Category: eBook reviews

Swamped by Andrea Hertach – Review

Swamped by Andrea Hertach – ReviewSwamped by Andrea Hertach
Format: ARC
Genres: Children's
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Evelynne's rating: three-stars

I was recently given a review copy by the publisher of Swamped by Andrea Hertach.  It tells the story of young Marley Aaron who, along with local wildlife, campaigns to save a swamp along with its delicate ecosystem from destruction by urban developers.  Like The Monster Mob, which I reviewed recently, Swamped is very much aimed at a younger readership, probably around the 8-11 year range.

What I liked

Concept.  Swamped is clearly intended to increase environmental awareness in young people and it does that very well.  It explains about the delicate ecosystem in the swamp and the damage that humans could do.  I’m not certain though that the developer and mayor would be as sympathetic to Marley’s concerns in real life as they are in the book!

Entertaining style.  I enjoyed that interaction amongst the local creature inhabitants of the swamp and also their working together with Marley and her pet dogs.

What I didn’t like

As with The Monster Mob, it is clearly aimed at a younger audience and more mature readers may find it rather simplistic and too easily tied off.

All in all I think Swamped sets out what it intends to – increase environmental awareness – and I gave it three stars out of five.

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three-stars

The Winter Palace by Eva Stachniak – Review

The Winter Palace by Eva Stachniak is a historical fiction novel based on the early life of Russian Empress Catherine the Great.  Through the eyes of bookbinder’s daughter turned lady-in-waiting Varvara it tells the story of Catherine’s arrival at court and of her navigation through Court politics to the Imperial Throne itself.

Now, historical fiction is not a genre of which I read a lot; however I was intrigued by this one and it turned out to be the perfect antidote to my waiting-for-Dorothy-Must-Die reading slump.  I don’t know a great deal about Russian history and I found myself checking Wikipedia from time to time to learn more and to help me separate fact from fiction.

What I liked

Engaging protagonist.  Although the novel is about the rise to power of Catherine the Great, we follow her story through Varvara’s eyes as Varvara herself goes through her own journey.  Varvara is intelligent, resourceful and has a keen eye for observation.  Although she starts off relatively powerless, by the end of the book, she has amassed considerable wealth and influence, making hard choices along the way.  In that respect her journey mirrors Catherine’s.

The vivid picture Stachniak paints of court glamour and intrigue.  It’s always fun to read of grand ballrooms glittering with chandeliers and jewels and of lords and ladies wearing elaborate costumes.  It’s equally interesting to read about the power plays between the players and Stachniak describes this beautifully.

What I didn’t like

There was nothing I didn’t enjoy about The Winter Palace.  Indeed, I’ve already picked up the sequel, The Empress of the Night from Audible.

I gave The Winter Palace four stars out of five.

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The Winter Palace by Eva Stachniak – Review

The Winter Palace by Eva Stachniak – ReviewThe Winter Palace by Eva Stachniak
Format: eBook
Pages: 464 pages
Genres: Historical Fiction
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Evelynne's rating: four-stars

The Winter Palace by Eva Stachniak is a historical fiction novel based on the early life of Russian Empress Catherine the Great.  Through the eyes of bookbinder’s daughter turned lady-in-waiting Varvara it tells the story of Catherine’s arrival at court and of her navigation through Court politics to the Imperial Throne itself.

Now, historical fiction is not a genre of which I read a lot; however I was intrigued by this one and it turned out to be the perfect antidote to my waiting-for-Dorothy-Must-Die reading slump.  I don’t know a great deal about Russian history and I found myself checking Wikipedia from time to time to learn more and to help me separate fact from fiction.

What I liked

Engaging protagonist.  Although the novel is about the rise to power of Catherine the Great, we follow her story through Varvara’s eyes as Varvara herself goes through her own journey.  Varvara is intelligent, resourceful and has a keen eye for observation.  Although she starts off relatively powerless, by the end of the book, she has amassed considerable wealth and influence, making hard choices along the way.  In that respect her journey mirrors Catherine’s.

