Review: Andrew Mayne – Black Fall (Jessica Blackwood #3)

Black Fall
Andrew Mayne

Jessica is an FBI agent with a difference – her training as a Magician and her knowledge of tricks is the reason for her placement at Quantico with three other technonerds. When a long dead scientist starts predicting natural disasters, it’s up to Jessica to debunk the predictions.

I was pretty excited about the missing town! How was this one going to be explained? And of course there was a fantastic explanation! The other parts about the set up of the underground rooms seemed predictable and boring in comparison. Because I knew Jessica could solve any problem, it wasn’t exciting anymore.

There was very little Jessica-development and a lot of racing around with nothing to show for it. A couple of potential dinner dates and a couple of potential friendships. Oh and a couple of close calls on death, but nothing that her oldest brilliant buddy can’t fix.

I’m not sure this novel had the same pizzazz as the first two novels (Angel KillerΒ and Name of the Devil). It all happened too quickly and I found it difficult to trace the clues for myself. I’ll still give it 5 stars, but it’s heading down towards 4 stars. I’m going to keep reading the series in the hope that it will return to its awesomeness.

Review: Amy Tintera – Allied

Allied
Amy Tintera

Em has finally freed Olivia and it looks like Ruina belongs to the Ruined again. But is that what the survivors want, when kingdoms such as Lera have far better pastures? Victory does not mean the same thing to Em and Olivia, and as the war with the other Kingdoms continues, each of them is going to have to make an impossible choice.

This novel is full of action, action, action. The battle scenes and killings almost seem non-stop. Talking might be Em’s preferred way of negotiation but with Olivia on the loose it’s just not possible! Cas gets some airtime, and Galo and Aren finally are forged into full characters with their own thoughts and motivations.

We get a bit more of a perspective from characters other than Em this time, but sometimes I wished I hadn’t! It did add to the suspense in some parts but in other parts I felt like the forewarning made it too predictable. Go and read this novel and find out for yourself!

When this novel arrived I had to stop myself from diving in straight away. When I read Avenged (the second novel) a short while ago, I had wanted to reread Ruined, but just couldn’t wait. This time, I reread the first two and was enveloped in Amy Tintera’s world just as firmly as before. This series is deserving of its 5-star rating.

Allen & Unwin | 24th April 2018 | AU$16.99 | paperback

Review: Abbi Glines – As She Fades

Abbi Glines
As She Fades

Vale and her boyfriend Crawford are in a horrific accident the night of their high school graduation. Crawford is in a coma and Vale needs to make a decision to move on or not. When she goes to college she discovers that life can be very different.

Let me start out by saying first that this novel was terrible. Really terrible. The first half is lovely: the (seeming) main character developed well and I enjoyed the writing style. Unfortunately half way through the whole picture changed and I was left not wanting to finish the novel. I honestly no longer cared about anything that happened to Vale because her life was so boring and her real self so pathetic. Not to mention that Slate suddenly turned into a pile of goo.

What’s with the title? I don’t see anyone fading except the uncle, and even he makes it for most of the time! His totally inappropriate banter tries valiantly to save the novel but it can’t make up for the rest of the characters.

1 star from me. Don’t waste your time, because there are so many other good things out there. I stopped reading and was sad I had devoted time to the first half of the novel – if I had known what would transpire I would have skipped it.

Pan Macmillan | 2nd January 2018 | AU $14.99 | paperback

Review: Kaethe Schwehn – The Rending and the Nest

The Rending and the Nest
Kaethe Schwehn

95% of the world’s population was wiped out unexpectedly – and those left behind have had to make a life out of scavenging Piles to get the simple things that they need. The little community some of the survivors have put together has been functioning smoothly enough for 3 years, but the birth of inanimate objects from otherwise fertile women upsets the status quo.

This novel just got stranger and stranger, and I actually really enjoyed that. First there’s the strange Babies, and then there is a Zoo with a self-made savior. Then there is Mira and her conflicting personality traits and trusts. Despite feeling like I didn’t get to know the characters very well from Mira’s warped perspective, I didn’t actually want to know anything about the others so that I could better understand what Mira was going through.

I was reminded of The Rains in a positive manner. Strange how different people can respond differently to the end of the world. For a young adult version tryΒ How To Bee. Or of course, there is NK3 which is a terrible version of this!

The cover says it’s ‘A Novel’. Um, what else would it be? I always think a little less of a novel that uses that sort of language to ‘sell itself’. It could instead be billed as a novel that asks the reader hard questions within the veil of storytelling. How do we know the truth about ourselves and others? Is there any truth anywhere?

Phew. I loved the Acknowledgements that said thank you to her agent who said it needed another 20k words! There was a moment towards the end where lesser writers would have just stopped writing – and I would have demoted the novel to 3 stars. Instead, I’m giving it 4 stars for keeping me eagerly reading for whatever could happen next.

