Oct 2, 2018 - Book Reviews    No Comments

Book Review: THE LADY’S GUIDE TO PETTICOATS AND PIRACY by Mackenzie Lee

Felicity Montague is through with pretending she prefers society parties to books about bone setting—or that she’s not smarter than most people she knows, or that she cares about anything more than her dream of becoming a doctor.

A year after an accidentally whirlwind tour of Europe, which she spent evading highwaymen and pirates with her brother Monty, Felicity has returned to England with two goals in mind—avoid the marriage proposal of Callum Doyle, a lovestruck suitor from Edinburgh; and enroll in medical school. However, her intellect and passion will never be enough in the eyes of the administrators, who see men as the sole guardians of science.

But then a small window of hope opens. Doctor Alexander Platt, an eccentric physician that Felicity idolizes, is looking for research assistants, and Felicity is sure that someone as forward thinking as her hero would be willing to take her on. However, Platt is in Germany, preparing to wed Felicity’s estranged childhood friend Johanna. Not only is Felicity reluctant to opening old wounds, she also has no money to make the trip.

Luckily, a mysterious young woman is willing to pay Felicity’s way, so long as she’s allowed to travel with Felicity disguised as her maid. In spite of her suspicions, Felicity agrees, but once the girl’s true motives are revealed, Felicity becomes part of a perilous quest that will lead her from the German countryside to the promenades of Zurich to secrets lurking beneath the Atlantic.

 

Lady’s Guide picks up where The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue leaves off, this time following the absolutely delightful Felicity instead. As much as I enjoyed the first book, this did like this one quite a bit more. 

Felicity is a really interesting character, and one I found it quite easy to relate to throughout the story. There were a few moments when I found her to be a little irritating, but that was more because it’s not how I would have approached the situation than anything else. The supporting cast were also intriguing, and despite the amount of page time they had, I still wish they had more. Sim in particular deserves her very own book, she was fun and interesting and challenging and I would absolutely love to see the world from her perspective.

The plot was fun, and followed the same journey format as the first book. I really enjoyed getting to see more of the worldbuilding, and quite a lot of the challenges Felicity faced as a woman in that era resonated quite deeply. I also appreciated the continued exploration of queer characters, as Monty and Percy continued their relationship and Felicity worked through her feelings towards relationships and other people in general. While it’s not going to be indicative of everyone’s experience, it’s definitely a good introduction to asexuality.

Overall, it’s a fun romp with lots of laugh out loud moments (although it has to be said, some of them are funny because otherwise it hurts too much), and a very solid follow up to Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue.

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Sep 4, 2018 - Book Reviews    No Comments

Book Review: THE QUEENS OF INNIS LEAR by Tessa Gratton

The erratic decisions of a prophecy-obsessed king have drained Innis Lear of its wild magic, leaving behind a trail of barren crops and despondent subjects. Enemy nations circle the once-bountiful isle, sensing its growing vulnerability, hungry to control the ideal port for all trade routes.

The king’s three daughters—battle-hungry Gaela, master manipulator Reagan, and restrained, starblessed Elia—know the realm’s only chance of resurrection is to crown a new sovereign, proving a strong hand can resurrect magic and defend itself. But their father will not choose an heir until the longest night of the year, when prophecies align and a poison ritual can be enacted.

Refusing to leave their future in the hands of blind faith, the daughters of Innis Lear prepare for war—but regardless of who wins the crown, the shores of Innis will weep the blood of a house divided.

I quite enjoy Shakespeare and even though King Lear isn’t one of the plays I’m familiar with, I was really looking forward to such an intriguing sounding retelling.

The writing and world building throughout the book was just beautiful. The descriptions were wonderfully evocative and gave a really great sense of the world. There were a few times where it did seem to drag on for a little longer than my attention span could cope with, and the plot did suffer for it, but it was a relatively minor issue. On the flip side, the dialogue is brilliant the whole way through and really showed the emotional range of the characters.

The characters were all well-developed, and the various POV gave a great sense of each person’s perspective. Obviously not having read the play, I can’t say how closely they resemble each other. The depth of the relationships was outstanding. That said, I did not like all characters equally. Elia and Ban were probably my favourites, as they were the ones I related to the most. Gaela and Regan were interesting to begin with, but soon turned into two trick ponies and repeatedly rehashing their various issues did get a little old.

The good parts were really good, but the parts that I didn’t like as much make me a little hesitant to recommend this book. If you don’t mind long, slow burning, descriptive fantasies, this is the book for you. Otherwise, maybe look for something else.

