Nemo @ Young Adult At Heart
Halloween Bingo reading plan

 

I've decided to take part because my ARCs are at an all-time low and I haven't seen anything upcoming I'm desperate to review, so I think I'll have some breathing room over the autumn.

 

For those of you who know me, you might be asking 'But Nemo, it's HORROR themed, why on EARTH would you take part?"

 

Well, because not everything needs to horror or scary. And to prove it, I'm getting organised (because we all know how I love being organised) and posting my book list!

 

Most of the books on my list are YA, the majority of them by women, and almost all of them are owned by me. On occasion, I'm borrowing from my husband, who is a MAJOR horror buff and I asked his advice about filling a few squares.

 

Let's start!


Read by candlelight or flashlight: 'Yuri' from Her Russian Protector by Roxie Rivera. (own, ebook)

Magical Realism: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater (own, paperback)

Witches: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone illustrated Edition (own, hardback - reread)

Genre Horror: Fat Vampire by Johnny B Truant (recommended and borrowed from my husband, ebook)

Black Cat: The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black (own, paperback)

Diverse Authors can be spooky fun: Huntress by Malinda Lo (own, paperback)

Ghost stories and Haunted Houses: Ghost Girl (#1 3rd Freak House) by CJ Archer (own, ebook)

Young Adult Horror: Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake (own, ebook)

Scary women (authors): Arise (Hereafter #2) by Tara Hudson (own, paperback)

Reads with Booklikes friends: There's a big readalong of The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle which I guess I'll take part in if no one wants to do anything YA with me. (own, ebook)

Grave or Graveyard: Up From The Grave (Night Huntress #7) by Jeaniene Frost (own, paperback)

Genre: mystery: We Were Liars by E Lockhart (own, paperback)

Edgar Allen Poe Raven image: Enshadowed (Nevermore #2) by Kelly Creagh (own, hardcover)

Gothic Seared with Scars (#2 2nd Freak House) by CJ Archer (own, ebook)

Creepy Crawlies: Parasite by Mira Grant (recommended and borrowed from husband)

‘Fall’ into a good book: Sinner (The Wolves of Mercy Falls #4) by Maggie Stiefvater (own, hardcover)

Locked room mystery: Dead Famous by Ben Elton (own, paperback - reread)

It was a dark and stormy night: Storm Glass (Glass #1) by Maria V Snyder (own, paperback)

Set in New England: Little Vampire Women by Lynn Messina (own, paperback)

Full Moon: Fire Spell by Laura Amy Schlitz (own, paperback)

 Vampires vs werewolves: The Vampire Stalker by Allison van Diepen (own, paperback)

Supernatural: Dangerous Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl (own, paperback)

Classic Horror: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (recommended and borrowed from husband, ebook)

Pumpkin: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (own, paperback - reread)

Set on Halloween: “Ghost Town” by Malinda Lo, short story in Defy The Dark ed by Saundra Mitchell (I'm pretty sure I own this, I need to search my shelves. If not, this will be the only book I purchase for Bingo.)


The Potential

I have three rereads: Harry Potter #1 and #2, and Ben Elton's Dead Famous.

I'm borrowing three recommended books from my husband: Fat Vampire by Johnny B Truant, Parasite by Mira Grant, and Frankenstein by Mary Shelley.

Number of books I've identified written by women: 22

Number of books I've identified written by men: 3

Middle grade books: 2

YA books: 15

Adult books: 8

 

Notes on some obscure references

I've chosen ‘Yuri’ from Her Russian Protector by Roxie Rivera as my 'read by candlelight or flashlight'. I’m actually taking a wide interpretation of 'candlelight and flashlight' and reading this on my phone, which I often use as a torch.

 

I've chosen The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black as my Black Cat square because of Holly's surname.

 

I've chosen Arise (Hereafter #2) by Tara Hudson as my Scary Women (authors) because it's a ghost story.

 

I've chosen Enshadowed (Nevermore #2) by Kelly Creagh as my Edgar Allen Poe Raven image because the Nevermore trilogy is based on/influenced by Edgar Allen Poe.

 

I've chosen Sinner by Maggie Stiefvater as my 'Fall into a good book' because of the title of the series, The Wolves of Mercy Falls.

 

I've chosen Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets as my 'pumpkin' because they drink pumpkin juice at Hogwarts.

 

So that's my plan. I don't plan on blacking out every one but I do hope to make some progress into books I've been putting off forever. Books are still subject to change but I like this lot.

I have a theory on pen names in romance and esp self-publishing/indie

Do you think authors using pen names just throw a book out and if it doesn't do OK they abandon the pen name and try again until they have a hit under that particular pen name, and then the fans come and rabidly gobble up anything that pen name produces?

 

How many 'failed' pen names have we seen that the original author is open about?

 

But when an author does well with a pen name, she'll most likely claim it. Sometimes you even get on the cover 'such and such writing as blah blah'.

 

Do you think that might be how it works?

Review
5 Stars
You Need To Be 'Aware' of This Totally Awesome Aussie Fantasy
The Aware - Glenda Larke

SUMMARY

Blaze Halfbreed has been sent on a mission to retrieve the Cirkasian Castlemaid from Gortham Spit, a barely hospital strip of sand where only the lowest of the low and the most desperate congregate. There she discovers the filthy stench of evil dunmagic and realises a great evil has returned to threaten the whole of the Isles of Glory.