The vivid picture Stachniak paints of court glamour and intrigue.  It’s always fun to read of grand ballrooms glittering with chandeliers and jewels and of lords and ladies wearing elaborate costumes.  It’s equally interesting to read about the power plays between the players and Stachniak describes this beautifully.

What I didn’t like

There was nothing I didn’t enjoy about The Winter Palace.  Indeed, I’ve already picked up the sequel, The Empress of the Night from Audible.

I gave The Winter Palace four stars out of five.

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four-stars

Alienated by Melissa Landers – Review

Alienated by Melissa Landers tells the story of Cara Sweeney, teenage high school student and Aelyx a young L’eihr visiting Earth.  The concept is pretty straightforward.  Some years prior to the story, the people of Earth had made contact with an alien civilisation the L’eihr.  The two peoples have an amicable if distant relationship and in order to foster a greater understanding of their respective cultures a student exchange program has been initiated.  Cara and Aelyx are chosen as two of the six young ambassadors for the program.  I have to say I really loved this book and thought it was beautifully written.

What I liked

Character development.  Both Cara and Aelyx undergo a great deal of character development throughout the book.  Interestingly, Cara’s arc is almost the opposite of many young adult protagonists.  She starts the book confident and sure of her path but as she goes through the challenges of the exchange, her self assurance is given quite a beating.  However she still remains true to her word despite significant pressure.  Aelyx’s journey is more of overcoming prejudice – he starts off determined to hate his human hosts and has an ulterior motive for joining the program.  As he gets to know his hosts – especially Cara – his attitude changes.  

Grounded in realism.  OK, we are talking aliens here, but the basic concept and the reaction of the locals to Aelyx is all too familiar.  We may be in 21st century small town America with the townspeople protesting angrily at the presence of a L’eihr in their school, but we could just as easily be in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1957 with the first black students attending the high school.  The supernatural element is pretty low key in the book; much more emphasis is put on how Cara deals with the reaction of those against the program and of her growing relationship with Aelyx.

What i wasn’t so fond of

The romance.  I wasn’t really sold on this – I felt it moved too quickly from culture clash and prejudice to swapping saliva.  But then again, I’ve never been fond of teenage love at first sight romances.  

I will certainly be checking out the sequel whenever it’s available – I look forward to reading more of these characters.  I gave Alienated four and a half stars out of five. 

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Alienated by Melissa Landers – Review

Alienated by Melissa Landers – ReviewAlienated by Melissa Landers
Series: Alienated #1
Format: eBook
Pages: 352 pages
Genres: Supernatural, Young Adult
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Evelynne's rating: four-half-stars

Alienated by Melissa Landers tells the story of Cara Sweeney, teenage high school student and Aelyx a young L’eihr visiting Earth.  The concept is pretty straightforward.  Some years prior to the story, the people of Earth had made contact with an alien civilisation the L’eihr.  The two peoples have an amicable if distant relationship and in order to foster a greater understanding of their respective cultures a student exchange program has been initiated.  Cara and Aelyx are chosen as two of the six young ambassadors for the program.  I have to say I really loved this book and thought it was beautifully written.

What I liked

Character development.  Both Cara and Aelyx undergo a great deal of character development throughout the book.  Interestingly, Cara’s arc is almost the opposite of many young adult protagonists.  She starts the book confident and sure of her path but as she goes through the challenges of the exchange, her self assurance is given quite a beating.  However she still remains true to her word despite significant pressure.  Aelyx’s journey is more of overcoming prejudice – he starts off determined to hate his human hosts and has an ulterior motive for joining the program.  As he gets to know his hosts – especially Cara – his attitude changes.  

Grounded in realism.  OK, we are talking aliens here, but the basic concept and the reaction of the locals to Aelyx is all too familiar.  We may be in 21st century small town America with the townspeople protesting angrily at the presence of a L’eihr in their school, but we could just as easily be in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1957 with the first black students attending the high school.  The supernatural element is pretty low key in the book; much more emphasis is put on how Cara deals with the reaction of those against the program and of her growing relationship with Aelyx.

