“How does the world end? It ends in fire.” // Review of “Burn” by Patrick Ness

Title: Burn
Author:
 Patrick Ness
Genre: Fantasy
Target audience: YA
Date Read: 30/05/20 – 03/06/20
Rating: 
★★★★

Review:

the cover of the Patrick Ness novel Burn. It has a black background and the shape of a dragon emerges from flames at the bottom.

It’s not going to be easy to review this book in a way that does it justice. I do feel that it’s a story that only Patrick Ness could write. It has so many different components and could have been a huge mess but somehow he pulls it off.

I’m not going to go into the plot too much. Suffice to say this book is about a girl called Sarah, whose father has hired a dragon to work their farm in late 1957. The Cold War is going on, Sputnik is about to be launched, and an assassin is headed to their small town…

This isn’t some fast-paced action adventure like the Chaos Walking trilogy. If you want to compare to Ness’ other books, I think it’s much closer to A Monster Call. There’s lots of introspection and it’s very philosophical and it builds slowly to a climax rather than racing there.

It’s beautifully written because of course it is, it’s by Patrick Ness. I didn’t really feel any connection to the characters but I was drawn into this world and I didn’t mind that too much because the prose was engaging.

If you like dragons in your fantasy, I would definitely recommend this one. It won’t be to everyone’s liking, but it’s definitely worth giving a chance.

#AWW2020 #LoveOzYA Book Review: “Oasis” by Katya de Becerra

Title: Oasis
Author:
Katya de Becerra
Genre: Fantasy/Sci-fi
Target audience: YA
Date Read: 18/05/20 – 22/05/20
Rating: 
★★☆

Review: 

Okay, so this was… weird. I honestly am not sure whether it’s a 2.5 or maybe a 3 star rating but this is definitely a case of not living up to the hype. I was expecting to give this 5 stars when I read it. You know those times when you think “Did I read the same book my friends did? I don’t get it.” Yeeaaaah.

The writing was engaging, I will give it that. There are some great descriptions, though I think the author did better when describing abstract things like the heat or the weird dreams Alif, the MC, has, than when describing more physical things like the sand dunes.

I never believed in the characters, which I think was my main issue. I’m supposed to believe this group have been friends for years, when all they seem to do is quibble. There are multiple times when Alif has the realisation that despite Luke having been part of their group for a long time, she “never really knew him”. Like, surely you have to be really good friends with someone to go on an overseas trip with them. And if you’re that close, and you’re not interested in archaeology, surely you can tell your friend that visiting her dad’s dig site isn’t really for you. You know, rather than getting there and being a jerk about it.

Also Luke and Tommy facing off and getting all macho at each over over Alif… ugh.

The world-building was limited and there was minimal explanation of anything… and then there was the open-ended conclusion that just left me feeling unsatisfied. I genuinely don’t actually understand what happened, and what it meant for the events of the previous 100 pages. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy an open ending, but this was just… a nothing ending.

I’m really disappointed because I’d been really looking forward to it, and I knew a few people who’d really enjoyed it. I guess it was just not to be.


This review forms part of my 2020 Australian Women Writers Challenge. Click here for more information.

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Cover Reveal! Blackbirch: The Beginning by K. M. Allan

Hello everyone! I’m really proud to be helping out with this cover reveal today.

The #6amAusWriters group over on Twitter are very special to me and K. M. Allan is one of our members. I’m so excited that you’ll all get to read Blackbirch: The Beginning, when it comes out on February 17.

I’ve been hearing great things about it from the ARC readers who are ahead of me with reading it, and I’ve dived into the first chapter myself today.

And of course, it doesn’t hurt when a book has a cover as gorgeous as this one:


Argh, it’ so shiny! Can’t wait until I have a copy on my shelf!

Here’s the blurb:

Welcome to Blackbirch. It’s a place no one forgets. Except for Josh Taylor.

The fatal car crash took more than 17-year-old Josh’s parents. It stole his memories and returned him to his birthplace, Blackbirch, a tourist town steeped in a history of witchcraft.

Amongst friends he’s forgotten and a life he doesn’t want, Josh is haunted by nightmares so believable he swears the girl in his dreams is real. Kallie is so captivating he ignores her blood-stained hands, but he can’t overlook the blue glow summoned to her skin.

Kallie says it’s an ancient magic they share and a secret worth hiding, because as Josh discovers, they aren’t the only gifted ones.

To restore his memories and find the true cause of the car accident, he must learn what’s real. And what secrets Blackbirch has buried in its woods.

IF that sounds like your cup of tea, you can add it to Goodreads here. Pre-order links will be available soon.

Watch out for my review in the next week or two!

“The ability to feel is a strength, not a weakness.” // Review of “An Enchantment of Ravens” by Margaret Rogerson

Title: An Enchantment of Ravens
Author: Margaret Rogerson
Genre: Fantasy
Intended audience: YA
Date Read: 04/03/19 – 06/03/19
Rating: ★★★

Review:

This is one of those books that was totally enjoyable to read but was totally unmemorable  after I finished it. It was fun but ultimately a bit flimsy.

