Browsing "Book Reviews"
Nov 29, 2015 - Book Reviews    No Comments

Book Review: THE INVISIBLES by Cecilia Galante

Thrown together by chance as teenagers at Turning Winds Home for Girls, Nora, Ozzie, Monica, and Grace quickly bond over their troubled pasts and form their own family which they dub The Invisibles. But when tragedy strikes after graduation, Nora is left to deal with the horrifying aftermath alone as the other three girls leave home and don’t look back.

Fourteen years later, Nora is living a quiet, single life working in the local library. She is content to focus on her collection of “first lines” (her favorite opening lines from novels) and her dog, Alice Walker, when out-of-the-blue Ozzie calls her on her thirty-second birthday. But after all these years, Ozzie hasn’t called her to wish a happy birthday. Instead, she tells Nora that Grace attempted suicide and is pleading for The Invisibles to convene again. Nora is torn: she is thrilled at the thought of being in touch with her friends, and yet she is hesitant at seeing these women after such a long and silent period of time. Bolstered by her friends at the library, Nora joins The Invisibles in Chicago for a reunion that sets off an extraordinary chain of events that will change each of their lives forever.

I really enjoyed this book, it was quite an emotional experience for me. Watching each of the women try to deal with their childhood scars was at times draining, but mostly a beautiful look at friendship and self discovery.

Told from Nora’s perspective, we still get a great picture of the other three women, both as children and adults. While each of their individual circumstances aren’t anything I’ve ever dealt with personally, it’s hard not to identify with various aspects their personalities. I found it harder to process their childhoods than their adult lives, without giving any of the plot away, the themes of those years are pretty universal experiences.

I really enjoyed how their shared past was woven into the tale of their mostly-separate futures, and how it built up to the final reveal. A more observant person might pick it a lot earlier than I did, but for me, it came a little out of the blue and while it wasn’t jarring, it was a little surprising.

Overall it’s a delightful exploration of how pasts can affect futures – or, more accurately, how we let our past affect our future, and I strongly recommend it for anyone that doesn’t mind having their heartstrings tugged.

Purchase: Booktopia | Book Depository | Amazon

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

Nov 26, 2015 - Book Reviews    No Comments

Book Review: ABOMINATION by Gary Whitta

He is England’s greatest knight, the man who saved the life of Alfred the Great and an entire kingdom from a Viking invasion. But when he is called back into service to combat a plague of monstrous beasts known as abominations, he meets a fate worse than death and is condemned to a life of anguish, solitude, and remorse.

She is a fierce young warrior, raised among an elite order of knights. Driven by a dark secret from her past, she defies her controlling father and sets out on a dangerous quest to do what none before her ever have—hunt down and kill an abomination, alone.

I quite liked the concept of this one, it fits neatly into a part of history that we don’t have much information on, and in the context of the story, it’s not an implausible scenario.

It was a bit hard to get through the first half dozen chapters or so, there’s a lot of world building and information, and it’s not until it skips forward a few years that the story itself begins. I think that if a lot of the information in those first chapters was spread out a bit more during the latter half, it would have made for a stronger story.

I didn’t find the characters overly relatable, but they were well portrayed – quite a few aspects were clichéd or predictable around how they approached the world or interacted with each other. That said, I still wanted to see how everything panned out. I did really enjoy how the abominations were portrayed, they’re just the kind of thing someone in the Dark Ages would come up with.

Basically, if you can make it through the first third of the book, you’re in for a decent historic horror novel with some very interesting beasties running around.

Purchase: Booktopia | Book Depository | Amazon

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

Nov 22, 2015 - Book Reviews    No Comments

Book Review: AN EMBER IN THE ASHES by Sabaa Tahir

Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.

It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.

But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.

There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.

Set in a world that draws heavily from Ancient Rome, the social structure is fascinating to see. On one hand, we have the oppressive and brutal Martials, and on the other, the Scholars. There is a whole lot of history not covered in this book about how the Scholars came to be oppressed, and I found that to be quite disappointing, considering the impact it has on the plot and characters, especially as the differences between them are almost portrayed as though they’re separate races, as opposed to different levels of society.

