Book Review: “Mystery at Maplemead Castle” by Kitty French

Title: Mystery at Maplemead Castle (Chapelwick Mysteries #2)
Author: Kitty French
Genre: NA/urban fantasy
Date Read: 21/06/2017 – 22/06/2017
Rating: ★★★

Review:

As with the first book in this series, this installment was a lot of fun, though a bit long, and I could have used a bit more focus on the ghosts.

Melody Bittersweet’s second gig with the Girls’ Ghostbusting Agency is to clear Maplemead Castle of ghosts before a film crew shows up the following week. The new owners of the Castle love media attention, so she has to work with her ex, Leo Dark, around again,  as well as put up with the presence of Fletcher Gunn, who is doing a story on her for the local newspaper. Fletcher continues to to seek to discredit Melody’s ghost-seeing abilities, but at the same time, the attraction between them can’t be denied.

If I’m honest, the mystery itself was fairly basic, and could have been solved a lot earlier if some of the characters had just communicated a bit better. However, the way in which the ghosts ended up finally able to move on required the characters to spend time together first, so I guess it is fair that the story was strung out a bit longer. I did still really enjoy the ghost characters, even though their story ended up quite sad.

A lot more of the book was spent on the tricky love-hate relationship between Melody and Fletch. For the most part, the lustful banter was fun and there was a pretty great phone sex scene in there as well. I still felt a little ambivalent about Fletcher, though, and the tragic backstory we learned about in this book felt a little forced and at odds with the snark and innuendo he was throwing around so often.

The other side characters, from Melody’s colleagues Marina and Arthur, to her mother and grandmother, and the owners of Maplemead Castle, were all well drawn and fun. They all have their own distinct personalities which makes for an entertaining ensemble cast. While I don’t feel these books are any kind of literary masterpiece, they are definitely the perfect book for when you need something light and frothy and I will definitely be continuing with the series.


Find me on:
GoodReads | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Save

Advertisements

Cover Reveal: False Awakening by Cassandra Page #aww2017

Hey everyone! It’s been a bit of a while since I last did a cover reveal! I read Lucid Dreaming by Cassandra Page about twelve months or so ago (review here) so I was excited to read that there’s a follow-up due out in August this year, and I’m also pleased to be taking part in the cover reveal today! Read on to find out more.

False Awakening
Cassandra Page
(Lucid Dreaming #2)
Publication date: August 2017
Genres: New Adult, Urban Fantasy

Melaina, half-human dream therapist, just wants her life to return to normal. Yes, her Oneiroi father is in prison and, yes, the place she worked burned down, but she has a cute boyfriend and a new house. She beat the bad guy. She’s earned a break. Right?

Unfortunately for Melaina, people are still getting possessed by nightmare spirits; the police are investigating her past; and the bad guy’s brother, the Morpheus himself, is coming to town to demand answers. When a deranged ex-nurse checks himself out of hospital on the same day her cousin runs away from home, Melaina is dragged into a fight not just for her life but for her soul.

Add to Goodreads

Sequel to:

Are you a book reviewer?
Request a review copy of book 1 – Lucid Dreaming – here!

Author Bio:

Cassandra Page is a mother, author, editor and geek. She lives in Canberra, Australia’s bush capital, with her son and two Cairn Terriers. She has a serious coffee addiction and a tattoo of a cat — despite being allergic to cats. She has loved to read since primary school, when the library was her refuge, and loves many genres — although urban fantasy is her favourite. When she’s not reading or writing, she engages in geekery, from Doctor Who to AD&D. Because who said you need to grow up?

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter

XBTBanner1

Book Review: “the Asp of Ascension” by R. B. Myers

Title: The Asp of Ascension
Author: R. B. Meyers
Genre:
Mystery/ YA
Date Read: 17/04/2017 – 21/04/2017
Rating: ★★★

Review:

After a slow start, this book did grow on me a little, but I was still left feeling that it was a little rough around the edges.