Isobel is an expert portrait artist who is popular with the fair folk due to her extraordinary talent. But when she paints human sorrow into the eyes of the Autumn Prince, he whisks her away to the fairy court to  stand trial for humiliating him.

That is essentially the story that is on the back cover of the  book, but it’s not exactly the direction the story takes. For one thing, the Autumn Prince, Rook, and Isobel, never actually get as far as a trial. I think the fact that it never quite goes in the direction it promised kind of threw me and left me feeling a little bit unsatifised.

I could also never quite pin Isobel down… was she a Mary Sue? She was certainly ridiculously talented. Surely there were more older, experienced painters than this seventeen-year-old, even if she has been painting “ever since she could hold a brush”.  Or was she one of those clever, capable female characters who turns to mush over a handsome man the second they meet? Actually, she certainly was the latter, even if she wasn’t the former.

And yet, at times, there was something about Rook that I really enjoyed. I think it might have been that he subverted a lot of my expectations. In so many books about the other folk, the Fey love interest is cruel and cold and the romance is a pile of problematic trash. Rook was actually vulnerable and awkward at times, and I enjoyed the way his privilege was often addressed. So I guess while he wasn’t the greastest love interest ever, he was better than I was expecting from this type of story, so it gets points for that.

I really enjoyed  the world-building of the fairy realm and I enjoyed the exploration of a life of immortality devoid of feeling. However,  I thought that Isobel’s world of Whimsy was a bit flimsy. I wasn’t quite sure whether it was part of our world, somewhere in between our world and the fairy one, or what was going on. There were references to something called The World Beyond but I wasn’t quite sure if this was our world, an afterlife or something else all together.

Still, despite all of that (and a bit of a deux-ex-machina-y ending that was supposedly being masterminded by another character all along), the writing was quite lyrical and lovely and that was what kept me reading.  Overall, I enjoyed the book, even though it will not go down as a favourite.


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“Every story has four parts – the beginning, the middle, the almost ending, and the true ending.” // Review of “Legendary” by Stephanie Garber

Title: Legendary (Caraval #2)
Author: Stephanie Garber
Genre: 
Fantasy
Target audience: YA
Date Read: 22/10/18 – 2910/18
Rating: 
★★

Review: 

I honestly thought this would be a 4 star read at least, and for the most part it was. It was really only the last few chapters that disappointed me but they left me feeling unsatisfied enough that it brought me overall rating down.

This book picks up pretty much exactly where Caraval leaves off, and follows Tella, who is drawn into a second round of Caraval in order to uphold her end of a deal to find her missing mother. 

I really enjoyed the expansion of this world. We got to see the capital of the country the story takes place in, and I could really picture it. There was also an expansion of the mythology and history, and I really loved how this was woven into the plot, and some of the characters we got to meet as a result. 

Like in the first book, I actually found the game itself a bit dull. The suggestion is that Caraval is usually much more general and it is only the two games described in the book that are tailored to individuals (Scarlett and Tella respectively). Still, it feels a bit of a stretch that so many people would play when there can really only be one winner, since the clues won’t make sense to anyone else. 

I don’t want to give anything away so I’m going to be rather vague about what happened in the end that left me disappointed. It was mostly the revelation of Legend’s identity. It just… didn’t seem epic enough after all the build-up. Some readers will probably find the whole scenario quite romantic, but I just rolled my eyes. 

The very ending was still compelling enough that I want to see the series through, but I can’t say that it is an all-time favourite. 

“I love you, Tella.” “I know. I wouldn’t be here if you didn’t.” // Review of “Caraval” by Stephanie Garber

Title: Caraval (Caraval #1)
Author: Stephanie Garber
Genre: Fantasy
Target audience: Young adult
Date Read: 17/09/18 – 21/09/18
Rating: 
★★

Review:

I decided to pick up this book because I was in a circus mood for quite a while and this seemed an obvious choice. It wasn’t terrible, and I liked a lot of the ideas, but I ultimately felt everything was just a bit underdeveloped.

I’m going to start with the romance because that was probably the thing that stood out the most to me and not in a great way. Mostly because it only took place over five days, and I’m sorry, it’s not true love after a week. I’m not saying you can’t be attracted to someone in that time, but from Julien’s perspective, particularly, it wasn’t enugh time for such strong feelings to develop. And from Scarlett’s perspective, I didn’t buy that he was as important to her as her beloved sister after only a few nights.

Speaking of the characters in more general terms, I didn’t feel like they had a whole lot of personality. I will say I did like Scarlett’s development from doormat to… well, I won’t say she became badass, but she definitely became less doormat-y and grew into her own.

The plot and world-building had similar issues. I just wished everything was a bit… more. A bit more magic, a bit more exploration of the island, a bit more explanation of who Legend was and how and why Caraval was the way it was… There was a line in the last third that said something along the lines of “Scarlett had been collecting buttons since she’d been here” and my first response was “… had she?” Because nothing was memorable.

