This novel was breathtaking. I couldn’t bare to put it down – I needed to read right to the very (bitter) end. Several hours later, and I’m still thinking about Jamie and Andrew and the future. I sank deeply into the universe and felt the dirty sneakers on their feet as my own. I couldn’t decide which character I liked more, which is quite rare for me with a dual narrator (usually I like the first one introduced the best).

I loved the slow-burn romance and the gritty reality of a world in pieces. I loved the fact that this was exactly how I imagined the next COVID-19-like outbreak to go in some countries. It doesn’t seem like society has learnt anything, and people are still demanding ‘rights’ across the world. I also appreciated how many issues the author managed to fit in, without seeming to over-dramatize the novel.

I’m desperate for another novel from this author. I am certain that he will reach the ranks of Adam Silvera and the like. I can’t wait to see the future of this debut author (and I hope the future comes soon).

If you liked What if it’s Us or Anything but Fine, this novel is for you. Even if you didn’t know you wanted a queer post-apocalyptic novel, you now need this one. Buy it for yourself, for the queer person in your life, or for anyone who enjoys post-apocalyptic fiction. I promise you won’t be disappointed. 5 stars from me.

Hachette | 8 March 2022| AU$17.99 | paperback

Review: Vanessa Len – Only a Monster

Only a Monster
Vanessa Len

Joan loves summers with her Gran and mom’s family, and this year she has a great job too – working in a tourist attraction with the attractive Nick. When Joan loses part of a day, she becomes aware of the family secret – she’s a time-traveler and monster to boot. But are monsters the bad guys in this story? Joan is going to have to work out what she wants most in the world.

Part of the struggle in this novel is that I wasn’t sure whose side I was on. Ok, it’s terrible that humans are losing part of their lives to monsters when they time travel. But also, how cool is that?? It could only be more awesome if they could take a regular human with them.

I like the way that the author addresses the paradoxes of time travel. It’s normal for people to go back to change the past, and it’s interesting to see how different monsters cope with the inability to change their past. Just like Joan, I feel certain that there must be a way around things!

Other reviewers have suggested that there is a love triangle enemies/friends sort of romance going on. I’d say that that cheapens the storyline for me. It’s not about the boys that Joan is interested in, it’s about the love she has for her family – both monster and other.

Let me give it to you straight – this is the first book in a series. Before you go and give up hope, I can tell you that the ending of this novel is entirely satisfactory, and didn’t leave me hanging at all. I am really looking forward to getting to reread it in preparation of the next novel in the planned trilogy. 5 stars from me.

Allen & Unwin | 1 February 2022 | AU$22.99 | paperback

Review: Becky Albertalli & Adam Silvera – What if it’s Us Duology

What if it’s Us Duology
Becky Albertalli & Adam Silvera

What if it’s Us?

Ben and Arthur meet by accident as Ben tries to post a box of mementoes back to his ex-boyfriend and Arthur tries to grab himself a moment alone in New York. Arthur’s never dated a boy before, he’s not even sure he’s had a crush on one quite as badly as on Ben. In a world where summer is short, will the paths of these boys cross again when the Universe interferes?

One of the things I enjoyed most about this book was the ending. It could have made or ruined the novel, particularly as I knew there was a sequel. It turned out to be perfect. I unfortunately made the mistake of reading the second before reviewing the first. Oops? But I was just so excited to keep reading about Ben and Arthur! I needed to still be with them.

Here’s to Us

Ben has mostly moved on with his life without Arthur. He’s sort-of dating a hot new guy, he’s making do with his college classes and job. Arthur has a great new boyfriend who’s sweet, caring and… isn’t Ben. A series of Universe Events means that they will collide, but will their worlds align again?

This novel is filled with hope, and real relationships where it seems crazy that things could line up. I honestly could have been happy with any of the relationships that formed and broke apart. Despite being a feel-good novel, it does still briefly touch on racism and socioeconomic bias. Not everyone is bright enough to get a scholarship for school, and not everyone wants to go to college (or finish college).

Thanks Simon and Schuster for these review copies. They look fantastic on my new shelves, and I loved reading both of them. This’ll be a reread when I’m feeling a bit down – a goodhearted and satisfying read.

Simon & Schuster | January 2022 | AU$17.99 | paperback

Review: Catherine Ryan Howard – 56 Days

56 Days
Catherine Ryan Howard

Ciara and Oliver bump together in a seemingly-innocuous moment of time – both waiting to buy their lunch. Ciara seems shy, and is surprised that Oliver would pay her any attention. Oliver is worried about getting her attention, but it’s not clear why. When lockdown against COVID-19 occurs, Oliver invites Ciara to move in with him. 56 days later, there’s a body in Oliver’s apartment.

This was gripping! For a while, I wasn’t even sure which character was the one who had ended up dead. I was even vaguely hoping that it was a total stranger dead in there, but then I noticed the blurb, and that ruined it for me. So trust me, just pick up the book and read it, don’t read the blurb. I stayed up late and got told off – but I just needed to know what happened next!

This novel keeps twisting, but not in a way that is at all predictable. You think that you know everything about all three of the perspectives, but it turns out that 2/3 of them are only telling the reader a partial truth. I had forgotten how much I can enjoy an unreliable narrator when it’s a three-perspective novel (even though normally multiple perspectives isn’t my thing).

