Review: Wicked As You Wish by Rin Chupeco

 


Title: Wicked As You Wish (A Hundred Names for Magic #1)

Author: Rin Chupeco

Published: March 3rd 2020, Sourcebooks Fire

Status: Read March 2020, courtesy Sourcebooks/Netgalley

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My Thoughts:

 

While browsing for a novel to suit the SwordsNStars challenge, the publicity tagline for Wicked As You Wish by Rin Chupeco caught my attention.

“An unforgettable alternate history fairy-tale series about found family, modern-day magic, and finding the place you belong.”

The story begins in The Royal States of America, where Prince Alexei of Avalon is in hiding from The Snow Queen, waiting until he is found by the Firebird, so that he at last will have the power to renter his lands and claim his throne. When the Firebird finally appears, Alex, along with his best friend Tala – who has a rare ability to repel and negate magic – and a group of other young magic wielders, set out on a dangerous journey to Avalon to reclaim it from the Snow Queen’s deadly magic.

There’s a lot to like in Wicked As You Wish. It offers plenty of fast paced action, a diverse cast of characters, humour, intrigue, and a unique mix of political and cultural elements taken from both the modern world and the world of fairytales and legends.

But the world Chupeco has created is very ambitious and to be honest I struggled to make complete sense of it. Eventually I just had to sort of overlook the finer details and simply go along for the ride.

If you are willing to do the same, I expect you’ll enjoy Wicked As You Wish, as I did, but I think it’s fair to say it won’t be for everyone.

++++++

Available from Sourcebooks

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository I Indiebound

Review: Euphoria Kids by Alison Evans

Title: Euphoria Kids

Author: Alison Evans

Published: February 4th 2020, Echo Publishing

Status: Read February 2020 courtesy Echo Publishing/BFredericksPR

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My Thoughts:

Euphoria Kids is an enchanting tale of identity, friendship, and belonging for young adults from Alison Evans.

Told with imagination and tenderness, it introduces Iris, identified as non-binary, who makes a wish for a friend and finds first Babs, a girl who often not only feels, but sometimes is, invisible, and a trans boy, new to the school, who has not yet found his real name.

The prose is lyrical with a whimsical tone. Using magic in part as a metaphor, Evan’s characters explore their who they are, and who they want to be, supporting one another in finding and facing their truths. And as with all fairytales there is a happy ending.

I (a cis, straight, white woman in her 40’s) am not the target audience for this book but I do appreciate, and respect, the author’s intent to provide representation and support for genderqueer youth. I hope this book finds it way into schools and libraries where it will have a chance to work its magic for those in need.

++++++

Available from Echo Publishing

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository

Read an Extract

Review: The Girl with the Gold Bikini by Lisa Walker

Title: The Girl With the Gold Bikini

Author: Lisa Walker

Published: February 1st 2020, Wakefield Press

Status: Read January 2020 courtesy Wakefield Press

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My Thoughts:

Lisa Walker delivers a sharp-witted, delightful romp with her latest novel, The Girl With the Gold Bikini.

Having deferred her law degree and forgone a backpacking tour around Asia with her best friends, Olivia Grace is fulfilling a childhood dream by working as a private investigator-in-training on Queensland’s Gold Coast. Working for her entrepreneurial (and attractive) former neighbour, she is disappointed to be mostly running internet searches, rather than saving the day like her idols Princess Leia, Nancy Drew, and Veronica Mars, so when Rosco finally assigns her a case, following a suspected cheating husband, she’s determined to prove her worth.

Olivia soon finds herself careering between the Gold Coast and Byron Bay with a handbag full of disguises, including a gold bikini, filched from her grandmother’s closet, in an effort to ascertain just what the husband, a Byron Bay yogi, is up to and what it has to do with speed dating, a chain of McSushi restaurants, a group of marine life activists, and a missing surfing champion. It’s a fun, at times madcap, mystery adventure as Olivia gets herself tied up in knots -literally – trying to solve the case, but it has the occasional serious edge with reference to an assault, workplace sexual harassment, and racism.

Walker’s quirky sense of humour will be familiar to those who have read her previously published books. Short chapters contribute to the fast pace, and the mystery is well plotted with a satisfying conclusion.

Olivia is an engaging protagonist, only eighteen she is full of youthful optimism and confidence. Walker alludes to the fact that Olivia isn’t the body ‘ideal’, but she’s generally unbothered by it, (and rocks that gold bikini as a Gold Coast meter maid regardless). Olivia’s crush on her boss, and childhood friend Rosco, has an endearing awkwardness to it, and introduces a light element of romance. I enjoyed the banter, and the ‘insider’ references to Star Wars the pair share.

