Nemo @ The Moonlight Library

Nemo @ The Moonlight Library

I primarily read contemporary YA and spec fic with a love for those fantasy stories involving girls discovering their power.

Video

Dark Horses by Cecily von Ziegesar

"Wild Horses"

 

I like this whole linking videos on my reviews thing, I might keep it up if I can think of the right video.

Review
4 Stars
Dark Horses + Dark Actions = Dark Story
Dark Horses - Cecily Von Ziegesar

SUMMARY

When Merritt walks out of her SATs and goes on a bender, her parents send her to an equine rehabilitation camp called Good Fences where she meets Big Red, a former racing Thoroughbred recovering from injury and with a Big Bad Attitude to match. Red takes a liking to Merritt and claims her as his own, and when the two impress their sponsor and join the professional show circuit, Red won’t let anyone or anything come between him and his human.

PLOT

I really liked the idea of reading alterative points of view from both Merritt, a damaged teen girl, and Big Red, and equally damaged and somewhat unhinged beautiful chestnut Thoroughbred. Merritt had no idea Red was so malicious though, although she loved him, she still only thought of him as a horse whose responsibility she could pass over to someone else. Red and Merritt don’t even start off liking each other and that’s the best kind of relationship I like reading about. Red very soon decided that if he ‘belongs’ to Merritt then he’s going to behave and do his best for her, and that’s when they get pulled into the professional show circuits because let’s face it, someone who walks out of their SAT isn’t exactly going to go to university. Merritt’s parents are largely absent and although she seems to bond with fellow competitor Carvin, he quickly cools off. Instead, the sponsor’s reckless, out of control daughter Beatrice, working as Red’s groom, revolves into Merritt’s life and VERY briefly makes the audience question if there’s going to be a bisexual romance before Big Red takes matters into his own… um… hooves.

It’s Red’s jealousy that I’m torn up over how I should feel. Because 1) I mean come on, he’s a loyal herd animal and he clearly has chosen Merritt as his ‘person’, much the way one of my three cats has chosen me as her ‘person’ and is practically my little shadow an that is seriously one of the best feelings you can get from an animal you love. 2) I know Red knows he does the wrong thing on occasion but he does try to be good for Merritt.

CHARACTERS

I loved Red’s narrative voice. Because playing a radio soothed him, he knew a lot of lyrical references and forever threw them into his own narrative. Even though he doesn’t speak, he sure gave off a lot of feeling and despite his nasty streak I really empathised with him. He was such a great character that even though he does bad things, I’m finding it hard to judge him harshly. He’s smart and loyal and loves Merritt.

Merritt Wenner (whose name I like to think of more like ‘Merit Winner’) doesn’t handle abandonment issues very well, so when people in her life leave her or she just can’t cope, she likes to drink and take random drugs to deal with it, which is what landed her at Good Fences. She’s abrasive and rebellious and the only thing good in her life is basically Red. I didn’t really feel like she had as much of a character arc as the horse did because at the end of the novel she’s in the same place she was at the beginning, and I was really disappointment when she half-heartedly entered a plot to steal Red only to quickly abandon him. Like she almost couldn’t decide whether she loved him or not.

WRITING

The writing was contemporary, not exactly graceful, but fun with Red’s lyrical inputs. I didn’t really have an issue with it, it wasn’t over the top purple or lyrical and it wasn’t gritty and urban it just kind of was the middle of the road. Definite the best thing about the writing was Red’s narrative voice. I really felt like I was looking out of the eyes of a slightly deranged horse. Although it was kind of weird how smart he was… like he knew how much he weighed, for example. I thought that was weird.

PACING

The pace of this book was like that of a Thoroughbred – almost to the point of reckless. It felt rushed, like how quickly Bea’s feelings for Merritt grew and then BAM that’s all over. We completely missed Merritt’s winter training in Florida and went straight to the professional circuit. It seemed like the author was just so keen on getting everything down and telling this somewhat thrilling story that the whole thing seemed rushed and could have done with some padding out. For example, the girls at the Good Fences all jumbled into one, even when one of them was plucked out and promoted to supporting character rather than bit player.

OVERALL

I really enjoyed Dark Horses. Because of the plural in the title I kept expecting another horse to be dark like Red but nope, it was just him. From the first moment I loved the idea of a horse over its rider and this book really delivered pretty much what I expected and what I wanted. I would really recommend it to YA readers who like a bit of a thrill or those readers who enjoy troubled teen stories.

 

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

Video

Halloween Bingo | Black Cat | Coraline

 

I was unable to add the film trailer to my review, but then I found this clip about the black cat and thought it was better.

Review
4 Stars
Halloween Bingo | Black Cat | Coraline: A Satisfyingly Creepy Tale
Coraline - Chris Riddell, Neil Gaiman

There was a film adaptation of Coraline released in 2009 that was amazing and will be referenced throughout this review.

