Tag Archives: netgalley

Review: The Screaming Staircase

staircaseThe Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Source: eARC courtesy of publisher via NetGalley

Until the last few years, I rarely read children’s books as I find that I’m usually a bit impatient with them. However, I’m trying to change this habit because I’d like to know what my son will be reading when he’s ready to read on his own. Not only that, I’d like to be able to recommend books to him with the gusto of a contemporary (I’ll probably be one of those really embarrassing mums!). Hence, my picking up one or two children’s books these past few years. The particular reason that this book attracted my attention was the title and the similarity of it to a favourite series I read when I was growing up.

The series was called Alfred Hitchcock and The Three Investigators with the particular title I had in mind being The Mystery of the Screaming Clock. This was a series loved by my family, the screamingbooks were passed from brother to sister, sister to sister, aunt to nephew, etc (I’m not quite sure where they are at this point in time, overseas, but they are a family treasure). The three teen detectives are made up of the quirky chubby genius boy, the not-so-intelligent-but-athletic boy, and a smaller boy who’s very good at research. These characterisation I found to be similar to Lockwood & Co., not necessarily the same but more of a mix-match sort of similarity.

The basis of this story is not something new or totally unique. There are a lot of ghost stories out there and who doesn’t know Ghostbusters? But Jonathan Stroud has successfully created an exciting world full of old wonders and new adventures. It is a world where only the talented young are able to detect these spectres and therefore have the capabilities of banishing them.

The characters were mysterious, appealing, and (some are) quite repulsive. There were quite a few suspenseful moments thought I can’t comment on the level of scariness as I am an adult and I didn’t find it scary at all. However, know that I rarely read horror novels because I am a scaredy cat. There were a few back and forth jumps in time at the beginning of the novel which may make for a shaky start but I completely enjoyed the smooth (though spine tingling) ride later on. This is definitely not a world I would like to live in, for real, but definitely one I love to read.

Needless to say, I absolutely adored The Screaming Staircase. With a great plot, fun characters, and marvellous world building, you will not fail to love this book. I, for one, am impatient to, one day, introduce this to my son and at the same time, will watch for the next instalment of this series so I can read it for my own enjoyment. I highly recommend this book to all adventurous sorts out there (real or vicariously) 😉

Thanks to Doubleday Childrens & The Reading Room for the eARC via NetGalley

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Review: Psalms for Everyone, Part 1: Psalms 1-72

psalmsPsalms for Everyone, Part 1: Psalms 1-72 by John Goldingay
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Source: eARC courtesy of Westminster John Knox Press via NetGalley

I finished reading The 30-Day Praise Challenge on a high and thought that I’d like to continue this praise by reading through the book of Psalms. At first, I was just going to wade in myself and see how I go but then I came across this title on NetGalley: Psalms for Everyone. I thought this would mean that the target audience of the book will be the average Joe (or Jane) and will probably be within my brain capacity.

The Bible translations I would normally read would either be NIV or ESV and I couldn’t find or even tell which version of the Bible is being used in this book. I read back to front and I must’ve been blind to completely miss it but I did. In any case, I found it fairly hard to get my head around this translation of the Psalms and it caught me off balance. In addition to having had to read an unusual version of the Psalms, I also found it very difficult to read through Goldingjay’s commentaries on the chapters. He wrote approximately a page commentaries per chapter (for some long chapters, the chapters are divided).

The personal anecdotes were ones I loved as they shared of author’s real experiences in life and spiritually. The page length commentaries, however, were quite choppy. The ideas did not flow smoothly from one paragraph to the other. I was actually getting really anxious as to whether I was losing my mind since I was struggling really badly with these commentaries that I asked my non-reading husband to read a chapter or two. His view was that Goldingjay had tried to fit in too many points in one page so that the effect was that we get superficial thoughts over numerous ideas / points. There were instances that I found I didn’t agree with the author though I wonder whether that was a case of misunderstanding (miscommunication).

This book is, unfortunately, not one I’d be recommending to my friends. I think there needs to be some serious editing before it really is for everyone.

Thank you, Westminster John Knox Press for copy of eARC via NetGalley

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My Reading (or rather Baking) Week

Phew!  Golly, I’m so glad it’s done and over with!  Over the weekend, my son had his 4th birthday party and as always, every year for the past 4 years, I’ve started baking at least 2 weeks before.  There is a theme and therefore, themed cookies and cake.  Hence, the intense pressure of it all.  I have to confess that the pressure comes from myself -The Perfectionist Queen :p

The theme this year was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and theme-related food includes:

1. Shuriken Cookies (thanks to Lizzie’s Cake Log for the tips though I used my own sugar cookies recipe)

2. Raphael (Ninja Turtle) Cake (thanks to homespooled for the instruction though I tried to make it look as if he was peeking out of a manhole but… well, it was an interesting result!)