PLOT

Blaze Halfbreed is citizenless in an island archipelago where citizenship means everything and there are strict rules on island-interbreeding, leading her to be an unwanted outcast. Gorthan Spit, the desolate land of criminals and unwanteds, is the only place she can legally stay longer than three days. It is also the place where she has tracked a princess from another island who is to play a key role in the Keeper’s plans on taking control of the Isles of Glory. Blaze is ‘Aware’ – she can see sylmagic and dunmagic, and it doesn’t affect her. The Keepers find her useful, and have promised her citizenship after twenty years of service. But if she fails to find the Castlemaid, she won’t get her citizenship. Meanwhile, she befriends a Cirkasian with a secret past who claims she knows where the Castlemaid is – only this beautiful ‘Flame’ is attacked by a powerful dunmagicker. It’s up to Blaze to save the day, multiple times, as she uncovers Keeper secrets, Gorthan Spit secrets, Castlemaid secrets, and secrets about sylmagic and dunmagic that threaten to take over her world.


CHARACTERS

Blaze Halfbred: tall, swordfighter, sassy, fierce, and totally and completely magnificent. She’s a survivor. Not many abandoned halfbreeds make it in a world harsh to the citizenless. Blaze is brave, resourceful, smart, and caring. She’s got loyalty coming out the wazoo for those she loves, and she’ll do anything to save them. Her primary motivation is to earn enough money to live in peace and earn a citizenship for the same reason, and for this she is a sort of bounty hunter for the Keeper sylvs, although she’s also a mercenary who will do what it takes to earn some coin. Although she develops strong bonds with several men in this book, it’s her sudden and very sisterly love for Flame that I adore. Blaze is ‘Aware’ – she can see magic as it’s used, which other magickers and normal folk can’t. Magic doesn’t affect her so she’s the perfect one to send off to assassinate an evil dunmagicker. Her Awareness makes her useful to the sylvs of Keeper island, and she depends on them for work and her eventual citizenship.

Flame is a sylv from Cirkasecastle and as the incredibly beautiful one of the story she’s also somewhat of a damsel in need of rescuing. She’s also brave and loyal and fierce and once she makes a decision she has no time to regret it. She returns Blaze’s love fiercely and she isn’t afraid to step back into a lair of horror she barely escaped the first time just to try to save her friends.

Tor Ryder is a fellow Aware and although he can fight, he’s a man of religion and I wouldn’t exactly call him a warrior like Blaze. He’s gentle and calm and has deep intelligence, and he’s on Gortham Spit babysitting a runaway royal. He and Blaze find a past in common and eventually fall in love although Blaze believes they can’t be together because of her halfbreed status and his religion.


WRITING

I adore this book so much. Although much of it takes place on Gorthan Spit, we get some flashbacks in Blaze’s life. The framing of the novel is that when Blaze is an elderly woman, all magic and the harsh citizenship laws have vanished from the Glory Isles and they are discovered by another race who are studying them, much like in Wuthering Heights Nathan turns up at the house only to be told this incredible story about its previous inhabitants. So Blaze’s story is essential a compilation of a bunch of interviews given to help this new race study them. I think the worldbuilding is phenomenal, I love the characters, I love that even the supposedly ‘good’ sylvs have shades of grey in them because they use their magic to confuddle normal folk. Love how every character has their own motivation and backstory which really enriches the narrative and makes the world so much more believable.


PACING

The pacing is good with this book. Because it’s such an original adult fantasy, there’s a lot of worldbuilding and culture and backstory to tell. I feel like this was always put in at the appropriate moments. While it’s not a break-neck pace, it is steady. Sometimes it slows right down, for example when Blaze has been taken prisoner or is being kept alone for some time. I think the slower pace works well then because you start to feel her helplessness and lonliness.


OVERALL

This is one of my absolute favourite fantasy books of all time. I literally cannot think of a single thing I don’t like about it. I give it ALL THE STARS. But warning - it is an adult book and it does cover subject matters such as rape and forced sterilisation.

The Aware (The Isles of Glory)Actually, I did think of one thing. For some reason Larke decided to republish this with another publishing company instead of self-publishing, and the cover of the new version is AWFUL. DON’T LET THE COVER FOOL YOU THIS IS AN AMAZING ORIGINAL INCREDIBLE PIECE OF ADULT FANTASY.

Review
4 Stars
Desperate to get Across The Wall
Across the Wall: A Tale of the Abhorsen and Other Stories - Garth Nix

This is a review of just the novella in this collection, 'Nicholas Sayre and the Creature in the Case'. It is not a review of the complete book.

It’s six months after the combined magic of the Charter defeated the Destoryer, and Nick is back in Ancelstierre, reluctantly attending a house party on behalf of his uncle, the Chief Minister. But what lurks behind the frivolous façade is Department 13, a legal entity for exploring the oddities in the Old Kingdom. There, Nick comes across a terrifying Old Kingdom creature locked in an ancient case. It should be dormant this far from the Wall, but Nick can feel that it’s alive and waiting for something…

That something is Nick’s Charter magic. When Nick is betrayed and his blood fed to the creature, it comes alive and rampages across the house, indiscriminately killing party guests and government employees alike, Nick is the only one who knows where the creature comes from and how he might stop it. But with the Abhorsen so far away in the Old Kingdom, what can Nick do to stop a hyped-up Free Magic creature driven by a madman willing to betray his own kind?