The Girl with the Gold Bikini is an entertaining and witty novel, suitable for both YA and adult audiences, and a terrific summer read.

++++++

Available from Wakefield Press

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository

Also by Lisa Walker reviewed at Book’d Out

@Goodreads

 

Review: Aurora Rising by Amie Kauffman and Jay Kristoff

 

Title: Aurora Rising {The Aurora Cycle #1}

Author: Amie Kauffman and Jay Kristoff

Published: May 6th 2019, Allen & Unwin

Status: Read December 2019

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My Thoughts:

Nearing the end of 2019 I realised I had not read any sci-fi during the year. To be honest it’s not a genre I gravitate towards but I usually try to step out of my comfort zone and read a handful. I chose Aurora Rising because it’s written by two Australian authors, and it was described as “fast-paced, action-packed, wickedly humorous and fabulously entertaining.”

Happily, I found the description accurate, and I really enjoyed Aurora Rising. Set in 2380 it begins when graduating Aurora Academy student Tyler Jones saves the only survivor of a starship that had disappeared over two hundred years earlier, and in doing so tanks his dream of leading an elite peacekeeping squad. Saddled with a group of misfits, his first mission goes awry when he discovers the girl he rescued, Aurora Jie-Lin O’Malley, hiding on his ship, and the secret branch of the Global Intelligence Agency demanding they turn her over.

The story unfolds from the perspectives of each crew member – Tyler, his twin sister, Scarlett, pilot Cat, engineer Finn, tactical officer, Kal, and stowaway, Aurora. I loved the banter, and the development of the dynamic between the disparate personalities.

As promised there is plenty of fast-paced action as the squad suddenly finds themselves pursued across the galaxy without really understanding why. The team has to learn to trust one another if they are going to stay one step ahead of the GIA, and figure out what is going on.

Despite its length of nearly five hundred pages I found Aurora Rising to be a quick read. It’s definitely YA, so probably not one for serious sci-fi readers, but it has a Guardian of the Galaxy vibe which suited me.

Aurora Rising is the first book in The Aurora Cycle Trilogy, the second, Aurora Burning, is expected to be published mid 2020, and I’ve already added it to my TBR.

++++++

Available from Allen & Unwin

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I via Indiebound I Book Depository

Review: Slayer by Kiersten White

 

Title: Slayer {Slayer #1}

Author: Kiersten White

Published: February 1st 2019; Simon & Schuster Au

Status: Read October 2019

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My Thoughts:

“Into every generation a Slayer is born: one girl in all the world, a Chosen One. She alone will wield the strength and skill to fight the vampires, demons, and forces of darkness; to stop the spread of their evil and the swell of their number. She is the Slayer.”

When browsing for a book to serve as a nod to Halloween (which isn’t really a ‘thing’ here) I quickly zeroed in on Slayer by Kiersten White. I haven’t been interested in the graphic novels that picked up where the ‘original’ left off, but I am a huge fan of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer television series, it’s the only box set I own, and I binge watch it at least once a year.

Comparisons between Slayer and the ‘original’ are inevitable for fans, and honestly, my expectations here were quite low, so I was a little surprised at how much I enjoyed this.

Slayer is set after the end of the television series, and (so I’ve been lead to believe) fits with the canon developed in the graphic novels. If you are a fan, you may remember that the Watcher’s Council was all but eliminated during an explosion orchestrated by Caleb, the creepy Preacher. In Slayer, the few Watcher’s who remained have gone to ground in Ireland, and have essentially been in hiding ever since. Athena ‘Nina’ and her twin sister, Artemis, are the sixteen year old daughter’s of Council member Helen Jamison-Smythe, and the late Merrick Jamison-Smythe who was Buffy’s first watcher, and died protecting her.

The story unfolds from Nina’s perspective when, after a lifetime of being sidelined by her mother and overshadowed by her sister, she is imbued with the power of the Slayer. Nina is horrified given that she holds Buffy responsible for almost every wrong in her life, and is further devastated when both her mother and Artemis make it clear that they think it’s a power that Nina isn’t capable of wielding. Nina herself might have her doubts, but she’s determined to prove them wrong.

“Being chosen is easy. Making choices will break your heart.”

Though a touch angsty for my taste, Nina is a typical teen in that she is somewhat self centered, insecure, and short sighted. Her relationship with her mother is very complicated, and while she has a close relationship with Artemis, it’s not as equal as she likes to think. Denied the opportunity to apply for a position as a Watcher, Nina has carved out a niche for herself as a medic for what’s left of the Academy, but being Chosen changes everything.

