Browsing "Book Reviews"
Jul 10, 2016 - Book Reviews    No Comments

Book Review: HALF A KING by Joe Abercrombie


Betrayed by his family and left for dead, Prince Yarvi, reluctant heir to a divided kingdom, has vowed to reclaim a throne he never wanted.

But first he must survive cruelty, chains and the bitter waters of the Shattered Sea itself – all with only one good hand. Born a weakling in the eyes of a hard, cold world, he cannot grip a shield or swing an axe, so he has sharpened his mind to a deadly edge.

Gathering a strange fellowship of the outcast, he finds they can help him more than any noble could. Even so, Yarvi’s path may end as it began – in twists, traps and tragedy…

The first time I encountered Joe Abercrombie, I was grabbing books at random in the Christchurch library. Best random grabby hands ever, as he’s now become one of my favourite authors.

Half a King feels like a slight departure from previous works. It’s shorter and snappier, which makes for a nice and easy read, but at times also left me longing for the complexity of previous series. Being a shorter novel than many in this category doesn’t take away from the fantastic writing, world-building, characterisation and plot.

I spent a lot of time unsure what to think about the main character, Yarvi. I love his tone and attitude, he’s quite sassy and I’m a sucker for that. But beyond that, he doesn’t have many redeeming features. That said, a large portion of the secondary characters more than made up for any of Yarvi’s shortcomings.

This series has officially been deemed YA and I’m not sure I see that. It’s definitely a great starting point for anyone wanting to check out epic fantasy without getting lost in something as long and complex as Game of Thrones, and I highly recommend it to any and all fantasy fans.

Purchase: Booktopia | Book Depository | Amazon

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

May 12, 2016 - Book Reviews    No Comments

Book Review: QUEEN OF HEARTS by Colleen Oakes


As Princess of Wonderland Palace and the future Queen of Hearts, Dinah’s days are an endless monotony of tea, tarts, and a stream of vicious humiliations at the hands of her father, the King of Hearts. The only highlight of her days is visiting Wardley, her childhood best friend, the future Knave of Hearts — and the love of her life.

When an enchanting stranger arrives at the Palace, Dinah watches as everything she’s ever wanted threatens to crumble. As her coronation date approaches, a series of suspicious and bloody events suggests that something sinister stirs in the whimsical halls of Wonderland. It’s up to Dinah to unravel the mysteries that lurk both inside and under the Palace before she loses her own head to a clever and faceless foe.

Part epic fantasy, part twisted fairy tale, this dazzling saga will have readers shivering as Dinah’s furious nature sweeps Wonderland up in the maelstrom of her wrath.

I wish I liked this one more than I did, as a fan of almost anything Alice in Wonderland related, I was really looking forward to it. Instead, I read a book full of uninteresting characters, barely resolved plot points and a wholly unsatisfying ending.

Dinah herself was thoroughly unlikable. I just didn’t care about any of her woes, and considering the main premise of the story is built upon overcoming those problems, it was very difficult to care about that either. It’s difficult to have an opinion on the remaining characters, as we only see them long enough to “support” Dinah or give further justification for her whining. I’m not even going to get started on the alleged villains, except to say that for someone to be villainous, they have to do something.

I didn’t mind the writing style, it was a quick and easy read, and the descriptions of Wonderland are something resembling a redeeming feature. I would very much like to explore this world, but honestly, I can’t get past the characters enough to want to pick up the rest of the series when it’s published.

 In all, a very disappointing book that had a lot of potential to be a great interpretation not just of Wonderland, but the Queen of Hearts and her backstory. While a quick read at just 200-odd pages, I wouldn’t recommend spending any time on it at all.

Purchase: Booktopia | Book Depository | Amazon

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

May 8, 2016 - Book Reviews    No Comments

Book Review: A WORLD OF ASH by Justin Woolley


Trapped in a city no one knows exists, Squid lies dying as Nim fights for their lives. With every minute, their hope of getting the vaccine back to civilization is fading. From the brink of death and the edge of the world, Squid must once again conquer dangers even more sinister than the undead – the future of humankind depends on it.

But Squid’s efforts will be wasted if Lynn cannot keep the people of Alice safe until he returns, and Lynn is now a hostage of the Holy Order. Forced to face punishment at the hands of the High Priestess, Lynn is at the mercy of the mad cult, as beyond the wall the undead horde continues its relentless approach.