Bloomsbury | 1st March 2018 | AU$24.99 | paperback

Review: Lisa Jackson – After She’s Gone

After She’s Gone
Lisa Jackson

Cassie’s sister Allie has gone missing so Cassie checks herself out of the psychiatry ward to find her. Cassie is still suffering from nightmares and flashbacks, and doesn’t even know how to look after herself. If there was ever a girl in need of a Hero, it’s Cassie, Allie and their famous mother. Can they find Allie in time? Does Allie even want to be found?

Oh dear. This novel sat on my shelf for about 2 years before I picked it up. I just wasn’t feeling another strange disappearance or mystery after try not to breathe and Painkiller. That’s the problem with copy-cat authors that produce all the novels that are compared to Girl on the Train or The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I get that they must sell well, and thus it’s not really the authors’ faults they have to write that stuff as no doubt publishers pushing for it.

Um Hollywood glamour (or rather just hints at it being important but it’s really not) does not make a novel! Especially for someone who doesn’t really follow or understand Hollywood the way a homegrown North American might. I found myself completely and utterly confused most of the time (ringing any bells like Ankaran Immersion?). The protagonist was an unreliable narrator, which would have been fine if everything else in the plot hadn’t been jumbled up. And then the other characters were also confusing as hell with a healthy does of insanity themselves. There was no redemption for anyone. Anyone heard of counselling?

I ended up reading about 1/6 of the novel before I started skipping forwards to try to get to a meaty good bit! But alas, I found myself just skipping all the way to the end where, because I hadn’t actually connected properly to any of the characters, I was utterly indifferent to who the baddie was and was kind of hoping that they all died!

1 star from me. Don’t bother attempting it.

Hachette Australia | 1st February 2016 | AU$29.99 | paperback

Review: Benjamin Zephaniah – FACE

FACE
Benjamin Zephaniah

I’m a Gangsta yo, I’m a Gangsta! Wait, no, wrong novel. Martin gets by on his good looks and charm, trouble making his way effortlessly through the gangs at school. Accepting a ride with the wrong friend and getting into a police chase is bad news – bad news for his FACE.

Oh gosh. This was terrible. I skimmed the first half so I could get to where the FACE business actually happened. Then I was so disappointed in Martin’s eventual internal monologue about his face that I just dropped the book. I could have even dropped it in the pool, it was that terrible! The supporting characters might have actually had something to do in the second half of the novel, but I wasn’t waiting around to find out.

Nice to see a female character that won’t take no Shiz, but seriously, do you have to make it so darn obvious? Yes, we get it, she’s amazing and a ‘real woman’ but no need to keep drumming it in. Wow, she’s a human girl! And she too has feelings! I would hope that a teenage boy reading this novel could separate out the fact that if a girl has to act like that to get you to do the right thing, you’re doing something wrong!

I’m sure there is an audience out there for this novel, but it’s not me, and I’m pretty sure that it’s not other Australians (strangely enough given the publisher). It’s set in London with gangs, which is something that doesn’t feature in the current young Australian’s highschool years as far as I know! Maybe it is more prevalent in Sydney since I’m a Melbournite at the moment?

I couldn’t face Gansta Rap by the same author, so I’m not sure what made me think that I could go for this one. I took it along for holiday reading so I would at least attempt it. I’ll save you the trouble – don’t even attempt it. 1 star from me.

Bloomsbury | 1st March 2018 | AU $14.99 | paperback

Review: Jesse Andrews – Munmun

Munmun
Jesse Andrews

In a world where your size is determined by your wealth, it’s dangerous to be poor – you could be eaten by a cat or your father could be trodden on by someone larger. Warner and his sister have to try to make it work, and the only way for Prayer to move up is to marry someone richer than her. Warner on the other hand has plenty of get-rich-quick schemes.

The storyline on this is quite decent, with quite a few plotlines to keep the reader entertained. Unfortunately, the narrative was a little scattered, and I think it could have benefited from Prayer’s perspective. Warner was so completely biased against the Bigs that the filtered narrative was difficult to follow and a bit unpleasant.

Something that irritatedme the wholetime was the runtogetherwords likethis. Why wasthis necessary? This was clearly a differentsci-fiworld and ifthese were intendedto highlightthis difference, they wereunnecessary. Anddid I mention that theywere annoying? So toothe interiorcommetary by Warner. Seehowyoulikeit!

I requested this novel without noticing that the author was the same as Me and Earl and the Dying Girl andΒ  The Haters. That should have warned me off it, but it didn’t because I was so intrigued by the concept. The writing style just couldn’t keep me, and I was reading just to get to the end. Now, about that ending. I wasn’t satisfied really. I understood his motives, and I really appreciated them, but in the end I don’t think it made a big difference that he rampaged for a while. Except that it made him feel better?

Of course, anything that involves size makes me think of The Sin Eater’s Daughter. It’s not the same concept at all, but that novel is worth checking out. Or maybe Ready Player One where it is also very difficult to move socio-economic status. I don’t highly recommend this novel, but I will give it three stars because I think other people who aren’t going to be irritated by the writing style will enjoy it.