Nefertari “Terry” Hughes is still recovering from the accident that killed her mother and left her permanently injured. Now she has to start at a new school while her dad helps to organise an exhibit at the local museum, which may feature the sarcophagus of Cleopatra. But when Terry’s dad is found unconscious in the museum’s Egypt Room, she finds herself trying to solve a 50-year-old mystery and dealing with what may be a 3000-year-old Egyptian curse.

The plot of this book, with its mystery and also small supernatural element, was actually pretty tight, but the writing style felt more middle-grade than young adult. Apart from the romance, which felt pretty target-age-appropriate, the characters felt a lot younger than their sixteen/seventeen years. Some of them  actually also felt rather two-dimensional, particularly in the beginning. At about 20% in, I was reading on the bus and turned to my partner to complain that the characters were all such archetypes, “the jocks”, “the cheerleaders”, “the one who doesn’t fit in”, “the quirky one”,  etc. Fortunately, the main characters did at least develop a little more depth, though several of the side characters still felt two dimensional.

There was also the issue that took 75% of the book to hit me, but once it did I couldn’t let it go: one of the characters is an Egyptian Prince (allegedly). With all the talk of Cleopatra and pharaohs, I didn’t question it at first, until my brain finally caught up said, “But wait… Egypt’s a republic!” I did Google it just to be sure, and Wikipedia tells me the monarchy in Egypt was dissolved in 1952. And the thing is, this character doesn’t even need to be a Prince for the story and his character arc to make sense. He could have just been a diplomat. It wouldn’t have made any difference, apart from the fact that the teenage characters couldn’t swoon over there being a literal prince in the vicinity.

Okay, I feel like I’ve ranted a lot, so here are the things I did like. I thought the mystery was well-constructed and I enjoyed seeing the characters doing some really good research into the past of the museum. I also really appreciated that there was some ethnic diversity among the characters; I’m not sure but I got the impression that one or both of Terry’s parents had been Middle-Eastern or of Middle-Eastern descent. Not only that but there was the fact that Terry was dealing with chronic injury/pain, which is uncommon in YA protagonists. I also really loved the frienship between Terry and Maude, who was another social outcast at the school. The scene where Maude admitted she hadn’t acted when the school bully started approaching Terry was because it was nice to not be the target anymore  felt painfully honest.

Having said all that, the book was enjoyable but nothing amazing for me, so I don’t think I’ll be reading the second book in the series.


(Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for providing a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review)

Find me on:
GoodReads | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

“Alexia Tarabotti is laboring under a great many social tribulations.” // Review of “Soulless” by Gail Carriger

Title: Soulless (Parasol Protectorate #1)
Author: Gail Carriger
Genre: Urban fantasy/historical fiction/humour
Date Read: 05/04/2017 – 13/04/2017
Rating: ★★★

Review:

This book was well-written and genuinely funny. I want to put that out there. But unfortunately I found that it was trying to do too many things to be really great at any one of them.

Alexia Tarabotti is a 26-year-old spinster with theh ability to render any supernatural power useless at her touch. When she is attacked by a vampire and accidentally kills it, she finds herself tangled up in a conspiracy where supernatural creatures are appearing and going missing at a rate of knots… not to mention, tangled up with the dashing werewofl, Lord Maccon, who is investigating by order of Queen Victoria.

I felt that the comedy of manners aspect of this book was the major player in the genre field. The steampunk and supernatural elements were almost window dressing. There was a great deal of witty banter, and that was where the laugh-out-loud moments came from. The plot itself, and the mystery contained therein, I didn’t actually find very engaging. That meant that when the comedy started wearing a bit thin, there wasn’t much left to hold my interest.

While the writing was overall strong, there were also some stylistic things that bugged me, such as the main character being referred to in the narration as Alexia in one paragraph, then Miss Tarabotti in the next.  Obviously, being the Victorian era, what the characters called each other was quite important, but when the narration was from Alexia’s point of view, it felt odd to hear her essentially refer to herself formally.

