Review: Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen

 

Title: Saint Anything

Author: Sarah Dessen

Published: PenguinTeen Australia May 2015

Status: Read from May 16 to 18, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

“I was used to being invisible. People rarely saw me, and if they did, they never looked close. I wasn’t shiny and charming like my brother, stunning and graceful like my mother, or smart and dynamic like my friends. That’s the thing though. You always think you want to be noticed. Until you are.”

Saint Anything is a thoughtful contemporary tale exploring the themes of family, self discovery, belonging, and change.

Sydney Stanford is used to living in the shadow of her charismatic, if rebellious, older brother Peyton, but when he is convicted and imprisoned for a drink driving offense that left a fifteen year old paralysed, she struggles under the burden of his reflected guilt.
Hoping to escape the gossip, and ease her parents financial burden, Sydney opts to transfer from her exclusive private school to a local public high school, where she befriends Layla Chatham and her brother Mac, after a chance meeting in the pizza parlour their parents own. Welcomed by the Chatham’s, and their friends, Sydney’s burden lightens but escaping her brother’s legacy will not be that simple.

Sydney feels as if she is the only one that carries the burden of Peyton’s actions. She is angry and frustrated by her mother’s seeming failure to acknowledge her brother’s guilt, or Sydney’s feeling about the situation, but can’t discuss the matter with her, as her mother is focused only on supporting Peyton.

“When she spoke again her voice had an hard edge to it. “It’s very scary. Especially for your brother, who is locked away, alone, with no support system other than us, his family….If he can deal with that for seventeen months,” she continues, “I think you can handle being slightly uncomfortable for a few hours. Don’t you agree?”

With her parents distracted, and Sydney unwilling to make demands on them, she finds freedom to be herself in her friendship with Layla, and her burgeoning romance with Mac. I really liked the way Dessen developed these relationships, which are warm and realistic and equally as important to Sydney.

But with a single mistake everything begins to fall apart. I was itching for Sydney to stand up for herself, both with her parents and Ames, but I think Dessen stays true to her character. Sydney has to develop the confidence and a surer sense of self before she can stand her ground.

“Why are you being like this?” I asked her. “I’m not a bad kid, and you know it, This was one night, one thing. One mistake. And I’m sorry. But you can’t-”
“Your brother started with one mistake as well, she replied. “Which led to another. And another.”
“I’m not Peyton” I said. It seemed crazy I’d have to say this, as all my life they’d made it clear it was the one thing they knew for sure.

Sydney’s story is one that would often be overlooked in favour of Peyton’s drama or his victim’s tragedy, but Dessen ensures it is just as important and affecting. Saint Anything is a quiet but emotionally powerful novel, thoughtful and beautifully written.

Saint Anything is available to purchase from

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Review: A Court of Thorn and Roses by Sarah J Maas

 

Title: A Court of Thorn and Roses {A Court of Thor and Roses #1}

Author: Sarah J Maas

Published: Bloomsbury May 2015

Status: Read from May 14 to 16, 2015 — I own a copy  {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

As a huge fan of Sarah J Maas’s ‘Throne of Glass’ series, I’ve been excited about the release of A Court of Thorn and Roses, the first book in a new trilogy, blending fae lore with a retelling of the Beauty and the Beast fable.

In the depths of winter, Fayre is fighting to keep her poverty stricken family alive when she kills a wolf, unaware he is a creature of the fae. Having unwittingly broken the centuries old treaty made between the humans and their kind, she willingly submits to the penalty to protect her family and is dragged to Prythia by the beast that demands it, expecting to be killed, enslaved or worse by the race that once slaughtered humans for sport.
Instead the beast, who is not exactly a monster at all but rather a High Fae with shape shifting abilities, offers her a life of ease in his court but can Fayre really trust the word of a Faerie, especially when something dark and wicked lurks close by?

