After a slow start, this book did grow on me a little, but I was still left feeReview originally posted on A Keyboard and an Open Mind 24 April 2017:
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)...more
This book was well-written and genuinely funny. I want to put that out there. BuReview originally posted on A Keyboard and an Open Mind 17 April 2017:
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....more
I want to start by just saying how much fun I had with this book! It evoked theReview originally posted on A Keybaord and an Open Mind 14 April 2017:
I want to start by just saying how much fun I had with this book! It evoked the Australian bush landscape in such a way that made me feel nostalgic for home, even though I have no intention of ever moving back to my tiny rural home town. The characters were all vibrant and both the love story and the adventure story held my interested the whole way through.
After the death of his father, Jim Craig is told he must earn his right to continue living in the mountains by working down in the town. He gets a job for a rich cattle owner, Harrison, and meets his daughter, Jessica, with whom he forms a bond. When Harrison’s £1000 colt escapes and Jim is blamed for it, he knows that finding the colt is the last chance he will get to prove himself a man.
As I said, every character in this book has their own individual personality; no two of them sounded the same. I sympathised with Jim and his fish-out-of-water situation while he longed for the mountain home where he grew up. I cheered Jessica on when she stood up to her father and I hated the way Harrison thought he had the right to dominate everyone else.
Life on the farm was also well-described, as was the mountain life and horse-riding. There was a mystery regarding Harrison’s past that wasn’t too hard to guess, but it did provide some good backstory. One of the few things that niggled me was the way at the end, Jim and Harrison both spoke of Jessica as something they could lay claim to. While Jim did say “Jessica can make her own decision on that”, it still bothered me a little.
While Banjo Patterson’s original poem, The Man From Snowy River, focuses solely on the escape of the colt and the mad ride to catch it again, this only accounted for about the last quarter or so of the novel. However, it was interesting revisiting the poem after reading this and realising just how many references from it were peppered throughout the book.
(This review is part of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2017. Click here for more information)....more
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.
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)....more
My instinct when I finished this book was to give it five stars, but on reflectReview originally posted on A Keyboard and an Open Mind 13 March, 2017:
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 my 2017 Australian Woman Writers Challenge. For more information, click here)...more
This book had a very strong start, but unfortunately I found myself getting borReview originally posted on A Keyboard and an Open Mind 03 March, 2017:
This book had a very strong start, but unfortunately I found myself getting bored in the last third. I’m not entirely sure that it would hold the attention of a reader of the target age-group. Then again, maybe the hopping between so many different fantasy elements would appeal to that younger reader.
When their mother is kidnapped by a witch and turned into a bird, Nell Perkins and her brothers must travel to the Dreamlands in order to to not only rescue their mother, but also to prevent an everlasting war from breaking out between Dreams and Nightmares.
This book started off really strong. There were some interesting ideas going on, between Nell’s ability to see people’s “inner animals”, to the young women in the town going missing. At this point, the characters seemed quite vibrant and interesting.
It was once they arrived in the Dreamlands that things started to feel a bit more haphazard. There didn’t really seem to be much of an arc to the story; a lot of it seemed to be the characters getting themselves out of one situation, then making their way into another one completely separate. To Peter Begler’s credit, he did manage to fairly accurately create a dreamscape where nothing truly makes sense and anything can happen, but there were so many ideas crammed into this one book that it started to feel like a bit of a mess after a while.
The main characters were well-written, though they did all come across as a bit older than they were supposed to be. Their guides, Badger and Pinch, were interesting, though we never really got much of a sense of them. Pinch was a former princess who had given up her throne, but that was all we knew of her backstory. Badger had made mistakes in his past which leant him Nightmarish tendencies, but this was never gone into.
For the most part, there was nothing wrong with the writing style, apart from the fact that the dialogue tags often didn’t seem to match what the characters were saying. One example that comes to mind is “‘Glad you’re all right, kid,’ Badger snarled.” Why would he snarl that? It seemed very odd, and there were many similar cases. It’s a tiny thing, but it kept cropping up and pulled me out of the story.
This has the makings of a really good fantasy novel, and it’s possible the target audience will enjoy it more than I did. It didn’t quite do it for me, though.