The violence in the story is very well done, big action scenes are not necessary to show how brutal and nasty the world can be, and when they do come along, they’re handled well. The references to sexual violence/rape sometimes felt a bit flippant, almost like they were stuck in there to tick off a box, and didn’t add a lot to the story for where they were inserted. Certainly they gave great insight to the characters involved, it was just at the wrong time in the story. I also think that it came  up far more often than it should have in a structure that is allegedly disciplined beyond belief.

I did find the characters quite difficult to connect with on a personal level. As much as I enjoyed many of them (Helene in particular), I don’t care about them. I also found the budding romance between Laia and Elias to be really difficult to swallow, especially when both are presented with, and react better to, more than suitable alternatives. It would just be really nice to see two characters thrown together like this not end up together. Boys and girls CAN be close friends without any romantic elements!

I found this to be a really interesting book, not necessarily for the plot, which I did like, but more for how it’s all put together. The bits I like the most don’t get anywhere near as much narrative time as I’d like, but perhaps will be addressed in the sequel, and a lot of the time it feels like a whole pile of plot devices have been pulled out at random points. But, I did enjoy it, and I do recommend it. I just think expectations need to be tempered a little.

Purchase: Booktopia | Book Depository | Amazon

Nov 19, 2015 - Book Reviews    No Comments

Book Review: THE FANGIRL’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY by Sam Maggs

Fanfic, cosplay, cons, books, memes, podcasts, vlogs, OTPs and RPGs and MMOs and more—it’s never been a better time to be a girl geek. The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy is the ultimate handbook for ladies living the nerdy life, a fun and feminist take on the often male-dominated world of geekdom. With delightful illustrations and an unabashed love for all the in(ternet)s and outs of geek culture, this book is packed with tips, playthroughs, and cheat codes for everything from starting an online fan community to planning a convention visit to supporting fellow female geeks in the wild.

I was quite looking forward to this one. I always really enjoy reading new takes on how women interact with pop culture, and anything that will help younger women navigate often-treacherous waters is very okay with me. It can be a really scary world out there.

Unfortunately, this is not that book. Far from being the “ultimate handbook”, it’s a very superficial look at what it takes to be a “fangirl”, perpetuating the squeeing-teenage-girl stereotype the whole way through. It’s filled with so much gushing and net-speak that I found myself glossing over many sections, and while there’s some great advice on how to deal with trolls, there’s a lot of emphasis on having the right swag and going to the right events.

I did enjoy the interviews at the end, their content was a lot more in line with what I was expecting from the whole book. There’s also a nice section with recommendations and resources that many will find helpful.

Overall though, this was not worth the time, you’ll find better content scattered around the internet, if you take the time to look for it.

Purchase: Booktopia | Book Depository | Amazon

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

Oct 6, 2015 - Book Reviews    No Comments

Book Review: UNDERTOW by Michael Buckley

Sixteen-year-old Lyric Walker’s life is forever changed when she witnesses the arrival of 30,000 Alpha, a five-nation race of ocean-dwelling warriors, on her beach in Coney Island. The world’s initial wonder and awe over the Alpha quickly turns ugly and paranoid and violent, and Lyric’s small town transforms into a military zone with humans on one side and Alpha on the other.

When Lyric is recruited to help the crown prince, a boy named Fathom, assimilate, she begins to fall for him. But their love is a dangerous one, and there are forces on both sides working to keep them apart. Only, what if the Alpha are not actually the enemy? What if they are in fact humanity’s only hope of survival? Because the real enemy is coming. And it’s more terrifying than anything the world has ever seen.

This was a rather interesting book, and another that I didn’t really read the blurb before starting, so I didn’t have much of an idea what it would be about.

I found the concept to be quite good, and it is very easy to draw parallels between how the Alpha are treated to how refugees are greeted. The blurb goes on to make a comparison to District 9, and I think that’s a very good one – although as a YA novel, this one didn’t hit me quite as hard as District 9 did.

