Browsing "Book Reviews"
Oct 29, 2014 - Book Reviews    No Comments

Book Review: DRAGON HAVEN by Robin Hobb

Dragon Haven is book 2 in the Rain Wild Chronicles (or if you count from the beginning of the Farseer Trilogy, 11th in Realms of the Elderlings). It continues where The Dragon Keeper leaves off, as dragon’s keep going in their search for Kelsingra.

As most of Hobb’s books, this one is well written and engaging right from the beginning. The tension between many of the characters is balanced beautifully, although some of Thymara and Sintara’s griping gets a little tedious. Sexuality (or lack thereof) is handled very well throughout the book, which is a pleasant change from a lot of other books.

Watching Alise in particular grow throughout the book is great, and she’s one of my favourite characters since the Farseer/Liveship Traders trilogies, but if you compared her to the heroines from either series, she comes up a little short. No one will ever match Althea or Malta, I’m afraid, but that doesn’t take away from the depth of Alise’s character.

Sedric grows the most throughout the book, as he comes to terms with some hard truths about himself. He’s still not one of my favourite characters, but I like him an awful lot more than I did at the beginning.

Dragon Haven wraps up all the relevent plot points, which is a nice change after the abrupt ending of The Dragon Keeper, and I’m quite looking forward to the next two in the series.

Purchase: Book Depository | Amazon

Oct 26, 2014 - Book Reviews    No Comments

Book Review: AN UNUSUAL PURSUIT by Catherine Jinks

I picked this book up on a whim, and was well-rewarded. A Very Unusual Pursuit follows Birdie McAdams as she assists her master, Alfred Bunce, in capturing bogles – fey beasties that like to eat children.

Birdie is a delightfully feisty young lady, who wants nothing more than to help Mr Bunce in his attempts to save London’s children from all the lurking nasties. Not everyone wants the bogles to be vanquished, however, and so they must pit themselves against a much more human foe.

This book had me entertained from beginning to end. Told from Birdie’s perspective, it’s fun and has the perfect pacing to keep the story moving along. While it does work nicely as a self-contained novel, I do look forward to seeing what other mischief Birdie can get into.

Purchase: Booktopia

Oct 22, 2014 - Book Reviews    No Comments

Book Review: OF THINGS GONE ASTRAY by Janina Matthewson

This was a really interesting book to read. Each chapter is from a different character’s point of view (with a couple of vignettes spread throughout), and tells the stories of how each one copes with suddenly lost something important to them, although their actual importance is not apparent in the beginning, and the consequences are further reaching than anyone could have expected.

First, the downside – some of the chapters were incredibly short, which made switching to a new person quite jarring. There were also quite a few characters that I didn’t connect with at all, so their chapters were simply marking time until I could get back to the “good stuff”. They weren’t bad, they just weren’t as interesting as some of the other characters.

The upshot is though, when it’s good, it’s very good. Delia, Jake and Mrs Featherby were my favourite threads – they were beautifully written, and I was very interested to see how their parts played out. I also really like how each part of the story was tied up neatly at the end – I won’t go into more detail because that would spoil it, suffice to say that it explained and almost made up for some of the less interesting characters.

I’m not bursting to share this book with everyone I come across, but it was a good read and definitely worth the time.

Purchase: Book Depository

I received this book in exchange for a review.

Oct 19, 2014 - Book Reviews    No Comments

Book Review: CLARIEL by Garth Nix

Oh my word. I loved the Old Kingdom books growing up, and when I found out about Clariel, I thought I was going to die of happiness.

Set 600 years before Sabriel, this one follows Clariel as she moves to the big city, gets muddled up in politics and Free Magic, and comes to terms with the rage inside her.

It’s wonderfully paced, the story was interesting, and the characters delightful. I was very happy to see Mogget pop up, he’s always been a favourite of mine. I would have liked Clariel to pull up her socks a little earlier in the piece, instead of moaning quite so much but – that’s who the character is, and it’s more the like the exasperation when someone in a horror movie does something stupid than poor writing. Having a heroine that isn’t interested in romantic relationships is a refreshing change, as is not having to put up with constant suitors attempting to change that.

I’d love to see more of Belatiel, and with the way Clariel ends, I presume that’s going to be the case.

I can definitely recommend this series to anyone and everyone, especially if you like YA and/or epic-type fantasy.

Purchase: Book Depository | Amazon

Oct 15, 2014 - Book Reviews    No Comments

Book Reivew: THE BOOK OF DAYS by K.A. Barker

Oh how I enjoyed this book. Everything about it was fresh and fun, from the way magic worked, through to the plot itself. I was hooked from the opening paragraph:

Most people believe the best way to forget someone is to throw them down a well. Or lock them in a room with eight keys, or bury them at a crossroad in the thirteenth hour. But they’re wrong. The best way to forget someone is for them never to have existed in the first place.

The Book of Days follows Tuesday as she embarks on a journey to rediscover herself with the help of friends collected along the way. More than once, I wanted to shake Tuesday a little, but that is a testament to how well she’s written. Her three companions are equally delightful, from the roguish Quintalion to feisty Hester, and delightful Jacobi. I find it impossible to pick a favourite out of them, they’re all wonderful in their own ways. It would be very, very fun to see the four of them continuing their adventures in future books.

I like the subtle flavour given to the world and the characters – there is just enough time spent on world building to enhance the story, rather than bog it down in unnecessary detail. The cheerful writing style makes it a fun and easy read, and I demolished it in perhaps 4 hours of reading time. This is definitely a book I’ll be recommending to others, and rereading often.

Purchase: Amazon | Booktopia

Oct 12, 2014 - Book Reviews    No Comments

Book Review: TALES OF IVAN LEVSKY by Trefor Stockwell

Tales of Ivan Levsky is a collection of short stories written as a way of capturing Bulgaria’s oral storytelling traditions.