Although this is a novella, it packs a punch. It’s quite scary and thrilling to read, especially because Nick doesn’t have any magical powers or items to help him defeat a monster from across the wall. But Nick really shines in this story, his leadership skills, canny observations, cunning, and quick intelligence able to help him in his desperate quest to stop the creature returning to the Old Kingdom even as he wishes to return there himself. It doesn’t even seem that short because there’s plenty of action and even a bit of humour, but it does give more of a look at Ancelstierrans and especially the upper class who would rather stand around screaming than do something useful to save their own lives, and who don’t even believe in magic and necromancy to begin with.

I haven’t read Goldenhand yet, but I know it stars Nick and Lirael. That ship might very well have started in this novella, so I can’t quite speculate whether this is essential reading for the Old Kingdom series. I think if you can get your hands on it, you’re going to enjoy a clever, scary story about Nick and get more of a look at the so far kind of sidelined Ancelstierrans.

Review
4 Stars
The Heat Is On In 'A Promise Of Fire' by Amanda Bouchet
A Promise of Fire - Amanda Bouchet
This review was originally posted on Young Adult At Heart
For some reason I believed this was a YA book. It’s not. It’s very adult fantasy. But I’m reviewing it anyway because I was granted a review copy.

SUMMARY

Cat, a circus performer, is identified as a powerful magoi and kidnapped by a warlord named Griffin and his band of ultra-sexy warriors, intending to use her power as a soothsayer and truthteller to benefit the rule of his sister’s kingdom. Unfortunately Cat has other ideas, and it’s going to take everything Griffin has to convince her to stay and help.

PLOT

This long-assed novel was largely a travelling story, getting Cat from Point A to Point B with plenty of complaining and escape attempts along the way. Cat is determined to the point of stubbornness that she wants nothing to do with the fine life Griffin is offering her, and even his super-sexy manly charms don’t seem to work on her. She is terrified of being hunted down by an old enemy and remains reluctant for a large part of the novel. The novel largely builds on her growing trust, respect, and even love for Griffin and his ultra-masculine band of barbarians. Griffin comes from a non-magical family and has carved a path through the magical elite to place his sister on the throne, and to keep a non-magical family royal, they are in desperate need of Cat’s help. Because Cat is the Kingmaker, and can do all kinds of magical things like turn invisible, absorb magic from other beings, and even call upon the gods who have favoured her.

CHARACTERS

To see my DREAM CAST, visit https://wp.me/p5jsvI-1SC.

WRITING

One thing that I did find really awesome in the beginning was the sexual tension between Cat and Griffin, but as the novel moved on I quickly grew cold towards it. Griffin had no respect for what Cat wanted and was always kissing her and touching her without consent, and in fact going so far so to do it when she explicitly tells him not to. Like, dude, I don’t care how sexy you are and that you’re possibly the hottest fictional character ever written about and totally remind me of my own husband, just keep your freaking hands to yourself. Equally annoying was Cat’s to-and-fro between her lust for him and her desire for freedom and pretending to hate him. I grew tired of it eventually and I also found it annoying that Cat basically only ended up consenting because the gods told her to.

I really loved the worldbuilding and how the world was based on ancient Greece with heaps of embellishments. I felt like I was walking with Cat and Griffin as they moved through well-described towns and I felt the constant heat from the summer sun irritating the crap out of Cat. This is good because the middle of the novel is largely filler – the group walks, trains for battle, faces some kind of challenge where Cat reveals more about her mysterious background, Griffin kisses her, rinse and repeat. I also found it frustrating that all the hints dropped about Cat’s true identity weren’t wrapped up at the end, either. I was waiting for that conversation between her and Griffin.

I also found the climax totally disappointing. After building up for ages about why Cat continues to say no to Griffin and then finally explaining it, there was no confrontation with Cat’s biggest enemy. I kept reading only to find the novel kind of abruptly stop when there was still 5% left (a preview of the next novel). There was no real climax, just another challenge for Cat to overcome. After all the hype and build up of Cat’s greatest enemies and the threats against Griffin’s kingdom, I was expecting a lot more.

PACING

The pacing was strong in the first third, weak in the middle third, and got a bit better in the final third of the novel. This is because after Cat’s escape attempts cease, the group simply spend a lot of time travelling, and it’s not until they reach their destination that the pace picks up again, even though things like ambushes and fighting dragons and Cat getting high and going for a naked swim happen.

OVERALL

I really want to rate this 5 stars for the complete sexiness of the brooding warrior men and for how awesome, if a bit overpowered, Cat was. But I can’t get over my disappointment at the ending: no climax, no answering questions. And as sexy as Griffin is, he gets a big slap across the wrist for being so grabby all the time. So as much as I’d love to re-read this book, I’d probably only re-read specific sections of it until Cat and Griffin start annoying me again.

I received this book for free from Netgalley/Hachette Australia in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Review
5 Stars
The Hypnotic City by Andrea Berthot
The Hypnotic City (The Gold and Gaslight Chronicles Book 2) - Andrea Berthot

I received this book for free from the author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

 

Disclaimer: Andrea and I are Goodreads friends. This is because I read a review copy of The Heartless City, fell in love with it, and decided Andrea should be my new BFF, so I friend requested her (also to keep tabs on when her new books are coming out). My online ‘friendship’ with the author has absolutely no bearing on my rating of the book and the following review is my tree and honest feelings.

