Browsing "Book Reviews"
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.

Purchase: Book Depository | Booktopia | Amazon

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

Dec 18, 2014 - Book Reviews    No Comments

Book Review: THE FELL SWORD by Miles Cameron

The Fell Sword picks up where The Red Knight finishes, with the Captain leading his men on to their next job. It was just as good a read as The Red Knight – where The Red Knight was non-stop drama and action, The Fell Sword has a bit more character development and world building.

I really liked being able to see more of what was happening in other places, especially in the Wild, and being able to see another kingdom described really enhanced the world building – it stopped being a place mentioned in passing and became a real thing. Having a wider range of characters telling their parts was great for me – there were quite a few new faces to get to know and I’m quite fond of most of them.

There was also a lot of time spent laying the foundations for the next book – the Fell Sword of the title barely rates a mention in this book, and I’m quite looking forward to seeing how it all pans out, especially in relation to Duchess Ghause’s role, and newcomer Morgan. I still love how magic, religion and “reality” are mixed in this series, and how it’s all being used in a war setting. It’s perhaps one of the best uses of magic that I’ve seen in quite some time.

If you enjoyed The Red Knight, and don’t mind taking a slower trip through this book, you’re going to really enjoy it. If you haven’t read either yet, grab The Red Knight and settle in for a long and wonderful ride.

Purchase: Book Depository | Amazon

Dec 14, 2014 - Book Reviews    No Comments

Book Review: THE BREWER’S TALE by Karen Brooks

What a book. I often find with historical fiction that it’s either a poorly disguised romance novel set however long ago, an unrealistic rendition of the era or a bad ass depiction of life in that era. The Brewer’s Tale is absolutely the latter.

When Anneke Sheldrake is forced to find a way to support her family after her father is lost at sea, she turns to the business by which her mother’s family once prospered: brewing ale.

This book is set in an era when women were property of their men-folk, so a young unmarried woman setting up her own business, and doing incredibly well at it, is enough to turn everything on its ear. Karen Brooks has done a fantastic job of creating a strong, beautifully balanced female character that manages to do everything she needs to, overcome every obstacle, without leaving the bounds of what one could realistically expect to be achieved in that era.

Anneke Sheldrake is a wonderful character – she’s far from perfect, but that’s what makes her so appealing. The struggles she faces are as understandable now as they would have been then, even if the actual situations vary slightly. I can’t remember the last time there was a good ducking in the river, for example, but the bias and prejudice leading up to that is just as alive today.

I also appreciated the way the romance was woven through the book – I’m not a huge fan of romance novels, or ones that rely on romance too heavily to move everything forward, but this had the perfect balance the entire way through.

I heartily recommend this book to anyone with even a passing interest in history, and enjoys adventure, mystery, and a damn good story.

Purchase: Booktopia | Amazon

I received a copy of this book from Goodread’s First Reads.

Dec 7, 2014 - Book Reviews    No Comments

Book Review: LIFE IN OUTER SPACE by Melissa Keil

Life in Outer Space by Melissa Keil

This book. I’m not even sure where to start.

Life in Outer Space isn’t just a young adult novel about the Geeky Guy that falls in love with the Cool Girl. It’s about friendship and navigating high school and growing up and relationships and it’s all packaged in a very funny, very brilliant book.

I found the whole thing really relatable, even though I’m not a teenage boy. A lot of the things Sam is dealing with – being the “uncool” kid, working out how boy-girl relationships work (as friends and more), parents being weird around each other – is just so believable from beginning to end. We’ve all been there, we’ve all wondered if we’re ever going to be one of the popular people, or if our parents are slowly losing the plot.

On top of all that, Sam isn’t just a geek, he’s a believable geek. The whole book is peppered with movie/book/gaming quotes and references, and none of it feels forced or thrown in to earn points.

We don’t get to see much of Sam’s friends outside of his perceptions of them, but we do still get a great picture of who they are and how they’re reacting to everything going on.

There was nothing that I don’t love about this book, apart from the fact that it can’t go on forever. As with Cinnamon Girl, it’s a perfect snapshot of common situations faced by everyone, whether they’re currently in high school or reminiscing about their own awkward teenage years.

Purchase: Booktopia | Amazon

Dec 4, 2014 - Book Reviews    No Comments

Book Review: CITY OF DRAGONS by Robin Hobb

City of Dragons is book 3 in the Rain Wilds Chronicles, and not only continues the journey to Kelsingra, but shows us quite a few things referenced in the first couple of books.