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Aug 30, 2018 - Book Reviews    No Comments

Book Review: THE LIFE SIPHON by Kathryn Sommerlot

The kingdom of Runon has created the impossible: a magical energy source that siphons life from the nearby lands and feeds it back into Runon itself. On the edge of the forest lives a quiet ranger named Tatsu who is watching the drain grow closer to his home country of Chayd.

Arrested for crimes against the crown, Tatsu is taken to the capital’s prison, where the queen offers him a deal. If he sneaks into Runon and steals the magical source that powers the drain, she will return his freedom. Caught in the unimaginable aftermath, Tatsu knows that the only hope is to stop the siphon before it swallows the world.

More and more he finds himself at the mercy of the destruction the siphon leaves behind – and everything he has ever known will fall apart in the revelation of its horrifying truth.

There were several things I liked about this book. The magic system is somewhat unusual, and even more so by the end of the book. The world building is intriguing, and the characters interesting.

I really appreciated that Tatsu wasn’t automatically likeable, it really took quite a while for me to warm to him. Some of that was his character development arc, and some of it was writing style and pacing, but mostly it worked well. The rest of the characters get enough time and detail to flesh them out, but only just. I did find this disappointing, especially as several of them spend quite a while travelling with Tatsu, so I was expecting more.

The world building and writing kept me interested the whole way through, but occasionally things felt a little slow or repetitive. I also found it hard to swallow the initial turning point that sends Tatsu on his journey – it was just a little too convenient to be completely believable. The magic system was intriguing, and not what it seems at first. I really look forward to learning more about it in the second book.

Ultimately, it’s a solid debut, and the few quibbles I have are not enough to stop me reading the next book, although I look forward to not seeing them crop up next time around.

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Aug 28, 2018 - Book Reviews    No Comments

Book review: CITY OF LIES by Sam Hawke

I was seven years old the first time my uncle poisoned me… 

Outwardly, Jovan is the lifelong friend of the Chancellor’s charming, irresponsible Heir. Quiet. Forgettable. In secret, he’s a master of poisons and chemicals, trained to protect the Chancellor’s family from treachery. When the Chancellor succumbs to an unknown poison and an army lays siege to the city, Jovan and his sister Kalina must protect the Heir and save their city-state. 

But treachery lurks in every corner, and the ancient spirits of the land are rising…and angry. 

City of Lies is exactly the book I didn’t know I was looking for. It’s a fantastic introduction to the world, the characters are all engaging and relatable, and despite everything that happens in the book, it’s exactly like snuggling into a warm blanket.

I absolutely loved the three main characters, and I refuse to choose a favourite. They are all wonderful and deserve every good thing ever (I’M WATCHING YOU SAM). Jovan and Kalina provide our POV throughout the story, but we still get an incredibly good understanding of Tain’s perspective. I also really appreciated that even though their world is falling down around them, they’re all doing their absolute best to look out for the people in their charge. As much as I enjoy the darker side of fantasy, it makes a really pleasant change to see good people doing good things just because it’s the right thing to do.

The plot and worldbuilding were just as brilliant as the characterisation. Information was trickled in at the perfect rate, and while the overall book is a slow burn, by the time you get about 60% in, you’ll be completely hooked and desperate to find out what happens next. I would have liked to know a bit more about the villains, but in the context of what the POV characters know, we do learn quite a bit. I assume more information and context will be in the next book, and I’m very much looking forward to learning more about those people.

This book is just as much a murder mystery as a fantasy novel, which really helps lift it from “just another fantasy”. I am notoriously bad at predicting what will happen next, so I did have quite a few SAM, NO moments, especially towards the end as everything builds towards the climax.

I highly recommend every fantasy fan picks up a copy, especially if you like character-driven novels and shouting. I cannot wait to read the next book, this book is such a welcome addition to the fantasy scene.

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Aug 25, 2018 - Giveaways    No Comments

Giveaway!

Because I love We Ride the Storm by Devin Madson SO MUCH I have decided to give away not one but TWO copies of the paperback to some very lucky people.

Not sure if this book is for you? You can read my review here, but spoiler alert, if you’ve made it this far, it probably is and you should just enter.

One copy will go to someone within Australia, and the other is up for grabs by anyone outside Australia. There are lots of different ways to enter, all via this handy rafflecopter widget:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Winners will be selected at random after the giveaway closes, and the giveaway is not associated with anyone other than … me.

Aug 23, 2018 - Book Reviews    No Comments

Book Review: PARIS ADRIFT by EJ Swift

Determined to escape her old life, misfit and student geologist Hallie packs up her life in England and heads to Paris. She falls in with the eclectic expat community as a bartender at the notorious Millie’s, located next to the Moulin Rouge.

