Review: Walking Shadows by Narelle M Harris

Lissa Wilson has had one hell of a year. When people she cared about kept turning up dead, she discovered that The Opposite of Life is not always death – at least, not final death anyway. When they tried killing her too, life went from bad to worse.

On the plus side, she made a friend.

Gary Hooper may be the most inept vampire in the world, but he’s taught Lissa the real value of life and so has become possibly the best friend she’s ever had. But, like everyone, Gary has secrets. Secrets that could end their friendship, if Lissa ever discovered the services he provides the undead community.

So what is an ordinary geek-girl librarian to do when hardcore vampire killers begin knocking off the vampire population of Melbourne? She may have no battle skills, let alone supernatural strength, but is that enough to stop Lissa from throwing herself into mortal danger (again) and risking everything to save her bestie?

Lissa discovers that everyone has secrets, everyone gets trapped by their own history. How many can learn to change? How many will live long enough to try?


Friendship. Love. Awkwardness. Lust. Drama. Adventure. Action. Tribulations. Family. Vampires. Melbourne.

I was introduced to this series by a friend in 2011. It appealed to me for a number of reasons beyond the fact it was written by a local Melbourne author. Beyond the fact that the Vampires in these books are different to most others the main human is a socially awkward Librarian. For those who don’t know me, well I’m socially awkward and a trained librarian! The fact that it’s also based in Melbourne is great too. There’s something I like a lot about being able to read a book and go oh I KNOW WHERE THEY ARE and actually be able to picture the area instead of imagining it/basing it on the descriptions within the books.

Plus Gary is so adorkable that it is brilliant.

Narelle (a lovely lady if you ever get the chance to meet her) writes in a way that is highly immersive. Perhaps it’s the points above combined, perhaps also her writing style but I find it quite hard to actually put down her books. The world building and how she has differentiated her Vampires to the other Vampires in literature (also a Vampire that researches ‘fictional’ Vampires for a living is a BRILLIANT idea just saying).

Narelle’s books explore not only what it is like to be a Vampire in a modern time but also the morality of Vampires and how different Vamps accept vs don’t accept being Vampires. Not only that but it’s funny. Helped along by two socially awkward main characters (Lissa & Gary) they’re supported by their friends and family who don’t know about Vamps or some do. A drunken father, a mother who… Well is dead and a sister who isn’t sure what to make of Lissa being best friends with a Vampire. Oh and a possible romance thrown in and add a heap of action you have one rollicking read.

While the characters might have a rough ride during the book it is worth it in the end.

 

★★★★★/5

Review: Julius and the Watchmaker by Tim Hehir

jwatchmakerPlease note this was read in April 2016. I just found this review in my drafts so decicded I should publish it.

A lost diary
A spinning pocketwatch
A gentleman wielding a deadly walking cane
And a boy who’s about to embark on the adventure of a lifetime

When Julius Higgins isn’t running from Crimper McCready and his gang of bullies he’s working in his grandfather’s bookshop in Ironmonger Lane.
Until Jack Springheel, a mysterious clock collector, turns up looking for the fabled diary of John Harrison—the greatest watchmaker of all time.
Before he knows it, Julius becomes a thief and a runaway and makes a deal with Springheel that he will live to regret. And all before he finds out that Harrison’s diary is really an instruction manual for making a time machine


 

Julius & The Watchmaker is a kids book. It was written for children, the writing is basic and the plot straight forward – mostly. Despite that the book was fun. Julius is a young boy, bullied, living with his grandfather and working at a bookstore when he stumbled upon the diary. Which someone wants to buy. Julius somehow ends up getting involved in the mystery of the diary, kidnapped and on the run trying to find out what secrets the diary holds.

From running through different worlds and times, to fighting for his life, Julius doesn’t have things easy. Despite that he keeps on going determined not only to get home but to fix things.

Julius & The Watchmaker is a fun adventure book that inspires you to do the right thing. It’s fun, it’s full of adventure and a book that makes you cheer for the good guys while constantly wondering what is going to happen next because you won’t be able to guess!