I enjoyed the storyline which is fast paced with plenty of action that begins when Nina kills a hellhound on the trail of a runaway demon. Doug, the aforementioned horned demon who secrets a substance that gives humans a high, alerts Nina and her friends to the presence of a monster fight club in nearby Dublin, and inadvertently exposes a traitor, or three, in their midst.

“How evil can something wearing a Coldplay shirt be?”

One of the major elements of Buffy’s appeal is its humour, often sarcastic occasionally slapstick, there are very few episodes that don’t raise a snigger. There are lines in Slayer that raised a smile, and one or two that made me chuckle, but it didn’t quite have effortless wit or banter I was hoping for.

Of course I loved the references to familiar characters and events from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, from a dig at Buffy’s relationships with Angel and Spike, to the betrayal by Gwendolyn Post, and even a cameo by Faith. Buffy even makes an appearance or two in Nina’s dreams.

For me, Slayer was a easy, fun read which pays appropriate homage to the Buffyverse while also forging a new direction for White to exploit further. I’m looking forward to reading more in Chosen, due to be published in Feb 2020.

++++++

Available from Simon & Schuster Au

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository

 

Review: Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson

 

Title: Sorcery of Thorns

Author: Margaret Rogerson

Published: June 4th 2019, Margaret K. Elderly Books

Status: Read July 2019

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My Thoughts:

“Ink and parchment flowed through her veins. The magic of the Great Libraries lived in her very bones. They were a part of her, and she a part of them.”

Raised in the Great Library of Summershall, foundling Elisabeth Scrivener has grown up with no other desire than to become a Warden in service to the Collegium, to wield an iron sword, and protect the kingdom from the powerful grimoires that line the shelves of the six Great Library’s of Austemeer.

“For these were not ordinary books the libraries kept. They were knowledge, given life. Wisdom, given voice. They sang when starlight streamed through the library’s windows. They felt pain and suffered heartbreak. Sometimes they were sinister, grotesque—but so was the world outside. And that made the world no less worth fighting for, because wherever there was darkness, there was also so much light.”

But Elisabeth’s dream is shattered when she is accused of a deadly act of sabotage that results in the death of her mentor, the Summershall Director. Ordered to stand trial in the Capital, she is escorted by Nathaniel Thorn, a young Magister with a fearsome reputation, and his demon servant, Silas. Raised to believe the worst of sorcery, and those who wield it, Elisabeth doesn’t expect to even survive the journey, but she will face a far greater danger at her destination, where the real saboteur waits.

“She saw no way out of the trap he had built for her. Escape wasn’t an option. If she attempted to run, he would know that she suspected him, and the game would come to an end. She would lose any chance she had left to expose him, however small.”

Sorcery of Thorns is an enchanting young adult fantasy novel offering adventure, suspense, humour, and romance.

I thought Rogerson did a great job of character development.

Elisabeth quickly sheds the innocence of her sheltered background, but not her idealism. She proves to be intelligent, resourceful and courageous, and is determined to end the threat to Austemeer, no matter the cost to herself.

Nathaniel is a bit of a tortured hero, with a tragic backstory. I particularly enjoyed his sense of humour.

The romance between Elisabeth and Nathaniel is not too rushed, and I found it sweet.

Silas, with his impeccable manners and yellow eyes, almost steals the show.

I loved the world building, the settings are easily imagined, from the home of Nathaniel to the halls, and secret passages, of the Great Library. And what reader can resist the idea of a library where books grumble, and sigh, and sing, and whisper? A book provoked, becomes a Malefict, a terrifying monster that has the potential to maim and kill. Iron and salt are weapons that keep them bound.

“Knowledge always has the potential to be dangerous. It is a more powerful weapon than any sword or spell.”

I was enthralled by the Sorcery of Thorns, though near 500 pages long, I found it a quick read. Charming, exciting and entertaining, the novel is written as a stand alone, but I’d love to return to this world.

Read an Excerpt

++++++

Available from Simon & Schuster AU

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository

Review and Giveaway: All That Impossible Space by Anna Morgan

 

 

Title: All That Impossible Space

Author: Anna Morgan Twitter I Instagram I Goodreads

Published: June 25th 2019, Lothian Children’s Books

Status: Read June 2019, courtesy Hachette AU

Blurb:

Amelia Westlake meets My Favorite Murder in this debut from a terrific new voice in Australian YA. Combines a realistic story about high school drama and toxic friendship with true crime – the endlessly fascinating Somerton Man or Taman Shud mystery.

15-year-old Lara Laylor feels like supporting character in her own life. She’s Ashley’s best friend, she’s Hannah’s sister-she’s never just Lara.