 

Philomena and Jennie have made it from London to New York, just as Phil always knew she would. Now she just has to bide her time and work her butt off until someone spots her enormous talent and turns her into the star she is destined to be!

 

I really loved The Hypnotic City, so much that it’s got a place on my six-stars shelf. I loved the plot, the characters, the writing, the pacing, the romance, that general feeling of unease Berthot managed to weave in there. I loved to hate the villain and I cheered when a specific gang of people showed up and I pretty much fell head over heels for this book. Philomena is a phenomenal, fiery young woman with more determination and ambition in her little finger than most people have in their whole lives. She’s destined to be a star, and when she finally starts listening to that powerful voice in her head that tells not to put with shit from anyone, her small act at a music hall leads to a lead role in a new musical by a young and powerful writer/producer called Tom. Meanwhile, Phil develops a very sweet relationship with a stage manager called Jamie, but Tom’s watching from the wings…

 

I love how even though The Hypnotic City was about this huge mystery and this huge consipiracy but it was also about the concept of the ‘nice guy’, and the study into the character who fits that shoe. He showers Philomena with everything she desires and expects her to return his affection ‘just because’ he’s done everything for her. It was so creepy watching this develop, and in fact I largely read on in denial even though I had a little voice in the back of my head going ‘be careful!’ because I’m generally a positive person and it took me a while to suspect that the Nice Guy had an ulterior motive. Well, so did Phil, so I guess we’re even.

 

Phil’s supporting cast mainly revolved around Jamie, her friend Jenny who quickly leaves the story due to her own romance, and two chorus girls Bonnie and Flo who, although were different to each other, I like to imagine as twins. The romance is a big part of the book but so is Phil’s hard work in the theatre. I might have liked to have seen more of rehearsals in the lead up to the big show but I know that’s not the point, especially when everyone was gushing about how great Phil was. I liked how Phil was smart enough to figure out her dilemma, and try to work out ways to escape. She certainly wasn’t willing to put up with any shit until she literally had no choice in the matter, and I loved that about her.

 

 

I tried to read the novel slowly and limited myself how much I read each day because otherwise I would have just devoured the whole thing. Every time I put it own, I ached to pick it back up. The pacing was incredible, every moment just ratcheting to the next and making everything bigger and better until the Worse Possible Thing happened, and then I confess I kind of wanted to put the book down again because I didn’t possibly see how Phil could get out of this problem all by herself. Luckily there were cameos of the characters I loved in the previous novel and that made everything better.

 

Overall I don’t want you to read this book because IT’S MINE ALL MINE.

 

No, I’m kidding. I don’t know if I have a particular ‘thing’ for YA Urban Historical Fantasy with this whole ‘science gone wrong’ thing or what, it seemed like the book was written just for me. Maybe you’ll find that, too, when you read it, because I wholeheartedly recommend it to everyone.

Review
4 Stars
When Michael Met Mina by Randa Abdel-Fattah
When Michael Met Mina - Randa Abdel-Fattah

SUMMARY

Follows the interactions between an Afghani refugee and the son of the leaders of a burgeoning political party against immigration ‘queue jumpers.’

PLOT

Michael meets Mina at a protest and later realises they share classes as school. As they clash, Michael learns that he doesn’t have to believe what his parents teach him, and that Mina faces certain persecutions just by being a non-Australian. To be honest, the book is quite light on plot, it’s mostly dedicated to the romance the two share, and Michael’s character arc. For some unknown reason they keep their relationship a secret.

CHARACTERS

There’s not much to say about Mina. She doesn’t really have a character arc. She’s mostly there to be the sympathetic boat person who teaches Michael that he can have independent thought. She’s smart and competitive enough for a scholarship to a prestigious college and her life is filtered through her experiences as a refugee, arriving in Australia by boat and spending time in detention before granted a refugee visa. She’s a very sympathetic character.

Michael is the other protagonist, and he starts out uncertain if he supports his parents beliefs in ‘Aussie Values’. Unfortunately his parents have quite a skewed world view and believe, for example, that if Mina attends Victoria College, her parents must be rich, when in reality they aren’t and Mina attends on a scholarship. Michael learns not to jump to these same conclusions, such as if a refugee can afford passage on an illegal boat, they can’t be that poor and shouldn’t be trying to leave their own country. I really would have liked the argument raised against Michael’s parents view that most illegal immigrants are Westerners (from the UK/US etc) overstaying their visas, not asylum seekers looking to ‘jump the queue’, but this didn’t happen. Instead it mostly tried to dispel the belief that refugees jump some kind of imaginary queue.

WRITING

I did have a bit of trouble differentiating between both the characters’ voices. They sounded almost identical. I kept having to flip back to the start of the chapter to check the name.

One of my favourite things was watching how the media loved to hype everything up and then not declare a side. Journalistic integrity is something of the past. The media fuelled the hate more than the political organisation did.

One issue I had with the book was right at the end, Mina says about Michael, "He's taught me to never give up on anybody.” I found it hugely hypocritical that Terrence didn’t get the same treatment, especially since he and Michael started out at the same place, although Terrence was vilified throughout the whole novel and Michael wasn’t. Everyone ended up giving up on Terrence, even his long-time crush.

