Browsing "Book Reviews"
Mar 12, 2015 - Book Reviews    No Comments

Book Review: THE FIFTH GOSPEL by Ian Caldwell

In 2004, as Pope John Paul’s reign enters its twilight, a mysterious exhibit is under construction at the Vatican Museums. A week before it is scheduled to open, its curator is murdered at a clandestine meeting on the outskirts of Rome. The same night, a violent break-in rocks the home of the curator’s research partner, Father Alex Andreou, a married Greek Catholic priest who lives inside the Vatican with his five-year-old son.

I’m a sucker for anything that smacks of “history” and “crime”, and this one has plenty of both.

When the Vatican police are unable to find the person who broke into Father Alex’s house, or who murdered his friend, he decides to do a little investigating of his own, and falls headlong into a centuries old mystery relating to the fifth gospel, known as the Diatessaron.

I enjoyed this book a lot more once the initial set up was over with. Once it got into the meat of the story – following the history of the Diatessaron and the Shroud of Turin, it became much more interesting. My knowledge of church history is shaky at best, so I really couldn’t say how much is rooted in history and how much was created by the story, but I don’t think it really matters. Enough history is included for the story to make sense, making it accessible for everyone regardless of their background.

Despite all the different plots in the story – the murder and break in, the Diatessaron, marriage break down, brotherly love – there’s nothing overwhelming or difficult to follow. It’s simply a well paced, well written, churchy mystery. For those that want to compare it to Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code: go wash your mouth out! Brown doesn’t come close to Ian Caldwell in any way, shape or form.

Purchase: Booktopia | Book Depository | Amazon

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

Mar 10, 2015 - Book Reviews    No Comments

Book Review: THE FIRE SERMON by Francesca Haig

When Zach and I were born our parents must have counted and recounted: limbs, fingers, toes. We were perfect. They would have been disbelieving: nobody dodged the split between Alpha and Omega.
Nobody.
Cass and Zach are both perfect on the outside: no missing limbs, no visible Omega mutation. But Cass has a secret: one that Zach will stop at nothing to expose.
The potential to change the world lies in both their hands. One will have to defeat the other to see their vision of the future come to pass, but if they’re not careful both will die in the struggle for power.

What a story. I loved every second of this book.

I don’t want to give too much away, but the disparity between how the Alpha and Omegas live is fascinating – the delicate balance between keeping each pair separate (but not too separate) is essentially what this series hinges on. At a basic level, there’s nothing new here – Oppressed People rebel against Privileged Overlords, but as always, the devil is in the details. The world building is fantastic, and the society is like nothing I’ve seen before.

The characters were great, I was particularly taken by Kip and his outlook on everything. I did find the romance aspects of the story a little lacking – while I like Cass, I didn’t warm up to her enough to give much credit to the effect she apparently has over the two men she encounters. That said, there isn’t much reference to the romance, and when it does happen, it’s easily shrugged off.

This is definitely a great start to the series, and I very much look forward to seeing how the next instalment plays out, especially after the twists at the end.

Purchase: Booktopia | Book Depository | Amazon

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

Mar 8, 2015 - Book Reviews    No Comments

Book Review: TOURNAMENT OF HEARTS by Dustin Bilyk

Hamelin, a town separated from the rest of the world, has a deadly problem. Fierce, flying beasts ravage the countryside and cull the sparse human population, forcing the majority of Hamelin’s citizens to live within the safety of her boundaries for fear of being snatched away and torn into pieces. With no help in sight, the Town Council look to their gods for salvation and unearth a chilling answer to their problems.

This was a really interesting story, with its two main arcs woven together well.

First up, we have the tournament itself: an annual event that pits 4 “gladiators” against each other, very much in a “winner takes all format”, as the loser has their entire bloodline wiped out.

And then we have Hamelin’s past catching up with it. Many, many years ago, an unnamed event caused Hamelin’s founders to remove themselves from their world and set up in the valley they now call home. But they can’t remain apart forever, and the outside world is beginning to creep in.

Firmly in the middle of these is Neven, who not only has to contend with fighting in the Tournament, but also content with the flying beasts that seem to have targetted him.

I did enjoy the story and the characters for the most part. The purpose of the tournament is definitely unique, and I’m very curious to learn more about Hamelin’s past, especially as despite the profound impact it has had on how the town runs, and despite histories being kept as far back as the town has existed, no one seems to have a clue that there is a world outside the valley – almost everyone is bizarrely content to continue just as they always have.

I did find it a bit of a struggle to connect with any of the characters though, and some areas were a bit too bogged down in details. There’s so much going on in the book! A run through by an editor will easily fix those issues though, and they don’t detract from the overall story too much.