Review: Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas

From the throne of glass rules a king with a fist of iron and a soul as black as pitch. Assassin Celaena Sardothien won a brutal contest to become his Champion. Yet Celaena is far from loyal to the crown. She hides her secret vigilantly; she knows that the man she serves is bent on evil.

Keeping up the deadly charade becomes increasingly difficult when Celaena realizes she is not the only one seeking justice. As she tries to untangle the mysteries buried deep within the glass castle, her closest relationships suffer. It seems no one is above questioning her allegiances—not the Crown Prince Dorian; not Chaol, the Captain of the Guard; not even her best friend, Nehemia, a foreign princess with a rebel heart.

Then one terrible night, the secrets they have all been keeping lead to an unspeakable tragedy. As Celaena’s world shatters, she will be forced to give up the very thing most precious to her and decide once and for all where her true loyalties lie… and whom she is ultimately willing to fight for.


Throne of Glass, the first book in the series was a book that while well done did annoy me in places, especially with the characterisation wtih Celaena. I was told this was much better and it lived up to my expectations a lot.

In Crown of Midnight we learn that there’s a lot more to Celaena than what we originally suspect especially in the first book. This book is dark and gritty in places but still amazing and light in others.

Throughout the book, Maas tempts us with secrets of Celaena and her past as well as other characters. We get a good look into their lives and what makes them who they are and why they are doing what they are.

The romance, while still slightly cliche was well done and I quite like the route that it took. I had expected it to go the other route as that was how most YA fantasy books would go, most romance lines as it is so it was refreshing and something I was quite happy about to go the other route. In fact it was actually a minor point of the book and it wasn’t a happy romance which was good. Maas took a lot of risks in this book and it well paid off in the end.

Overal the book was incredibly well written, full of suspense, twist and turns and captured my attention a lot. I really can’t wait to read Heir of Fire!

Review: Reboot & Rebel by Amy Tintera

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Five years ago, Wren Connolly was shot three times in the chest. After 178 minutes she came back as a Reboot: stronger, faster, able to heal, and less emotional. The longer Reboots are dead, the less human they are when they return. Wren 178 is the deadliest Reboot in the Republic of Texas. Now seventeen years old, she serves as a soldier for HARC (Human Advancement and Repopulation Corporation).

Wren’s favorite part of the job is training new Reboots, but her latest newbie is the worst she’s ever seen. As a 22, Callum Reyes is practically human. His reflexes are too slow, he’s always asking questions, and his ever-present smile is freaking her out. Yet there’s something about him she can’t ignore. When Callum refuses to follow an order, Wren is given one last chance to get him in line—or she’ll have to eliminate him. Wren has never disobeyed before and knows if she does, she’ll be eliminated, too. But she has also never felt as alive as she does around Callum.

The perfect soldier is done taking orders.

REBOOT #2
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Wren Connolly thought she’d left her human side behind when she does five years ago and came back 178 minutes later as a Reboot. With her new abilities of strength, speed, and healing—along with a lack of emotions—Wren 178 became the perfect soldier for HARC (Human Advancement and Repopulation Corporation). Then Callum 22 came along and changed everything.

Now that they’ve both escaped, they’re ready to start a new life in peace on the Reboot reservation. But Micah 163, the Reboot running the reservation, has darker plans in mind: to wipe out the humans. All of them. Micah has been building a Reboot army for years and is now ready to launch his attack on the cities. Callum wants to stick around and protect the humans. Wren wants nothing more than to leave all the fighting behind them.

With Micah on one side, HARC on the other, and Wren and Callum at odds in the middle, there’s only one option left…

It’s time for Reboots to become rebels.


I first discovered these books while working at a school – a job I only just left – a few years ago. How I found them? I saw the covers and thought they looked cool and always went ‘must read’ of course I never did while I worked there. Starting this new job requires me to spend hours (2.5) on a train each day so I ended up at the library and saw them both on the shelf so I grabbed them. I don’t regret it one bit.