 

SUMMARY

Coraline Jones, a bored tween, finds a more interesting life through a magical portal in her new house’s drawing room where her Other Mother wants to love her and keep her forever and replace her eyes with bright, shiny black buttons. Other Mother will do anything to keep Coraline…

coraline-title

 

PLOT

Coraline is a disenchanted, bored tween in a new house before her new school has started and her parents don’t have time to entertain her. The old house they’ve moved into has been split into four apartments, and while strange neighbours live above and below them, the apartment opposite Coraline’s has a strange door in the drawing room that is blocked off with bricks. Determined to find the secret behind the blocked-up door, Coraline’s adventure takes her into another world where a creepy monster known as the beldam imitates her mother and insists on being called her Other Mother. While Other Mother treats Coraline with love and respect, and spoils her with delicious food and interesting entertainment, she’s desperate to hold on to Coraline, and will even take her real parents hostage. Meanwhile, Other Mother has devoured the souls of children like Coraline before, and the three little ghosts beg Coraline to set them free. If Coraline stays in the Other world, she’ll need to let Other Mother sew black buttons on her eyes, and let Other Mother love her and care for her forever (and possibly eat her?). But if she wants to escape, she needs to find her parents and the souls of the three ghost children with the help of a sardonic and somewhat aloof black cat. It’s notable to mention that in comparison to the film, which I adore, there is no Wyborn character. I believe he was created for the film so Coraline wasn’t wandering around muttering to herself all the time.

coraline-bored

 

CHARACTERS

Of course as I was reading this I kept comparing it to the film, which I love. In comparison, Coraline from the book isn’t as spunky as Coraline from the film. Film Coraline is downright rude and even somewhat bratty. Book Coraline is more reserved and less aggressive. Both of them are smart and brave and have a certain amount of un-child-like common sense that allows them to achieve their goals.

Similarly, film Mother seems almost mean compared to book Mother. Film father seems more lively than book Father. Film Beldam seems scarier than Book Beldam, but maybe that’s because they model her so excellently on a spider and the reveal is very slow. Like I said earlier, Wyborn doesn’t exist in the book and neither does his grandmother so that makes a very minor plot point moot. The Misses Fink and Forcible are more lively and far more amusing in the film, as is Mr Bobo and his moues circus. It’s not that the book is bland, it’s just that the film took a really good idea and made it so much better.

 

WRITING

Coraline is super creepy and I think it’s fantastic for a middle grade/young YA book. It never treats its younger readers with anything but respect and expects them to be able to figure out problems alongside or even before Coraline does. I kind of wished that Gaimen had written the early adventures as if they were a dream, like in the film. I also found the book’s climax to be more satisfying than the film, but I recognise, similar to my response to Gaimen’s Stardust, that certain elements work better on the screen. Although Gaimen is wonderful at description and dialogue, they do say that a picture says a thousand words, and so I think the film was more successful in getting its message and meaning across.

other-mother

 

PACING

I didn’t find anything wrong with the pacing. The plot moved quickly enough to keep my attention, even though it’s only a short book and even though I roughly knew what was coming thanks to the film. I was excited to get back to the book when I put it down. There were a couple of subplots that were built into the book but like I said it was a shorter novel so I’m not fussed about missing them.

 

OVERALL

If you’ve seen the film you’d probably really enjoy this book. Even if you haven’t seen the film, (I’ve played the video game based on the film and really enjoyed that, too!) I think it’s a really engaging, thoughtful, creepy story that treats its younger audience members like grown ups. There’s no holding back on the creep, horror or suspense.

 

 

Read by candlelight or flashlight: 'Yuri' from Her Russian Protector by Roxie Rivera.

Magical Realism: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

Witches: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone illustrated Edition

Genre Horror: Fat Vampire by Johnny B Truant

Black Cat: Coraline by Neil Gaiman

 

Diverse Authors can be spooky fun: Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake (currently reading)

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

Young Adult Horror: Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

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

Reads with Booklikes friends: The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle.

 

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

Genre: mystery: We Were Liars by E Lockhart

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

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

Creepy Crawlies: Parasite by Mira Grant

 

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

Locked room mystery: Dead Famous by Ben Elton

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

Set in New England: Little Vampire Women by Lynn Messina

Full Moon: Fire Spell by Laura Amy Schlitz

 

Vampires vs werewolves: The Vampire Stalker by Allison van Diepen

Supernatural: Dangerous Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

Classic Horror: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Pumpkin: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Set on Halloween: “Ghost Town” by Malinda Lo, short story in Defy The Dark ed by Saundra Mitchell

Review
3 Stars
First read down
Her Russian Protector Boxed Set - Roxie Rivera

I am WAY behind because I was determined to finish some other books before I started on my Halloween Bingo card.

