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

Book Review: ACROSS THE NIGHTINGALE FLOOR by Lian Hearn

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

Sep 14, 2014 - Book Reviews    No Comments

Book Review: THE BLOODY RIPPER by T.A. Uner

The Bloody Ripper is set in Victorian England at the same time as the Jack the Ripper murders. In addition to the murders, people are going missing, taken for use in experiments that are never really detailed.

This book is quite short on detail when it comes to all of the plot points. Coming in at 199 pages for the Kindle edition, there just isn’t enough room to cover all of the details that crop up in the story, leaving an overwhelming feeling of being rushed through. On top of that, the plot is shaky at best (alien vampires kidnapping some people, killing others, and framing someone for the murders) and it’s not particularly well written (bland prose, bland characters, and whoever edited the Kindle edition needs to seriously re-evaluate their chosen career).

This is one of three tie-in novels for The Leopard King Saga, which also seems to involve a weird mash-up of history and fantasy (a magical leopardess in Ancient Rome). That is about as far as the relationship between them goes, as the Saga is set entirely in Ancient Rome.

I really wanted to like this book, but when all is said and done, the only good part was reaching the end.

Purchase: Book Depository | Amazon

Dec 21, 2012 - Book Reviews    No Comments

Book Review: THE NIGHT CIRCUS by Erin Morgenstern

Generally when you read a book, what draws you in and drags you along is a connection to the characters. You want to watch them grow and develop, overcome obstacles, come out on the other side as better people. You want them to make all the right decisions, and have a happily ever after.

You’ll get that in The Night Circus. You’ll watch Celia and Marco grow into themselves, their skills and their relationship. You’ll see Bailey find his place in the world. You will be delighted watching Poppet and Widget grow. And it will be wonderful from start to finish. But the blurb is misleading, it’s not really about Celia and Marco duelling or falling in love, and the circus is far more than merely a stage.

I found that the characters paled in comparison to the circus itself, Le Cirque des Rêves. The circus of dreams indeed. Instead of the location providing a convenient backdrop against which the characters perform, it is the main focus, it is the challenge. The detail that goes into creating the atmosphere, the imagery that pulls you in, taunts and tempts you from beginning to end is far more compelling than any character in the book.

This book is not without flaws. The timeline is difficult to follow (and for the most part, I ignored it). It was difficult to be emotionally invested in the characters. The story I read was not the story described in the blurb. Just like with a dream, there will be questions left not fully answered and yet somehow tied up just a bit too neatly. But I will read this book many, many times, simply to revisit the wonders in the circus, and to pretend, just for a little while, that such a spectacular and wondrous place can exist.

When the battles are fought and won and lost, when the pirates find their treasures and the dragons eat their foes for breakfast with a nice up of Lapsang souchong, someone needs to tell their bits of the overlapping narrative. There’s magic in that. It’s in the listener, and for each and every ear it will be different, and it will affect them in ways they can never predict. From the mundane to the profound. You may tell a tale that takes up residence in someone’s soul, becomes their blood and self and purpose. That tale will move them and drive them and who knows what they might do because of it, because of your words.

Purchase: Book Depository | Amazon