Here she meets Gabriela, a bartender who guides her through this strange nocturnal world, and begins to find a new family. But Millie’s is not all that it seems: a bird warns Hallie to get her feathers in order, a mysterious woman shows up claiming to be a chronometrist, and Gabriela is inexplicably unable to leave Paris.

Then Hallie discovers a time portal located in the keg room. Over the next nine months, irate customers will be the least of her concerns, as she navigates time-faring through the city’s turbulent past and future, falling in love, and coming to terms with her own precarious sense of self.

 

I was really looking forward to this book, time travel is really interesting and I’m quite a fan of fictional Paris. Unfortunately, this book didn’t quite hit the mark for me.

The book starts with a couple of chapters set in the future, and these were honestly the most interesting in the whole book. Unfortunately, it’s also the last time we really see any of these characters, as the main plot and POV change to Hallie’s. A couple of characters do make appearances as the story progresses, but we don’t ever see things from their POV and we never return to the future first presented, and it really feels like quite a waste.

After more than half the book, I still wasn’t sure what the point of Hallie’s time travel was, and each jump made wasn’t interesting enough on its own to justify the time spent on it. The present day scenes weren’t particularly engaging, and it was difficult to connect it with the tenuous plot.

Ultimately this is a contemporary novel with occasional time travel interludes, and if that’s your thing, go forth and have fun, but otherwise I’d suggest giving it a miss.

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Aug 11, 2018 - Book Reviews    No Comments

Book Review: WE RIDE THE STORM by Devin Madson

War built the Kisian Empire and war will tear it down. And as an empire falls, three warriors rise.

Caught in a foreign war, Captain Rah e’Torin and his exiled warriors will have to fight or die. Their honour code is all they have left until orders from within stress them to breaking point, and the very bonds that hold them together will be ripped apart.

Cassandra wants the voice in her head to go away. Willing to do anything for peace, the ageing whore takes an assassination contract that promises answers, only the true price may be everyone and everything she knows.

A prisoner in her own castle, Princess Miko doesn’t dream of freedom but of the power to fight for her empire. As the daughter of a traitor the path to redemption could as easily tear it, and her family, asunder.

As an empire dies they will have to ride the storm or drown in its blood.

This book was a bloody revelation, and I do mean that in several senses of “bloody”. Devin Madson has created a world that keeps you hooked from beginning to end, not just to find out who actually survives, but because it’s just so interesting.

Each of the three main characters were a delight to read, and all had unique perspectives on the world and their place in it. I particularly enjoyed seeing Rah put in increasingly difficult positions and struggling to reconcile it with his moral compass, and watching Miko’s determination to thrive in a world that dismisses women. Having three first person POV throws you right in the middle of everything, and I really enjoyed that. Word of warning to those who are, like me, easily confused – use the symbols at the beginning of each chapter to keep track of characters.

The writing and world building were immersive, and I found it very easy to lose track of time while reading. Madson has a wonderful turn of phrase that conveys so much detail without any waste at all, and it really keeps the story moving along without losing any depth.

A lot of people have said this book is really dark and grim, and I didn’t it particularly so, but it definitely doesn’t shy away from the darker side of things. I cannot wait to see what happens in book two, and the rest of the series!

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Nov 9, 2017 - Book Reviews    No Comments

Mini Review Round Up!

Life has been a little crazy over the last few months, and while I’ve been reading ALL of the books, I haven’t had a chance to write about any of them. That makes me sad. So, below are some of the YA books I’ve read and enjoyed recently.

Among the Red Stars by Gwen C. Katz

World War Two has shattered Valka’s homeland of Russia, and Valka is determined to help the effort. She knows her skills as a pilot rival the best of the men, so when an all-female aviation group forms, Valka is the first to sign up.

I really loved how the story was told from Valka’s POV, mixed in with letters to and from her best friend Pasha, also off fighting in the war. The character development of both was done really well, and I really enjoyed the depth given to secondary characters in Valka’s squadron. I especially enjoyed the portrayal of all the female relationships throughout the book. Not everyone got along all the time, but there was a strength and unity to their relationships that I don’t often see in books.

This was also a great way to learn more about the real-life squadron the book is based on – The Night Witches – without getting bogged down in “boring” facts (although I am now going to find some time to read more about those badass ladies).

Goodreads | Book Depository

 

The Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli

In the beginning, there was the Namsara: the child of sky and spirit, who carried love and laughter wherever he went. But where there is light, there must be darkness—and so there was also the Iskari. The child of blood and moonlight. The destroyer. The death-bringer.