I really liked the character of Fayre, she is a strong willed, fierce and passionate, though not without her vulnerabilities. She struggles to adjust to her new life in Prythia and is understandably slow to trust Tamlin but once she gives in to her fate she embraces it wholeheartedly.

It isn’t until Fayre is captive in Prythia that Tamlin reveals his true self, not just High Fae, he is the devastatingly handsome and powerful High Lord of the Spring Court. Tamlin though is also cursed, condemned to wear a masquerade mask with weakening powers, by what he explains to Fayre is a blight that has been poisoning the magic in the realm.

The nature and source of the ‘blight’ provides the major arc of conflict for the novel. I won’t give it away but I will say it surprised me. I enjoyed the action and drama of the story, particularly in the climatic final chapters, but I did feel that the story lagged somewhat in the middle. Fayre’s time in the Spring Court is largely uneventful, with most of the action happening ‘off the page’, while Fayre sort of wanders around with her easel.

And as to be expected, romance develops between Fayre and Tamlin. There are some intimate scenes between the couple, but nothing too explicit. There is also the potential for a love triangle of sorts with the introduction of the enigmatic High Lord of the Night Court, Rhysand.

While I wasn’t wholly enamored by A Court of Thorn and Roses I did enjoy the characters and the world Maas has built and I will be picking up the next book, as yet untitled, as soon as it is available.

A Court of Thorn and Roses is available to purchase from

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Also by Sarah J Maas reviewed on Book’d Out


Review: Stay With Me by Maureen McCarthy

 

Title: Stay with Me

Author: Maureen McCarthy

Published: Allen and Unwin May 2015

Status: Read from April 30 to May 01, 2015  – I won a copy {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

Stay With Me is a powerful novel about family dysfunction, mental illness and domestic violence.

Full review to come

Tess is in trouble. Stuck on a farm outside Byron Bay, cut off from family and friends, Tess knows she must find a way to escape her violent partner to save her life and the life of her child …
A chance meeting offers a way out – but can she ever trust again? Tess embarks on a desperate road trip back to the heart of her past. But what will be waiting for her at home? Will her family forgive her – and can she forgive them?

Stay With Me is available to purchase from

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Review: Cold Burn of Magic by Jennifer Estep

 

Title: Cold Burn of Magic {Black Blade #1}

Author: Jennifer Estep

Published: Kensington Books April 2015

Status: Read on April 26, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

Cold Burn of Magic is the first book in a new series by Jennifer Estep, author of Mythos Academy and the Elemental Assassin series.

The world building is interesting. Cloudburst Falls is a small town in West Virginia with the reputation of being ‘the most magical place in America’, drawing plenty of curious tourists eager to experience the fun. But there is a dark underbelly to the town that is divided among four wealthy magical ‘Families’ who are constantly vying for territory and power.

Lila Merriweather has existed on the fringes of the town, avoiding the conflict between the Families, since her mother was murdered by the head of the Draconis. Using her wits and Talent she makes her living as a thief (while still attending high school), but an impulsive decision to help defend a group of teens under attack results in her being recruited as a bodyguard to the Sinclair Family heir apparent, Devon.

There is a hint of romance in Cold Burn of Magic, with sparks flaring between Lila and Devon, but the focus of the story is on the developing political intrigue with the brewing war between the Families. There is plenty of action as assassins make repeated attempts on Devon’s life and Lila is forced to defend him, hand to hand combat and sword fights are made more interesting by the dueling of magical abilities and the occasional interference of monsters.

I thought Cold Burn of Magic was an entertaining urban fantasy novel, even though it’s aimed at a young adult audience. The second book of the ‘Black Blade’ series, Dark Heart of Magic, is due for release in October.

Available to Purchase From

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Review: Razorhurst by Justine Larbalaestier

 

Title: Razorhurst

Author: Justine Larbalaestier

Published: Soho Teen March 2015

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read from March 07 to 9, 2015 — I own a copy  {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

Justine Larbalaestier’s Razorhurst is gritty, intriguing novel blending history and the paranormal to create an interesting and exciting story with crossover appeal for both young adult and adult audiences.