 

The Reboot Universe is detailed, captivating and alluring in many ways. At first, I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect especially with the whole ‘coming back to life’ part. Dystopia and Zombies while not new they aren’t exactly common. (List of Dystopian!Zombie books) Or at least I haven’t come across many of them. I was also afraid that this wouldn’t be well written despite the hype about it that I found on the internet. Dystopia is one of those genres I find that many people write because it’s big and sells well such as Vampires, Werewolves etc. I was therefore quite pleasantly surprised on just how quickly I got hooked on this.

 

Amy Tintera has done an amazing job at developing the world of this duology. From the very first page I was captivated. The level of detail and background is great. The whole dystopia and rebooting is done in a way which is believable and to me that is the most important aspect of the books. Yes it’s Dystopian and essentially has Zombies in it but it’s believable and I could truly see it happening if such a disease did exist.

 

The character’s and the development they went through were great too. Wren is someone who was dead for nearly three hours before coming back to life. She’s changed a lot. The book starts out with her being an emotionless killer machine but through her interactions with Callum over the course of the first book and then into the second book we see her grow and develop in a way that doesn’t leave us scratching our heads and going ‘why do that’ just for the sake of doing it. The fact that she didn’t immediately fall in love with him was great too. I was worried it was going to be incredibly cliche in that regard but was pleasantly surprised. I would have liked it to have zero romance but as a YA novel well… Romance is to be expected. Despite that it wasn’t the focus of the book which I appreciated. Sometimes you just don’t want to read a romance line when people are fighting for their lives.

 

Not doing it as a trilogy I think helped a lot. The books were fast paced but not too fast. If it was drawn out over three books I think it could have gotten boring so I applaud Amy for not conforming to genre ‘standards’ of doing things in threes. It was a well-made choice.

Review: Deadly Hemlock by Kathleen Peacock

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Mackenzie and Amy were best friends. Until Amy was brutally murdered. Since then, Mac’s life has been turned upside down. She is being haunted by Amy in her dreams, and an extremist group called the Trackers has come to Mac’s hometown of Hemlock to hunt down Amy’s killer: A white werewolf. Lupine syndrome—also known as the werewolf virus—is on the rise across the country. Many of the infected try to hide their symptoms, but bloodlust is not easy to control. Wanting desperately to put an end to her nightmares, Mac decides to investigate Amy’s murder herself. She discovers secrets lurking in the shadows of Hemlock, secrets about Amy’s boyfriend, Jason, her good pal Kyle, and especially her late best friend. Mac is thrown into a maelstrom of violence and betrayal that puts her life at risk. Kathleen Peacock’s thrilling novel is the first in the Hemlock trilogy, a spellbinding urban fantasy series filled with provocative questions about prejudice, trust, lies, and love.


 

I usually don’t really like Werewolf books, I find them cliche and often very similar to one another. The same with Vampire novels. Deadly Hemlock is anything but that (even if I didn’t realise at first that I had read it back in 2012 I quickly realised it was a reread but I kept reading it because it still was interesting and captivating). Kathleen Peacock has developed a world where Lupine Syndrome has been spread over the United States, Werewolves are considered animals where they have no rights and are kept in ‘rehabilitation camps’. Set five months after the death of Amy and a rash of killings by a white werewolf the story follows Amy’s three friends when Trackers (or people who ‘deal’ with Werewolves) come to town after yet another attack by a white werewolf.

It’s teenage angst, romance and confusion all rolled up with Werewolves who run around town unregistered while trying to pretend to be human. All the while Mac is trying to solve the mystery of what actually happened to Amy as she doesn’t believe she was actually murdered by a Werewolf but it was only made to look like it.

I think the main redeeming quality that makes it different to a lot of the ‘stereotypical’ werewolf books out there is that a) Wolves aren’t accepted even though they’re known b) the ending actually is rather surprising which I liked. The entire mystery is quite well done.

What I didn’t like? The love triangle. Ugh so over those. The fact that it is the girl deciding between the ‘human’ and the ‘wolf’ well not surprised there. It’s fairly typical teenage angst/romance with paranormal bits in it. The Ending gave it the rating it did otherwise it floats around 3 stars for me. It’s not great but then I didn’t go in thinking it would be a literary masterpiece either.