I’m absolutely raving about this novel. Go out and buy it. You’d think that a novel set in our current pandemic would be depressing or gloomy, but instead we see people making the most of the opportunities they have – even if it might be to get away with murder. I’ll be interested to see crime patterns in the real world in years to come too!

I can’t wait to unleash this book on others in my life. I’m going to make sure they don’t read anything about it first, and go in blind. Then I’m going to pick their brain at each step to see if they can work out the TRUTH. It won’t be quite as good as a reread for me, but I think it’s still worth it. 5 stars from me.

Allen & Unwin | 5th January 2022 | AU$29.99 | paperback

Review: Juliet Marillier – A Song of Flight

A Song of Flight
Juliet Marillier

The Prince has gone missing, and the best candidates for the team to find him are Liobhan and Dau – but as they are romantically entangled they cannot both go on the search journey. Thus begins a novel of conflicted beliefs, truths and perspectives that culminates in the solution to the Crow Folk problem that emerged in A Dance with Fate.

I was disappointed in this novel. There were too many characters, and not enough depth for each one. I wanted to know more about Helga’s story. I wanted to know less about Galen and more about the “original three” characters of Brocc, Liobhan and Dau. Things seemed to take forever, and then I just wasn’t satisfied with the ending.

I didn’t need the Prince’s storyline. Brocc could have done it equally well. Also, why did Brocc suddenly decide to throw caution to the wind? I understand his love for Niamh clouds a lot of his judgement but is he truely so clueless as to his own powers? He seriously has no other options, and can’t walk in the Otherworld?

Liobhan, despite really being my favourate character in this trilogy, didn’t really show up. I didn’t see a completion of her character development. I definitely saw a deepening of the love she had for and of Dau, but that was mainly covered in The Harp of Kings. I also didn’t see much of a display of her warrior skills, which was something I enjoyed in earlier novels in the trilogy as it wasn’t an aspect of the first set of novels.

I will of course go back and reread these – they are Juliet Marillier afterall – but I believe that the Blackthorn and Grimm trilogy is superior to the Warrior Bard novels. 5 stars, but I was so sad about the ending 🙁 Oh! And I was generously sent two copies of this by Pan Macmillan, but neither arrived, so I bought it for myself as an early Christmas present.

Review: Eoin Colfer – The Wish List

The Wish List
Eoin Colfer

Meg Finn has a single wish – to show up her step-father Franco and get on with life without her Marm. Unfortunately for Meg, she now owes Belch a favour and it could end up with her dead. But is there something worse than just being dead? Definitely if you’ve been saddled with meeting an old-man’s wish list.

This was a sneaky reread just after moving house – the book ended up at the top of a box and so it called to me to read it. Oops? But then I discovered that I hadn’t reviewed it, so I hadn’t really gotten away with anything.

Ok, so this book isn’t theologically accurate, and I’d even call it theologically challenging. It’s kinda cute that the Devil’s second in command goes by the nickname ‘Bub’. This has put a lot of readers off apparently, but if you aren’t thinking of heaven and hell in the way you were perhaps taught in Bible school, then you’re going to enjoy the ride in this book. Everything seems so simple… until it isn’t.

Eoin Colfer is probably best known for his series with the boy genius Artemis Fowl, which has since been turned into a movie. Don’t go into this novel thinking that it will be that deep or have intellectual jokes. This is an early teenage book, perhaps middle grade fiction.

Weirdly, I occasionally get Garth Nix and Eoin Colfer confused. I think it’s because they were both the early fantasy that I got into as a teenager, and that they haven’t limited themselves to a single universe or concept. I’d sort of even forgotten that this novel existed on my shelf, hidden as it was with the other novels. I’m still giving it 5 stars, even if I’m no longer in the target age group.

Juliet Marillier – The Bridei Chronicles – The Well of Shades (N)

The Well of Shades

Juliet Marillier

In this final novel of the Bridei Chronicles, Faolan must return home to put to rest the demons of his past. In doing so fulfilling his promise to Ana. It turns out that his return also brings him to Elle in a fortuitous meeting for them both.

There is a lot to unpack in this book. It marks an outstanding end to the trilogy and a come full circle for Faolan as a person growing past his pain and letting himself be human again after the events of the second book resulted in him having to face his past again. There is also Tuala learning more of her past, Bridei struggling with his choices and in keeping his kingdom together following his past success, and Briochan learning to own up to his pride and past mistakes as Bridei’s foster father.

Once again we have a romance that threads through the main narrative and the bulk of the book is told from the two halves of that growing relationship. All the while Faolon is still doing his job for King Bridei, but its clear that as he is completing this task he is growing and healing so much as a person. Enough that he wouldn’t not be able to continue in his role of spy and assassin with these new people in his life.

Elle is the new character for this book and she brings a completely different perspective to King Bridei’s court as a complete outsider. But her place as someone important to Faolan does smooth a lot of the way for her. It’s also clear that alot of Bridei’s court have no idea how much has changed for Faolan. But it’s a credit to Bridei that even as busy as everything is, he still listens when Faolan really wants to talk – reaffirming something he said to Faolan in the first book about needing a man, and friend, he can trust at his side.

There does seem to be some loose ends with the incursion of the christian faith in the very pagan Fortriu. But overall it was an excellent read and conclusion to the series. It made my heart happy that Faolan was able to find a happy ending with Elle. Once again 5-stars.