It’s 1932 and the tentative truce between Sydney’s rival underworld gangs, headed by Gloriana Nelson and Mr Davidson, is on the verge of collapse when Gloriana’s right hand man, Jimmy Palmer is murdered in his bed.
For Dymphna, Gloria’s ‘best girl’ and Jimmy’s girlfriend, Jimmy’s death is a problem. Was he murdered by Mr Davidson in a calculated move against Glory, or was he killed because Glory learned of his and Dymphna’s plans to oust her?
Climbing into the Surrey Hills dosshouse housing Gloriana’s men in search of food, street urchin Kelpie is shocked to find Dymphna standing over the body of her murdered lover.
Both are forced to flee as the police close in, with Dymphna insisting Kelpie remains with her for protection, but safety is hard to come by on the streets of ‘Razorhurst’.

Razorhurst is told from the alternating perspectives of Kelpie and Dymphna, interspersed with brief omniscient vignettes. Both girls are feisty, brave, and smart, but most importantly they are survivors.
Kelpie is an appealing character. When her mother died in childbirth, she was taken in by ‘Old Ma’ who raised her as best she could. Upon Old Ma’s death, desperate to escape the Welfare, Kelpie took to the streets, surviving with the occasional kindness of local hard man, Snowy, and the ghosts that she can both see and hear that haunt the streets.
Dymphna was born to privilege but tragedy left her orphaned twice and she was forced to find a way to survive. As Glory’s ‘best girl’, she has earned status among the underworld, but she wants more. She too can see and hear ghosts but hiding her ability has become second nature.

Larbalaestier’s gangland characters are inspired by infamous Sydney identities (most notably Tilly Divine and Kate Leigh), and the author’s research into the ‘razor’ gangs of Sydney, so named because straight edge razors were the weapon of choice during the 1930’s.
I loved the historical elements that evoke inner city Sydney during the period. Grounded firmly in fact, the setting is fascinating and vividly drawn, from the slum of Frog Hollow to the seedy streets of Surry ‘Sorrow’ Hills lined with bordello’s, opium dens and gambling houses.

Unfolding over the course of a single day the pacing of the novel is well managed, the action is non stop as Dymphna and Kelpie scramble to survive. There are explicit, though not gratuitous, references to violence and the occasional use of language. A touch of humour and romance tempers the ever present sense of menace and danger.

Entertaining, thrilling and original, Razorhurst is a great read I’d widely recommend and I’m really hoping Larbalestier has plans for a sequel.

Available to Purchase From

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Review: Shadow Study by Maria V Snyder

Title: Shadow Study {Soulfinders #1; Study#4; The Chronicles of Ixia #7}

Author: Maria V Snyder

Published: HarlequinTeen Au March 2015

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read from February 26 to 28, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

Shadow Study launches an exciting new fantasy adventure trilogy by Maria V Snyder featuring characters familiar from her Study and Glass series.

It opens as Yelena, on her way to meet Valek for a brief reunion, is attacked by a hidden assailant who shoots her with a poisoned arrow. Able to heal herself, Yelena enjoys a passionate reunion with Valek before he returns to Ixia, but twenty four hours later she realises her magic has disappeared. Returning to Sitia, Yelena is desperate to find out how she has been stripped of her powers, and how to get them back. Without them she is vulnerable, especially since an old enemy is bent on revenge, and a new one is determined to destroy her.

While Yelena sets out to find the answers she needs, Valek is busy in his role as the Commander’s second after being gone for almost a year. His point of view details life at the keep, as well as Valek’s recall of his past as a student of the The School of Night and Shadows, desperate to avenge the murders of his family, and sets up what I assume will be the main thrust of the plot for this trilogy – a brewing war between Sitia and Ixia.

