Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Book Review: 5 Feet Apart

FIVE FEET APART by Rachael Lippincott et al.
2 Stars
Verdict: Too predictable.

Stella and Will have CF. They should always stay at least six feet apart. (Light spoiler which is given away in the title too: they don't.)

That's pretty much the entire book. The voices are strong and the references are modern which helps it feel slightly 'fresher' than those who have trod around the sick kids plot before, but I spent most of the book waiting for something more to happen.

This book taught me a lot about CF that I didn't learn in biology class - the loneliness, the survivors guilt, the strict medication schedule - all the things that don't make up the diagnosis but can be there too. Before this, my knowledge of CF was alleles and lung function. From reading other responses to this title, I appreciate how it raises awareness.

My brain started to wander off around the half-way mark. I couldn't help thinking there wasn't much pulling Stella and Will together, and the plot felt...thin. It didn't have much more to it than the title suggests.

Similar titles have more of a third string to their bow, for example, a lawsuit against parents, or travelling to Europe to solve a mystery, whereas this book is missing that extra layer of intrigue. I struggled to reach the end, but I really quite enjoyed it at the start.

Source: With thanks to the publishers via NetGalley.com.

Tuesday, 5 February 2019

Book Review: Girls of Paper and Fire

GIRLS OF PAPER AND FIRE #1 by Natasha Ngan 
4 Stars
Verdict: A beautiful and difficult tale.

With a book like this, I think it’s important to point out that it’s not for everyone. It explores the theme of sexual abuse in a way that’s unavoidable, unskippable. The scenes aren’t graphic, but the emotion is, or at least it felt like that to me. Please bare that in mind before reading.

Lei is part of the Paper cast, meaning she’s human from head to toe, unlike the power and magical chimera-like casts that are afforded the better status in Ikhara. She’s taken from her small village and made into one of the chosen eight concubines of the bull king. Unlike the other concubines, Lei refuses to submit to the 'honour' of being a Paper girl.

When I heard this was a fantasy novel inspired by Asian culture, I had to have it. Asian mythology has inspired my own writing, so I couldn't wait to sink into this tale, and the world building definitely delivered. The premise is dark, yes, but it's real and raw and honest. Some parts were difficult to read, but I felt the author was respectful of the many different ways abuse can affect a person.

To me, Lei was the perfect lead for this story. We all know we'd struggle in a situation like Lei's, and many would be too scared to do anything about it, and so it's cathartic to read about someone who risks it all to stand up for themselves, even though it’s not the smartest thing to do.

The best thing about this book is the imagery. The language is both beautiful and haunting. There are plenty of lines to gush over, while others cut to the core. I would definitely read another book by this author for the writing alone.

My only quibble was the pace. It set off like a firework, one of those ones that shoots up high and then nothing; it does not bang. The plot seemed to get stuck in a queue where I always knew what was going to happen a few chapters later, and that made it frustrating to read at times. However, the plot tumbles and dives, rises and twists, so although there was an element of predictability, there was enough going on to keep me going on.

Okay, another slight nugget of criticism was that I struggled to squeeze any personality from our second leading lady, Wren. I knew her story but not her, and while Lei's emotions were like suns burning in the sky, Wren was more like a spoon: useful…but not much else to say there. Part of the problem was there were a lot of characters, and I felt more intrigued by Aoki’s Stockholm-esk syndrome, Blue’s family struggles, and Madam Himura’s past as a Paper girl. I know eight is a lucky number in some Asian cultures, but it was a bit ambitious to squeeze in that many characters, and it was hard to feel attached to anyone but Lei.

So would I read book 2? Maybe. I'm more in love with the author's writing and inspirations than this particular story.

Source: With thanks to the publishers via NetGalley.com. 

Thursday, 28 June 2018

Book Review: One of us is Lying

ONE OF US IS LYING by Karen M. McManus
5 Stars
Verdict: Addictive.

Five students go into detention, and only four come out alive. The police and media are circling in on the four remaining students from that fateful detention, all of them liars in one form or another. But who is the killer?

I read this book like I eat chocolate - page after page consumed without ever wanting to stop. It's the type of story you get caught up in, binge, and then are quite happy to put it away and move on to something else - a quick, light read, but not a thinker.

It's a whodunit that kept me guessing, although I had my suspicions...

The narrative switches between the four students, each of them with very different lives and different issues. The characters start off feeling very cliche: a jock wanting a baseball scholarship, a pretty-girl being pushed around by her popular boyfriend, a smart but geeky girl, and a Nate, who felt the least cliche in that respect with his not caring attitude and difficult home life.

However, we get to know them really well, and for a four narrative book, each character slowly came to life. I cared about each of them in the end, and didn't want any of them to be the ultimate liar. I liked Addy's growth, and Cooper's journey. I loved how the story pulled Nate and Bronwyn together. Again, nothing stood out as overly unique, but it tried to put a twist on some of the old cliches.

Source: Bought it!

Thursday, 21 June 2018

Book Review: Heart of Mist

HEART OF MIST by Helen Scheuerer
5 Stars
Verdict: One of the best fantasy book I've read this year!

Bleak wants a cure for her illegal magic, if possible, but mostly, she wants wine every day. A summons from the king is a death sentence to her.

Henri is the queen of Valia, a race of strong female fighters, but she isn't the queen of the realm. A choice she makes could send her people to war with the true king.

Dash is a stable boy, but he's also best friends with the blind princess. He dreams of being a knight, or even just meeting one.

They live in a land which is threatened by a growing mist, one only those with magic can survive.

I loved this right from the start. Beautiful descriptions, dark humour, and a pace that doesn't let up. This is my ideal story.

