Burn by Patrick Ness

Burn by Patrick Ness

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I was so excited when I saw a new Patrick Ness in the bookshop that I even got the hardcover copy because I knew that I would want to share the book with someone after reading it. And I was right.

This Ness offering wasn’t as punchy as I would have liked, I felt the ending was a little rushed and I couldn’t tell if he was setting it up for a sequel or just being vague so we could draw our own conclusions – but it lacked finality.

The characters were awesome, and the world worked so well that we just don’t question that there would be wastelands with dragons in them. Or that a weird religious cult would worship them – or that they would be so extreme – as that seems to go with the territory unfortunately.

The assassin was extremely well done in terms of character and development that made sense. I really enjoyed their story and how entangled it became. I liked how he drew the strands of everyone together in a way I wasn’t totally expecting.

Lots of storylines going into one, but we didn’t lose anything. I think it’s the mark of an excellent writer to be able to have multiple characters and stories that meld together seamlessly and without anything becoming too confusing.

I did feel the ending could have been a little bit bigger – it was over so fast and then it was just done, moving on.

Loved it, would definitely recommend!



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Petals on the Wind by V.C. Andrews

Petals on the Wind (Dollanganger, #2)Petals on the Wind by V.C. Andrews
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I couldn’t stop reading this story, yet I didn’t want to continue reading it at the same time.
It blows my mind that this book had a popular reception – Cathy is a terrible role model for any girl to look up to. I wanted to see her get revenge so badly, I kept going though – so guilty of liking that part.
I won’t be reading the rest in the series, because I just can’t comprehend the appeal of whatever will come next.

SPOILER:
The main reason for my dislike is that Cathy not only marries, but excuses a violently and emotionally abusive man. His actions are so far beyond what is acceptable in a relationship, and despite Cathy acknowledging that she puts men on a pedestal when they don’t deserve it – it is completely unacceptable for the book to promote the idea that she brought her abuse on because she didn’t care for her husband enough. There was never a time that she recognised that she should have left Julian earlier.
She also accepts being raped many times. WTF?

So, no – I will not be reading the rest of the series.
I thought her revenge was fabulous, if a little mentally unstable. However, I liked that the mother got what she deserved.

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Flower in the Attic by V.C Andrews

Flowers in the Attic (Dollanganger, #1)Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Not sure how to begin this one.
I was gripped by the story – using Cathy’s voice as the storytelling medium was perfect because had it been mixed between the children, or included a voice from outside the room, I don’t think it would have worked.
I couldn’t put it down, and sort of felt a little ripped off that the ending wasn’t more in-depth. I wanted revenge for the children and I wanted to see their mother suffer.
I liked the irony that the incredibly pious parents created such a vain, selfish and heartless daughter. That the version of purity in this book was so far removed from what was right, you couldn’t help but feel this was a stab at religion as well as at the corruption of capitalism and it’s systems.
The incestuous story was handled with care, and was handled well – although I feel that the scene in the attic could have been used more. I feel this because the fallout didn’t really become imagined in the way I believe it was intended to. There were some musings of Cory being a repercussion, but really that falls flat with the complete betrayal of the mother. It has certainly become iconic, and is definitely a talking point as I knew about this scene despite never having read the book until now.
I certainly question why the children wouldn’t run away much earlier, especially as Chris was of an age entering the room that he would know the life he was missing, and understand that his chances of a good education dimmed with every year.
I think this would make an excellent book club book – a lot to agree and disagree with, and many meaty topics to be unpacked!
It didn’t get a full five stars from me only because I felt it went a little too long, there could have been some parts edited out that wouldn’t have been missed. I also feel that the ending was rushed after such a long time coming. I know this is a series, but the lead-in to the next instalment could have been better.