I don’t think it is strictly necessary to have read the previous books set in this world to enjoy Shadow Study, but those that have will have the slight advantage of being privy to both the history of Snyder’s world, and the development of the characters and their relationships. Snyder does introduce a few new characters in Shadow Study, most notably Onora, a talented assassin with her eye on Valek’s job, and Gerik, a soldier, who are partnered with Janco and Ari.

For established and new fans alike, Shadow Study should prove to be a fast paced and entertaining fantasy adventure. Fair warning though, the book ends on a cliffhanger and the second book, Night Study, won’t be published until 2016.

Available to purchase from

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Poison Study Magic Study Fire Study

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YA Adventure

Review: Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

 

Title: Red Queen {Red Queen #1}

Author: Victoria Aveyard

Published: Hachette Au February 2015

Status: Read from February 11 to 12, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the author}

My Thoughts:

A fast-paced high fantasy adventure, Red Queen introduces Victoria Aveyard’s debut trilogy.

Perhaps the weakest aspect of Red Queen is its fairly formulaic concept. Aveyard pits an elite group – the Silvers – against an oppressed faction – the Reds. The Silvers, so called because of their silver blood, have a range of special abilities and hold all the wealth and power. The Reds, who bleed red blood, have no such gifts and are used as little more than slave labour or as fodder for the war with neighboring factions, subject to the whims of the ruling class. Enter the Scarlet Dawn, a band of Red rebels determined to overthrow the Silver’s.

“We will rise, red as the dawn.”

In terms of plot however, the author ably develops exciting conflict, intrigue, and betrayal. There is plenty of tension, high emotion and drama as Mare struggles to deal with the dangerous situation she finds herself trapped in. The story is fast paced with plenty of action and the obligatory romantic triangle, though with a surprising twist.

“I see a world on the edge of a blade. Without balance, it will fall.”

I liked Mare a lot, she is daring, feisty and loyal to those she loves. She has never simply accepted her lot in life as a Red, rebelling by becoming a petty thief in order to help support her family, and she jumps at the chance to become part of the revolution. Mare’s idealism is tempered with a hard earned streak of pragmatism but it proves to be not quite enough to protect her from intrigue of the Silver Court. She makes mistakes, tending to take things at face value, and as such is vulnerable to placing her trust in the wrong people with dramatic consequences.

“It is impossible. It is foolish. It is our best chance.”

The other main characters introduced in Red Queen also prove to be interesting, particularly the Silver Princes, Cal and Maven. Their complicated dynamic is integral to the plot development and Aveyard uses it well.

“He’s strong, he’s talented, he’s powerful – and I’m his shadow. The shadow of the flame.”

Entertaining and exciting I really enjoyed Red Queen and I am looking forward to the next book.

Available to purchase from

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Review: A Small Madness by Dianne Touchell

 

Title: A Small Madness

Author: Dianne Touchell

Published: Allen & Unwin Feb 2015

Status: Read from February 03 to 04, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

” The heat was over, along with summer. They walked the dunes in a flush of new shyness, talking of the beginning of their last year of high school.”

Rose and Michael have just had sex for the first time, they are in love and shyly thrilled with their new intimacy. In the heat of the moment they forgot to use a condom, just twice, but as each others first, Michael’s older brother assures him, at least they don’t have to worry about disease.
Two months later, Rose counts the days in her student diary – her period is 61 days late and a pregnancy test, obtained by her best friend Liz, shows two bold pink lines.

“‘I’ve worked it out. We won’t tell anyone. No one could help us anyway. I can hide it. It’s not real….These things go away all the time.'”

With compassionate insight, Australian author Dianne Touchell explores Rose and Michael’s responses to their unplanned pregnancy in A Small Madness. Ill-equipped to deal with the reality of their situation, Rose and Michael take refuge in denial that only grows deeper as time passes, leading to horrendous consequences.

Rose and Michael are ‘good kids’ from middle class families who regularly attend church, gets good grades and have plans for their future. I can’t profess to understand their behaviour, but I feel that Touchell communicated her characters rationalisations well and my sympathy was stirred for both characters despite their egregious mistakes.

