Book Review: “Everless” by Sara Holland

Title: Everless
Author: Sara Holland
Genre:
YA/fantasy
Date Read:
06/01/2018 – 10/01/2018
Rating: ★★★★

Review:

After a little bit of a slow start, this book totally sucked me in! I can’t wait to continue following the characters in this world. It took me a little while to get my head around some of the world-building, but once I did, I really enjoyed where the story took me.

In a world where the currency is literally the years on one’s life, Jules and her father struggle to make ends meet from one day to the next. After her father’s death, Jules goes to work at the Everless estate, home of the wealthy Girling family, where she lived as a child before she and her father were driven away.  But the  more times she spends there, the more secrets she uncovers about her past, and the more questions she finds that need answers.

I really enjoyed the way that Holland subverted some typical YA tropes. What I thought was surely going to be a love triangle turned out to not be. There is still a bit of romance and it does have some eye-roll-worthy moments that are typical of YA, but this is very much not the focal point of the book. Jules actually spends most of the book trying to figure out her past and her abilities, rather than swooning over anyone.

The last third of the book is quite twisty. I had figured out some of the reveals that came along, but certainly not all of them, and I was taken by surprise on more than one occasion. There is a good cast of characters and I really appreciated how many women and girls made up the supporting cast.

I really loved the world-building. The idea of blood-iron did take me a while to understand, but it is pretty well explained.  There is also a lot of mythology and history of the Kingdom of Sempera, which Holland weaves into the story. Sometimes it did get a little info-dumpy, especially earlier on, but this didn’t bother me too much.

The ending is full of drama and leaves a lot for the second book to explore. I’m really excited to see how everythiing pans out.


Thank you to the publishers and NetGalley for providing me with a free copy of Everless for review purposes.

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#aww2018 Book review: “False Awakening” by Cassandra Page

Title: False Awakening
Author: Cassandra Page
Genre: urban fantasy
Dates read: 26/12/17 – 04/01/18
Rating: ★★★

Review:

I reviewed the prequel to this book almost exactly two years ago. I think this book suffered a little from me not remembering all the details of the previous book; however, the dreamscapes of Cassandra Page’s Oneiroi world do make for enjoyable reading.

Dream-therapist Melaina thought that her problems with nightmare spirits and dream blights was over with, but  that’s not the case. Other people around her are still being possessed, the Morpheus himself wants an audience with her, and her cousin has gone msising. All three things seem to be connected, but can Melaina save those she loves?

The dream sequences are definitely what I enjoyed best about this book. Page expands on the world-building she did in the first book, bringing in new Oneiroi characters, setting up more of their laws and customs. Once again the scenes where Melaina fights off the blights in other people’s dreams were also well done. There was a lot of action, and the rules of the magic system were well maintained.

The characters are well-written and I particularly like the contrast between Melaina and her wealthy relatives. I have to admit, though, that with the exception of the climax, I never really felt myself invested in the characters and what was going to happen to them.

also have to admit that I will always simultaneously love reading books set in my adopted city of Canberra and also find it a bit weird recognising all the locations. This is obviously not a criticism of the author; just an observation!


This review is part of my 2018 Australian Women Writers Challenge. Click here for more information.

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#aww2018 #LoveOzYA “Own your art. Own your existence.” // Review of “Beautiful Mess” by Claire Christian

Title: Beautiful Mess
Author: Claire Christian
Genre: YA contemporary
Rating: ★★★

Review:

I used to begin reviews like this with something like “I don’t read a lot of contemporary YA but…” as though I needed a disclaimer for any contemporary I enjoyed. I am getting rid of that disclaimer now because I’ve found in the past year that contemporaries have been among my favourites, while YA SFF has often been further down. My attitude used to be “why would I want to read about teenagers and their dramas?” but now I’m realised that these stories have so much to say that transcends one particular age group. This is one such book.

Ava is struggling with depression after the death of her best friend six months ago. Gideon has struggled with anxiety and self-esteem issues all his life. When they meet after both beginning work at the same kebab shop,  they form a bond that could just be the one thing that keeps them both going.