Caught between madness and mindlessness, the odds are stacked against Squid and Lynn. Will they triumph or do they already walk in a world of ash?

What a fantastic conclusion to the series. Book two ended on quite a cliffhanger, and I was very pleased that there was no waiting to pick up that particular plot point. That would have been excruciatingly painful.

I really enjoyed the character arcs in this one, and how Squid and Lynn each conquered their own demons. I was especially pleased with Lynn’s arc, she really came into her own in this book, and I finally started to like her. Squid was fiercely determined and I really liked how he stuck to his goals.

There was one particular point towards the end that had me quite worked up – it was such a brilliant and emotional climax. I won’t spoil it at all but my goodness I was ready to do some loud shouting! Which is of course exactly what a good ending should be like.

I still want a novella or a short story or something on Nim, but ultimately it was a very satisfying conclusion to the series, and I really do think everyone should read them.

Reviews for book 1 and book 2.

Purchase: Booktopia | Amazon

May 5, 2016 - Book Reviews    1 Comment

Book Review: BLOOD OF INNOCENTS by Mitchell Hogan


As Caldan and his companions flee the city, horrors from the time of the Shattering begin to close in.

With Miranda’s mind broken by forbidden sorcery, Caldan is forced to disobey the most sacrosanct laws of the Protectors if he is to have any chance of healing her.

But when one of the emperor’s warlocks arrives to take control of him, he begins to suspect his burgeoning powers may be more of a curse than a blessing, and that the enemies assailing the empire may be rivaled by even more sinister forces within.

Oh, what a book. I am always extra delighted when the second book in a series manages to surpass the first. It can be easy to effectively waste the book on setting up the climax to the series, much as can happen in any plot arc.

There’s none of that here.

There is a lot more world building in this book, which I was very grateful for, but the story was absolutely not sacrificed in doing so. In my review of A Crucible of Souls, I compared Mitchell Hogan’s writing to Matthew Reilly’s, and the comparison holds. The writing throughout was skilful and I found it quite impossible not to get sucked all the way in.

I really enjoyed the extra time with Felice, she’s probably my favourite character in the whole series. I’m very much looking forward to what she achieves in book three! The rest of the characters are as fascinating as in book one, perhaps even more so as we see them develop, and I’m really interested in what Amerdan in particular does next. I find him quite fascinating in a train-wreck kind of way.

In all, a very strong continuation of the series, and I really can’t wait to get my hands on book three!


Purchase: Booktopia | Book Depository | Amazon

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

May 1, 2016 - Book Reviews    No Comments

Book Review: RUINED by Amy Tintera


Emelina Flores has nothing. Her home in Ruina has been ravaged by war. She lacks the powers of her fellow Ruined. Worst of all, she witnessed her parents’ brutal murders and watched helplessly as her sister, Olivia, was kidnapped.

But because Em has nothing, she has nothing to lose. Driven by a blind desire for revenge, Em sets off on a dangerous journey to the enemy kingdom of Lera. Somewhere within Lera’s borders, Em hopes to find Olivia. But in order to find her, Em must infiltrate the royal family.

In a brilliant, elaborate plan of deception and murder, Em marries Prince Casimir, next in line to take Lera’s throne. If anyone in Lera discovers Em is not Casimir’s true betrothed, Em will be executed on the spot. But it’s the only way to salvage Em’s kingdom and what is left of her family.

Em is determined to succeed, but the closer she gets to the prince, the more she questions her mission. Em’s rage-filled heart begins to soften. But with her life—and her family—on the line, love could be Em’s deadliest mistake.

I found this to be a really interesting book, although I confess I’m still not 100% sure what I think of it.

First, it has to be said, the plot is nothing new. But that familiarity just gives more room for exploring the characters, really. There are quite a few I enjoy and several that I don’t – Em herself being one of them. I find it impossible to not find the positives in pretty much everything and Em is quite the opposite of that. She’s very true to herself, but so angry all the time, and I found that exhausting. Cas on the other hand counteracts her nicely, and I did like him a lot. Watching his development was fantastic. I look forward to seeing him really come into his own.

The worldbuilding is done well, although I do hope we get to see more of the backstory in book two, especially for one particular character that I won’t name for spoilery reasons. Suffice to say that I’m both horrified and intrigued and I need to know more.