“She was a good person. And she was as genuinely appalled as everyone else by speculative descriptions of the monster who must have done this dreadful thing in the bush. Because it wasn’t her.”

The premise of A Touch of Madness may seem far fetched to some, but it was inspired by an American case reported in the media. I was curious to know just how common Rose’s denial of her pregnancy is. I was quite stunned to learn that it happens in about 1 in 2,500 cases, and less than half the instances involve teenagers.

An emotionally powerful and provocative cautionary tale for both young adults and their parents, A Small Madness is beautifully written examination of a complex issue.

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Review: The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart

 

Title: The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks

Author: E. Lockhart

Published: Allen & Unwin Jan 2015

Status:  Read from January 28 to 29, 2015 — I own a copy {Courtesy the author}

My Thoughts:

“This chronicle is an attempt to mark out the contributing elements in Frankie Landau-Banks’s character. What led her to do what she did: things she would later view with a curious mixture of hubris and regret.”

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks is an intelligent, witty story of a contemporary teenage girl’s determined rebellion against the expectations of those that surround her.

“”She will not be simple and sweet. She will not be what people tell her she should be. That Bunny Rabbit is dead.”

This novel has a definite message. Alabaster Prep School is a microcosm of wider society, and within it, Lockhart explores some major issues including social order, the hierarchy of power and gender inequality. Frankie is determined to challenge the status quo by surreptitiously taking charge of The Loyal Order of the Basset Hound – the all male secret society on campus, and giving the pranks she devises a politically motivated agenda. Frankie’s motives aren’t entirely pure though, and inevitably neither do things go exactly to plan.

I liked Frankie, she’s smart and feisty though she also has her flaws, but it’s the contradictions in her actions and her thought processes that makes her so interesting, and I think is probably the point of the whole novel. Frankie may be slightly more self aware than many teen girls but she hasn’t yet got everything figured out. Like most girls, Frankie struggles with her desire to be true to herself and her wish to fit in. This is particularly an issue in her relationship with the handsome, wealthy and charming Senior, Matthew Livingston. Frankie is delighted by his attention, proud to be chosen by him, even when she realises that he isn’t really interested in what she wants or thinks.

“It is better to be alone, she figures, than to be with someone who can’t see who you are. It is better to lead than to follow. It is better to speak up than stay silent. It is better to open doors than to shut them on people.”

Despite the serious themes, the overall tone of the novel is lighthearted. The narrative is often witty and the story is well paced.

I enjoyed The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, it’s a thought provoking novel that, from my perspective, explores some interesting contradictions. I’ve passed it on to my teen daughter and I’m eager to see what she thinks.

Available to purchase from

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Giveaway: Breaking the Rules by Katie McGarry

 

Title: Breaking the Rules {Pushing the Limits #1.5}

Author: Katie McGarry

Published: Harlequin Teen AU January 2014

 

“For new high school graduate Echo Emerson, a summer road trip out west with her boyfriend means getting away and forgetting what makes her so . . . different. It means seeing cool sights while selling her art at galleries along the way. And most of all, it means almost three months alone with Noah Hutchins, the hot, smart, soul-battered guy who’s never judged her. Echo and Noah share everything—except the one thing Echo’s just not ready for.

But when the reason behind Echo’s constant nightmares comes back into her life, she has to make some tough decisions about what she really wants—even as foster kid Noah’s search for his last remaining relatives forces them both to confront some serious truths about life, love, and themselves.

Now, with one week left before college orientation, jobs and real life, Echo must decide if Noah’s more than the bad-boy fling everyone warned her he’d be. And the last leg of an amazing road trip will turn . . . seriously epic.”

GIVEAWAY

Courtesy of Harlequin Books, I have

3 print editions of

Breaking the Rules by Katie McGarry

to giveaway

to three lucky Australian residents.

CLOSED

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