I was quite looking forward to it, I enjoy reading folk tales, but there’s no sugar-coating it, this book was painful to read. While the content and plot of each story was interesting, the way that it was written wasn’t particularly engaging. More than once, I found myself skimming through the middle so I could get to the point. They aren’t particularly long stories, no more than a dozen pages each, but while the beginning was enough to catch my attention, and the ending tied everything up nicely, the middle dragged.

I wouldn’t call it a poorly written book, but I do think that stories intended to be told orally aren’t going to be as effective when “transcribed”, as in this case.

Purchase: Amazon

I received this book in exchange for a review.

Oct 8, 2014 - Book Reviews    No Comments

Book Review: THE BOY A THOUSAND YEARS WIDE by David Spon Smith

The Boy A Thousand Years Wide is a YA dystopian novel about the battle between angels and demons, heaven and hell, and really, it’s an interesting take on a plot that has been done several times before. Angel/human halfbreeds are highly sought after by the denizens of hell, not just to bolster their own armies, but for a few other pieces of (spoilery) mischief as well. This book tells of Baxter’s journey through finding out that he is one of these halfbreeds, a Watcher, while trying to fight off demons and discover who his angelic father is.

I really wanted to like it, but when it comes down to it, the execution is quite disappointing, and the whole thing is in desperate need of an editor and a thesaurus. A very large portion of the book is dialogue, and while that can be an efficient way of explaining and introducing new things, in this case it’s just tedious. In the first 100 pages, “says” is used almost 400 times, and is usually followed by a full stop. “Shouts” is used over 200 times across the whole book, again almost always followed by a full stop. All of the characters “sound” the same, there is nowhere near enough variation  between them, making it impossible to know who is saying what without the handy “[Character] says.” at the end.

I also found it very difficult to engage with any of the characters – not only did they all have almost identical personalities, but they had very little personality at all. At no point was there any reason to care about any of them, especially the protagonist – he was simply another bundle of shouty anger, and if there were any redeeming qualities, I’m afraid that I missed them.

Overall, this book has bland characters, pretty close to awful writing and a rather predictable storyline, and that’s really disappointing.

I received this book in exchange for a review.

Oct 5, 2014 - Book Reviews    No Comments

Book Review: THE GATEKEEPER’S SON by C.R. Fladmark

Junya’s grandfather is a billionaire who keeps the secret to his success hidden in a heavily guarded safe.
His mother is a martial artist who wields a razor-sharp katana—and seems to read his mind.
And a mysterious girl in a Japanese school uniform can knock him over—literally—with just a look.

What do they know that he doesn’t?

I really enjoyed this book – the plot was intriguing, the pacing was perfect, and the way everything fits together is wonderful. The mix between San Francisco, Japan, and a parallel world was neatly done, and enough detail was given that reading about places I’ve never been to wasn’t jarring.

I did find, however, that as much as I wanted to know what happened next (to the point where I devoured this book in one sitting), I didn’t feel a huge connection to any of the characters. They’re all well-written, likeable people, but there was something missing to make me cheer for them – that may change as the series progresses, 200 pages isn’t much after all.

In all, I’d definitely recommend this book to anyone that likes young adult/urban fantasy, and I’ll be reading the rest of the series as it’s released.

Purchase: Amazon

I received this book in exchange for a review.

Sep 28, 2014 - Book Reviews    No Comments

Book Review: THE THIRTEENTH TOWER by Sara Snider

This book was a delight from beginning to end. Essentially following Emelyn as she discovers her past, and therefore her future, The Thirteenth Tower is full of rich, detailed characters, and a wonderfully immersive world.

In the classic fairy tale structure, you have a pretty good idea what’s coming as you move through the story, and it’s no different here. But the way that it’s told, and the neat little twist at the end, make you forget that it’s a trope that you’ve encountered many times before. It’s beautifully written from beginning to end, and manages to avoid a lot of the clichés you might expect from a similar story, and I liked how the story steadily progressed from beginning to end, instead of having slow bits followed by super fast-action bits.

Our protagonist, Emelyn is very realistic and believable as she grows through the story, her confusion and innocence are incredibly well-portrayed, and her underlying strength is neatly developed as the story progresses. Cobbe was probably my favourite, and had me giggling on more than one occasion. The resident “bad dude”, or “bad lady” in this case, caused the opposite reaction as her history unfolded, and I did cheer a bit when the actual bad guy got what he deserved.

All in all, a thoroughly delightful book, and I really look forward to seeing what else Sara Snider comes out with.

Purchase: Amazon

I received this book in exchange for a review.

Sep 18, 2014 - Book Reviews    No Comments


While this isn’t the best fantasy novel I’ve ever read, it is a nice, light read.

Set in a world remarkably similar to feudal Japan, it primarily follows Takeo as he has his world turned on its ear, discovers himself, and indulges in a bit of rebellion. It also follows Kaede, a young lady held as a hostage for her father’s good behaviour, and then shipped off to be married, with quite a bit of teenage angst about her impending marriage thrown in.

There is nothing ground-breaking in this book, it would be silly to pretend otherwise. Switching from Takeo’s first-person chapters to Kaede’s third-person was a bit jarring the first few times. The plot is fairly easy to predict from beginning to end. All the hallmarks of a below-average book, right? Instead, I found myself quite unable to stop reading, finishing the book in just a few hours. The predictability and simplicity of the whole thing was quite pleasant – I didn’t have to think too hard, I could just sit back and watch it all unfold. 

When all is said and done, I will be finishing the series, and I would recommend it to anyone wanting something to nibble at.

Purchase: Book Depository | Amazon