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Exploded View by Carrie Tiffany

Exploded ViewExploded View by Carrie Tiffany
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I thought the darkness of this story would stop me from reading, but if anything it kept me hooked as I hoped it ended with something bright.
I couldn’t put it down, and despite some issues I had with the language, I thought it was a brilliant way of telling this young girl’s story, as she was unable to.
The language – this is a personal problem that I have with a lot of Australian literature, and it really puts me off reading Australian books. The vocabulary range in Australian literature is often made to be as dry, brittle and brutal as some of Australia’s landscape – and I hate it. I hate everything being likened to shit, I hate the cracking ground, I hate the flies in mouths, I hate the sticky heat. I’m so sick of reading about it as a defining part of a story. I hate the pissing, and the bony knees – Australian literature could have so much richness that doesn’t have to revolve around sparse, harsh language. This book had a lot of that.
What it also had was a Holden Manual, and a beautiful prose that once you were in, managed to merge parts of a car with parts of a female body. Human experience against the running of a machine and its parts. It was amazingly well done.
The girl who is mute for most of the book creates us a world that tells us of her trauma through the pages of a car manual and her sabotaging of cars, particularly one. And it works so well.
There is barely any dialogue, yet I didn’t feel like there was too much describing – in fact, there could have been more. But the pared back writing style was a credit to the author, and sets this apart from ‘Mateship with Birds’.
I would recommend this story to anyone that enjoys well-written Australian literature.

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Carry Me Down by M.J Hyland

Carry Me DownCarry Me Down by M.J. Hyland
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Set in Ireland, a view of a fracturing family told from the young son’s point of view – it sounds done before. There are many books attempting to ride through adult fiction by placing us into the minds of children. This one is one of the better offerings, riding a good line between realistic children’s thought patterns, while also making insightful commentary.
The part that threw me off was the odd semi-sexual awkwardness between the mother and child. Our young male protagonist is twelve, so on the cusp of many developmental jumps. There is a lot of talk about his size and being mistaken for being much older – however, there doesn’t seem to be a purpose to this at all. The other half of that is that if he read as a fourteen year old more than a twelve year old, it would make more sense. So, there are instances between him and his mother that feel off, her responses are off, and his feelings are off. They don’t gel for me, and that made it uncomfortable sometimes. Which may have been the point, but if it was then I missed why it was important.
I liked being on the edge of his mind – was he always going to end up making the decision he did with his mother, or were there moments where we went along with him not realising the crazy there?
It was enjoyable, and it was interesting, and the gender roles of the time were explored well. I felt the boy had a pretty rough time, but I also felt that what he chose to do came out of nowhere, and it didn’t feel real to me compared to the rest of the story. Due to this, whatever poignant point this story was trying to make, I didn’t quite put it together.
The blurb told me this book was a ‘psycological thriller’, I found it lacking that entire element. If it was meant to be a snapshot of a family going through a rough time at that period from the eyes of a boy coming of age – I’m all in, it was great. The other part didn’t fit for me, mainly because I don’t think a twelve year old outcast wanting to believe he has amazing powers is strange. A fourteen year old, yes – but twelve, not really.
I liked it, but wouldn’t read it again.

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On the Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

On the Jellicoe RoadOn the Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It took a few chapters to feel part of this story, which I believe was intentional – the characters would want you to be on the outside looking in for a little bit. I couldn’t put it down after those first few chapters though, I was part of the Jellicoe Road war games.
The idea that a bunch of teenagers would wage a war around the town for the holidays was fun and gave the whole book a purpose that was always there.
I loved the idea of this story, and I thought the author did an amazing job of describing the area – the school, town and cadet camp. I could see all the boundaries, and I could feel the summer air. I loved that this story was set in a country town of Australia, but it didn’t have the usual dry Australian language to describe it – that was almost my favourite part.
The characters, wow. Every character had depth, a story, a part to play. Marchetta captured everything about being seventeen and having seen/lived trauma, and it was brilliant.

I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of this book (after the first few jarring chapters).

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Final Betrayal by Patricia Gibney

Final Betrayal (Detective Lottie Parker, #6)Final Betrayal by Patricia Gibney
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I want to say that my review is going to be slightly harsher because I felt betrayed by the title.

I had this book sitting on my Kindle for about six months, saving what I believed to be the final instalment into this series for a time when I could focus and enjoy it.