(Thank you to the publishers and Netgalley for providing me with a free copy in exchange for a review)...more
This is a book that I may very well have loved as a 10 or 12-year-old, so I’Review originally posted on A Keyboard and an Open Mind February 17, 2017:
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)...more
You’re going to have to forgive me if I gush a lot about this book. It was jReview originally posted on A Keyboard and an Open Mind February 13, 2017:
You’re going to have to forgive me if I gush a lot about this book. It was just so very clever. It’s quite a dark satire, which was right up my alley, and it touched on so many issues that affect teenager girls, while never straying from the larger plot.
In a slightly alternate America where nearly everything, including the Presidency, is a product of The CorporationTM, a plane carrying the 50 State Finalists of the Miss Teen Dream pageant crashes on a tropical island, killing all but 12 of the Beauty Queens and all of their attendants. Now the girls have to survive not only what the jungle throws at them, but also a secret plot to use their deaths to start a war.
The thing about this book is that in the hands of many another author, it would have turned into one of those books where the girls all turn on each other in complete bitchiness. There is a little bit of bitchiness, but the girls rise above it, knowing that they need to survive. These girls are capable! And they learn huge amounts about themselves and each other while they do it all, including that sex is not a dirty word and that they can be more than just pretty. They all have their own reasons for joining the pageant, and these come out as the book goes on. The girls all have individual personalities, and I was really impressed with the way Bray handled a large ensemble cast without any of the characters falling into two-dimensions. That’s not to say they’re not stereotypical. They are, because the book addressing those stereotypes, but I came to sympathise with these girls anyway as I learnedtheir stories and watch them evolve.
The book also covers so many issues that teen girls have to face, including body image/positivity, , female sexuality, transexuality, racism, rape culture, the way women are expected to apologise for existing and a whole host of others that I am forgetting right now.
I admit that it did disappoint me a bit when a group of ridiculously attractive boys showed up to help save the day. For a book that was so much about female empowerment, having that did lessen the effect a bit. It’s not that boys aren’t allowed or anything, and their presence did serve as a vehicle to address some of the sexuality issues that the book was interested in, but it would have been nice for a book like this to have the girls save the day on their own.
I am often a bit wary when I see that an author is narrating their own book (a writer is not necessarily a performer) but Libba Bray’s narration is brilliant and I can’t recommend it enough. True, I did download the ebook in order to finish a bit quicker, but if you can find the time to listen to it, do!
Disclaimer: this book’s brand of humour will not be for everyone. I’m a very sarcastic, deadpan person, so the fact that so much of the satire was delivered in that form really appealed to me. Judging by other reviews, some people have found it completely over the top and unrealistic. And it is, to a point. The footnotes, “commerical breaks” and “words from your sponsor” (the Corporation) also make the format a unique one that won’t appeal to all readers. But I hope you won’t let all that put you off giving this book a chance....more
I normally love Jonathan Stroud’s books, but I have to admit, this is defReview originally posted on A Keyboard and an Open Mind 27 January, 2017:
I normally love Jonathan Stroud’s books, but I have to admit, this is definitely the weakest of the Lockwood & Co. books. Having said that, it’s the seventh book I’ve read by this author and the first one that’s disappointed me, so I guess that’s not too bad a run.
This book had its moments, but overall it wasn’t as spooky as previous installments, nor did the tension seem as high. While Lockwood and Co. have their usual high-profile run-ins with ghosts and uncover some huge ghost-related conspiracies with huge implications for the United Kingdom, I found myself just not really caring.
There were of course some good aspects. The banter between Lockwood & Co. was as good as always, and I appreciated that Lucy had got over her petty jealousies of Holly. The team really gelled in this book and after the arguments and stupid tensions in the previous book, that was really welcome. There were also some Lockwood/Lucy moments that were sweet without being saccharine. But while these types of moments redeemed the parts I disliked in the last book, they didn’t really lift my overall care factor for this one.
My final issue with this book, and one which I think probably compounded all the others, was that it was too long. It was 528 pages, and I think could have been cut down quite a bit. I did figure out one of the major plot points quite early on, so the characters’ detective work to discover it was no shock to me. As there is only one more book in this series, I will certainly see it through, but it was always disappointing when a favourite author doesn’t quite live up to expectations....more
This was so much darker than I remembered. I think I'm going to enjoy revisiting this series as an adult. (Though whether I last all thirteen books reThis was so much darker than I remembered. I think I'm going to enjoy revisiting this series as an adult. (Though whether I last all thirteen books remains to be seen)...more
Not sure why I'm surprised that an origin story for the Queen of Hearts ended on a dark note, but I feel like I was just punched in the gut nonethelesNot sure why I'm surprised that an origin story for the Queen of Hearts ended on a dark note, but I feel like I was just punched in the gut nonetheless. Full review to come. ...more
Review originally posted on A Keyboard and an Open Mind 09 December 2016: After following the progress of Eléonore on Faith’s blog, I was really exciteReview originally posted on A Keyboard and an Open Mind 09 December 2016: After following the progress of Eléonore on Faith’s blog, I was really excited to finally give it a read. I’m pleased to say that this is a really strong debut with great characters and lots of action.
Eléonore is a librarian by day, demon hunter by night. When a sorceror places a bounty on her head and threatens her son’s life, Eléonore travels to confront him, and has to face some demons of her past along the way.
Firstly, I don’t normally comment on covers in my review, but I just have to say, dayum, that cover. I really love it. That is all.
I’ve realised recently books that are soley about hunting demons don’t interest me that much. However, Eléonore worked for me because the demons weren’t the only magical beings. The sorcerors really helped, as it gave the book a bit more depth that “Arr, demon! Kill it!” which I’ve run into in some urban fantasies I’ve tried reading recently.
Eléonore is a strong but flawed character. She’s a single mum, and as such, fiercely protective of her son, and determined to keep him separate from the world she inhabits at night. She makes bad decisions, but she figures out how to deal with that. She tries to do it all without help, but she is capable of (eventually) accepting it when it is needed.
The side characters are also well-drawn. I particularly liked Raphael, Eléonore’s love interest, as well as Rosalie, Eléonore’s best friend and confidante. Etienne, Eléonore’s son, was a bit precocious for a six-year-old, but then Eléonore also referred to that being the case. I also really liked the Big Bad, whose name I won’t mention because spoilers, but I thought the story really got going when he showed up. I loved his dialogue; it was great.
The world-building was simple, but I mean that in a good way. The excerpts from Eléonore’s father’s journals at the top of each chapter gave us the information we needed, and that combined with Eléonore’s commentary gave us plenty to go on, and the imagination is able to do the rest. The plot and pacing were never sacrificed for the sake of description. I also really enjoyed the fact that it was set in Quebec, and that there was lots of French peppered throughout the dialogue.
I am still a little fuzzy on why this sorceror wanted Eléonore so badly. I’m not sure if that might be something that will get expanded on in follow-up stories, whether I missed something or if it wasn’t really addressed. That’s really my only quibble, though.
(Thank you to Faith Rivens for providing me with an ARC of Eléonore in exchange for an honest review)...more
This was an interesting book and I admire it for what it’s trying to do andReview originally posted on A Keyboard and an Open Mind 02 December, 2016:
This was an interesting book and I admire it for what it’s trying to do and the messages it is trying to convey, but I felt it got a little too bogged down in that and forgot to tell and interesting story at the same time.
Sam Zabel is an aspiring cartoonist, carving out a living writing bad superhero scripts that he hates, all the while trying to find the inspiration to write something truly incredible. Then one day, he comes across an issue of an old New Zealand comic from the 50s, and when he sneezes, finds himself transported to the world inside its pages. What follows are a whole lot of questions Sam is not sure he knows the answer to.
The themes of this book are ones worth considering. It touches on the objectification of women in comics, and how far can we allow the “it’s just fantasy” argument to go before fantasies that are presented in and absorbed through comics and other mass popular culture media become problematic. These are important things to consider, and I appreicated Horrocks bringing them up.
Unfortunately, I found the storytelling a bit bland. Particularly at the start, there’s a lot of telling rather than showing. You’d expect a graphic novel to manage that better than a novel written in prose! The characters were all fairly two-dimensional character archetypes, and I didn’t feel that they each had their own unique voice. While obiously the artwork made them easy to tell apart, if I had been reading this in prose, it would have been one of those cases where I could barely distinguish them.
While this was a good idea, there was too much emphasis on the ~point, and not enough on storytelling to hold my interest for too long. I would recommend this if you are interested in the themes, but not so much if you’re just interested in reading some more graphic novels....more
This was a really enjoyable thriller, and I enjoyed sinking my teeth intoReview originally published on A Keyboard and an Open Mind November 28, 2016:
This was a really enjoyable thriller, and I enjoyed sinking my teeth into something dark again.
Detective January David is called to a murder scene, the fourth by a serial killer terrorising London, and finds that he recognises the victim, and that she is actually still alive… As the novel progresses, we hear from not only January, his wife, the murderer and the other murder victims as January races to try to prevent the murder of a Girl 5.
This book has a really interesting format. While it is written in first person present tense, it is like the characters are watching a movie of the events and giving commentary. Though they’re narrating as things happen, they also have knowledge of events that yet to come. “Little do I know that the killer is standing right behind me…”, that sort of thing. The other murder victims are often narrating from beyond the grave, which seemed a bit weird at first, but eventually I settled into the format and it didn’t seem so strange.
None of the characters were particularly likeable, but I still wanted to know exactly what was going on, and how the case would unfold. The story starts in the middle, with the discovery of Girl 4, then goes back to the beginning when Girl 1 was murdered, then comes back and through to several more murder victims. I did find the twist at the end a little bit unbelievable, though there had been some clues to it previously, so it wasn’t completely out of the blue.
There is a small speculative fiction element to the novel in the form of January’s prophetic dreams that warn him that another murder victim will be found within 24 hours. At first it felt a bit out of place in an otherwise straight thriller/detective novel, but it actually worked quite well, and I think this plays more of a part in the later books in the series as well.
Overall, while it took a little while to really settle into this book, I found it quite entertaining in the end and look forward to continuing the series....more
I thought this was interesting, though to be honest, I was probably missing out a bit by listening to the audio book and missing out on the illustratiI thought this was interesting, though to be honest, I was probably missing out a bit by listening to the audio book and missing out on the illustrations, no to mention there were also a couple of times when I zoned out a bit while I was doing other things. Fairly clever, though. ...more
Review originally posted on A Keyboard and an Open Mind 08 November, 2016: After two DNFs in a row, it was wonderful to finally stumble across a bookReview originally posted on A Keyboard and an Open Mind 08 November, 2016: After two DNFs in a row, it was wonderful to finally stumble across a book I really enjoyed!
Alicia has suffered hallucinations of dying worlds for years, despite therapy provided by a wealthy uncle and a myriad of medications. But on her 15th birthday, her estranged father shows up to tell her that they are not hallucinations at all, but glimpses into other worlds – branches off the real world that she and other people like her create whenever they make a choice. He tells Alicia that she needs to save a precious artifact that is hidden in one of the other worlds, in order to give those in the dying worlds a chance and save them from those who would try to take advantage.
Alicia felt like one of the most realistic YA protagonists I’ve come across in a long time. She’s not a special snowflake, nor does the author try to make her interesting by making her “quirky”. The book is in first person but I never felt like this was a teenager being written by an adult. The language flowed really naturally. The side characters were also well-constructed, and it was interesting seeing different versions of them in the different worlds Alicia visits.
The world-building was sometimes a bit tricky to get my head around. Multiverse stories can be tricky, and while it was a bit confusing at times, I think ultimately, Coyle handled this one rather well. The descriptions of the different worlds are very good, and I liked little touches like how different Alicia looks in each world, depending on the circumstances of how she has grown up.
As I’ve already mentioned, Coyle’s writing is very skillful. I knew from the first page, when we were plunged right into the middle of one of Alicia’s hallucinations that this was going to be a book I enjoyed. This is Coyle’s debut novel and I think this is an author we should definitely be keeping an eye on!
(With thanks to the publishers and NetGalley for a free review copy) ...more
Melissa Keil would honestly have to try pretty hard to disappoint me. I may noReview originally posted on A Keyboard and an Open Mind April 21, 2017:
Melissa Keil would honestly have to try pretty hard to disappoint me. I may not read much contemporary YA, but I will pick up anything she writes. This is her most recent book, released at the beginning of April, and it does not disappoint.
Sophia is a certifiable genius, but she can’t always read other people correctly and the mysteries of what the future may hold are giving her panic attacks. Joshua is obsessed with magic, and has harboured a crush on Sophia since Year 7. But how do you romance a genius when you’re barely scraping by?
Melissa Keil writes authentically geeky characters that I’ve always felt were “my people”. I think, though, that this was the book where I felt this the strongest. On top of that was the racial diversity that was never presented as a “thing”: Sophia is from a Sri Lankan family and her best friend is Indian-Australian. Sophia also suffers from anxiety, and while it is never stated explicitly, it’s fairly clear she is somewhere on the autism spectrum.
The romance was a cute slow-burn, exactly how I liked it. I got invested in these characters and their relationships, as well as in their other issues. While both POVs were in first person, it was never confusing. The side characters were also well-constructed; no one felt two dimensional. I read my reviews of Melissa Keil’s other two books when I started writing this one, and I mentioned in one that it did feel a little bit like she had reused some ideas from her first book in her second. That was never a concern with this book.
(This review is part of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2017. Click here for more information.)...more
This was a highly enjoyable book. I’m glad I read it on holidays, as it wouldReview originally posted on A Keyboard and an Open Mind 10 October 2016:
This was a highly enjoyable book. I’m glad I read it on holidays, as it would have taken me forever otherwise. I did have a few little quibbles with it, but I can certainly see why so many people love it.
The Name of the Wind tells the story of Kvothe, a wizard-come-innkeeper who agrees to tell his story to a scribe over the course of three days. In this first volume, we follow the young Kvothe as he experiences life on the streets after the death of his parents, before gaining entry into the University to learn theNow, skills of an arcanist. There he develops a rivalry with the son of a noble and only just manages to keep his head above water and keep his tuition fees paid. Meanwhile, he slowly edges closer to the reason behind the death of his parents and their travelling troupe.
Now, I should probably ge this out of the way first. I did like Kvothe. I really did. I even enjoyed the first person narrative, and I usually have no time for first person. But he is a bit of special snowflake. He’s super-gifted, and a super-amazing-musician, and a super-quick-study, and super-good-in-a-bad-situation. He’s a bit awkward when it comes to women, but his love interest likes that, so that’s okay. I was aware of all of this, and sometimes when something bad happened and Kvothe cleverly found a way to fix it, I did roll my eyes a bit, but somehow I liked him, and the story, nonetheless.
None of the other characters are especially well-rounded, though they do all have their own persoonalities and are interesting enough. Denna, Kvothe’s love interest, is flighty and to be honest, at times I wasn’t entirley sure what Kvothe saw in her, but she was all right, I suppose. Apart from Denna, there are very few female characters, which was a shame considering there were plenty of characters where gender wouldn’t have mattered at all and we could have had a bit more representation.
The world-building was involved, but very accessible. Often the thing that puts me off reading high fantasy is the world-building because to be honest, I have a pretty short attention span for it. But Rothfuss managed to weave it through the story without dwelling on anything too much. As far as I can remember, there weren’t any moments where the pace slowed to a crawl while we got a unnecessarily detailed description of a forest or anything like that. The prose reads very easily, and so I flew through the pages.
I really enjoyed the themes the book brought up, too. While Kvothe is a special snowflake, as I mentioned above, the stories about him make even more of his super-duper talents. By cultivating certain rumours about himself, he creates a reputation that’s exaggerated, but based somewhat on the truth. I like the exploration of how stories about a person can come about. This was all part of a larger theme of words and Names and their inherent power. True Names is a fantasy trope I’m fond of, so I enjoyed that.
Having said all that, I think even if the series were complete, I wouldn’t be diving straight into the next book. I have to give this one a bit of time to digest properly. I read another review that described finishing the book and feeling “full”and that is the feeling I get of this. And then there’s also the issue of there being no release date for the third book. I’m going to follow the example of a few other bloggers who have read this recently and hold off on the second one until the third one is actually in sight. Still, if you are all right with starting an incomplete series with no end in sight, definitely recommend picking this one up!...more
This is a fairly short review, as the book itself is also very short. As theReview originally posted on A Keyboard and an Open Mind October 21, 2016:
This is a fairly short review, as the book itself is also very short. As the cover says, this is the origin story for Rory, the central character in Celine Jeanjean’s Viper and the Urchin series.
Rory is seven or eight years old and begging for scraps of food when she meets Daria, a teenager who teaches her to pick pockets. To Rory, Daria seems perfect, but she soon discovers not all is as it seems with Daria, and what she discovers will set her course for the next several years of her life.
Once again, the world-building of Damsport is fantastic. Jeanjean puts a lot of time into little details such as the bazaar, and the rooftop where Rory hides the money she saves up, and sleeps.
I wanted to give little Rory so many hugs. She just seemed so small and pathetic, and the way she changed for the better when Daria comes into her life made me smile so much. Daria was a great character, too; she was all bravado and heroics at first, and it was easy to see why Rory latched onto her, but her issues and scars were constructed really well and I felt so sad for her by the end.