While it wasn’t for me, I do still recommend the book/series, as I know others have enjoyed it a lot more, and the genre blend will probably work for others better than it worked for me.


Find me on:
GoodReads | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

#aww2017 “I’m always watching around corners. I just keep watching for something special.” // Review of “A Tangle of Gold” by Jaclyn Moriarty

Title: A Tangle of Gold(Colours  of Madeleine #2)
Author: Jaclyn Moriarty
Genre: YA/urban fantasy
Date Read: 11/03/2017 – 14/03/2017
Rating: ★★

Review:

Agggh, writing this review is causing me a lot of angst. Over the few days between finishing the book and beginning this review, I have tried to work out what to rate it. When I first rated it on GoodReads, I gave it four stars, stating in the text of the review that it was 3.5 but I was going to round it up because I loved the first two books so much. But then I thought about it and decided it was really only a three-star read for me, because while it had a few good moments, I didn’t love it as much as the other two. The next morning I was still thinking about what had bothered me overall, and realised there was really only one moment that I really loved, and I wasn’t entirely sure that it outweighed the stuff that frustrated me. So here we are, with a 2.5 star rating for the final book, after two solid four-star reads.

Yikes, that was a rambling paragraph.

Anyway.

In my review of book two of this series, I said that one thing I appreciated was the fact that it didn’t give more of the same, but instead built on the first book and took all the concepts further. The same could be said of this book, except that it didn’t have the same effect this time.

One of the issues (probably the main issue) was that Kiera, a secondary character in the second book, became a principle character in this one and I Did. Not. Like. Her. She looked down her nose at everybody, including my favourite characters, and even when she sort of addressed this, I didn’t feel like she stopped, just that she managed to hide her snobbery a bit better. I started flipping forward to see how many more chapters I would have to read from her point-of-view before we returned to Madeleine or Elliot.

Speaking of Elliot, I didn’t like his character arc either. He made a lot of decisions that didn’t make a lot of sense to me. He was using huge leaps of logic to come to the conclusions he based his decisions on, and he always seemed smarter than that.

I can’t say too much about Madeleine without delving into huge spoiler territory, but I will say that the large twist regarding her and her mother that took place was a big enough game changer that it changed the way the story worked, and it just wasn’t the story/premise/situation I fell in love with after that (having said that, the twist itself was the aforementioned one moment I really loved). Elliot and Madeleine had no way of corresponding like they always used to, and that was one of my favourite aspects of the series.

Plot-wise, everything also got quite convoluted. The theories behind the cracks between Cello and the World got very confusing and then there were secret organisations that kind of came out of nowhere playing their parts, and everything go tied up a bit too nicely at the end. I closed the book feeling unsatisfied, and there is little worse than that, particularly when it’s the conclusion of a series that started out so well.


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

Find me on:
GoodReads | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

#AWW2017 “How about we meet at midnight tomorrow and try this. I close my eyes, believe in you, and there you’ll be.” // Review of “The Cracks in the Kingdom” by Jaclyn Moriarty

Title: The Cracks in the Kingdom (Colours  of Madeleine #2)
Author: Jaclyn Moriarty
Genre: YA/urban fantasy
Date Read: 06/03/2017 – 11/03/2017
Rating: ★★★★

Review:

(If you haven’t read my review for the first book in this series, A Corner of White, you can do so here.)

My instinct when I finished this book was to give it five stars, but on reflection I decided it was more of a four. I’ve said in previous reviews that my star ratings are often based on  a vibe rather than any objective ratings system, and that’s the case with this one. I actually had to make myself stop reading the third one and write this review because I was so intent on staying with these characters, but knew I’d forget details if I didn’t stop now.

I won’t go into the plot too much because I don’t want to spoil anything for the previous book. The plot picks up where the first one left off, but rather than giving us more of the same, which is often what happens with middle books, this one builds on what came before.