PACING

The pacing was pretty good – at least, I enjoyed the book a lot, thought about it when I wasn’t reading it, and was dead keen to get back to reading it. Despite its lack of real plot, the conflicts moved the narrative forward and I felt like the pace was kept high – I never knew what was around the corner and I was eager to find out.

OVERALL

Although light on plot, this book explores a very serious and timely conflict for Australians and other people living in privileged parts of the world. I never felt like I was being preached to by either side of the debate, although it was obvious whose side we were meant to be on, and I found Michael’s parents and their organisation to be more of an excuse for the more radical characters to act out. Although Mina didn’t change all that much, Michael had a fantastic character arc coming to terms with his own beliefs. I really enjoyed this novel and highly recommend it to other contemporary YA lovers.

 

I received this book for free from Pan MacMillan in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review
3 Stars
The Sound of Us by Julie Hammerle
The Sound of Us - Julie Hammerle

I received this book for free from Pan MacMillan in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

 

SUMMARY

TV nerd Kiki is off to a summer camp for an opera singing scholarship, where she jams contemporary pieces in the basement with a hot nerdy drummer at the camp for a golf scholarship. When her teachers forbid any kind of singing outside of opera, Kiki has to figure out if she will follow her heart or the rigid choices she seems to have locked herself into.

 

PLOT

Cicero (kee-ke-roh) ‘Kiki’ has decided to follow in her big sister Tina’s footsteps and study opera at university, even though Tina spent most of her study time partying and most of her post-graduate time being unemployed, even though the camp costs tens of thousands of dollars and her parents are convinced she’s not even going to ‘stick with it’. I was particularly excited to read this book because when I was Kiki’s age becoming an opera singer was on my very short list of things I’d quite like to get paid doing as an adult but I quickly learned I didn’t have what it takes (ie a soprano range – there are very few good roles written for mezzo-sopranos in operas, and tenors get all the most beautiful arias), so I was somewhat disappointed to find Kiki spent most of her time practicing alone. Without anyone teaching her how to use her voice. Opera singers have a very specific sound they are trying to create, and it’s hard and takes years of training by a competent teacher. And her voice teachers were more interested in kicking them out of class if they weren’t perfect through a first run than actually teaching them anything. So the overall aspect of a ‘opera camp’ was a bit disappointing.

 

The other main plot was Kiki’s love of TV, specifically this show called Project Earth, and her bonding with the other campers because of it, specifically Jack the hot nerdy drummer who grows quite close to Kiki despite carrying a secret that would break her heart. Kiki herself makes friends outside of Twitter and even kisses a couple of dudes but in amongst this there’s a mole watching the students for any kind of rule-breaking. There’s only seven scholarships to go around and too many students, so some will do whatever it takes to get rid of the competition. This especially sucks because Kiki, for some reason, doesn’t seem to give a shit half the time about the rules, and encourages the other kids at the camp to drink and break curfew then, when her parents threaten to send her to a non-music university, she backflips, suddenly gets much better, and is determined to win a scholarship.

 

CHARACTERS

Kiki isn’t actually sure if she wants to be an opera singer. That’s the thing that annoyed me most. Opera singing isn’t easy, it takes a lot of work, and Kiki would rather jam doing contemporary songs, and writing her own songs. She got her parents to fork out thousands of dollars for a future she’s not even sure about when she’s seen her big sister fail in the same industry. She’d rather talk about TV on Twitter all day which hello, I totally get, but it’s like she’s using the camp itself to experience university life without being a university student. I do like how she can bond with other people when they have Project Earth in common, and I like how eventually she finds her own voice (so to speak), I just don’t like that even from the beginning she wasn’t sure if the camp was something she wanted to do and only auditioned because her BFF (soon to be ex-BFF) did. It’s not exactly like opera singing is a fall-back career, but that’s how Kiki’s treating it. I liked Kiki’s narrative voice and her entire character arc even if it was a conclusion I was a little disappointed with.

 

The other characters are mostly forgettable except for Brie the bitch who turns out isn’t such a bitch and Jack the hot drummer whose connection to Kiki is instantaneous but whose romance definitely could not be described as ‘insta-love’, if you could even call it a romance.

 

WRITING

While I liked the inclusion of Tweets at the start of every chapter, I was thoroughly annoyed that for a novel supposed to be about student singers, there was no teaching going on whatsoever. The teachers at Kiki’s camp were horrible and I would be demanding my money back. Kiki didn’t learn anything except that she didn’t really want to be an opera singer. I liked the fictional TV show Project Earth and all of its backstory mixed with songs and bands Kiki actually names so I could look them up on Youtube.

 

PACING

The pacing was fine. I was enjoying the book a lot as I was reading it and it seemed to me to be a quick read. It didn’t really stop and dwell on any ‘filler’ bits and in fact what could have been a long drawn-out romance between Kiki and Jack had its stops put in it pretty quickly due to some regular teenage drama. The camp was only six weeks long so there was a lot to jam in there and to me it didn’t really seem to drag or lose the pace at all.

 

OVERALL

There are very clearly some good things about The Sound of Us and also some things I didn’t enjoy. Overall I think it was a good reading experience even if it didn’t quite deliver what I was hoping it would.