What i wasn’t so fond of

The romance.  I wasn’t really sold on this – I felt it moved too quickly from culture clash and prejudice to swapping saliva.  But then again, I’ve never been fond of teenage love at first sight romances.  

I will certainly be checking out the sequel whenever it’s available – I look forward to reading more of these characters.  I gave Alienated four and a half stars out of five. 

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four-half-stars

Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson – Thoughts So Far

Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson – Thoughts So FarWords of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Kate Reading, Michael Kramer
Length: 48 hrs and 15 mins
Genres: Epic Fantasy
Buy from AmazonKoboiTunesAudible

First of all my apologies about the incomplete Alienated review that went – briefly – live this morning.  I have been so  engrossed in Words of Radiance I didn’t get around to writing the Alienated review in time.  It will be written after Words of Radiance.

So, Words of Radiance.  I am approximately 40% of the way through the 48-hour long audiobook version of Words of Radiance.  Here are my initial thoughts on this first half.  A full review will come later.  There are some spoilers ahead so I’ll add a cut to be sure.

(more…)

Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson – Thoughts So Far

Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson – Thoughts So FarWords of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Kate Reading, Michael Kramer
Length: 48 hrs and 15 mins
Genres: Epic Fantasy
Buy from AmazonKoboiTunesAudible

First of all my apologies about the incomplete Alienated review that went – briefly – live this morning.  I have been so  engrossed in Words of Radiance I didn’t get around to writing the Alienated review in time.  It will be written after Words of Radiance.

So, Words of Radiance.  I am approximately 40% of the way through the 48-hour long audiobook version of Words of Radiance.  Here are my initial thoughts on this first half.  A full review will come later.  There are some spoilers ahead so I’ll add a cut to be sure.

(more…)

The Here and Now by Ann Brashares

Through Netgalley I was offered an advanced reader’s copy of YA time travel novel The Here and Now by Ann Brashares.  It tells the story of Prenna James, a time traveller and refugee in our time from a future in which global warming and plagues have left the world devastated.  She and her community of fellow refugees must live by strict rules for their protection and that of those native to their adopted time.  One of these includes refraining from an intimate relationship with a local.  Naturally Prenna meets a boy…

In general, I found The Here and Now to be a very fun, if light, read.  The time travel refugee concept was interesting but so much more could have been done with it.  The whole concept of time paradoxes (you know, the old chestnut, you can’t travel back in time and kill your own grandfather) was ignored and the issue of Prenna’s adaptation to the new society was glossed over.

What I liked

The concept.  The idea of refugees escaping back in time from a devastated future was very interesting.  The list of rules by which they must live is very interesting, too – I did struggle to understand how Prenna could not see their necessity.  The introduction of Poppy and Andrew Baltos added an extra layer to the time travel storyline.

The Prenna/Ethan romance.  I really enjoyed this – I liked the way it was built up and how they supported each other.  

What I didn’t like

Scratching the surface.  I know this is young adult literature, but I felt the book lacked depth.  So much more could have been explored with time travel paradoxes, the whole source of the plague and environmental issues.  I had the impression that Prenna never really understood the need for the rules, and also why the time traveller community was reluctant to become involved in society.  The whole question of who is at the source of the fork in time could have been expanded much more.

All in all though, I did enjoy The Here and Now and gave it three and a half stars out of five.

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The Here and Now by Ann Brashares

The Here and Now by Ann BrasharesThe Here and Now by Ann Brashares
Format: ARC
Pages: 256 pages
Genres: Dystopian, Young Adult
Buy from AmazonKobo
Evelynne's rating: three-half-stars

Through Netgalley I was offered an advanced reader’s copy of YA time travel novel The Here and Now by Ann Brashares.  It tells the story of Prenna James, a time traveller and refugee in our time from a future in which global warming and plagues have left the world devastated.  She and her community of fellow refugees must live by strict rules for their protection and that of those native to their adopted time.  One of these includes refraining from an intimate relationship with a local.  Naturally Prenna meets a boy…

In general, I found The Here and Now to be a very fun, if light, read.  The time travel refugee concept was interesting but so much more could have been done with it.  The whole concept of time paradoxes (you know, the old chestnut, you can’t travel back in time and kill your own grandfather) was ignored and the issue of Prenna’s adaptation to the new society was glossed over.