It did seem that Jaclyn Moriarty clearly delighted in teasing me with numerous moments of Elliot and Madeleine nearly meeting through the crack between their worlds.  And those moments brought them even closer together, relationship-wise. Their relationship isn’t romantic, at least not really (it has the potential to go that way), but they’ve got such a deep bond, even though they sometimes disagree and argue and sometimes their friendship gets messy and difficult. I haven’t been this invested in two characters in a long time. I have so many feelings!

The other great thing with this book is that we got to see the other provinces of the Kingdom of Cello, via Elliot’s meetings with Princess Ko and the other members of the Royal Youth Alliance. Jagged Edge is full of interesting technology while Olde Quainte is… well, old and quaint. And hilarious. It’s a serious breach of ettitquette in this province to not have a simile in at least every third sentence you speak, though it doesn’t matter if the simile doesn’t make any sense. I also really enjoyed the descriptions of the Magical North, where magic interferes with technology, but where the Royal Family makes its home.

As with the first book, the action really ramped up in the last third. There were a few times where I was torn between stopping to make an “OMG!” status update on GoodReads and continuing to read. Continuing to read kept winning out and in the end, I only made one update for the entire book (which is unusual; normally I like to squee a lot when I’m enjoying a book, so that shows you how hooked I was).

I think I will leave this here before I get even more gushy and decide that actually yes, I should be rating this five stars (I think I figured out while writing this review that the main reason it’s only four is because Madeleine doesn’t really do a lot for herself, not anything that’s plot related anyway, and mostly just does what she’s told re: the Royal Family). And I’m going to go keep reading the next book in the series and spend more time with these characters.


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

Find me on:
GoodReads | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

“If the truth didn’t help anyone, and love didn’t last, what was there left to struggle toward?” // Review of “Untold” by Sarah Rees Brennan

Title: Untold (The Lynburn Legacy #2)
Author: Sarah Rees Brennan
Genre:
YA/urban fantasy
Date Read: 28/02/2017 – 06/03/2017
Rating: ★★★

Review: 

This was a strong sequel to Unspoken, with beautiful writing again and some strong character arcs, but the plot itself was a bit dull. I realised 200 pages in that I couldn’t really tell you what had been happening.

Factions are forming in Sorry-in-the-Vale, with sorcerors and townspeople giving their support to either Rob Lynburn or Lillian. Jared is still mad at Kami and she is trying to work out whether she likes Jared, Ash or both of them. And they have until the Winter Solstice when Rob Lynburn will return the town to its old ways and demand a blood sacrifice.

Credit where credit is due, this is the first time I have read a YA love triangle that actually worked. I think it is because Jared nor Ash are both actually well-developed characters and we get to see scenes from their points-of-view, which avoids that issue in so much YA where the two romantic interests just come across as entitled jerks. Jared and Kami’s relationship returned to the deep messiness that I enjoyed so much in the first book, and I really appreciated how Ash tried to understand that but really just couldn’t appreciate the connection Jared and Kami shared.

The side characters are all really well written. Angela’s coming out story, which was touched on briefly in the first book, was addressed, and continued to be handled with nuance. The awkwardness between her and Holly felt really honest. The conflict between Kami’s parents when her father found about her mother’s involvement in magic also read really well, and both the situation itself and Kami’s feelings about it were very realistic.

As I said above, it was the plot that moved so slowly that lost this one points. I got to page 228, where Kami was once again doing research into the Lynburn records to try to find information that might help them against Rob Lynburn, and realised that with the exception of the opening chapter, there had been little action up until that point. It had all been about who it was that Kami made out with in a dark corridor at the pub, and Ash feeling inadequate about all facets of his life, and Angela and Kami making sure nothing was awkward between them. So while it was all beautifully written and the characterisation was great, it still got a little dull after a while.