I enjoyed this one a little better than Dragon Haven and while it’s still not quite at the level of previous series, it’s a lot more interesting than the previous book. I loved the inclusion of Tintaglia, and seeing more of what’s happening outside of the river and Kelsingra – particularly with Chalced and Bingtown.

It was fantastic seeing Malta and Reyn again too, and while we don’t get to watch them grow as such, seeing their character growth through their actions in this book was great.

The book does end quite abruptly, that was a bit frustrating, but I’ve no doubt that the final book will wrap everything up nicely, and I enjoyed being able to see the different arcs develop.

The only thing I found jarring was Alise – her behaviour towards the other keepers with regard to Kelsingra being looted felt quite out of character. She went from being excited about exploring, to panicking that the city would be looted before she could document everything, but there was nothing in any other part of the book to suggest it was more than an irrational fear. We know from previous books (the Liveship Traders series in particular) that the Rain Wilders excavate and sell Elderling treasures, but the sudden change in behaviour did throw me off a bit.

It’s still a very solid novel though, and I can’t wait to see how it all ends.

Purchase: Book Depository | Amazon

Nov 30, 2014 - Book Reviews    No Comments

Book Review: THE INCREDIBLE ADVENTURES OF CINNAMON GIRL by Melissa Keil

This might just be the best book I’ve read this year. It is fun, it is quirky, and it captures all of the thoughts and feelings of leaving school/changing life stages perfectly.

All while the world is ending.

Set in a quiet little country town in Australia, everything is turned on its ear when a youtube video predicting that Eden Valley is where the world is going to end, goes viral. While trying to manage all the people that turn up to celebrate the end of the world, Alba is also trying to come to terms with school finishing, her friends making plans to move away, and trying to decide what to do with the rest of her life. While this is obviously referring to leaving high school, the same thoughts and uncertainty applies to any major life change, making the whole book appealing no matter where you’re at.

I absolutely loved Alba, it was so easy to identify with her thoughts and feelings. She’s fun and sassy and has no problems saying what’s on her mind – for the most part. It was really refreshing to come across a female character with confidence, and such a matter-of-fact attitude about herself. I liked that her insecurities weren’t about her appearance, but her skills or losing touch with her friends. There really needs to be more characters like this out there.

I also loved how her comic character – Cinnamon Girl – reflected her inner turmoil as she works through everything going on. That was a really nice touch.

The rest of the cast are also brilliant, and it’s fun getting to know them as the story progresses. The only character I never quite warmed to was Dan – and I really don’t think I’m supposed to.

The romance element was introduced and portrayed incredibly well – it’s not a standard soppy love triangle, it’s funny and real and a delight to watch develop.

I cannot recommend this book enough, regardless of where you’re at on your own journey. There is something for everyone, and it’s just such a fantastic book.

Purchase: BookWorld | Amazon

Nov 24, 2014 - Book Reviews    No Comments

Book Review: THE SILENT DEAL by Levi Stack

When Viktor and Romulus, two peasant boys, dig into their town’s strange past, they awaken the wrath of a mysterious overlord. As the blood brothers struggle to survive, their search for answers takes them through gambling parlors, fortune-teller dens, and moonlit forests full of monsters and men alike. But even with the help of their friends, can they escape the dark experiments that their foe is creating in Staryi Castle?

I quite enjoyed this book. Set in 1830s Russia, it’s a wonderful mix of fantasy, folklore and adventure. The whole book was compelling from beginning to end, and I’m curious to see where the rest of the series goes.

The “silent deal” referenced in the title was very  interested, and the way that it was revealed throughout the book was done very well – just when you thought you had a handle on it, a new piece of information was revealed.

The main characters are all quite likeable, but it’s the Romani that really stand out for me, despite not getting much attention until late in the book. I’m hoping there will be a lot more of them in the future.

I really liked the way the folklore and the fantasy elements were woven in, there was nothing overly unrealistic about any of it, and that’s a pleasant change. I was really looking forward to seeing how the cards were involved in the story, as they played such a key part in setting the mystery up. The explanation for their existence was quite disappointing however – I expected them to play a much larger part considering some of the situations described.

I really liked the writing style throughout – it’s wonderfully paced and written in such a way to appeal to a broad range of ages. I’m very interested to see how book two plays out, and where it will all go from here.

Purchase: Book Depository | Amazon

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