While this book didn’t blow my mind, it was a very solid read, and there are enough points of interest that I’m definitely keen to read the next book and see how it all goes.

Purchase: Booktopia | Book Depository | Amazon

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Apr 28, 2016 - Book Reviews    No Comments

Book Review: CITY OF MASKS by Ashley Capes


Waking in Anaskar Prison, covered in blood and accused of murder, nobody will listen to Notch’s claims of innocence until he meets the future Protector of the Monarchy, Sofia Falco.

But Sofia has her own burdens. The first female Protector in a hundred years, her House is under threat from enemies within, the prince has made it clear he does not want her services and worst of all, she cannot communicate with her father’s sentient mask of bone, the centuries-old Argeon. Without the bone mask she cannot help anyone — not herself, and certainly not a mercenary with no powerful House to protect him.

Meanwhile, far across the western desert, Ain, a young Pathfinder, is thrust into the role of Seeker. Before winter storms close the way, he must leave his home on a quest to locate the Sea Shrine and take revenge on the people who drove his ancestors from Anaskar, the city ruled by the prince Sofia and Notch are sworn to protect, whether he wants their help or not.

Guys, this book is fantastic.

My favourites are the Pathfinders, and I really need to know more about their culture and magic and … well, everything really. Notch is also a lot of fun, I really like how he approaches things. Sofia is my least favourite, I find her to be quite whiny and self-centred, but she still has time to grow.

The bone masks themselves are also quite fascinating, and I’m looking forward to learning more about them as the series progresses. The few snippets dropped are incredibly interesting.

Ashley Capes has a very engaging writing style, and even though I was reading it in small chunks while commuting, it never took long to sink back into the story each time I reopened it. The worldbuilding was equally seamless, which is not always an easy thing to do, especially considering two very different cultures are equally represented.

I highly recommend this book to anyone looking for something a bit new and fresh in their fantasy, it’s well worth the time.

Purchase: Amazon

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

Apr 24, 2016 - Book Reviews    No Comments

Book Review: A KNIGHT OF THE SEVEN KINGDOMS by George R.R. Martin


Before Tyrion Lannister and Podrick Payne there was Dunk and Egg.

A young, naïve but courageous hedge knight, Ser Duncan the Tall towers above his rivals – in stature if not experience. Tagging along with him is his diminutive squire, a boy called Egg – whose true identity must be hidden from all he and Dunk encounter: for in reality he is Aegon Targaryen, and one day he will be king. Improbable heroes though they be, great destinies lie ahead for Dunk and Egg; as do powerful foes, royal intrigue, and outrageous exploits.

I first picked up Game of Thrones as a teenager, and the few books released at the time were a staple of my fantasy collection. As long and unwieldy as they can be, I’ve always enjoyed Martin’s writing style. One thing I hadn’t done though, was read any of the novellas or short stories, so when I received this collection, it was my first time reading through them.

The book contains 3 related novellas, and I really liked how they worked individually but also as a greater whole. I really enjoyed Dunk and Egg, and it was great to see a side of Westeros before it all really goes to hell. I also really enjoyed seeing the less-crazy Targaryens, which is not something you get much of in A Song of Ice and Fire.

The Hedge Knight and The Mystery Knight were my favourites, but while The Sworn Sword felt a little weaker in terms of plot, it was really good for character exploration, not just of Dunk and Egg, but the supporting cast as well. I also loved the illustrations throughout the book. They weren’t intrusive, and enhanced the writing nicely.

I did spend a lot of time trying to untangle geneaology while reading, I really should have saved myself the headache and just looked it up, but it was also fun connecting the characters in the novellas with the stories and legends that follow them.

If you haven’t already started on A Song of Ice and Fire, these novellas would be a great way to dip your toes in and see whether the world is something you’ll enjoy. If you have already read the series, they’ll deepen your knowledge of Westeros history, and provide great entertainment to boot.

Purchase: Booktopia | Book Depository | Amazon

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Apr 14, 2016 - Book Reviews    No Comments

Book Review: SORCERER TO THE CROWN by Zen Cho

It’s been a little while since I finished this one, I had hoped waiting would help me figure out what I think of it, but it hasn’t really.

There were a lot of things I liked about it – the way it dealt with racism and sexism, the whole magic school for ladies and Zacharias himself. The entire construction is perfectly delightful Regency. The premise was more than enough to keep me interested the whole way through. These would normally be enough to have me raving but I’m still quite ambivalent about the whole thing.