That said, this wasn’t the most fantastic book I’ve ever read. A lot of the dialogue was a little on the ridiculous side, and I never warmed up to Lyric and Fathom’s relationship. There are a lot of the classic YA stereotypes, but as I wasn’t expecting anything different, they didn’t bother me too much. Many of the secondary characters aren’t given enough time or depth to become grating, which is a very real possibility for some of them.

In all, it was a nice easy read, the interesting parts are just enough to outweigh the silly ones, and I’ll probably make an effort to keep reading the series, if only to see how it plays out.

Purchase: Book Depository | Amazon

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

Oct 4, 2015 - Book Reviews    No Comments

Book Review: FOOL’S ASSASSIN by Robin Hobb

Tom Badgerlock has been living peaceably in the manor house at Withywoods with his beloved wife Molly these many years, the estate a reward to his family for loyal service to the crown.

But behind the facade of respectable middle-age lies a turbulent and violent past. For Tom Badgerlock is actually FitzChivalry Farseer, bastard scion of the Farseer line, convicted user of Beast-magic, and assassin. A man who has risked much for his king and lost more…

For the past 15 years, I have been absolutely in love with all of the books that fall into the Realm of the Elderlings, but as much as I love the Rainwilds, the Six Duchies are the ones that really hold my heart. To use a phrase that I don’t usually, Fitz and the Fool are my OTP.

So yeah, I was really excited to read this.

It was great to fall back in with characters I haven’t seen for many years, to see how they’ve changed and what they’re doing now. There were a few things that happened in the Tawny Man trilogy that I had deliberately forgotten, and I was sad all over again once reminded.

There were a couple of things that niggled me, but the biggest came from the repetition of a specific plot point – I won’t name it for those that haven’t read it, but by the time it was mentioned for the umpteenth time, I found myself skipping whole paragraphs and rolling my eyes.

When that particular plot point resolved though, there were actual tears and exclamations.

There are several new threads that I’m really looking forward to exploring, and I’m 100% invested in anything that explains more of the Fool’s mysterious past.

Overall, I enjoyed it more than the Tawny Man books, less than the original trilogy (because let’s be honest, none of them are every going to be as good as those three), and I will definitely be moving onto book 2 as soon as I humanly can.

Purchase: Booktopia | Book Depository | Amazon

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

Aug 25, 2015 - Book Reviews    No Comments

Book Review: THE CANDY STORE by Michele Poague

Teenage orphan Jett finally finds happiness working in a Candy Store with older owners, Jay and Henry but an explosion in the store spins her world out of control. Fighting to find a way back to her old life and yet trying to protect her new found friends, Jett must make some hard decisions. So sure of herself in many ways in her old life, Jett finds that a simple turn of a phrase could spell disaster.

 

I quite enjoyed The Candy Store, it was a lovely exploration of the trials of growing up, fitting in and finding a place in the world. Watching Jett grow from a rough street kid to a lovely young lady was really fun, especially as it was more a case of her growing into herself rather than having to change to fit other people’s perceptions of who she should be – a mindset she challenged often throughout the book.

The supporting characters were also really fun. I particularly enjoyed the energy in the Doyle family, especially Josie. She was definitely a bright spark throughout the book.

I also really enjoyed the writing style. It was simple and easy to read, which made it very easy to get lost in the story. I don’t want to give any of the plot away, but I do think it was very well-handled, and the contrasts between where Jett grew up to where she landed also meshed nicely. There was just enough sense of “other” to highlight the
differences without being jarring.

All in all, a really great book, and one I’d recommend to anyone that likes historic/turn of the century fiction.

Purchase: Amazon

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

Aug 20, 2015 - Book Reviews    No Comments

Book Review: CITY OF FAE by Pippa DaCosta

From the moment Alina touches London’s hottest fae superstar, breaking one of the laws founded to protect all of her kind, her fate – and the fae – close in.

Below ground, the fae High Queen plots to claim the city as her own and places her pawns, ready for the battle to come. A battle she cannot lose, but for one small problem – Alina. There are four ancient keepers powerful enough to keep the queen in her prison. Three are dead. One remains … And to fight back, Alina risks sacrificing everything she has come to love.