Find me on:
GoodReads | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

“I don’t know where to start. She’s critiquing your existence!” // Review of “A Corner of White” by Jaclyn Moriarty #aww2017

Title: A Corner of White (Colours  of Madeleine #1)
Author: Jaclyn Moriarty
Genre: YA/urban fantasy
Audio book narrator: Fiona Hardingham, Andrew Eiden, Kate Reinders, Peter McGowan
Date Read: 21/02/2017 – 03/03/2017
Rating: ★★★★

Review:

Well, if this book isn’t completely charming. Very character-driven, and as such, probably not for everyone, but I was emotionally invested enough by the end that seeing evidence of character growth made me smile tearfully.

A Corner of White is set paritally in Cambridge, England, home of Madeleine Tully, and partially in the province of The Farms in the Kingdom of Cello. In the past, people used to  travel between the two places via “cracks”, though these have since been closed. The World has forgotten about Cello, and the penalty for not reporting a crack in Cello is death. But when Madeleine Tully pulls a letter out of a parking metre in Cambridge and begins a correspondence with Elliot Buranski, they become each other’s confidant as they attempt to navigate teenage life and love, and try to understand why the people they love aren’t around any more.

Madeleine is a tricky character to understand. A lot of the time, the Madeleine that came across in her letters to Elliot felt quite separate from the Madeleine that we saw through the eyes of her friends. It was sometimes  a bit hard to reconcile the two. However, she started to make more sense as the story went on. Madeleine doesn’t believe in the Kingdom of Cello for most of the story, instead thinking that her mysetery correspondent is a lonely, geeky boy world-building a novel. She critiques him on his world-building and gives him suggestions for how to make the writing stronger. While this is frustrating for Elliot, it did make the writing very self-aware and entertaining.

Elliot is a bit easier to get a grasp on. His father went missing a year before the beginning of the story, and while everyone in the twon suspects he ran off with the local physics teacher (who disappeared at the same time), Elliot is convinced that there’s something more nefarious at work. He just has no idea how close he is to the truth.

The world-building for Cambridge is quite straightforward, with Madeleine’s quirky friends and acquaintances adding colour to the scenes. It’s in Cello where things are different. While they still drive trucks or take trains and have TV and that sort of thing, they are also vulnerable to Colour attacks: strange weather phenomena that can affect their minds or outright attack them. Colours are graded depending on their ferocity. These took a little while to figure out at first, but there is enough description for you to get the idea, and then it’s easy to imagine the effects of differnt Colours. There is also Butterfly Child, a small fairy-like creature that Elliot catches but does not know how to befriend.

The writing is beautiflu and  lyrical. As I said, the story is quite character-driven (though the plot picks up in the last third maybe? And has left a lot of room  for further adventures in the next book) but I really enjoyed watching the relationships between various characters develop as they learned more about themselves and each other. I feel like this is one of those books where the story and writing are enhanced by the audio narrators, all four of them do a fantastic job (Fiona Hardingham and Andrew Eiden do the bulk of it, with the other two taking on smaller character roles). I am disappointed that my library’s Overdrive does not have the next two books in the series, but I have already obtained print copies, so I’m not going to complain too much.

I’m reading back over what I’ve written here and feel like I haven’t quite done this book justice. I do recommend it, though!


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

Find me on:
GoodReads | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Book Review: “The Mesmerist” by Ronald J. Smith

Title: The Mesmerist
Author: Ronald J. Smith
Genre:
  Historical fantasy
Date Read: 08/02/2017 – 13/02/2017
Rating: ★★☆

Review:

This is a book that I may very well have loved as a 10 or 12-year-old, so I’m willing to accept that the low rating I ultimately gave it as a 27-year-old is a case of “It’s not you, it’s me”.  While the premise of this book sounded cute, it ended up falling flat for me.