When it’s all said and done though, this is definitely worth a read for anyone who enjoys their fantasy with an action-packed, dystopian edge.

Purchase: Amazon

Feb 22, 2015 - Book Reviews    No Comments

Book Review: DEMON CHILD by Kylie Chan

Kylie Chan is one of those authors that has burrowed right into my brain by writing books that I simply can’t get enough of.

Demon Child is book 2 in the Celestial Battle trilogy, which is the 3rd trilogy to continue the story of these characters. And it is just as brilliant as the 7 books preceeding it.

It’s very much a “middle series” book, everything is starting to ramp up, many plot lines are smack in the middle of their span, and not much is unexpected as far as the overall story goes. That doesn’t make it boring or predictable, however – the writing style and pacing keep everything nice and fresh.

There are a lot of battle scenes in this one, but that’s the nature of the story. There are plenty of things going on around the fighting, including the introduction of a new and precocious character – I don’t want to spoil anything, but she’s adorable. On top of that, I love any time the Tiger comes out to play.

If you haven’t read any of the previous books, I strongly recommend going back to the beginning and picking up White Tiger, although I take no responsibility for any addictions that may follow.

Purchase: Booktopia | Book Depository
White Tiger: Booktopia | Book Depository

Feb 17, 2015 - Book Reviews    No Comments

Book Review: OWL AND THE JAPANESE CIRCUS by Kristi Charish

I enjoy urban fantasy. It always makes a nice, and usually light, change from the epic fantasies I usually prefer. I never quite seem to enjoy it as much though, and despite being a very good read, Owl and the Japanese Circus doesn’t really do it for me.

I liked the premise – Owl is an ex-archaeology student who found herself on the wrong side of a professor, and now makes her living well and truly outside academia. Everything inevitably goes pear-shaped, and she needs to find a way to save the day.

The pacing of the story is – I can only assume – meant to be action packed, keeping the reader on the edge of their seat right until the end. It’s something that Jim Butcher and Matthew Reilly do incredibly well. This does not reach the same level though. Many parts felt rushed, and for at least the first half of the book, I wasn’t sure why I was supposed to care about Owl or her predicament(s).

Much of that is probably to do with the fact that I’m not a fan of Owl herself. More than once, I found myself rolling my eyes at her thoughts and behaviour. She comes across as whiny, and there’s a trend of not taking responsibility for the situations she finds herself in.

Highlight of the book for me was Captain, Owl’s vampire-obsessed cat. He was a thorough delight throughout the whole book and I’ll keep reading the series just for his antics.

Overall, it was a good book, and I’m far from hating it. I just look forward to less whining and more character growth from Owl.

Purchase: Book Depository | Booktopia

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

Feb 15, 2015 - Book Reviews    No Comments

Book Review: CANNONBRIDGE by Jonathan Barnes

Cannonbridge is really two different stories, all muddled up and co-dependant. First, we have Matthew Cannonbridge, named as “the most influential creative mind of the 19th century” and his encounters with various well known authors of the time. Then, we have Toby Judd, whose life is not going as well as it could be – and that’s before he realises that Matthew Cannonbridge is a hoax.

The book alternates between the two main characters, and I did find that a bit hard to get used to. Some of it has to be chalked up to the ebook I received, but a portion of it is because of the abrupt changes, especially when leaving Cannonbridge himself.

I enjoyed both threads, Cannonbridge is particularly intriguing, and the way the story was drip fed as the book progresses definitely keeps you reading. Toby’s story was a lot more straightforward – more like a standard action/thriller type. That doesn’t make it less interesting, though. There were a few times where I wished that the two stories weren’t intertwined, because there is so much more that I wanted to see happening.

And the ending. Oh my goodness. No spoilers here, but suffice to say I didn’t see it ending the way that it did. That’s partly because I get so caught up in the story that I never see anything coming, but also because it’s on the “well, that’s a thing!” side.

All in all, it was well worth reading. I’m very curious to see Jonathan Barnes’ other work now, to see how it compares.

Purchase: Book Depository | Booktopia

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

Feb 3, 2015 - Book Reviews    No Comments

Book Review: THE GIFT OF CHARMS by Julia Suzuki

I received a teaser copy of The Gift of Charms, consisting of the first 3 chapters. This is the first book in the Land of Dragor series, and follows Yoshiko as he begins dragon school.

I know this is a children’s story and probably not best suited to my tastes, but I couldn’t quite get into it. It has a rather interesting plot, but I didn’t feel any connection to the characters, the pacing felt a bit off, and if I’m being absolutely honest, the writing style reminded me of a short story I wrote in high school (I’ve yet to decide whether this is good or bad!).

I found that the story was a bit rushed, especially once Yoshiko reaches school and finds himself face to face with a bully. The escalation from initial meeting to hatred was quite rapid, and seemed a little out of proportion.