 

Anyway, I finished 'Yuri', book 3 in Her Russian Protector box set by Roxie Rivera, who's a dirty-writing sexy romance/erotica kinda gal whose books I love (also writes under Lolita Lopez). I read the whole box set on my phone when I was unable to sleep, but I didn't start Yuri until after September 1, and it's a book in its own right.

 

I'll just give a quick rundown since I normally only review Young Adult and this review won't even go on my regular blog, youngadultatheart.com:

 

Yuri is a billionaire in love with PR princess Lena Cruz, and when she confronts him over what she mistakenly suspects is shady dealing trying to undermine her club, the two start dating. There's lots of hot sex and lots of talk about feelings and are we moving too fast because it takes place over the course of about one week. Of course there's some gang/mob trouble but nothing a big tough Russian can't handle.

 

I like Roxie Rivera's books because the guys are always huge and alpha male but when they look at their woman they go all dopey and sweet. I love a big man, my husband's seven feet tall, although I could do without the inherent bossiness in Roxie's men and also the women's complete happiness to be bossed around. She tries to make the relationships equal but often fails, but even then I don't really mind, it is fiction after all. I love me a big sexy Russian.

 

I probably won't go on with the series, it just seems to melodramatic and it's always the same thing: the house gets broken into, the woman is threatened, the Russian goes all alpha male.

 

Probably the star of the book is Sasha, the enormous Caucasian shepherd who, obviously, hates everyone but falls in love with Lena at first sight.

 

 

Review
3 Stars
Underwater by Marisa Reichardt

Since a terrible tragedy at school, Morgan’s been unable to leave her house. Her days consist of online school, crappy soap operas, and grilled cheese sandwiches. That is until surfer boy Evan moves in next door, bringing with him the warmth of the sun and the smell of the sea. Connecting with Evan could help Morgan reconnect with the world outside her apartment.

 

I recently read another ‘issues’ YA book about a girl with a debilitating problem that a boy helps her work through. That was called the Things I Didn’t Say, and it was about a girl with Selective Mutism. In contrast to that, Underwater shows how Morgan is actively trying to overcome her issues and she works hard all through the novel and makes progress all through the novel, not just because a cute boy wants to date her. Similarly to the other novel, Underwater’s cute boy tries to understand her problems but loses patience once or twice because our girl’s incapable of being ‘normal’. However, in this novel, Morgan still has a therapist, and Brenda is a cool a psychologist you can get. She’s young and hip and has tattoos and dreadlocks. So as the plot advances, and Morgan makes progress with her issues, we’re also exposed to why she feels so scared even though other kids went through what she went through that fateful day at school, and why her friendships have drifted apart. It’s not a novel big on action, more of a character study.

 

It was interesting reading about agoraphobia from Morgan’s point of view. She used to be a strong swimmer and there’s even a pool at her apartment, but since she shut herself in her body has started to change from lean and tan to rounder and pale. Morgan has a realistically-portrayed 5 year old brother, Ben, whom she adores. Her mother doesn’t quite understand her issue and her dad is absent. Morgan likes repetition because it’s predictable. She needs people to sit on the left side of her so she can see them. Her fears run her life, but she wants to overcome them, and that’s admirable.

 

What I liked about Evan’s portrayal is he never seemed to be to be Morgan’s saviour. It wasn’t because of him that she challenged her fears and stepped outside her front door. Largely it was because of Ben, actually, and Brenda’s calm and patient coaching. It was Morgan who wanted to do it, and not because of Evan. Likewise, Evan wasn’t this wisdomous ball of never-ending patience – quite frankly, he tried to understand Morgan, but didn’t, and lashed out like any normal teenage boy would. On the other hand he did have some moments when he was really sweet, but like Morgan’s mother, I think he never really understood what he problem was.

 

I would have loved to have seen some more scenes with Morgan’s ex-friendship group. There were four of them together and they seemed like a whole bunch of fun, but Morgan cut herself off after the tragedy. Consequently we don’t get a whole lot of info on the ex-BFFS even though Morgan does run into them on occasion. This isn’t a bad thing, it’s just something I think could have enhanced the novel even further.

 

I found the writing enjoyable and leisurely. Like I said, it’s not really an action novel, and I was OK with that. I was happy to explore Morgan’s feelings on a whole heap of subjects. It felt like a contemporary, if somewhat smart teen going through a really rough time.

 

Overall I enjoyed Underwater, figuring out what he big secrets were and then cheering Morgan as she faced her challenges and overcame them – not without significant struggle. I’d recommend this book to YA lovers who love a bit of mystery with their contemporary.

 

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.

Video

Dan Stevens' "Beast" voice is so utterly perfect I just can't even... and Emma Watson is perfect casting as well.