Jessamine Grace and her mother make a living as sham spiritualists in Victorian England, until one day Jess discovers that she actually can talk to ghosts. Subsequently, she is thrust into a world of demons, ghouls, necromancers, fairies and angels, and sets out to avenge the deaths of those she loves.

My main issue was Jess herself. She was just so prissy and annoying. The book is in first person present tense, which is not easy to pull off, and I feel that the author did not manage it. There were also constant reminders to English-ness, or to being English – it seemed odd; I don’t think a regular English person would constantly be thinking “I’ll do that – after all, I am English.”

I also felt that there was a bit too much going on, so none of the world-building ever really got enough attention. As you can see from my summary, there are lots of different supernatural elements and they really all only get a bit of a turn to shine. On top of that, the book tries covering some socio-political issues of the time, as well as introducing a plague into the city.

Having said that, I did find that plot picked up in the last 25% or so. Before that, a lot of the action tended to be off-screen, whereas at this point, the main characters were really part of it and coming into their own.

As I said before, I do feel that a younger Emily would have enjoyed this more, so I recommend not writing the book off based on my review, particularly if you are interested in it for a younger reader. It just wasn’t for me.


(Thank you to the publishers and NetGalley for providing me wi  th a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review)

Find me on:
GoodReads | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

#BeatTheBacklist “You’re not one of them. You never were. You’re not theirs. You’re mine.” // Review of “Unspoken” by Sarah Rees Brennan

Title: Unspoken (The Lynburn Legacy #1)
Author: Sarah Rees Brennan
Genre:
YA/urban fantasy
Date Read: 24/01/2017 – 30/01/2017
Rating: ★★★☆

Review: 

For about the first 100 pages of this book, I thought it was going to be my first 5* read of the year. While that didn’t work out, this was still quite an enjoyable read.

Kami Glass has had a voice inside her head all her life. When the mysterious Lynburn family returns to her village of Sorry-in-the-Vale, she discovers that the voice is not someone who doesn’t exist, but in fact belongs to Jared Lynburn, the black sheep of the Lynburn family. Not only that, but animals and people are being killed in the woods, and the Lynburns are the most likely suspects.

When this book started, I really loved the direction it was taking. I loved that Kami and Jared had to cope with the realisation that the voices in their heads actually belonged to a separate individual, that it wasn’t just something in their head making them crazy, and that there was actually another person who knew all their secrets and could possibly spill them all. Their relationship was deep and complicated and messy and it made me squee a lot. But then it started to get a bit weird later on. Jared started acting controlling, and didn’t like the fact that Kami had friends other than him. I can’t remember whether he literally said at one point that he wanted Kami to himself, or whether he just thought it, but either way, he was drifting into toxic territory.

Apart from that, the rest of the characters are all fantastically written. They were kind of like TV teenagers – you know, you look at them and you know that the people playing them are all at least 25, and they speak like they’re at least that age, but you handwave it anyway becauses snappy dialogue between teenagers is good fun. Yeah, they’re those sorts of teenagers. But the dialogue really was quite brilliant most of the time. There’s also some LGBT representation and it was handled really well, I thought. I hope there’ll be further exploration of that in the next book.

(^^ I really hope that made sense, and wasn’t just an unintelligible ramble).

I had hoped that the mysteries surrounding the Lynburns had taken a bit more time to be sorted out. It was the sort of thing that could have been explored throughout the entire series, so I’m not 100% where the subsequent books are going to go now that a significant portion of that is all out in the open.

One thing that did bother me about the writing was the occasional Americanisms that popped up. Some of the characters had been raised in America, so if it had been them referring to asses rather than arses and cell phones rather than mobile phones, I wouldn’t have been bothered, but it was in fact the English characters. This could have been very easily fixed and I’m not sure how it slipped into the final text.

I did have plans of racing straight onto the second book, which I already have from the library, but I have read a few reviews that say it focuses quite heavily on the romance, so I’m going to wait a little while. Still, this was a great series opener that I do recommend!


Find me on:
GoodReads | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram