Monday, 26 December 2016

Book review: All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders

All the Birds in the SkyAll the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

You know when you read a popular book and you think "huh?!"
This.
For what is meant to be Adult SciFi/Fantasy, a large proportion of the book is based around the MCs in school. But then even when they are adults, their characters and dialogue never matures. So you end up with this weird YA vibe, but with occasional course language and a sex scene that just comes out of nowhere.
All of the characters are completely annoying and horrible, save for perhaps the AI, and are just caricatures of stereotypes. The amount of cruelty and bullying violence described was completely unrealistic and a poorly written attempt at character development.
I can't possibly explain all the things wrong with this novel, it is just a massive MESS. I absolutely forced myself to finish it purely because it was a group read with my book club, but otherwise I would have put it down and regretted that purchase by about 15%.
The only reason this gets a second star is because of the occasional Pratchet-esque humour which was the only thing I liked about this book.
Charlie Jane Anders, you are just not for me.

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Friday, 23 December 2016

Book review: The Perks Of Being A Wallflower

The Perks Of Being A WallflowerThe Perks Of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Told as a set of letters from Charlie to an unknown person, this is a coming-of-age story from a boy that just doesn't fit in. He is socially awkward and has no friends since his best friend committed suicide. Then he meets Susan and Patrick who instantly like him for who he is, and become strong friends and allies.
I found the style of this book probably the biggest barrier as Charlie does get tiresome. Although I mostly enjoyed the novel, I found it very slow and I never really had an urge to pick the story back up again.

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Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Book review: Goldenhand by Garth Nix

Goldenhand (Abhorsen, #5)Goldenhand by Garth Nix
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was so happy when Clariel was released last year because it had been so long since the Abhorsen series was written, and unexpected that we would get a prequel.
And now here we are with Goldenhand, which although chronologically by publication date is book 5, it is really book 4 as it takes place about 6 months after the events of book 3 (Abhorsen).
This is certainly one of those series that has just gotten better with each book, and Lirael was always one of my favourite characters (book 2 being my favourite in the original trilogy). I love Nix's style of writing because it is Fantasy but without unecessary descriptions or dialogue. I read that unlike other Fantasy authors he does not sketch out a world before writing, he just writes and makes notes for himself as he goes about the world. And I think that really comes through for concise novels with good pacing that leave the reader wanting more and loving the characters.

As a side note, I had the audiobook and the narration was very good (but no longer narrated by Tim Curry as the first 3 books were), but the paperback includes a bonus story at the end so is worth getting your hands on.
Also, the story lines for this series are intertwined so you need to read the whole series before starting this, including the short story in Across the Wall: A Tale of the Abhorsen and Other Stories about Nicholas to truly appreciate the book.
Let's hope for a book 6 soon :)

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Saturday, 17 December 2016

Book review: The Schwa Was Here by Neal Shusterman

The Schwa Was Here (Antsy Bonano, #1)The Schwa Was Here by Neal Shusterman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Told by Antsy Bonano, this is the story of how Calvin Shwa is "functionally invisible". Most people can't see when he is right in front of them and even if they do, they often forget he exists - a term deemed "the Shwa effect".
Antsy and Calvin become friends and do some experiments regarding "the Shwa effect" and through this process Antsy realises there is more to Calvin than even he has realised.
This is a great coming of age story from Shusterman - a classic tale but with an almost invisible character gives it the Shusterman spin. The MC is 14/15 years old and this book is well suited to a Middle Grade audience. The audio is also narrated by the author which is always great as you get a true insight to the characters.

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Thursday, 15 December 2016

Book review: The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

The Angel's Game (The Cemetery of Forgotten Books, #2)The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This gothic tale reminded me at times of Dracula and The Picture of Dorian Gray. It was a well written story, but perhaps a little too long and convoluted.
I'm also not sure why it is considered book 2 in the 'Cemetery of Forgotten Books' series other than the publisher trying to make money from its publication, because apart from two minor references to that Cemetery, there really is no major connection here to The Shadow of the Wind, and it is not a continuation of that story. It is much more of a "companion" book.

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Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Book Review: Elantris by Brandon Sanderson

Elantris (Elantris, #1)Elantris by Brandon Sanderson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm so glad I finally got around to reading this. I have read three of Sanderson's books so far (Reckoners 1 and 2 and Mistborn 1) and he is a truly fabulous writer. Especially considering this was his debut novel, it is easy to see why he has such a following. He writes Fantasy, but it isn't "typical" Fantasy which may put some people off this stand-alone novel. Although set in another world where there is a magic system, the book is much more about the exploration of politics and religion and the intersection of these. There is very little magic or other elements that typically define Fantasy books.
I thought the characters were really well developed and thoroughly believable with their flaws, and their skills. The pacing kept me interested and so intrigued that I was disappointed to not have a physical copy of the book (I only had an audio) because if I had, I would have been able to read faster to find out what would happen next! Speaking of, the audio narration is fantastic and highly recommended.
Although I don't typically give books 5 stars, I really can't think of anything I didn't like about this, and so I feel like it deserves it :)

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Sunday, 11 December 2016

Book review: Don't Mean a Thing by Renee Conoulty

Don't Mean a Thing (Got That Swing, #1)Don't Mean a Thing by Renee Conoulty
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There's nothing quite like a book that you can start and finish with a smile!
Macie is in her early 30s and has decided on a career change into the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF). She has finished her training and just arrived in Darwin to start her new life in the military. There is so much to like about Macie. She is genuine with her friendships, strong in her beliefs and just plain likeable.
I loved the juxtaposition of swing dancing and military life. I don't know much about either and I found the descriptions so interesting. It was also refreshing to have a female character in the military, but without gender issues ever coming into the storyline.
Lastly, I loved the descriptions of Darwin and the author's unapologetic use of Australian slang. It may require a dictionary for some overseas readers, but I found it encapsulated "small town" Australian dialogue perfectly.
A fantastic novel for anyone wanting a nice romance with wonderful realistic characters. A perfect read while sitting in the sun with a muffin and a cup of tea :)

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Book Review: Madness: a Memoir by Kate Richards

Madness: a MemoirMadness: a Memoir by Kate Richards
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Gosh I've found myself a sobbing mess at the end of this book. The raw emotions and honesty shown by Kate while describing her very long battle with depression and psychosis are confronting, and well worth reflecting on.
I can't help but put myself in the shoes of her parents, or her work colleagues, friends etc. because we have all come across those "crazy" people who just can't get their shit together. But that is just the problem, they CAN'T get it together which is very different to WON'T get it together.
As a Doctor, Kate has a unique insight into mental illness and medications, and even then, took more than ten years and countless hospitalisations to truly understand her ongoing illness and how it will never just "go away", but like any other illness needs constant monitoring, and in her case, medication. It is a truly brave step to write this very personal memoir, and I hope that others will find themselves more understanding of mental illness for having read it.

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Friday, 9 December 2016

Book review: Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

Dark MatterDark Matter by Blake Crouch
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is one of those fantastic I-just-can't-put-you-down reads. Fast paced and thrilling from start to finish, it also asks questions about what makes you, you.... and what impact our choices have.
There is a bit of quantum physics which is explained in a relatively simple way, and the science explanations are quite short and do not impact the novel pacing.
Highly recommended for anyone looking for a thriller that doesn't have too much violence and is just a gripping story.

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Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Book review: Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear

Maisie Dobbs (Maisie Dobbs, #1)Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I thought I would be in for a cozy mystery, but instead we get a very small 'case' which ends up being not much of a mystery at all, and then we go back 10+ years and learn all about how Maisie grew up and her work in WWI and then we go back to her current day (1929) and have another small case which also isn't much of a mystery.
It just felt all a little 'meh'.
Quite a while ago I accidentally read book #3 in this series and I thought I was ambivalent about it as I had read it out of order, but I think it is just this series isn't for me.

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Monday, 5 December 2016

Book review: One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez

One Hundred Years of SolitudeOne Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I'm sure that the historical importance and themes contained in this book make it an enduring classic with lots of value to the literary world, but I really struggled with it. I just didn't find it that engaging and the use of the same names for generations makes keeping the characters straight really confusing. I tried going from audio to ebook and back again, but it didn't really help that much in the end. Just not for me.

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Saturday, 3 December 2016

Book review: The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

The Sun Is Also a StarThe Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Every so often an author comes along that just amazes me. Yoon's Everything, Everything was one of my favourite books of 2015 and this is certainly one of my favourites for 2016. Contemporary YA that is well written, with believable characters and no love triangle is so rare. Add in great writing and some fantastic plot devices and you have Nicole Yoon.

David meets Natasha by chance one day when he needs to go for an interview for Yale (which he doesn't want to do, but is going for his parents), and she is trying to stop a deportation order from the US back to Jamaica where she hasn't lived since she was a child. Natasha loves science, facts, logic and truth. David loves poetry, love, fate, destiny and hope. Over the course of a day in New York they get to know and experience the other's mindset which is so different and challenging to their own. Although the book is told in alternating POVs between Natalie and Daniel, it also has short chapters from side characters and some general facts which I just loved to give us a really rich understanding of everyone involved in this day.

I'm so impressed with Nicola Yoon that she has written two mesmerising and enjoyable novels and like only a select few, she has become an "auto buy" author for me. Big thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an advance copy of this book in exchange for a voluntary review.

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Thursday, 1 December 2016

Book Review: This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab

This Savage Song (Monsters of Verity, #1)This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another enjoyable book from Schwab who has really great ideas for Fantasy novels, I just wish she would finish a series before starting another!
I liked the idea of the 3 different types of monsters and how the city is divided in order to maintain a truce. Kate is a strong and interesting character trying to live up to what she assumes are her father's expectations, while August is just trying to find his place in the world and to be more 'human'.
The book has good pacing, suspense and a nice ending which wraps up some of the story while leaving an overarching storyline to be continued in book 2.

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