There was nothing especially revolutionary about the plot of this novel. What was fantastic to see, though, was the way Christian subverted so many of the tropes commonly found in YA books that deal with this subject matter. Neither Ava nor Gideon’s parents were absent or uninvolved in their kids’ lives; both kids had good relationships with therapists (in Gideon’s case, the idea of trying out different therapists until you find one that clicks with you is acknowledged) and the characters are not saved throught The Power of  LoveTM.

Both Ava and Gideon are beautifully formed characters. The chapters alternate between their first-person POVs, which I often find irritating, as I often find that in first person, both characters end up sounding much the same. This was not an issue here. Gideon writes poetry and competes in poetry slams and I loved the inclusion of his poems throughout the text.

For a fair chunk of the book, I was hoping that it wouldn’t become a romance, and would instead focus on the strength of friendship. Inevitably, though, the main characters did get involved romantically. For what it was, this was mostly done well, but I did find Gideon behaving in a disappointing fashion towards the end of the book. I felt that the ending left a little bit to be desired, but at the same time, I’m not sure these two characters’ story could have worked out any other way.

Still, as you can tell, I highly recommend this book with its great mental health rep, strong characters and some beautfully-written poetry.


This review is part of my 2018 Australian Women Writers Challenge. Click here for more information.

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“All Eli had to do was smile. All Victor had to do was lie. Both proved frighteningly effective.” // Review of “Vicious” by V. E. Schwab

Title: Vicious
Author: V. E. Schwab
Audio book narrator: Noah Michael Levine
Genre: NA/Urban fantasy/superheroes
Date Read:
10/12/2017 – 28/12/2017
Rating: ★★

Review:

All right, all right. I should have known better. I said after not enjoying the final Shades of Magic book  that clearly Schwab’s are not for me. And yet, I was still intrigued enough by Vicious to pick up the audio book when I saw it on a display at my local library.

Thanks to a college science experiment, Victor and Eli develop superhero-like powers, but frmo there, everything goes drastically downhill. Ten years later, Victor escapes from prison with a plan to confront Eli and no one knows who will come out the other side.

As usual, Schwab’s writing is extremely readable. This is something I have always found with her work, even as I haven’t enjoyed the stories themselves. The plot (even though I didn’t like a lot of it) was quite tight in and of itself.

My main issue was that I didn’t really feel invested in either main character, and some of their motivations seemed rather out of the blue to me. A lot of their decisions annoyed me and the thirteen-year-old character, Sidney, seemed to have more sense than either of the two adults most of the time.

Victor’s power to turn pain up or down on a dial, either for himself or for other people,  worked on that trope that if someone can’t feel pain, their injury won’t affect them.This isn’t how pain and injuries work, and it bothered me that it seemed like his own wounds, as well a gun shot wound of Sidney’s, just had the pain turned down and then everything was fine.

I did find some of the worldbuilding intriguing. I liked the idea of near death experiences being the instigator for extraordinary powers and that the power someone developed hinged on what they were thinking as they died. But overall, I had the same reaction to this as several of Schwab’s other books and now I know to stick to my resolution  that she is not an author for me.


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“Tonight, I can join in with everyone else, put on my glasses, and watch magic happen.” // Review of “Warcross” by Marie Lu

Title: Warcross (Warcross #1)
Author: Marie Lu
Genre: YA/sci-fi
Date Read:
11/12/2017 – 23/12/2017
Rating: ★★★

Review:

This was a fun series opener. While a lot of it was setting up the world and the conflict for the next book, it still made me want to read on with these characters.

When Emika Chen takes a risk and hacks into the opening of the live Warcross championships, only to be caught, she assumes she’ll got to gaol. To her surprise, she is instead flown to Tokyo on the private jet of the game’s creator, and asked to be one of several bounty hunters trying to solve a security issue within the game. But the more Emika investiages, the more sinister the plot becomes.

I really liked Emika. She’s had a rough few years, and this was well done without going overboard. I liked the way her situation was juxtaposed with that of Hideo Takeda, who has billions to spare and can pay Emika’s rent for the next year without batting an eyelash. Hideo was an interesting character, though the romance that developed between him and Emika seemed unlikely from his perspective. Of course Emika would fall right into it, he’s her idol. But it seemed weird that he fell for her quite so quickly.