If I had a copy of the whole book, I don’t doubt I would read the whole thing, but based on what I have read, I’m not in a hurry to finish it, or read the rest of the series. If you know someone in the 8-12 age range, they might enjoy it, but there are plenty of other books I’d recommend over this one.

Purchase: Amazon

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

Feb 1, 2015 - Book Reviews    No Comments

Book Review: THE VERY BEST OF KATE ELLIOTT

I first encountered Kate Elliott’s work as a wee splotch, when her Crown of Stars series was being written. They were a huge part of my first foray into “grown up fantasy”, and I loved every book. So, you can imagine how excited I was to see this book being released, especially as it had been quite some time since I’d read any of her work.

The Very Best of Kate Elliott is a collection of short stories and a couple of essays. Some of the stories are set in the same worlds as her other series, others are completely separate. All are brilliant, and I found the essays to be really interesting.

One of my favourite things about her work has always been the variety in her characters – especially the female ones. They so often form the core of her stories, and as much as it shouldn’t be a remarkable thing, it is. It’s really nice to pick up a book and find women that aren’t there just to pad out the story for the men, and to find a main character that I can truly relate to. The range of women in this collection is just brilliant, and the exploration of the various forms their strength and bravery can take is fantastic.

It’s hard to pick a favourite, I really enjoyed each story. If I had to choose a standout though, it would be The Gates of Jorium. This one really tugged my heartstrings, and I couldn’t help but cheer aloud when I reached the end.

Finally, the essays. There are three, and it was The Omniscient Breast that I enjoyed the most – while I was aware of the difference between the male and female gazes, the way each is used, and the narrative choices made by writers (both male and female) were things I hadn’t stopped to think about, and that is definitely something that will be changing from now on.

Basically, this book is a great introduction for new readers wanting to know more about Kate’s work before committing to a whole series, a delightful read for older fans wanting to reminisce, and a must-read for anyone who likes their women badass and their fantasy epic.

Purchase: Booktopia | Book Depository
Release date: 10th February 2015

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

Jan 27, 2015 - Book Reviews    No Comments

Book Review: GEARS OF BRASS

I have been searching for great steampunk for a long time now, so I was very excited to come across this anthology, wherein eleven different authors give us their steam-powered versions of fairy tales.

I really enjoyed the basic plot of several of the stories, especially A Clockwork Dollhouse, Clockwork Wolf and The Key Girl.

That’s about where I run out of positive things to say. Almost every story ends very abruptly with little to no resolution. The first couple of times this happened, I wrote it off as word count constraints. By the end of the book, I was rather frustrated. In many of the stories, it didn’t even feel like it was halfway through before it was all over.

The Key Girl was a notable exception to this – the main premise of its section was resolved, but ended in such a way as to not be much of an ending. If Grant Eagar isn’t fleshing this out into a full novel, I’m going to be sorely disappointed.

I was very surprised to see the amount of grammar and spelling errors found throughout the book, especially in the last few stories. I’m far from perfect, but I firmly believe that this book is in desperate need of a new editor. Seeing a character “chocked” and losing “conscience” is a bit much.

Ultimately, it was a very disappointing read, and I will continue my hunt for great steampunkery elsewhere.

Purchase: Book Depository | Amazon

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

Jan 25, 2015 - Book Reviews    1 Comment

Book Review: I WAS HERE by Gayle Forman

I have a confession. I had no idea what this book was about before agreeing to review it, all I knew was that Gayle Forman was doing great things, and that I hadn’t read any of her work yet. I was quite startled to find that it’s primarily about the aftermath of suicide, but I put my big girl pants on and charged in anyway.

And I am so glad that I did.

This book isn’t about suicide, not really. Yes, a character’s death is a central part to the story, and there’s a lot of time discussing the how’s and why’s of it happening, but it’s about so much more than that. Really, it’s about family, friendship and inner strength. It’s about discovering that there’s more to other people – both good and bad – if you  look past the surface.

Writing about suicide and depression in any form is going to be a touchy subject, but it’s handled very well in this case. A lot of time is spent on the “how”, and there’s quite a bit of introspection and “what if”, but there’s no glorification.

I found Cody to be really interesting, even if I do think she made some questionable decisions. I enjoyed watching her grow throughout the story, and seeing how her relationship with her mother develop was really well done.

I wasn’t a huge fan of the romance aspect, it did seem a bit cliched and inevitable, but as that seems to be a given with just about every YA/NA novel, it’s something I’m just going to have to live with.

All in all, this was a great book and I do recommend it – just be aware of your own triggers around suicide, depression and mental health.

Purchase: Book Depository | Booktopia | Amazon

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