I was not a fan of Prunella at all. I find it very baffling that someone as determined to not learn as she is, manages to swoop in and fix everything on such a regular basis. As much as I liked Zacharias, he sometimes felt a little flat. On top of that, it’s Regency nature meant that sometimes the plot meandered a little too much.

I’ll be reading the rest of the series, I’m definitely interested in seeing how it all pans out, but I can’t see myself rushing out to get them.

Purchase: Booktopia | Book Depository | Amazon

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Mar 6, 2016 - Book Reviews    No Comments

Book Review: HOW TO BE HAPPY by David Burton

A funny, sad and serious memoir, ‘How to Be Happy’ is David Burton’s story of his turbulent life at high school and beyond. Feeling out of place and convinced that he is not normal, David has a rocky start. He longs to have a girlfriend, but his first ‘date’ is a disaster. There’s the catastrophe of the school swimming carnival – David is not sporty – and friendships that take devastating turns. Then he finds some solace in drama classes with the creation of ‘Crazy Dave’, and he builds a life where everything is fine. But everything is not fine.

And, at the centre of it all, trying desperately to work it all out, is the real David.

‘How to Be Happy’ tackles depression, friendship, sexual identity, suicide, academic pressure, love and adolescent confusion. It’s a brave and honest account of one young man’s search for a happy, true and meaningful life that will resonate with readers young and old.

Honestly, the blurb explains this book better than I’m ever going to. Let’s try anyway.

It’s taken me a long time to digest this one. I’m roughly the same age as David, so a lot of my experiences (both personal and viewed) are reflected in this book, but the themes explored are so universal that everyone will get something out of it.

David has such a beautifully candid style, and there were several moments where I both laughed aloud and fought back tears (and sometimes at the same time!). While it is a wonderful and heartbreaking book, there is so much hope to be found, even in the darkest moments, and I loved that about it.

There were a few times where I wished there was more included about things like his home life, but at the same time, it’s a very introspective book, and the style of the writing doesn’t allow for much peripheral information, so it’s something I can easily forgive.

In all, there are some good things to be picked out regardless of whether you’ve struggled with sexuality/mental health issues, and while it’s not a definitive guide (or any kind of guide in the traditional sense of the word) on how to be happy, it IS a charming and challenging exploration of one path to happiness.

Purchase: Booktopia | Book Depository | Amazon

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

Dec 6, 2015 - Book Reviews    No Comments

Book Review: THE LOOKING GLASS HOUSE by Vanessa Tait

What happened before Alice fell down the rabbit hole?

Oxford, 1862. As Mary Prickett takes up her post as governess to the daughters of the Dean of Christ Church, she is thrust into a strange new world. Mary is poor and plain and desperate for change but the little girls in her care see and understand far more than their naive new teacher. And there is another problem: Mary does not like children, especially the precocious Alice Liddell.

When Mary meets Charles Dodgson, the Christ Church mathematics tutor, at a party at the Deanery, she wonders if he may be the person to transform her life. Flattered by his attentions, Mary begins to believe that she could be more than just an overlooked, dowdy governess.

One sunny day, as Mary chaperones the Liddells on a punting trip, Mr Dodgson tells the story of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. But Mary is determined to become Mr Dodgson’s muse ­ and will turn all the lives around her topsy-turvy in pursuit of her obsession.

I’m a huge fan of Alice in Wonderland, and I always enjoy reading about the people behind the story. This book is less about Alice though, and more about her governess attempting to snare Charles Dodgson.

Mary is a thoroughly unlikeable character, the way she treats everyone she encounters is absolutely horrible, and watching her delusions progress is a little bit like watching a train wreck – you can’t quite look away. Alice isn’t much better, and is portrayed as a spoiled and impulsive little girl. Thinking back, not a single character stood out to me as one I could like.

That said, the whole book is very well written, and I didn’t even mind that the characters were not particularly pleasant. There are several easter eggs for Alice fans scattered throughout the book, which was a very nice touch. I also liked that it wasn’t yet another retelling from Alice or Dodgson’s point of view, they can get quite boring.

I’d recommend this one for fans of Alice and historical fiction, it was a nice way to spend an afternoon.

Purchase: Booktopia | Book Depository | Amazon

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.