I was pleasantly surprised by The Last Namsara. It moved past the “all dragons are evil beasts” trope nicely, and while I don’t want to spoil anything, I thought the way they gain their power was intriguing.

I would like to see more development of secondary characters – there are a few that serve more as convenient ways to shift the plot along than actual people, but it’s a solid start to the series and I’m looking forward to reading the next book.

Goodreads | Book Depository

 

Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend

Morrigan Crow is cursed. Having been born on Eventide, the unluckiest day for any child to be born, she’s blamed for all local misfortunes, from hailstorms to heart attacks – and, worst of all, the curse means that Morrigan is doomed to die at midnight on her eleventh birthday. But as Morrigan awaits her fate, a strange and remarkable man named Jupiter North appears. 

There has been a lot of hype about Nevermoor, and mostly it lives up to it. I don’t read a huge amount of middle grade-type books, but this one was a delight. The world building is really interesting, and I’m sure I’m not alone in wanting to experience Hotel Deucalion first hand. I really enjoyed the characters, especially Hawthorne and Cadence. I do hope they’ll continue to play a large part in the rest of the series.

In all, it’s a delightful read, one that I did have trouble putting down, and I’m really looking forward to seeing how the rest of the series develops from here.

Goodreads | Book Depository

All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater

Here is a thing everyone wants: a miracle.
Here is a thing everyone fears: what it takes to get one.

Any visitor to Bicho Raro, Colorado is likely to find a landscape of dark saints, forbidden love, scientific dreams, miracle-mad owls, estranged affections, one or two orphans, and a sky full of watchful desert stars.

I have to admit, I felt a bit let down by this one, especially as I’ve really enjoyed Maggie Stiefvater’s previous books. It has such an interesting premise, and I love the way she weaves fantasy elements through reality, but I just couldn’t connect with any of the characters, so the whole thing fell flat for me. That said, the world building and sense of place throughout the story was very well done and worked really well to ground the characters.

If you’re a Stiefvater fan, maybe give it a go, but really I’d recommend skipping this one.

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Invictus by Ryan Graudin

Farway Gaius McCarthy was born outside of time. The son of a time-travelling Recorder from 2354 AD and a gladiator living in Rome in 95 AD, Far’s birth defies the laws of nature. Exploring history himself is all he’s ever wanted, and after failing his final time-travelling exam, Far takes a position commanding a ship with a crew of his friends as part of a black market operation to steal valuables from the past. 

Things I am 100% here for: heists and time-travelling shenanigans.

This was a really fun book. I loved all the different time periods visited and I really loved the character’s interpersonal relationships. It was just such a delight to see them all interacting, and watching them grow throughout the story. I confess I would have liked to see more of the heist shenanigans, but the main plot was just so interesting that I’m not terribly disappointed with how the story went – it just makes way for a prequel or twelve, right? (Hint, hint, please Ryan).

It’s well worth your time to pick this up, if only so you can help me plot how to get a pet red panda.

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Jun 15, 2017 - Book Reviews    No Comments

Book Review: DOWN AMONG THE STICKS AND BONES by Seanan McGuire

Twin sisters Jack and Jill were seventeen when they found their way home and were packed off to Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children.

This is the story of what happened first…

Jacqueline was her mother’s perfect daughter—polite and quiet, always dressed as a princess. If her mother was sometimes a little strict, it’s because crafting the perfect daughter takes discipline.

Jillian was her father’s perfect daughter—adventurous, thrill-seeking, and a bit of a tom-boy. He really would have preferred a son, but you work with what you’ve got.

They were five when they learned that grown-ups can’t be trusted.

They were twelve when they walked down the impossible staircase and discovered that the pretense of love can never be enough to prepare you a life filled with magic in a land filled with mad scientists and death and choices.

I ate this book in a little over an hour and I’m not even sorry. For something so short – not even 200 pages – it sure does pack a hell of a punch.

I loved … all of it. I loved how the twins’ lives before going through their door wasn’t glossed over, especially as it informs so many of their choices later on. I loved the exploration of gender and sexuality, and how neither of those things were danced around. I loved the exploration of the relationships between each of the characters, and how the expectations placed on family members can affect who they become.

Just as in Every Heart A Doorway, the writing is beautifully written and pulls you in right from the very first line and flows perfectly from beginning to end. Considering the range of events throughout the book, this is no small feat.

Jack’s story was probably my favourite, and I enjoyed her personal growth very much. I find Jill to be a bit of a spoiled snot, but a believable one, and heartbreaking in her own way. That said, if I could have a book that was just Jack and her master, I would be very, very happy indeed.

Overall, a very worthy successor to Every Heart A Doorway, and if you haven’t read either yet, I highly recommend doing so.

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