I also really liked the fact that the inventor of the greatest virtual reality game and hardware ever produced was Japanese, and that the book mostly took place in Japan. That just felt far more realistic to me.

The world-building was a lot of fun. Since Warcross is a game with hundreds of different worlds, Lu could do something different every time her characters entered the virtual reality game. This way we get dragons, ice worlds, and underwater caves. These scenes are action-packed and very visual. I loved it.

There are two twists towards the end which give some nice set-up for the next book. One of them I predicted fairly early on (but doing so didn’t affect my enjoyment). The other one I didn’t see coming at all, though in hindsight, hints were being dropped throughout the book. This series is a duology, not a trilogy, thankfully, as I can’t see there being enough plot to really power two more books. I am definitely looking forward to  reading the conclusion, though.


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Book Review: “Merry and Knight” by Debbie Macomber

Title: Merry and Bright
Author: Debbie Macomber
Genre:
Romance
Date Read: 16/12/17
Rating: ★★★

Review:

For obvious reasons, it’s fitting that this review will be going live on Christmas Day. I wanted something nice and fluffy and Christmas-y to read, and this fitted the bill. I ended up reading it all in one sitting.

Merry Knight’s life is crazy  and she has barely any time for herself, or for romance, so her brother and mother sign her up for a dating website. There she meets Jay, and there is an instant connection. But when they decide to meet, she discovers that Jay is someone she would never have wanted a relationship with…

I did find that at the start of the book, there was more telling than showing as Macomber introduced all the characters and their motivations.

However, as the story went on and the conflicts became apparent, it became an addictive read. It’s not a mystery to the reader who Jay is, as he has his own point-of-view chapters alternating with Merry’s, and I did find seeing the two sides of him fun. It got maybe a little convoluted in the last third with some mistaken-identity-type shenanigans (except not… I don’t want to say too much because of spoilers).

The story takes place between Thanksgiving and Christmas and the Happy Ending takes place on Christmas Day. There was nothing especially unique in this story, but it was definitely still enjoyable and a sweet Christmas read.

 

Book Review: “What Happens at Christmas” by Evonne Wareham

Title: What Happens At Christmas
Author: Evonne Wareham
Genre:
Romantic suspense
Date Read: 14/12/2017 – 15/12/2017
Rating: ★★★

Review:

This book started off really strong, though I was a little disappointed with how quickly the mystery cleared itself up. Still, it was an addictive read overall.

Best-selling fantasy author Andrew Vitruvius reluctantly agrees to a publicity stunt in the lead-up to Christmas: being “kidnapped” on live TV to raise “ransom” money for charity. But the event goes wrong and Drew finds himself chained to the wall in barn with dwindling supplies and little hope of anyone finding him. Meanwhile, Lori France and her niece are staying in a barn in the woods while Lori’s house is redecorated, when they hear a voice calling for help…

I was really intrigued in the first half of this book, both by the mystery of who had kidnapped Drew and why, and the growing attraction between him and Lori. Once Drew got back to the city, though, the mystery solved itself fairly quickly and the plot became more about Drew and Lori trying to track each other down again. There was another bit of action and excitement around the 80% mark, but it resolved itself rather quickly.

Still, in the latter part I was rooting for Lori and Drew to find each other again and get together, and there was a satisfying conclusion at the end of it.


Thank you to NetGalley and the Publishers for a free copy of this book in exchange for a review.

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Book Review: “Looking for JJ” by Anne Cassidy

Title: Looking for JJ (Jennifer Jones #1)
Author: Anne Cassidy
Audio book narrator: Shirley Barthelmie
Genre:
YA/drama/thriller
Date Read: 25/11/2017 – 28/11/2017
Rating: ★★★

Review:

I think this book was supposed to be a thriller but I didn’t really find especially thrilling. Still, I did enjoy it as a straight drama, apart from a few quibbles.

Jennifer Jones has been in juvenile detention for six years after killing a girl when she was just eleven years old. Now seventeen, she’s been released under the name Alice Tully, and is trying to resume a normal life. But with press interest looming, it’s only a matter of time before this carefully constructed new life begins to crumble. And Alice begins to wonder if a person really can change.