Review
4 Stars
A Brilliant and Original High Concept Sci-fi
Burning Midnight - Will McIntosh

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

Overnight they appeared – spheres that granted enhanced properties like straight teeth, intelligence, and strength when a pair were ‘burned’. Some were rarer than others, and so a business grew around hunting these spheres. And that’s how Sully and Hunter met. But no one know if these mysterious spheres are a gift from God or something far worse – after all, they used to say cigarettes were good for you, right?

 

PLOT

Sully is known as the kid who lost the Cherry Reds – when he sold them to an insidious collector, they didn’t grant powers but simply reseeded the Earth with more spheres. Sully’s $2.5 million vanished and now he’s back to collecting and selling at the flea market. He teams up with a hunter named Hunter who’s figured out likely places people haven’t looked yet. Together they find the rarest of all, a Gold sphere, and its twin, but they’re faced with being murdered for the Golds or burning them with no idea what will happen.

 

CHARACTERS

Sully seemed like a regular kid who just lucked out on the deal of a lifetime. He’s trying to make money buying and selling spheres because he lives alone with his mother who has a crappy job and they might have to move away if they can’t afford rent. Although he’s largely driven by financial motivations, the relationships he develops with Hunter and Mandy, who he met during the novel, and his ongoing relationship with Dom, was really lovely to watch.

Hunter was your typical badass YA female character, ninja-like and almost super-powered, even though she hadn’t burned any spheres. She couldn’t afford to. She was one of those ‘I’m capable and I don’t need a man’ types, which is why I liked it when she fell in love with Sully. Oops. Is that a spoiler? Anyway, it showed her gentle side, but it also re-established that her selfish nature and how when she felt something was for the best she wouldn’t listen to the other characters at all, even though she was supposed to love them. I think this self-reliance was due to her being homeless for a few years and never having anyone to count on.

I loved Dom and Mandy. Dom seemed like a great big brother character and it was cool to see lots of diversity in Mandy, a gay Asian girl who kept her friendship with Sully and Dom despite her distrust of burning spheres. They really were the perfect supporting character, arguing against Sully and Hunter’s more selfish ideas in a realistic way.

 

WRITING

I had no idea this was going to lead to where it led and so I was pleasantly surprised with the massive plot twist. It really came out of nowhere and seemed really imaginative. I liked the writing fair enough, I didn’t really see anything wrong with it.

 

PACING

I did feel like the novel was slow to get going because for a long time we didn’t know if the spheres were bad or good or really what they were or even how they were used. Everything was eventually revealed but it took its sweet time and sometimes I was flipping through the pages for the next part and sometimes I was glad to put the book down at the end of the chapter. I will say I did have a big battle of willpower not to check the final pages to see who survived and what the outcome was, boy that was hard to fight but I’m glad I fought it because all was revealed in time.

 

OVERALL

This novel was just so unexpected. I thought it was going to be about superheroes, not making money looking for the spheres to sell to people for enhanced attributes. I certainly was not expecting where it eventually took us!

This has nothing to do with reading but no one else seems to give a shit and i know you guys will care because I know you care about me.

So last week was my birthday and my husband and I decided to go for a drive. We had a really nice day stopping in at various places and seeing what's changed around the state.

 

I've been sleeping poorly for the last few months, ever since my husband broke our bed and now I'm sleeping on a mattress on the floor which I hate with a passion. I wake up frequently, sometimes choking and gasping for air. I'm constantly tired through the day. Sometimes I've caught myself falling asleep at my desk at work if it's warm and cozy enough.

 

And yes, before you say anything, it is signs of early sleep apnea and I've been to my doctor and he's recommended a sleep specialist to diagnose me officially but basically all that's going to do is try to sell me a thousand-dollar machine we can't afford. I'm just getting older and my body doesn't work the way it used to ten years ago.

 

It was early afternoon when I started feeling weary, so we decided to head home. My husband doesn't drive, which annoys the fuck out of me, so I'm stuck driving all around on my birthday and I feel the need for a nap but I want to get home. I almost drive off the road at one point, but it's in a country area and I gained control of the car quickly. I feel like that scare was enough to keep me awake.

 

Then we hit a downhill highway and before I know what's happening I'm asleep then I'm awake and realising we're about the crash into the barrier coming around a corner downhill, so I twist the wheel and one of the back tires hits the curb and pops and I control the car and move into the emergency lane and call for help to come change my tire. I was pretty calm because I was in shock, it wasn't until later that night when I saw my mother that I burst into tears and told her I almost killed us.

 

TL:DR

I fell asleep while driving and nearly killed my husband and myself and no one on twitter cares and no one who reads my blog cares and I just really wanted everyone to know that I almost died and it was scary as fuck.

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.

My name is Nemo.

By day I manage a Commonwealth office, by night I turn into a vigilante kitten snuggler.

 

"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