What I liked

The concept.  The idea of refugees escaping back in time from a devastated future was very interesting.  The list of rules by which they must live is very interesting, too – I did struggle to understand how Prenna could not see their necessity.  The introduction of Poppy and Andrew Baltos added an extra layer to the time travel storyline.

The Prenna/Ethan romance.  I really enjoyed this – I liked the way it was built up and how they supported each other.  

What I didn’t like

Scratching the surface.  I know this is young adult literature, but I felt the book lacked depth.  So much more could have been explored with time travel paradoxes, the whole source of the plague and environmental issues.  I had the impression that Prenna never really understood the need for the rules, and also why the time traveller community was reluctant to become involved in society.  The whole question of who is at the source of the fork in time could have been expanded much more.

All in all though, I did enjoy The Here and Now and gave it three and a half stars out of five.

 buy from Amazon, Kobo

three-half-stars

The Darkest Minds: Never Fade by Alexandra Bracken – Review

The Darkest Minds: Never Fade by Alexandra Bracken is the followup to The Darkest Minds.  This series tells the story of Ruby, a young girl living in a world where most of the children have been killed by a virus but the survivors have been left with supernatural powers.  Ruby is one such survivor with the power to control other people’s minds.  The country has been left devastated by the loss of the children and fear of those who remain.  Ruby and her friends are running from place to place trying to find safety.

I adored both The Darkest Minds and the novella In Time so it was a little surprising that I was somewhat disappointed by Never Fade.  It actually took me several attempts to sit down and read it.  This is the second book in an expected trilogy, perhaps it was a little of middle book syndrome. This also appears to be at the lowest point of our protagonist’s arc, and as such I found it a little depressing.  Ruby is dealing with a lot of guilt, doubt and self loathing in this book which makes it rather a dark read.  I also missed the camaraderie between Ruby, Liam, Chubbs and Zu that was a cornerstone of the first book.

What I liked

The concept.  I continue to love the concept behind the series of the IAAN plague and the survivors’ psychic powers.  Bracken’s worldbuilding is excellent with various groups trying to deal with the fallout of IAAN but not necessarily having the best interests of the survivors at heart.  

The characters.  All of the main characters are engaging and draw you into their story.  Perhaps that’s why I didn’t enjoy Never Fade as much as the other books; I care about Ruby and found it hard to read about her being in such a low place, especially without her friends around emotionally to help her through it.  The same is true of the other main characters.  Liam and Chubbs too are dealing with some issues which means they are not there for Ruby to the extent they were in the first book.  I also loved the new characters we meet – Jude and Vida.  

Brisk pacing.  The action never lets up really; Ruby and team seem to lurch from one crisis to another.

Hooks for the final book.  There is some really interesting setup for the final volume.  I’m really looking forward to reading it!

What I didn’t like

Weakened relationships.  The bond between Ruby, Liam, Chubbs and Zu was one of the cornerstones of the first book and I really missed that from Never Fade.  So much has happened to them and they have done such things since they were last together that their bond is very much strained.  I hope they get their act together for the final book.

Unrealistic recoveries.  At various points in the book certain characters are gravely ill or seriously wounded.  Yet it seems that a day or two later they are up and fighting fit again.  That did jolt me out of the story on several occasions.

All in all, although I didn’t enjoy Never Fade as much as the earlier book and novella, I felt it gave a solid foundation for the final book.  I gave The Darkest Minds: Never Fade three and a half stars out of five.

 buy from Amazon, Kobo, iTunes, Audible

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