Review
3.5 Stars
A Novel's Worth of Unsaid Things

A Novel’s Worth Of Unsaid Things: ‘The Things I Didn’t Say’ by Kylie FornasierI received this book for free from Penguin Random House Australia in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

 

SUMMARY

After a disastrous romantic betrayal, Piper Rhodes, suffering from Selective Mutism, changes schools and falls into a romance with the local high school hero.

 

PLOT

Piper has lost her best friend due to a romantic blunder, so in changing schools she’s hoping for a fresh start where everyone doesn’t know her as the girl who doesn’t speak. As soon as she meets West, local high school captain, soccer star and all-around hero, they tumble into a relationship and fall in love all without Piper speaking a word to him. The problem is, none of their parents approve, and Piper’s Selective Mutism becomes an issue for West, even though he tries to understand.

 

CHARACTERS

Piper’s social anxiety seemed to be the stem for her Selective Mutism but I was happy to see it didn’t prevent her from making friends. It really broke my heart when people in everyday situations showed a lack of understanding that overwhelmed Piper. I loved her pre-digital photography hobby, because after all, isn’t there a saying that says ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’?. Imagine all the words Piper doesn’t need to say just by showing one photograph. I really enjoyed her warmth and caring nature, especially towards her youngest sister who was struggling with her own identity and wanting to be silent like her big sister, and I liked the little touches where Piper acknowledged how the behaviour of people around her, like her family, changed to accommodate her lack of speaking.

West seemed like a pretty perfect YA lov interest, to be honest. One of those ‘poor little rich boys’ whose parents were pushing him to follow in the family business (law) and all he wanted to do was open a restaurant. I loved his individuality that Piper helped him recognise and although I thought it was unfair that he put certain pressures on Piper to use her voice, I can understand in a way where he was coming from. He seemed like a pretty well-rounded character and was a joy to read about.

 

WRITING

I thought it would be a struggle to portray someone who barely speaks in a novel, but I really liked how Piper was written. Her lack of voice didn’t mean a lack of conveying meaning. Her thoughts were there, and she tried to convey meaning through body language as well as through handwriting. I loved the respect for which Piper’s illness was treated although I’m not sure how I feel about the ending when things just seemed to suddenly turn out OK without Piper really returning to psychology or doing much active work on her own. It kind of felt like she had an epiphany and that was it.

I really liked how Australian the book was as well, although I suspect bits of it were ‘Americanised’ up like cafeteria lunches, and other things references to school that I can’t think of right now.

 

PACING

For such a gentle romance, this book actually had a pretty good pace. After I read the first few pages and had to put it down for other review books, when I picked it back up I ended up reading it in a weekend. The words and plot flowed smoothly and I was always eager to find out what would happen next, especially with the constant challenge of Piper’s Selective Mutism.

 

OVERALL

I think this was a lovely ‘issues’ romance book for YA and I’d totally recommend it to anyone who likes sweet romances and uncommon teen issues in their YA.

Review
4 Stars
Models Have Such Dramatic Lives: You Before Anyone Else
You Before Anyone Else - Mark Perini, Julie Cross
SUMMARY

Model Finley needs to shed her ‘good girl’ image, so she takes in mysterious newcomer Eddie for a one night stand. But the two can’t seem to stay away from each other, and as their relationship grows, Eddie’s secrets threaten to tear them apart.

PLOT

This book straddles the line between YA and NA. The characters are eighteen but are facing some Very Grown Up Problems as well as some regular teen issues such as work and family. Finley’s trying to change her image, so she keeps dismissing Eddie – mostly as shallow and arrogant, although she later admits he’s never displayed either of those properties. Eddie just keeps surprising her, latching on to her tragedy-laced family and bonding with her adorable twin brothers. Finley may be a model but her first love is dance, and she I slowly reintroduced to that world through her modelling work. Eddie, meanwhile, has to deal with a family that has disowned him for a mistake he made before the book started.

CHARACTERS

I quite liked both Finley and Eddie. I vaguely remember Finley from the Eve and Adam’s story where she did a shoot with Adam. It was nice to see this whole developed backstory for her and I loved her love of dance and how her uniqueness in being a model and the daughter of a dancer really made her shine when the lights were fixed on her just so. I loved her developing friendship with Eve and her strong family ties.
Despite Finley trying to frame Eddie as a useless lump of a boy, I quickly grew to like him as he ingratiated his way into Finley’s life. I liked how he stood up for her brothers and even developed a bond with her dad. I didn’t expect the twist that I won’t spoil – I thought the actions he was making up for were something else, so I was pleasantly surprised at his actions throughout the book. I will just say that I didn’t like that he fought so hard for his beliefs throughout the book only to end up compromising them at the end. While it seems Finley may have also compromised on her goals, I think hers made more sense.

WRITING

I liked the shifting points of view. It was nice to see both characters from each other’s perspectives. The writing was quite contemporary and I liked the kind of behind-the-scenes stuff of the modelling world, too. I think my favourite part was when Eve was photographing Finlay and Eddie. It’s not easy to use words to describe the beauty in professional photography, but I got very strong mental images of the photographs and I’d really love to see someone recreate them.

PACING

The pacing was really good, I felt like I reached halfway almost without noticing. It dropped off a little in the second half of the book once we found out Eddie’s secret, and to be honest it didn’t quite pick back up to its original pace. I found the climax a little underwhelming and I’ve already mentioned I wasn’t satisfied with Eddie’s final decision.

