Browsing "Book Reviews"
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    No Comments

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.

Jan 8, 2015 - Book Reviews    No Comments

Book Review: NIGHTINGALE by Fiona McIntosh

I’ve been a fan of Fiona McIntosh since she was writing fantasy, so the chance to review Nightingale was very exciting, despite it being a bit out of my comfort zone.

Nightingale follows Claire Nightingale and Jamie Wren through WWI – from landing at Gallipoli where they first meet, to Egypt and the Western Front, and even some time in Istanbul after WWI as they both cling to a promise to meet again after the war.

While it’s ultimately a historical romance novel (not my fave), it’s also a brilliant insight into the things people can survive and the strength needed to get through such an overwhelming experience.

I adored Claire and Jamie right from the beginning. They’re both so warm and full of life, it’s impossible to not want the world for them. I also really liked the supporting cast, especially Eugenie Lester, who is an absolutely delightful older lady and I’m so happy she got to play as large a part as she did.

Even if you don’t usually enjoy romantic novels, this book is a must for anyone who enjoys history and brilliant storytelling.

Jan 4, 2015 - Book Reviews    No Comments

Book Review: THE SUNKEN by S.C. Green

The Sunken is a delightful exploration of an alternative Georgian England – one where industry is god, dragons still exist, and something is lurking in the palace.

I really enjoyed this portrayal of steampunky England – a place where industry isn’t just a feature, but the new religion with different sects following different Industrian gods. There’s a lot going on in this book – each of the main characters has a complex backstory of their own slowly trickled through the book, and there are several important elements woven into the main plot. It was a pleasant surprise to find that this doesn’t make it difficult to keep track of what’s going on, I found that the pacing of various reveals and flashbacks fit perfectly with the “present” and enhanced the story well.

I found all of the characters quite interesting and well-written, and I liked that while the majority of the main characters are given their own POV, the one character whose thoughts and opinions are often the most relevant, is notably absent. Instead, we see him from everyone else’s angle, and the difference in their opinions about his personality and motives are fascinating. The chance to make up your own mind as the novel progresses isn’t something you get to see all that often.

I’m really curious to see where book 2 will take the story, as the majority of the story is wound up neatly by the end of the book, leaving only a tiny thread to move forward with. That said, I’ve no doubts it will be just as good as this one. This book is absolutely worth a read.

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

Dec 28, 2014 - Book Reviews    No Comments

Book Review: FATAL PUZZLE by Catherine Shepherd

It took me a long time to write this review, not because I didn’t enjoy the book, but because I found it difficult to get my thoughts in order.

Fatal Puzzle is actually two intertwined stories – one half is set in 1495, where women are being murdered and mutilated to complete a puzzle, and the other takes us to the present day, where there appears to be someone copying the medieval murderer.

I really enjoyed both stories, they were engaging and entertaining from start to finish, and there wasn’t a lot of mucking around with unnecessary side plots – the book isn’t even 200 pages long.

I did find the writing style a bit jarring. It reminded me very much of a young adult novel, which is definitely not a bad thing. I did find it quite jarring in some sections though, where victims and scenes were described in quite graphic detail.

I also would have enjoyed both stories fleshed out into their own individual pieces, as they were both very interesting separately, but the length of the book means that everything is shorter by necessity.

That said, this appears to be book 1 in a series, and I’m very interested in seeing what Catherine Shepherd does next.

Purchase: Book Depository | Booktopia
(Available from 1st January 2015)

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

Dec 21, 2014 - Book Reviews    No Comments

Book Review: THE GREAT ZOO OF CHINA by Matthew Reilly

I’ve been a fan of Matthew Reilly’s work for quite some time, ever since a friend introduced me to Ice Station. One of my favourite things is the speed the story moves at, and how unbelievably-believable everything is.

The Great Zoo of China is no exception – it’s an action packed beast, and I loved the contents of the zoo. Having a female protagonist was simply fantastic, and my patchy memory tells me it’s the first time he’s done this – but I certainly hope it won’t be the last.

I’m quite a fan of how he continually works in fantastic elements in a way that’s completely believable and it’s a testament to the time and effort he spends on researching each of his books.

While this isn’t one of my favourites of his, it’s definitely just as high quality as the rest of his work, and absolutely worth a read.

Purchase: Book Depository | Booktopia