Still it’s a fun YA werewolf novel. I doubt I’ll read the rest of the series though.

Review: Cosplay: The Fantasy World of Role Play by Lauren Orsini

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Cosplay is a growing phenomenon across the world, though still centred in Asia. It is generally agreed to have originated from fan events in Japan. Cosplay is a term that merges the words “costume” and “play”. Most wearers make their costumes themselves and they take great pride in showing off their skill with complex and intricate get-ups. They are usually worn to attend events or conventions, with the wearer assuming the character of their costume. Cosplay costumes are beginning to have a wider influence – for example, Cosplay is influencing street fashions in Japan. As the twenty-first century art of dressing up, Cosplay enables you to adopt the persona of your favourite character or hero from manga or anime, or your most loved comic book, video game or sci-fi film. Mixing fantasy with creativity, it is all about the fun of role-playing your ultimate hero or heroine. Cosplay – The Fantasy World of Role Play is a celebration of this unique cultural expression and features page after page of glorious characters in their amazing costumes, from all around the world. Cosplay – The Fantasy World of Role Play also traces the various trends and genres within Cosplay and explores its origins and history as well as the cultural differences between how Cosplay is experienced in Japan, America and Europe

For those who don’t know. I work (casually) at a Public Library. One of my co-workers told me about this book thinking that I would like it and I did. It’s more of a coffee table book than anything but it is interesting. It gives a detailed account of the history of Cosplay which is actually quite fascinating. Did you know it originated in the 1940s?

Despite that the book was broken down into ‘types’ of Cosplay – Anima, Books, Original, Movies etc with pictures and small blurbs. Quick read, just a book to flip through but full of interesting information and ideas especially for someone such as I who, while going to conventions doesn’t really do the Cosplay thing (to much time and effort for me atm! And money.)

Still certainly an interesting book to flip through.

★★★ /5

Review: Playing Beatie Bow by Ruth Park

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Abby Kirk 14, selfish in Sydney Australia, chases Beatie Bow 11, from park where kids chant her name in game, to 1873. Bows adopt penniless ‘Stranger’ into typical life of era’s working-class. Gran from Orkney foretold ‘Stranger’ must save family Gift of Prophecy. Abby will only learn power of love for herself, falls for sailor Judah 18, engaged to Dovey.

Continue reading “Review: Playing Beatie Bow by Ruth Park”

Blog Tour & Review: Raining Embers by Jessica Dall

Raining-Embers-800 Cover reveal and Promotional Title: Raining Embers
Author: Jessica Dall
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult

Palmer Tash always follows the path of least resistance. He has an unusual disability involving his hearing. But in theocratic Latysia, being different isn’t a good thing, so he conceals his problem. Brier Chastain’s malady is even more debilitating, and she often must take to her bed for long periods. Her days are spent in meaningless pursuits as she awaits an arranged marriage. When Palmer and Brier are kidnapped on the same night, they meet and discover that their so-called disabilities are actually budding powers. They are the incarnations of Order and Chaos. With their country on the brink of war, the two must step into their predestined roles and learn to take control of their own destinies.


Amazon | Goodreads | Red Adept Publishing

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jessica-dall About Jessica

Jessica Dall finished her first novel at the age of fifteen and has been hooked on writing ever since. In the past few years, she has published two novels, The Copper Witch and The Porcelain Child, along with a number of short stories that have appeared in both magazines and anthologies. In college, Jessica interned at a publishing house, where her “writing hobby” slowly turned into a variety of writing careers. She currently works as both as an editor and creative writing teacher in Washington, DC. When not busy editing, writing, or teaching, Jessica enjoys crafting and piano, and spending time with her friends and family. She can most often be found at her home in Maryland with a notebook and her much-loved, sometimes-neglected husband.

 


My Review

I was asked by Jessica, to take part on the Blog Tour and review her book which she and Red Adept Publishing provided a free copy for. This in no way has influenced my review.