It had a good balance of action, character, and pace, the three entwined as the plot moved ever forwards, each detailed, but not too heavy to handle. I thought there could perhaps be more world building, as the mist isn't very 'present' until towards the end, but perhaps this was a necessary sacrifice at the beginning of the book to get things going, as it picks up towards the middle. Instead it focuses on Valia, ruled by women warriors, and Adelen, a standard fantasy book fishing town.

I liked all of the main characters, and how their stories were very different but beginning to entwine.

This is very much part one of a bigger story. I found every chapter intriguing, but there are no big fireworks or gut-wrenching twists. The story is smart and building to something much bigger than book one, and if book two was around, I'd keep going.

Source: Amazon Kindle Unlimited.

Thursday, 14 June 2018

Book Review: The Moonlight Palace

4 Stars
Verdict: A light historical novel about a poor princess in Singapore.

Note: I listened to the audio-book version.

Agnes lives in the Kampong Glam Palace in Singapore, once grand but now in the 1920s it's falling apart. Without a male heir or enough income to support their family, Aggie worries they'll be forced to leave her childhood home.

This is a nice story. It's low key, with the plot never being frighteningly exciting, but still interesting, especially as it's based in Asia.

Agnes is a strong young woman of her time, but naive and young all the same. She meets a few suitors, experiences a few festivals, and wants a job to help her family's income situation. As I said, the story is quite low key.

The characters are also all very nice or vaguely interesting. Aggie's family is endearing, from Nei Nei Up to Nei Nei Down. My favourite character was the curiously blind jewellery store owner. It sounded like he knew how to win at life, and I wish I could have met him.

As historical fiction goes, this is helium light. I learned a little about Singapore and the 1920's, but the feeling of being 'there in that time and place' wasn't as strong as it could be. It's a good introduction to the time.

Overall, it's a quick story that lightened my mood, with family and love at the centre of the story and the history around the edges. If you're looking for something deeper and richer, perhaps it's not for you.

Source: Amazon Kindle Unlimited.

Thursday, 7 June 2018

Book Review: The Death Cure

THE DEATH CURE by James Dashner
3 stars
Verdict: Well, that didn’t answer anything.
#1 - The Maze Runner
#2 - The Scorch Trials

The Trials are over, supposedly. It’s time for Thomas to get his memories back, and help Wicked with the final stage of their cure.

Oh, Maze Runner. You absolute tease.

I’ll try my best to describe the reading experience without any spoilers, so basically I’ll keep it vague and hope you know what I’m talking about.

The whole book is basically a delay in getting any real answers to the mountain of questions posed thus far. Motives are swept under the rug, specifics are ignored, and the events that could have provided answers were sidestepped around.

And then it ends on a cliché which doesn’t feel satisfying at all.

Despite all that, it’s still entertaining. It still has its good moments, and unexpected twists, making it easy to sit and read for hours at a time.

Then again, the entertaining parts are also frustrating. There’s so much action, so much fight in this book...but I started to lose interest because I rarely felt rewarded with the plot progression I craved. I didn’t want a crank to jump on the car and steal the stories attention for a moment. I didn’t want more deaths of unnamed characters. I wanted a conversation with answers or a mind-snapping event to occur so that the plot would finally make sense, but the story just didn’t seem to slot into place. Instead, it threw a new load of questions into the mix, spliced in lots of action, and in the end, the plot was left to fend for itself.

As I approached the end pages, I realised there were not enough words left to complete the story itself. This was book three of a pretty mysterious and intriguing plot, and I was so sure the wait would be worth it. There had to be a really good reason for all everything going on. But just like book one, the ending isn’t satisfying.

How does human emotions link to a cure? What was the point of the telepathy, because it didn’t seem to have a role past book 1? What was Thomas’ true feelings about you-know-who, (because killing off a character doesn’t resolve anything)? Why were the grievers made? Why not humane deaths, or even just alluding to the perception of deaths (because neuroscientists know that perception is reality, so if WICKED is interested in brain patterns, all they need to do is create illusions which would be easier, quicker, less wasteful, and more humane)? Why? Why? Why?

It’s a fast-paced book in some regards, but it wasn’t the book three this series needed.

Source: Bought it!

Thursday, 31 May 2018

Book Review: The Scorch Trials

THE SCORCH TRIALS by James Dashner
4 Stars
Verdict: Action packed, just don't overthink it!
#1 - The Maze Runner
#3 - The Death Cure

Out of the maze and into the frying pan, Thomas and his friends now have to make it across the scorched earth if they want to be cured of the Flare. To get there, they'll have to survive the Cranks who already have the flare, and some are more Gone than others...

This series is very readable, even though it doesn't give a lot of answers or make a lot of sense. The chapters are short, most ending on a slight twist or revelation, and there's plenty of action, drama, and danger. The characters also come out of their shells a bit more, and the true world starts to rears it's scorched head, constantly throwing new challenges in Thomas' way.

I had the same issues with this book as the last. Thomas's journey is very entertaining, but the answers are loose tie ins that will fall to bits if you pull at them. It just doesn't make a lot of sense if you think about it (I'm being vague here to avoid spoilers). The action, twists, and horrors come first - the explanations are not as important, or so it would seem. As long as you can get to grips with that, there's a great book to enjoy in this.

With all that has happened, I feel like I have even more questions now than I did after book one. If book three pulls through with some answers, this will be a great series. There are some great mysteries in this, as long as there are fitting answers, and I'm not entirely sure if Dashner has them. It really does depend on what all these trials really mean...

Source: Bought it!