OVERALL

Similar to Anything to Have You by Paige Harbison, I don’t quite get the reference of the title. You Before Anyone Else – neither Finley nor Eddie make this promise to anyone: they don’t put each other first, and they don’t put their families first. They really do what is best for themselves, with little sacrifice. However, I love these modelling books! So long as Cross and Perini keep writing them, I’ll keep reading them.
 
I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Review
5 Stars
Abhorsen has used Saraneth to bind me into loving this series
Abhorsen  - Garth Nix

Despite their new destinies, Lirael and Sam continue their plan to recue Nick and stop whatever he is unearthing. Slowly the pair come to discover what it is: Lirael embraces her destiny as not only the Abhorsen-in-Waiting, but a Remembrancer as well, someone who can See the past like her Clayr sisters can See the future. Sam, relieved he no longer has to deal directly with Death, embraces his destiny as a royal Wallmaker – his hobby of inventing and his powerful skill as a Charter Mage really pays off.

Although this book is a little higher on action than Lirael, I actually forgot how much of it involves travelling and discovering and planning and then action. The action really ramps up in the final third to lead to what I think is possibly my most favourite climax in any book I’ve ever read.

Lirael has really come a very long way from being the shy Sightless Second Assistant Librarian locked away in the Clayr’s Glacier – now she’s a tough warrior who slays the dead, who walks into Death itself to save the world. She’s really quite amazing.

Every time I moved back to Sam’s point of view I could almost feel the relief he felt at no longer being responsible for putting down the Dead. I’m so glad his love of inventing magical trinkets paid off in the end. I felt really sorry for Nick, the poor guy was just overwhelmed with evil power. You have to admire his willpower and intelligence though. I’m really looking forward to reading more about him and Lirael in Goldenhand. I was glad to see Mogget actually have a character arc in this besides being snide and sneaky. Although I’ve read this book before I completely forgot what happened at the end and had to have a cry when I realised who wasn’t coming back.

Nix’s writing is as always perfectly elegant, giving this novel a feel of a classic high fantasy that will last through the ages. Every time I took a moment to catch my breath we moved on through motivations of the main characters which propelled the narrative forward with ease. It’s not a fast-paced novel all the way through, it’s more like a locomotive that gently picks up speed until you’re suddenly in the third act and there’s no way you can possibly stop because you just have to know what’s going to happen next, and when all else seems lost you wonder how are our beloved characters going to get out of this unscathed?

Once more, like Sabriel, this was supposed to be the end of the story. I am so glad Nix can’t keep his mind off the Old Kingdom and went on to produce a few novellas (Across the Wall and To Hold The Bridge, reviewed here), then Clariel and now Goldenhand after this. I love this world, as terrifying as it is, I love the characters, and I love the challenges they have to overcome. I can’t wait for Goldenhand to see more of Lirael and Nick!

Review
2 Stars
Zelah Green: Queen of Clean and Not Much Else
Zelah Green - Vanessa Curtis

 This is a review of the audiobook.

 

SUMMARY/PLOT

Zelah’s stepmother can’t handle her OCD, so she tries to ship her off to a mental hospital. Zelah ends up in Forest Road House under the care and guidance of a lovely female doctor with some other misfits – an anorexic, a cutter, and a mute. There she learns to face her OCD and her abandonment issues with her father. This is a review of the audiobook.

CHARACTERS

Zelah is, from what I can gather, bi-racial. Her father is white and it is hinted her mother is black. Zelah has out of control frizzy curly black hair and needs to wash her hands and face 31 times, and jump over 100 times at the top and bottom of each staircase she uses. She is also a germaphobe and won’t touch anything without the assistance of a tissue. The doctor helps her overcome some of the more powerful ‘rituals’, although she’s not ‘cured’ by the time she leaves the house.

WRITING

The writing was decent, nothing particularly wrong with it. I enjoyed Zelah’s narrative voice. There was nothing really to stand out about it either. I liked the respectful way the author approached not only Zelah’s mental illness but the other kids at the house as well. I liked how it turned from Zelah having ‘rituals’ to admitting her OCD and trying to get it under control.

PACING

I took a while to get through this audiobook. I had to renew it twice. I think it might have been the pacing, because there wasn’t really anything big or exciting happening to make me want to return to the book. It didn’t feel like a chore to end it, and I did want to know how it ended up finishing, but I simply wasn’t in a hurry to get back to listening to it.

OVERALL

I think Zelah Green is a really good novel for a young adult audience looking to explore an ‘issues’ novel about mental illness, specifically OCD. I didn’t enjoy it a huge amount but like I said, there was nothing particularly awesome about it. It was kind of blah, but I think other readers could enjoy it.

Question for ARC reviewers (esp Aussie)

I review both physical copies that publishers send me and e-ARCs I request from Netgalley and Edelweiss.

 

From what I can gather, the physical copies aren't allowed to be reviewed before their release date ('embargo date'). I get them the month of or just after release.

 

Sometimes the e-ARC publishers request a timeframe ie no more than two weeks before or after, but more commonly I don't see any restrictions on when I can review them. I can receive these books months in advance.

 

I was under the impression that early reading copies were supposed to help build hype and awareness. Therefore I can review them as early as I want.

 

I'm a little confused as to why the big five wouldn't want any early reviews.

 

Is anyone else facing this issue?