I’m a big fan of fantasy, especially Young Adult so I was excited for this book even if I wasn’t so sure about the blurb I had high hopes for it. The book in itself has a lot of potential but I feel like it didn’t live up to it in many ways.

The World: The world Jessica has created is fascinating and has so much potential. The book… It’s just too short, you don’t get a good feel for it. So many things are glossed over and not fully explained that it was a bit of a let down. It’s like being handed a cake but only then being able to eat a small bit of it. There’s just so much left that I was left wanting. Perhaps as the series progress we’ll find out more about the world that the story takes place in

Plot: The plot is certainly unique and intriguing. I admit that the blurb left me slightly confused in what it had to do with the story. The idea of two characters being Order and Chaos, of having abilities relating to each of them is fascinating and was an interesting twist. What confused me was the disabilities. As I read the book I actually forgot that Tash was supposed to have hearing problems, it just didn’t come across well for me in the book and Brier’s ‘disability’ just confused me. I didn’t see the point of it. Though I think it could have been explored more as I believe it had something to do with how she developed her powers but to me it wasn’t all that clear.

What happened while they were kidnapped was certainly interesting though as was the aftermath and the conclusion of the book.

Despite that, I found the plot to be slow going and it took awhile for it to build up to a conclusion. While I understand in fantasy it is necessary to develop the world alongside the plot I felt that the plot could have moved a lot faster in places, especially the beginning. Though I understand why she did it the way she did, I had to force myself to read it. Partly though I just wanted to learn as much about the world of Raining Embers as possible. The introduction of Rosette was certainly interesting though and I quite liked her as a character.

The Characters Perhaps because it is a YA and a fairly short one at that coming in at just under 300 pages, I felt like we didn’t get a good feel for the characters. Like the world building there is so much potential in regards to what is known for the characters. While we did learn a lot about them towards the end of the book it felt that for the rest of the book there were only small snippets given here and there. As I mentioned before, the disabilities that play such a large role in the blurb confused me as it didn’t really impact the story a part from them being the powers.

I feel like Jessica could have handled this in a different way, made the powers manifest themselves another way or played up these disabilities more during the book. Then again, Brier confused me at times. At the same time her interaction with Tash seemed forced and awkward. While, a lot of this comes from the two of them being forced together in a situation where they rarely know one another I do think that she just took advantage of him and treated him rather poorly at times. That wasn’t to say that he wasn’t perfect in their behaviour either… Then again they are teenagers! Rosette on the other hand, for a minor character was really quite interesting. I loved reading her scenes and want to know more about her.

Overall, I believe that Raining Embers has a lot of potential but could have done well with being a longer book than it actually was. At the length it is, it teased us, gave us a lot of snippets about the world and the characters but wasn’t all that fulfilling. Despite that, I did enjoy the end of the book and thought it was an interesting way of handling things. I’m looking forward to seeing book two and hopefully some more development of the world.
 

★ ★ ★ / 5

 

Review: The Shifting Fog by Kate Morton

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Originally published as The House at Riverton

1924: On the eve of a glittering society party, by the lake of a grand English country house, a young poet takes his life. The only witnesses, sisters Hannah and Emmeline Hartford, will never speak to each other again.

Winter 1999: Grace Bradley, 98, one-time housemaid of Riverton Manor, is visited by a young director making a film about the poet’s suicide. Ghosts awaken and memories, long consigned to the dark reaches of Grace’s mind, begin to sneak back through the cracks. A shocking secret threatens to emerge; something history has forgotten but Grace never could.

Set as the war-shattered Edwardian summer surrenders to the decadent twenties, The Shifting Fog is a thrilling mystery and a compelling love story

I’m sad to admit that this is the first Kate Morton book that I’ve finished. Not due to lack of interest in the others far from it, but life got in the way and before I knew it, it had been months since I’d listened to them. This, though, I actually finished though I was still incredibly busy. Like all the other books, it quickly drew me into the plot and the characters which were believable. The story was set up in a way that the two timelines were written side by side so you found out what was happening in the modern day when Grace is 98 and has just met Ursula who is making a movie about the events at Riverton.