When new history teacher Mr. Grant gives her an unusual assignment: investigating the mystery of the Somerton Man. Found dead in on an Adelaide beach in 1948, a half-smoked cigarette still in his mouth and the labels cut out of his clothes, the Somerton Man has intrigued people for years. Was he a spy? A criminal? Year 10 has plenty of mysteries of its own: boys, drama queen friends, and enigmatic new students. When they seem just as unsolvable as a 60-year-old cold case, Lara finds herself spending more and more time on the assignment. But Mr Grant himself may be the biggest mystery of all…

Interspersed with fictionalised snapshots of the Somerton Man investigation, ALL THAT IMPOSSIBLE SPACE is a coming of age novel exploring toxic friendships and the balance of power between teacher and student, perfect for fans of Cath Crowley and Fiona Wood.

++++++

My Thoughts:

 

Anna Morgan’s contemporary young adult novel, All That Impossible Space, is an engaging debut exploring the themes of identity, friendship, family, and coming-of-age, framed by the enigmatic mystery of Somerton Man.

I was vaguely aware of the Somerton Man case before reading All That Impossible Space, and it was one of the main reasons that I was persuaded to read the novel. Given the current popularity of true crime, evidenced by podcasts such as My Favorite Murder (which I personally enjoy), and the plethora of documentaries on streaming services such as Netflix, it’s a savvy inclusion from the author. The Somerton Man case cleverly reflects Lara’s search for her own identity, as someone other than Hannah’s sister, and Ashley’s best friend. This in part explains her attachment to Mr Grant, who as a new teacher has no knowledge of Hannah’s accomplishments, and acknowledges Lara as an individual, rather than part of ‘AshleyandLara’.

I appreciated Morgan’s realistic portrayal of her characters. My teenagers are all of a similar age and I feel Lara, Ashley, Kate and Jos demonstrated appropriate attitudes and behaviours for their age group, which isn’t always the case in young adult fiction.

There would be few among us who wouldn’t be familiar with a ‘friend’ like Ashley, and Morgan skilfully portrays the codependent dynamic of their toxic relationship. I really liked that the author showed how difficult it was for Lara to extricate herself from the situation, struggling with her sense of loyalty to Ashley, and not wanting to hurt her feelings. The author underscores how destructive the friendship is by contrasting it with Lara’s interactions with Kate, the new girl, and Jos, the love interest.

Lara’s issues with her family are relatively benign for the genre, but I liked that Morgan showed that family problems don’t have to be dramatic (eg abuse, drugs, neglect etc) to have an effect on a teen’s sense of self. Lara’s parents are loving but have in a way lost sight of her, focused on her sister’s drama, even in Hannah’s absence. It’s clear Lara misses her sister, who is travelling on a gap year, but is also hurt by Hannah’s lack of communication.

I enjoyed All That Impossible Space, particularly the thoughtful examination of teen friendships and the intriguing study of Somerton Man (be prepared to fall down that rabbithole when you are done reading).

“Tamám Shud”

++++++

Available from Hachette in Paperback and Ebook

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko , or internationally from Book Depository

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GIVEAWAY

Courtesy of Hachette Austalia , I have

1 print edition of

All That Impossible Space by Anna Morgan

to giveaway to one lucky Australian resident.

Please leave a comment on this post and then

Closed

Congratulations Claire Louisa 

*PLEASE NOTE: Only Australian residents are eligible to enter*

Entries close July 5th, 2019

The giveaway will be random drawing on July 6th, 2019 and the winner will be notified by email within 48 hours

Weekend Cooking: Cake at Midnight by Jessie L. Star

 

Title: Cake at Midnight

Author: Jessie L. Star

Published: January 15th 2018, Simon & Schuster AU

Status: Read May 2019 courtesy Simon & Schuster

++++++

My Thoughts:

An engaging novel of contemporary romance, Cake at Midnight is a story of friendship and love from Australian author, Jessie L. Star.

Giovanna, Zoë and Declan – the baker, the beauty, and the brains- have been best friends since childhood. Now in their early twenties, they have celebrated one another’s successes, and commiserated with one another during times of heartbreak. For years Gio has nursed a crush on Declan who doesn’t mind taking advantage of her slavish devotion when it suits him, much to the growing disgust of Zoe. And after a disastrous not-a-date Gio realises she has let the situation get out of control, and in order to preserve their friendships, decides to cut Declan out of her life for 30 days. It’s not an easy step for Gio to take, not even cake is enough to dull the hurt, but her new neighbour, the enigmatic Theo, might just be exactly what she needs.