On Not (really) Reading Male Authors

Over the weekend I bought two new books and gushed to the bookseller about how awesome RUINED by Amy Tintera was, "You know those fantasy-lite books where the assassin doesn't actually kill anyone? Doesn't happen in Ruined!"

 

The bookseller, finding out I'm an ARC reader, mentioned a new adult fantasy by a male author coming out soon that she recommended based on the strength of the female lead.

 

I made the mistake of saying, "I don't really read male authors."

 

She pulled a face at me.

 

Rushing to defend myself I added, "Well, there are just so many of them. I prefer to support women and prefer the kinds of stories they write."

 

I'm not sure I convinced her.

 

It would be wrong of a man to say he doesn't really read female authors.

 

It's not that I think men are inept writers, it's just that the market is over saturated with men writing male stories about men, often with quite poor female representation, and I prefer to read YA (finding them usually stories for females by females), which is majority written by women.

 

Was I wrong to say I don't really read male authors? It's not that I actively avoid them, I'm reading a Garth Nix book right now. It's just that the market I prefer is YA, and I prefer stories about women, which tend to be often written by women.

Review
5 Stars
Mysteries And Conspiracies in the Heartless City of London
The Heartless City - Andrea Berthot

I received this book for free from the author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

 

SUMMARY

London has been in quarantine for 13 years thanks to the Hydes, monstrous-like heart-eating beings that shift from ordinary infected humans who have taken the Hyde drug. Elliot, the son of the physician looking for a cure, who in the search for a weapon against the Hydes accidentally made himself an empath, and Iris, a strange American girl who has no fear, aim to discover the secret of the Hyde drug and uncover the conspiracy around it that could lead all the way to the top through Elliot’s best friend Cambrien – the son of the Lord Mayor of London, who will do anything to stay in power.

 

PLOT

Elliot and his eventual Scooby Gang try to discover the awful secrets hidden in this alternate London while still living their lives – enjoying contraband, going to music halls, official dinners to please the Lord Mayor, a brutish and terrifying figure. Now that I take a step back and think about it, it’s not a plot-driven novel. It’s very character driven, and very emotional. Elliot is grieving over the death of his mother, his changed relationship with his father, his new power that he doesn’t want and can’t control, and the guilt of being responsible for a friend’s death.

 

CHARACTERS

I mentioned there’s a Scooby Gang! I don’t know what else to call it. There’s this ‘team’ that forms of teen friendships, led by Cambrien, the Lord Mayor’s son. His best friend Elliot is involved, Iris is brought in, and they are joined by Philomena, a fiery debutante-to-be, and Andrew, the brother of the boy Elliot feels guilty over. I love this gang. I love them hanging out, enjoying the contraband, I love their love for each other, I love their secrets and different relationships to each other. It’s so cool to see an actual gang of friends in an alternate-history-paranormal book. Another character to be aware of is the scarily efficient Lord Mayor of London, who is an awful person and an even worse father to Cambrien. I would be genuinely afraid to meet this man.

 

WRITING

So this isn’t exactly a retelling of Dr Jekyll and My Hyde, it takes its inspiration from it and twists it into something entirely new. I loved Berthot’s writing, she really managed to get to the heart of every single scene. I loved how the period setting affected the characters and how Elliot came to realise due to his emotions a lot of the propaganda young men are still taught today – that women don’t feel lust, for example. I loved how spot-on all of the emotions Elliot was feeling were described, especially those of other people whose motivation we might not yet have discovered. It definitely made the book re-readable. The whole thing was easily digestible – not exactly light and fluffy, because there are definitely trigger issues in there, but it flowed smoothly and was easy to follow. In fact, I pretty much guessed the big reveal pretty early on but there were enough twists to keep me guessing the results and fallout of other issues.

 

PACING

Spot on. I had to stop reading due to another review book being due but I was always eager to come back to this story while at the same time I tried to read it slower than usual because I didn’t want it to end. It felt high-stakes all the way through and the slower moments were a chance to catch my breath and reflect on what I’d learned and try to predict what might come next – which I often didn’t. I will mention the inevitable romance – it did seem, like most YA, a little on the fast side, but taking into account the fact that Elliot can feel what others feel and Iris can control what she feels, it’s understandable the two should fall in love with such intensity, and I didn’t have an issue with it at all.

 

OVERALL

I am completely and totally blown away by this book. I absolutely loved it. It’s not one that I would normally pick up looking at the (admittedly pretty, but dark) cover and (admittedly bland until you know what it’s referencing) title, but I am so so glad I did because I had a really great time reading it, falling in love with the characters and becoming invested in their story and outcomes. I am totally up for reading the second book, which from what I gather follows Philomena as she trots off to Manhattan to become a Broadway star.

 

Note: Andrea Berthot and I started mutually following each other after I started reading this book. I’m pretty sure I’m going to make her be my friend (my precious), but I don’t want anyone getting any ideas about me rating ‘my friend’s book’ 5 stars. It’s not being friends with Andrea that made me love her book: it’s the other way around.

Worst Weekend Ever

I have had absolutely the worst weekend and would appreciate all the love and support my fellow Booklikers can give.

My name is Nemo.

By day I work in IT, by night I turn into a vigilante kitten snuggler.

This blog used to be called The Moonlight Library.

 

"A good book resting unopened in its slot on a shelf, full of majestic potentiality, is the most comforting sort of intellectual wallpaper."

- David Quammen