While this story could probably stand alone without having read The Bloodless Assassin and The Black Orchid, I would probably recommend reading those first, as there are little nods to characters and aspects of Rory’s life in those books throughout this one. And really, if you haven’t already read those two books, why not? They’re awesome!...more
This is another book that’s tricky to rate, due to some parts being reallyReview originally posted on A Keyboard and an Open Mind September 26, 2016:
This is another book that’s tricky to rate, due to some parts being really awesome, and some parts being really… not. However, it is a truly relevant book for today’s society, to the point where there were certain scenes where I was nearly blocking my ears and whispering “Too real, too real!”
In the near-future, Marcus Yallow aka W1n5t0n online, and his friends are caught in the wrong place at the wrong time in the aftermath of a terrorist attack on San Francisco, and are imprisoned by the Department of Homeland Security and treated inhumanely for a week. When they are released, they discover that San Francisco has been turned into a police state, where the population are forced to give up their privacy in exchange for “security”. But Marcus and his friends are tech-savvy enough to go underground in cyber-space, and pretty soon, a movement is beginning.
I really liked Marcus as a lead character. He is unapologetically geeky. He’s into computers and crytopgraphy and old books and passionate about fighting for his rights. There were some interesting side characters, though so much of the plot unfolds through Marcus’ interactions with people online that it was a little hard to get to know everyone else. I did feel that the development of the female characters left a bit to be desired. The book is written in first person and Marcus would describe every girl or woman he met in terms of attractiveness, and only afterwards perhaps discuss other aspects of them. Overall, though, characterisation worked for the story that Doctorow was clearly trying to tell.
The thing that put me off the book was how info-dumpy it was at times. My partner and I have an arrangement where I drive to the shops then read or listen to a book while he goes in and gets the groceries. I listened to a ten or fifteen-minute diatribe about LARPing (Live Action Role Playing) during one of these shopping trips. There were similar ones about crytography, security systems, gaming, San Francisco geography and other things that I can’t remember right now because I started zoning out. These took me completely out of the story and screwed with the pacing; they killed all momentum the story was building.
As I said above, there were aspects of this book that rang really true in today’s society where we are all supposedly in danger of terrorist attacks. The panic, the additional “security” measures, the blind acceptance of government control by so many members of the public… while the exact technologies described in the book might be a little way off (or they might not; I get the impression they all exist in some form or another already), the methods of using them was incredibly realistic.
While it certainly wasn’t a five-star read for me due to the reasons above, I definitely recommend this book for everyone. It is a good eye-opener in a lot of ways....more
This book came highly recommended to me by fellow public service friends aReview originally published on A Keyboard and an Open Mind October 24, 2016:
This book came highly recommended to me by fellow public service friends and colleagues, who touted its basis as “a supernatural public service”. And while it certainly was that, I did find that after a while, there was too much bureaucracy and not enough real action to hold my interest overall.
Myfanwy Thomas wakes in the rain surrounded by dead bodies, with no memories but a note in her pocket telling her who she used to be. She learns she is a Rook in a secret organisation known as the Chequy, which protects the people of the United Kingdom from supernatural threat. As Myfanwy tries to navigate the Chequy based on the notes that her predecessor left her, as well as trying to work out who is trying to kill her and who might have infiltrated the organisation.
Myfanwy is an interesting character in and of herself. While she has no memories of who she used to be, she still develops a fairly solid personality. The letters her past self left for her provide information about the organisation and other figures within. There was also evidence of a conspiracy that past!Myfanwy chronicled for memory-less-Myfanwy to continue investigating. Sometimes these were a bit too info-dumpy, but other times they fit well into the narrative.
The Chequy itself is set up very well, though to be honest, I did not find it easy to differentiate between most the characters, and the revelation at the end about who the traitor was didn’t mean much because I couldn’t remember who that person was.
While the author is Australian, he spent a significant amount of time living in America, and a lot of Americanisms snuck through, which was annoying in a book set in London. The language switched between “ass” and “arse” and the Brits were putting cream in their tea while talking on their cells. Little things, but they pulled me out of the story. I would also say that I got a much more sci-fi vibe from the whole thing than supernatural, so I was sort of put off by expecting one genre and getting another.