I really liked the character of Jennifer/Alice. I felt for her as she tried to navigate her new life, and even more so in the second section of the book, where we learn of the circumstances leading up to the death of her friend. I also really liked her case worker, Rosie, who is staunchly in Alice’s court when the media starts to catch up with her.

My main issue in terms of characters was Alice’s boyfriend, Freddie. He was controlling and often seemed to be pressuring her into things she wasn’t ready for. And yet, Alice always went on about how romantic he was and how much she loved him. He then flipped to the opposite extreme once he found out that Alice was a virgin, going on about how the first time should be special and how he didn’t know if he was up to the task (or something). Both attitudes were kind of gross in their own way.

The writing itself was very good, though I felt the structure could have been a bit better. There are flashbacks during Part 1, then Part 2 centres solely on young Jennifer and the events leading up to the death of her friend. Part 3 then returns to Alice’s POV. I think the story would have been stronger if the whole back story had been woven in with the present story.

There is a sequel to the book, but I didn’t find myself compelled to seek it out. I felt that the story wrapped up in a satisfactory way and I was happy to leave these characters where they were. The sequel sounds like quite a different kind of plot, so it might be something I seek out when I’m in the mood for a more introspective kind of read.


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“Sooner or later, everyone’s story has an unfortunate event or two…” // Review of “The End” by Lemony Snicket

Title: The End (A Series of Unfortunate Events #13)
Author: Lemony Snicket
Genre: Middle-grade
Date Read: 08/12/2017 – 11/12/2017
Rating: ★★★

Review:

It  was bittersweet, reaching the end of this series after reading it on-and-off all year. While the last book probably wasn’t my favourite of the series, I did really like the way everything wrapped up, even though I know others found the ending quite unsatisfying.

Throughout this series, Snicket’s writing style sometimes ground my nerves, either with its desire to sound clever, or with its repetition, or some other literary quirk that is rather unusual in books aimed at this age-group. This happened a bit more than often in The End and I did end up skimming a page here and there.

The thing I found most impressive about this particular book was that it had me feeling a bit sorry for Count Olaf. Having spent 12 book seeing him as nothing but a comical villain, it was actually quite nice to see a bit more depth to him, and get a glimpse into his back story. The entire series deals with the fact that even the noblest of people can sometimes do questionable things, and no one is entirely saint or sinner, and this was highlighted a lot here. Still, I felt some of the world-building, and the history-building, was a little flimsy at times. but I felt satisfied and a bit nostalgic when I got to the end.

The style and nature of A Series of Unfortunate Events is not for everyone, and I don’t recommend reading too many of the books at once, as the repetitious nature is more obvious that way (I tended to read two or three then have a break). However, it is quite unique and I recommend it, both for adult readers and children alike.


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#aww2017 Book Review: “Stay” by Jesse Blackadder

Title: Stay
Author: Jesse Blackadder
Genre: Children’s fiction
Date Read: 25/11/2017 – 27/11/2017
Rating: ★★★

Review:

This was a sweet book, though to be honest, nothing stand-out, at least to me. I think it’s one of those ones that kids would really loove, but that don’t really transcend the target demographic. Which there’s nothing wrong with, really, just that it affected my enjoyment.

Stay is a fibreglass fundraising labrador, supposed to be raising money for the Royal Guide Dogs outside a supermarket in Hobart. In  1991, she was dognapped and taken to Antarctica by scientists disappointed huskies would no longer be used on the ice continent. Through Stay’s eyes, we learn what life was like for the scientists in Antarctica before the days of mobile phones and the Internet, and about the kinds of work they went down there to do every season.

I did actually like the way Jesse Blackadder turned Stay into a character in the story. Stay is able to communicate through her thoughts, sending out vibes to the humans around her. In return, they compete to have her nearby during their season down south. While some of the lengths gone to for Stay seemed a bit excessive, it did help to add tension to the plot. Blackadder weaves information  about the day-to-day life of the scientists into the plot in a way that I feel would not have felt like info-dumping to a child reader, though with adult eyes, I could see the parts that were obviously intended to be educational.

I think young readers interested in exploration or the Antarctic woould definitely get something out of this book. The writing style would make for a good read-aloud-before-bed type of book.


(This review is part of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2017. Click here for more information).

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