And I did enjoy it, it was everything I remembered from the rest of the series – not a wasted chapter or sentence. It’s a good ride with good character perspectives and interesting motives. The characters are there for good reason, there’s good dialogue, although I am starting to tire of their captain and his intense dislike of Lottie.

I was a little annoyed that once again, Lottie’s family is kidnapped, but I went with it because I thought as the last book in the series we needed that emotional edge to the story. Who had them, what were they going to do, would they live? (I knew who it was going to be from about halfway through, although it was a good ride to see if I was right)

Only to get to the end of the book and have a bit of a cliffhanger! What? But this was the FINAL betrayal – the final one, final meaning last. Why play me like this?

Anyway, I then saw that there are two new instalments released and have since bought them because I still like Lottie, Boyd and Kirby enough that I want to read the next one. I just felt like an editor should have thought more about the title of a series – I could have been reading them as they came out, but didn’t bother looking because I thought the series was done.

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The Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah

Winter GardenWinter Garden by Kristin Hannah
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I found this an interesting read, I’d never read a story based in Leningrad and it was a nice change from other war settings.

The main characters of the story, the two sisters, were fairly cliche. One sister out being a lone adventurer, the other feeling the weight of the family as she stayed for the family business. It followed the same tropes that come with that type of character set up.

Their mother’s fairytales were the basis of the story being told, and we are from the start trying to work out why they mean so much to their mother and why she continues to tell them. Why does she sit out in her garden, why is she so angry and distant?

It starts well and familiar. However, I feel like the fairytale could have stayed a fairytale for much longer that it did. Also, ironically it’s a bit of a fairytale that the daughters could suddenly take time out of their lives with a days notice to travel – which was the most unrealistic part of the story.

I wasn’t impressed with the pacing, or with the ending. I really, really disliked the ending. I thought it was unnecessary and bizarre out of all the places that the story could have gone.

The meat of the mothers story was great, I found her story interesting and gripping. It kept me reading the whole time, and it was an easy read.

I’m not a fan of the family structure cliche used, I also have difficulty with stories set in war times due to the lazy nature of storytelling. Having said this, it was an enjoyable read and I found the setting and time interesting.

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Raven Cycle by Maggie Steifvater

raven cycle

 

The Maggie Steifvater series, Raven Cycle, has to be my most favourite feel-good read. As one of my all-time favourite authors, I’ve never disliked a book she has published, this series is possibly her best offering. The series has four books, which are: The Raven Boys, The Dream Thieves, Blue Lily, Lily Blue, and The Raven King.

A hidden Welsh king that can grant you one wish if you wake him, a group of boys from the prestigious Aglionby Academy (perhaps that attended at different times depending on how you look at it), and a girl from a house full of psychics who has the misfortune of knowing that if she kisses her true love, he will die. How can you go wrong really?

Blue has no psychic abilities herself, but can amplify other people’s psychic energies. She hates the boys from Aglionby Academy, until she meets a group that she doesn’t. Well, almost doesn’t. My favourite character, and written so that you couldn’t help but visualise her quirkiness and strength.

Gansey is our hero (depending on how you look at it) – and his quest is to find Glendower, a Welsh king who is fabled to grant you one wish if you wake him. Gansey is obsessive about the hunt for him and along the way has found a group of friends that will stand by him no matter how strange the going gets. He is also my favourite character, and one that I can see with such vividness, I could almost think of him as a friend I had in high school.

ronan.jpg

Ronan is a dreamer, a snake, a weapon, and a live personality that brings a violent edge to their strange friendship group. He also has a full heart, hidden away after he found his father beaten to death. His character is so visceral in description, and his actions always show his real side compared to that he shows. I love this about the writing, because you get both without it being pointed out blatantly.

Adam comes from Henrietta, but gained a scholarship to Aglionby. He struggles with many aspects of his life, and must make a deal with strange forces for their adventure to continue. I love Adam on a different level to Blue and Gansey, because I understand his struggles, and he is the element of realism in the series that is so full of magic and otherness – a hard place to hold in any case.

Adam

Noah rounds them off, holding them together despite the secret he holds. Noah is special, and I will leave it at that.