I also had some issues with the reveals in the final chapter. I know we were supposed to think the character orchestrating everything was terribly clever, but… it seemed far-fetched, and honestly made this character seem like a bit of a psycopath to put Scarlett through it all?

Having said all of that! I actually am still intrigued enough by this world that I am interested in reading the sequel. So make of that what you will.


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#WWW Wednesday – May 02, 2018

 

It’s time for WWW Wednesday! This blog hop is hosted by Sam over at A World Of Words. Link up with us by commenting on Sam’s post for this week, and just answer the three questions.

wwwwednesday

What have you recently finished reading? 

I finished Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie in two days and really loved it… I was a little weirded out by the very last page or two and what goes down then… but I won’t say too much here  because I don’t want to spoil things.

Galax-Arena by Gillian Rubinstein. This was… quite strange. One of those books that seemed to have some interesting ideas but didn’t do enough with them. Also it was really obvious it was written in  the early 90s.

I didn’t review at all in April but I have some reviews scheduled to  go up in the coming days, and I should be back to my usual schedule of Monday and Friday review posts.

What are you currently reading? 

I am listening to the audio bookk Earthly Delights by Kerry Greenwood. This is a cozy mystery set in Melbourne and the main character owns a bakery… I like it enough so far, though the baker is a bit judgey and like Galax-Arena, I can kind of sense this book’s age from some of the language used.

My reading at home book is Lessons in Letting Go: Confessions of a Hoarder by Corinne Grant. Corinne is a well-known Australian comedian and while I haven’t read much of this yet, I already really like her writing style. It’s interesting hearing about a more vulnerable side to her, too.

And my reading at work book is Hero at the Fall by Alwyn Hamilton, which is the final book in the Rebel of the Sands trilogy. I only started it today, and I’m only up to about page 10. I appreciated the cast of characters list at the beginning, since it’s been over a year since I read the last book. That really helped to jog my memory.

What do you think you will read next?

Despite avoiding it for ages because I’m about 90% sure it’s not going to be my thing, I picked up Nevernight by Jay Kristoff when I saw it on display at the library the other day. So I might try that. Or I might pick up either Greythorne or The Iron Line by L. M. Merrington. I went along to her book talk the other day and bought both and they are both currently sitting on a table near my TV tempting me.

What are you reading this week?~ Emily

“I call it a dream, but it feels realer than my life.” // Review of “Magonia” by Maria Dahvana Headley

Title: Magonia
Author:  Maria Dahvana Headley
Audio book narrator: Thérèse Plummer, Michael Crouch
Genre:
  YA/sci-fi/fantasy
Dates read: 06/02/18 – 14/02/18
Rating: ★★★

Review:

This was one of those books where I got to the end and thought, “Well, that was… fine.” I don’t think I’ve read another YA book like it, but at the same time, I’m not entirely sure it struck the right balance between sci-fi and fantasy that it was trying for. On top of that, there were some aspects to the characters and plot that I just didn’t like, which meant that the originality got weighed down for me.

I found the world-building in Magonia fascinating, even though I didn’t necessarily like all of it. The idea of ships and cities in the sky? Yes, please! And half-bird people indentured to the Magonians and secretly plotting revolution? Yes, please! Especially if those people are described in such beautiful, vivid colours. Birds that live in the lung or heart of the person they’re bonded to and sing from within…? Um. Not quite sold on that part.

Honestly, I think this would make a very good movie. So much of the description is visual or auditory. Even a graphic novel would probably work if done with the rights colours and visuals.

As you can see, most of the world-building here is fantasy based. But then there was also the sci-fi aspect, particularly from the POV of Jason, Aza’s love interest. He is convinced she is not dead, and is tracking weather patterns and designing apps to track where the Magonians appear to be travelling. The climax also has more of a sci-fi bent than fantasy. It all felt like a bit of a weird clash.

Speaking of Jason, neither he nor Aza has any other friends, and the fact a co-dependent friendship developed into a romance was a bit troubling for me. I really don’t know how Jason got away with so much without getting into trouble in a number of different countries.

One thing that annoys me in books is when the main character is kept in the dark for no good reason. The side  characters are constantly dancing around main character, Aza, for no other reason that I could see than to pad out the plot a bit further. To be honest, not a lot happens; it’s interested at the start, then becomes a long training montage for a while, then the climax happens.

This book also reminded me why sometimes audio books aren’t the best way of experiencing a book. For example, Jason displays OCD tendencies, one of which is to start reciting Pi when he is anxious. And he knows Pi to a hell of a lot of decimal places. If I had been reading the print book, I could have just skimmed over the dozens and dozens of numbers. As it was, I was just listening to a string of numbers for literally a few minutes in one case. This is neither the fault of the book nor the audio version, but an observation on how the experience can be affected.

Overall, this book gets marks for originality and for adapting a mythology that has not really been explored in YA fiction before (or any fiction, I think). It’s just a shame that I didn’t quite warm to the characters and took issue with a few parts of the plot.


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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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