To be fair, I probably didn’t do the book many favours by reading in between other ones. It was borrowed by a friend and so it got put aside for library books and ARCs that had closer deadlines. It is possible that if I had read it over a shorter amount of time, I might have had a better experience. As it is, I probably won’t worry about reading the sequel....more
Ah man. I am going to have to live with this being another case of really eReview originally posted on A Keyboard and an Open Mind September 23, 2016:
Ah man. I am going to have to live with this being another case of really enjoying the author’s blogs and Twitter, but the published work just not doing it for me. It had its moments, but I ended up having to really trudge through the majority.
Ben Furguson-Cripps is a struggling writer who gets caught up in a friend’s new venture, the Life Assistance Agency, which vaguely seeks to assist people in whichever way possible. When their first client brings them a missing persons case, they end up a trek around Europe, following in the footsteps of Dr John Dee and Edward Kelley, two Elizabethan occultists who sought to communicate with angels, and Ben finds his cynicism regarding all forms of magic and the supernatural severely challenged.
My first issue with this book was that I really struggled to relate to Ben in any meaningful way. He had a fairly standard backstory (drunk mother, father who ran out on them…) and was, well… this sounds mean, but he was kind of a loser, and I didn’t really sympathise with his struggles. The other characters also didn’t really ellicit any kind of emotional response from me. It was also quite a male-dominated story, which can be okay, but the few female characters that were there didn’t have much agency. Jane Dee, excerpts from whose diary are peppered throughout the book, went from being really bothered about Edward Kelley’s obvious leering and lusting after her to being attracted to him. I know that does happen, but Kelley was set up as really gross, and so her change of heart bugged me.
The other main issue was the pacing. The mystery isn’t very compelling, and really relies on the reader getting to the point where it all comes together at the end, because the actions of some characters don’t make sense until you finally find out their motivation at that point. The aforementioned diary excerpts really slowed the plot down, too, and there was a lot of traveling around and “Oh no, we’re being followed” without very much else going on to hold my interest. The last 10-15% did improve quite a bit, but by then I had already been skimming for a fair while and was ready to be finished.
This does have the makings of a fun story and I think with some work it could have got there. Unfortunately, I think maybe this one went to print a little too early, and really suffers for it.
(Thank you to Netgalley and the publishers for a free copy of this book in exchange for a review). ...more
This book had the potential to get very messy, as it had a lot going onReview originally posted on A Keyboard and an Open Mind 19 September, 2016:
This book had the potential to get very messy, as it had a lot going on. Fortunately, it managed to never fall off the rails.
Siobhan has been able to see through lies and illusions all her life. When she was five, she had a conversation with a dragon statue in her grandmother’s garnde. When she inherits the house after her grandmother’s death, she discovers the reason for these powers, that she has been chosen to decide the fate of the world in a battle between good and ultimate evil.
The main battle that is going on in this book is between dragons and Lucifer and his band of fallen angels. There is also another group of angels, the Two Hundred, who have fallen for different reasons but fight on the side of good. On top of that, the Fey are also involved, and in the big battle at the climax of the book, many other supernatural creatures also converge to take sides in the battle for Earth. However, it kind of made sense, as many of these creatures were part of myths that pre-date Christianity, and it was Those Who Came Before against the Angels of Hell.
Siobhan was a well-drawn character, though sometimes she did go on a bit about her fate as the Chosen One (I know, I’d probably go on about it, too, but it gets repetitive for a reader). Apart from her, there were four central characters that featured: Turiel, one of the Two Hundred, who acted as both mentor and love interest, Nefta, a Valkyrie, Alex, Siobhan’s brother (I liked him, he was a lot of fun but with a typical brotherly protective streak), and Tim, Siobhan’s exboyfriend, who was a bit entitled at times, but grew on me by the end.
The plot was well-paced for the most part, but it did take a little while to get going. With so many parties involved in the conflict, there was a fair bit of explaining to be done, but mostly this was explained through dialogue with Turiel, and managed to avoid info-dumping for the most part. Speaking of Turiel, I also thought his relationship with Siobhan progressed a bit too quickly; they had only known each other for a few days. This is fine, I guess, but I prefer a slow-burn romance myself.
While there is still story to be told, I have to admit that when I got to the end, I didn’t feel especially compelled to add any follow-up books to my TBR. This was an enjoyable read, but it was enough on its own.
(Thanks to the publishers and NetGalley for a free copy of this book in exchange for a review)...more