We do have another character that I wish had been introduced earlier in the series, Henry. Henry is a fabulous character that has brilliant dialogue, but we only meet him in the final book, The Raven King. It’s a shame because his presence throughout the ending is real, yet I don’t include him in the core set of characters. It was an interesting choice to place him where he was.

Our group of kings and magicians, are based in Henrietta, a town on a ley line that is full of possibilities and futures. We meet a lot of other characters along the way, and the author brings them in and tells each story in a way that doesn’t overcrowd in the least.

The author has a beautiful writing style that captures the ambience, the setting, and the telling, in one motion. It’s a style that resonates with how I enjoy reading and imagining the story play out, and I’ve really only ever found one or two authors whose style gets me like that.

blue

I don’t want to give away too much of the story as it’s such a joy to read! I will say that the quest for their King takes them through magical forests, different times, various dreams, caves, and has many delightful enemies that are fun and outrageously horrible too.

The Greenmantle’s and the Gray Man are examples of fantastic baddies, their dialogue and perspectives are captured with brilliant writing that makes them so terrible that you can’t help hoping they keep appearing, yet also get taken out.

It’s also difficult to describe how such a simple tale, becomes a complex twist of storylines that continue to come back to that one simple thread without being confusing. Yet it does manage this so well. Each instalment bringing with it different elements that create such a rich story, the ending feels so deserved when we get there.

Yet, the ending I’m a bit ambivalent about, and I’d love to know if that was the author’s plan all along, or whether the cult following and followers changed that up a little. I don’t know if it’s possible to love the ending of any series that you love – as that’s exactly what it brings with it, an ending of something you love. So, there’s that that might be playing on my feelings too.

I can’t recommend this series enough. It certainly has a cult following in the older YA, New Adult audiences – and for good reason. If you’ve liked books within that type of area before, then you definitely need to read these.

 

The People in the Trees by Hanya Yanagihara

The People in the TreesThe People in the Trees by Hanya Yanagihara
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I didn’t realise that this was the debut novel of Hanya Yanagihara, I had read A Little Life two years ago, and hadn’t seen this on the shelves at the time. The fact that this is the debut novel only makes it better for me.

I cannot understate how moved I was by this novel. There were parts where I felt my heart actually hurting, I was angry, I was confused, I was frustrated, and I was devastated. It is supreme writing to get me to feel all of those emotions, and still completely love what I’ve read.

The story itself sounds absolutely fantastical – a doctor, Norton Perina, sets out on an expedition with an anthropologist, Tallent, finding what could be the secret to immortality in a lost tribe. The fallout, and the sheer amount of children Norton adopts from the country is extreme – writing it now, it seems even more fantasy than I thought when reading it.

It is the writing that takes this almost ridiculous storyline, and creates a masterpiece with it. Written as Norton’s memoir, with an incredibly biased editor, it takes the story into a clinical, scientific point of view. There is no doubt that these events could take place when it is written with such realism. Norton’s memoir shows him to be a terrible person, but the real question that lingers over the story is whether he is terrible enough to have committed what he is accused of. Because Norton is writing from jail, where he was convicted of a crime that we are almost at odds to know if he was capable of or not.

The descriptions of the island where Norton and Tallent discover a tribe with unnaturally long lifespans are stunning, and his account of his own actions are in their own way, stunning as well. It was impressive that the author managed to keep the tone of the memoir the entire way, because at some points it is hard to read what Norton did, even as he is writing it as if it were nothing, or necessary.

Don’t skip the footnotes, they create their own little story, that then adds to Norton’s.

You must read until the very end, because I still haven’t gotten over the final couple of pages. I can’t decide if I wanted that to happen or not, and I can’t say too much more without hitting spoilers territory.

This is a brutal read, and I struggled at some points to read what was coming next. I liked feeling uncomfortable, and thought it was great that I hated Norton, even though it was his story. I like the interesting way the story was told, and I have never read anything written in that style before. Really clever and masterful writing style.

I loved this novel. Loved it. But it is not a read for the faint-hearted.

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