Urban fantasy is one of those genres I like more in theory than in practice, and New Adult is not one of my favourites at the best of times. City of Fae has an interesting concept though (once you get into it), and that was just enough to keep me reading.

There were a lot of cliches in the story that I don’t generally like – love triangles/quadrangles, bad-boy-rockstar-demigod-musician, vague reasons why This Relationship Cannot Be – but the overall story itself was reasonably fresh.

I didn’t like the main character much, Alina is quite a bit of an idiot and has a recurring theme of “I know this thing is bad but I’m going to do it anyway, and then complain when it goes bad.” While I didn’t exactly predict the twist at the end, I wasn’t surprised by it either. It was more like turning a corner and finding a sheep standing on the side of the road instead of behind the fence.

Part of me is curious whether the story will be continued (and how), but I really doubt I’ll go out of my way to hunt anything down if/when it’s released.

Purchase: Amazon

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

Aug 16, 2015 - Book Reviews    3 Comments

Book Review: TIME SALVAGER by Wesley Chu

Convicted criminal James Griffin-Mars is no one’s hero. In his time, Earth is a toxic, abandoned world and humans have fled into the outer solar system to survive, eking out a fragile, doomed existence among the other planets and their moons. Those responsible for delaying humanity’s demise believe time travel holds the key, and they have identified James, troubled though he is, as one of a select and expendable few ideally suited for the most dangerous job in history.

THIS BOOK. What a delightful mesh of sci-fi, thriller, action and of course, time travel.

I absolutely loved the concept – the use of time travel to plunder the past for resources to keep the future running. Of course, all resources are finite, even when you’re pilfering from previous times, and it all starts to fall apart. Throw some rogue agents and far-reaching side effects from all the jumping around, and you have a giant mess on your hands.

The characters are all intriguing in their own ways. I found James to be quite exasperating – he’s rude and arrogant and very close to breaking, but he also has a kind streak running through him, and I find it hard to fault him for being the person his job and experiences have turned him into. I also really liked Levin – while he’s set up as James’ direct opposition, he faces his own issues and has a lot more in common with James than either of them would realise.

I’ve mentioned before that I don’t read a lot of sci-fi, and when I do, the science often flies so far above my head that I don’t even recognise it. I didn’t have that problem in this book – the world building and explanations are developed enough that I know enough to get on with the story. I expect a hardcore science person would pick holes in it though.

I’m really looking forward to reading book 2, especially if it’s even half as well-written and engaging as this one.

Purchase: Booktopia | Book Depository | Amazon

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

Jul 31, 2015 - Book Reviews    No Comments

Book Review: ADRIFT by Paul Griffin

From critically acclaimed writer Paul Griffin comes a fast-paced young adult novel about five very different teens lost at sea with no one to count on but each other.

Matt and John are best friends working out in Montauk for the summer.  When Driana, JoJo and Stef invite the boys to their Hamptons mansion, Matt and John find themselves in a sticky situation where temptation rivals sensibility.  The newfound friends head out into the Atlantic after midnight in a stolen boat.  None of them come back whole, and not all of them come back.

Adrift is a very interesting and very unsettling novel. While you know pretty much exactly what’s going to happen (it’s right there in the blurb after all), it’s the “how” and the “while” that makes it a great read, rather than the “what”.

I didn’t really connect with the characters, and I think a large part of that is due to the slightly disconnected tone used. It reminded me very much of how someone recounts a traumatic experience without engaging emotionally, making it ideal and authentic for this story, even if it does cause a few tender moments to have less impact.

However, seeing how they interact with each other and how they cope with being stranded at sea is quite fascinating. Each of them react in a different way, and I found Jojo to be the most chilling in how his behaviour and attitude changes.

The progression and pacing of the story was done really well, especially in regards to the foreshadowing and how Matt and John’s past in particular was shared. I liked the way it switched to police/rescue communications to give an idea of what was happening back on land – especially the assumptions made about why they’d disappeared.

This theme of first impressions is something carried through the whole book. As we learn more about each character, we see that the initial impressions often turn out to be false, and not always in the expected way.

In all, a really enjoyable book and one that I think will appeal to all ages.

Purchase: Booktopia | Book Depository | Dymocks

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