I enjoyed the romance in Cake at Midnight, it develops slowly from an odd sort of companionship, to a ‘friends with benefits’ situation, to the beginnings of a real relationship. Despite their very obvious differences, Gio and Theo complement each other well, though of course their path to true love has obstacles to overcome.

But romance is not all Cake at Midnight is about. It’s also about the friendship between Gio, Zoe and Declan and how it has changed over time as they have matured. There is a layer of emotional complexity relating to the family dynamics of Theo, and Declan. It’s also about being true to oneself.

The foodie element of the novel comes from Gio’s love of baking. She works at Pickle, Peach and Plum, an artisanal bakery, as an apprentice pastry chef.

“You’d perhaps think that, working at a bakery, the last thing I’d want to do upon returning home from a gruelling, every-last-swirl-of-ganache-critiqued, constantly-on-my-feet, nine-hour day, was more baking. You’d be wrong. It was like the difference between reading for school and reading for pleasure. I’d certainly always found during my years of education that the chance to chuck aside a textbook and pick up a recipe book had been a welcome one. That was what home baking was like for me.”

The first cake she bakes for Theo, to both apologise and thank him for rescuing her the night her not-a-date with Declan goes badly, is a Dark Chocolate and Rum Cake. She serves him a two-layer Lemon and Cardamom Cake the first time they kiss. The foodie references and metaphors added to the sweetness of Cake at Midnight.

++++++

Available from Simon & Schuster AU

or from your preferred retailer via Amazon AU I Amazon US 

 

Review: Smoke and Iron by Rachel Caine

 

Title: Smoke and Iron {The Great Library #4}

Author: Rachel Caine

Published: Berkley July 2018

Status: Read July 2018

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My Thoughts:

Smoke and Iron is another fabulous instalment in Rachel Caine’s The Great Library young adult fantasy series, following Ink and Bone, Paper and Fire, and Ash and Quill.

“The Archivist made us into an ugly thing,… A thing that used fear to control the world. But we are not what he made us. We are more. We stand, unafraid. And together. Because we are the Great Library!”

In a world where book ownership is forbidden, the rebellion determined to free knowledge from the Archivist’s Iron grip, and save The Great Library, is about to spill in to war.

The story picks up almost immediately following the events of Ash and Quill. This instalment unfolds from the viewpoints of Jess, Morgan, Khalila, and Wolfe. While Jess (impersonating his twin brother, Brendan) endeavours to learn the Archivist’s secrets, Morgan has returned to the Obscurist’s Iron Tower seeking vulnerabilities she can exploit. Meanwhile Wolfe struggles to hold onto his sanity deep in the cells of Alexandria, and Khalila does her best to keep her friends, and their mission, safe and on track.

The plot is fast paced and tension filled. Each member of the rebel group has an important part to play in preparation for the coming Feast of Greater Burning, the stakes are higher, and the risks greater, than ever.

The final book in this series, Sword and Pen, is not expected to be published until 2020. Such a long time to wait!

++++++

Available to Purchase from

Penguin US I Murdoch Books AU or your preferred retailer

Review: The Map of Bones by Francesca Haig

 

Title: The Map of Bones {The Fire Sermon #2}

Author: Francesca Haig

Published: Harper Voyager March 2016

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read from May 29 to June 01, 2016 — I own a copy courtesy HarperCollins

My Thoughts:

The Map of Bones picks up from where Francesca Haig’s debut novel, The Fire Sermon, left off. Cass, Piper and Zoe are on the run following the deadly confrontation at the Silo between the Confessor and Kip, with the knowledge of the Alpha Council’s horrifying plan for the Omega’s.

Despite the dramatic ending of The Fire Sermon, the narrative in The Map of Bones is slow to start. We’re almost a quarter of the way into the book before Haig introduces a new element to the story that finally prompts the characters to take action. From there the pace begins to pick up as Cass and her allies recognise the need to actively stand against the Council and pursue a new possibility for salvation despite the odds that are stacked again them.

I wasn’t really a fan of Cass in the first novel and I found her to be no less frustrating here. Drowning in guilt and struggling with her visions, her thoughts are often repetitive and circular. Piper and Zoe serve as good companions but I found neither character to be particularly compelling.

What I did admire was Haig’s descriptive writing and continued world building. She provides further detail about the cataclysmic events that destroyed the world and the twinning phenomenon.

Though I found The Map of Bones to be a somewhat dreary read, the story ends on a hopeful note and I am curious to learn how the trilogy will resolve in book three.

Available to purchase from

HarperCollins AU

boomerang-books_long I Booktopia I Amazon AU I via Booko

Amazon US I Amazon UK

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