Ursula is extremely passionate about the movie and despite some artistic licence that she took with the movie she is genuinely interested in learning the truth about it from Grace who decided to record the story of it for her estranged Grandson, in the hopes that it will help him return to them.

Unlike with some mysteries, this kept me guessing to the very end and in the end I actually didn’t guess the ending or many of the events that led up to the ending. I mean I did guess who Ursula was, something I had thought early on but when I found out about something it confirmed my guess long before we actually discovered the truth. It was such a small thing in some ways it didn’t detract from it. I had to keep listening, I had to know what happened.

Definitely worth the read and I really need to get off my backside and read the rest of her novels! Or at least finish the ones I started >.>.

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ / 5

Review: Northanger Abbey by Val McDermid

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Internationally best-selling crime writer Val McDermid has riveted millions of readers worldwide with her acutely suspenseful, psychologically complex, seamlessly plotted thrillers. In Northanger Abbey, she delivers her own, witty, updated take on Austen’s classic novel about a young woman whose visit to the stately home of a well-to-do acquaintance stirs her most macabre imaginings, with an extra frisson of suspense that only McDermid could provide.

Cat Morland is ready to grow up. A homeschooled minister’s daughter in the quaint, sheltered Piddle Valley in Dorset, she loses herself in novels and is sure there is a glamorous adventure awaiting her beyond the valley’s narrow horizon. So imagine her delight when the Allens, neighbors and friends of her parents, invite her to attend the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh as their guest. With a sunny personality, tickets every night and a few key wardrobe additions courtesy of Susie Allen, Cat quickly begins to take Edinburgh by storm and is taken into the bosom of the Thorpe family, particularly by eldest daughter Bella. And then there’s the handsome Henry Tilney, an up-and-coming lawyer whose family home is the beautiful and forbidding Northanger Abbey. Cat is entranced by Henry and his charming sister Eleanor, but she can’t help wondering if everything about them is as perfect as it seems. Or has she just been reading too many novels? A delectable, note-perfect modern update of the Jane Austen classic, Northanger Abbey tells a timeless story of innocence amid cynicism, the exquisite angst of young love, and the value of friendship.

Things I love: Jane Austen, Scotland, History, Vampires

Things this book has: Jane Austen, Scotland, History, Vampires

I’d heard about this series ages ago – before they were actually published I believe – but it took me awhile to get around to reading them which is a shame. This one is fast paced, sticks to the theme of Jane Austen (woman is thrown into new circumstances, meets attractive boy, meets a friend who she thinks is great, said friend has a brother who is out to ruin her, said friend turns out not who she says but woman gets happily ever after as well as the secret that nearly ruins her). I might have known exactly what was going to happen throughout the book, but it was absolutely riveting nonetheless and I kept going wanting to know what would happen, how things would happen. Done perfectly the book while keeping true to Jane Austen it was modern enough that it didn’t feel like it was just rewriting the original novel.

McDermid, mixed in modern day Scotland from the Book Fair to the locations with ease.

Now that wasn’t to say it was perfect in any way. There are certainly bits that annoyed me – the constant texting back and forth using netspeak? Yes they’re teenagers in 2015, but I just even in my mid 20s had to take a moment and actually sit back to try and figure out what they were talking about at times. The obsession with Twilight? Sure there is a fascination with Vampires and gothic mysteries but it might have gone a bit too overboard at times to the point I was rolling my eyes while I read certain passages of the book.

General Tilney & idiot!boy (John Trollope). I wanted to smack them. Yes, that was the point but you’d think her friends and he would actually take the chance to talk things through rather than jumping to conclusions. That bit was probably one of the more, frustrating aspects of the novel.

I think I came in expecting to enjoy the book but otherwise didn’t have high expectations, I wasn’t expecting literary greatness. As much as I enjoy McDermid’s books she isn’t Austen but in fact, a crime writing and this is aimed for young adults. So overall I think it was a fairly enjoyable read.

★ ★ ★ ★ / 5