Allen & Unwin

Review: Lia Weston – You Wish

You Wish
Lia Weston

Thomas Lush can made your dreams come alive. You want to marry someone else? You need a fake graduation photo to show off to those one-up relatives of yours? Thomas and his business can do that for him. Thomas is happy just performing his photoshopped works of art, but there are darker things going on in the business that he will have to take off his headphones and grow up.

This was a wizbanger of a novel! I loved the concept and connected well with the main characters. To some extent, people already do this. I cropped a person out of a photo (it just wasn’t the photo I needed), and it didn’t look half bad. And I have NO art or photoshop skills. I’m certain there are businesses doing this already, but it’s more black market than what seems to be going on with Thomas’ work.

Imagination is totally all you need. I disagree that giving people what they want is wrong, and that it isn’t art. To create something that looks like it really happened, and for everything to look natural, is amazing. Why shouldn’t you have the chance to change the fact that the woman you married was actually sleeping with all of your groomsmen? The ones of dead kids growing up are a bit weird, but if it provides comfort for parents? This novel gently asks you how far your ethics are able to stretch.

Oh! The irony of that love story! How embarrassing. And yet so perfect. I’m not sure I saw the way the novel ended (hindsight is a beautiful thing, my readers), and the twist was excellent. Things worked out better than I possibly thought they could. This novel resonated through my bones and brain for a long time after I read it, that’s how much I loved it.

I’m giving this novel 5 stars, and lending it to my other reader friend to assess it. From the Publisher’s media sheet, I now know that this is Weston’s third novel, and that I need to get my hands on her other novels ASAP. This novel and Ready Player One would be at my top reads for 2018. Go get yourself a copy and ask yourself how far you could justify changing the past.

Pan Macmillan | 27th March 2018 | AU$29.99 | paperback

Review: Anita Selzer – I Am Sasha

I Am Sasha
Anita Selzer

This is a fiction novel based on the true story of the author’s grandfather. He was safe during the Nazi occupation of Poland because his mother hid him in plain sight by turning him into a girl.

I was really looking forward to this novel, but then I couldn’t get into it. I expected that most of the novel would be during the time that Sala was pretending to be a girl, but instead it was split into about half-half. I honestly never felt like he was in danger. He was never with a group of people who were ordered to drop their pants and half the time they were in hiding where he wasn’t even in contact with people. As far as I could tell, the worst risk was the people who had known his mother and that his mother was Jewish.

I wanted more of a narrative and less reliance on Sala’s internal (boring) monologue. I much would have preferred it if I could see the outside world more. Although the concept certainly holds up, and this novel was based on the author’s family history, I felt like I wasn’t firmly enough into Nazi Poland to understand what was going on. I felt myself having to draw on my reading from Nazi Germany and I feel that that was a let down from this novel. It could have been used to really educate people about the differences between Poland and Germany during the war. Also, the fact that I understood the concept of the ‘gentiles’ was taken for granted by the author (I didn’t really know). Were they just wealthy people who weren’t Jewish? Were they people who had planted the right bribes?

Anyway, I didn’t end up finishing this novel. At this point in time I have so many novels demanding my attention that unless I am caught up in it, it is unlikely that I will come back. I don’t think it’s necessarily the novel’s personal fault, I think that it and I just didn’t get along. Others may enjoy it, so I’ll give it a generous 3 stars.

Penguin Random House | 2nd April 2018 | AU $17.99 | paperback

Review: Sebastien de Castell – SpellSlinger

SpellSlinger
Sebastien de Castell

Kellen needs to pass 4 trials in order to become a spellcaster. Unfortunately his magic is gone and his trickery could easily be revealed. But is magic all there is to the world?

Hmm, while I was reading this I was totally engrossed and couldn’t put it down due to the powerful plot. However when I think back on it some of the character development was completely see-through and unexciting. Unfortunately that’s what I’ve come to expect from HotKey Books. The novels don’t seem to be as refined in my opinion; I’m thinking of novels such as Fly on the Wall.

Kellen is also the name of a quirky protagonist in an older Mercedes Lackey novel. I think that also persuaded me that Kellen was a character worth reading about. Anyhow, you had to be attached to Kellen because there certainly wasn’t any airtime for other characters.

I think Kellen’s decision to help his sister was dangerous and will come back to haunt him later. Not to mention just leaving his parents to be disasterous clueless idiots. Adversity is the key to developing new skills so maybe Kellen will continue to brighten up. If you can kill any family member, surely you can kill more than one…

Plot twist! Kellen! You are awesome! Well most of the time, even if you are a bit clueless and you need that Daroman woman to set you straight. Aw, a terrifying squirrel cat familiar. Even if you aren’t supposed to get one Kellen. Maybe a squirrel cat is a sugar glider? Except I’m not sure those have such sharp teeth…

I had read in the beginning that this was a series, but the second book was due to be out October 2017. That’s how long this novel sat on my shelf, but I had actually lost it somewhere. Anyway, 4 stars from me and I need to get my hands on the other novels in the series.

Allen & Unwin | 26th April 2017 | AU $19.99 | paperback