3. Turtle Cupcakes (it was green tea cupcakes with chocolate icing which was meant to look like the shells but I didn’t have time to draw the lines)

4.  Swamp Jelly with sour worms (hubby says no one will get this reference so I’ll spell it out… Michaelangelo loves to cook and he comes up with weird & wonderful recipes with disastrous results)

The main meal itself were bought: Sushi and Pizzas (of course!).  I got some garlic bread too though as my son told me, “turtles never eat garlic bread.”  Hhhmmm, why didn’t I think of that?!

 bakefest bday

Now that it’s over, it’s time to knuckle down and write tons more of reviews (I’m so behind that my NG stats have fallen, boo!) so you can look forward to more chatter from me the next couple of weeks while it’s quiet before the Christmas festivities come blowing in.  PLUS, I’ve committed to read Game of Thrones with a couple of GR friends starting 1 December.  We’re aiming to read about 30% per week and then finish it off as we can fit it in between Christmas parties 😉  If you’d like to join in, you can find the GR discussion thread, here.

And now for the newly arrived:

Thank you, Harlequin Australia, for these beauties:

  • Right as Rain by Tricia Singer (I’m late getting into these Aussie farm lits)
  • Pawn by Aimee Carter
  • Captivate by Vanessa Garden

Thanks The Reading Room for these review copies:

Plus a number of Unexpected Approvals (!!!) on Netgalley:

Let’s not forget the WINS that arrived too:

This week, I’d be reading some looked-forward-to Romances (*sighs* be still, my heart!):

And to fit in between:

staircase sisterhood shadowplay right as rain prayer pawn dark heart captivate canton almost the descentdeliverance infamy nobody awakening

Review: Black Feathers

Black Feathers by Joseph D’Lacey
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Source: eGalley courtesy of Angry Robot – get your own copy from The Book Depository

A cryptic and sinister prologue set the tone and atmosphere of this novel. The world is a bleak place and yet, there is still some sort of hope… Well, it might be hope or it might be something else…

The scene opens in a cold and dark snow stormy world. The event, however, is actually a beautiful earthy and hopeful one. A birth of a child. A birth surrounded by many signs pointing of the boy’s destiny. Gordon Black, through whom, the story will be revealed to the world.

In a different sort of world, a young girl was running –fleeing from something that terrifies her. A consultation with The Keeper brought to light that she has been marked for something great. The path to greatness will be hard and Megan Maurice must find the strength to face it for the world may depend upon her realising her destiny.

I do so like the premise of this book. This dark apocalyptic world (pre and post) of the earth, after taking so much abusive use, fighting to restore its wellbeing. Whilst this does not bode well for the people, yet there is a glimpse of hope. The Crowman, though no one knew who he is exactly, who could be good but also evil. It is a mystery but one that is important for the survival of humans. D’Lacey has woven a dark broken world with little rays of hope.

By the ending of the book, though, I still felt that I’ve gone nowhere further than the beginning. That’s my only complaint, it’s too slow.
It feels like I’ve only read the beginning of the tale. I know it’s only book 1 but I would prefer a chunky book with a solid conclusion (even if it’s a cliffhanger) rather than an average book which leaves me nowhere at all.

Thank you, Angry Robot and NetGalley for the privilege to read & review eGalley

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Review: Stolen Nights

Stolen Nights by Rebecca Maizel
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Source: eARC courtesy of St Martin’s Press via NetGalley – get your own copy from The Book Depository

There are 2 sides of me which is like 2 sides of the same coin; completely opposite yet it’s the one coin (or person, in my case). There is the sensible side of me which thinks respect and love will grow later (how totally P&P!) and there is romantic side of me which just melts at the thought of soul mates.

I had to admit that, at first, this soul mate biz kind of annoyed me because Lenah (as we see at the end of book 1) was with Justin and in this book we see a sort of love triangle. I would usually hate love triangles but surprisingly, I didn’t mind it too much here as Lenah wasn’t given much of a choice at all. She still struggles but what I didn’t mind was that there was a lot more restraints and disciplines from both sides. I totally approve this approach! The only bit that annoyed me about the soul mate bits were just that it was reiterated so many times but weren’t really explained til near the end… and the end… Oooh… I WANT MORE! I can NOT wait for the next book!

Lenah is such a strong and beautiful character. To be a nearly helpless human teenage girl after being a Vampire Queen for so long requires a lot of courage to face life and an extra Big Dollop of Daring most especially to fight other creatures stronger than oneself. In addition to that, Lenah was loving, caring, and also, at the end, selfless. How more beautiful can you be?

Quite a number of characters are killed but yet there are additional interesting characters. Most interesting of all is Vicken. I loved the dynamics between Vicken and Lenah. I also loved just how totally chillax Vicken is. They make a great bestie-duo.

Overall, this book satisfies both sides of me. The romantic one with the idea of soul mates and what it means. The sensible one with the restraints shown by both sides and the ending which I thoroughly loved yet made me really anxious for the next installment of this series.

Thank you St Martin’s Press and NetGalley for the privilege to read & review galley.

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Review: The Mad Scientist’s Daughter

The Mad Scientist’s Daughter by Cassandra Rose Clarke
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Source: eARC courtesy of Angry Robot via NetGalley

I’ve enjoyed all that I’ve read from Angry Robot so far and this one, a little weird and caught me by surprise but was still worth the read. That’s what spec-fic is all about though, isn’t it!

The story began when Cat was just a little girl and her parents brought a ‘special android’ to tutor her rather than sending her to school. Being the only child with no other playmate, Finn became not only her tutor but her best friend. As she grew, her relationship with Finn changed and yet, everything is grey. The opinion of the world does not coincide with what she thinks should be and so as Finn struggles with his identity, Cat struggles to understand him and how to relate to him.

I was expecting some sort of YA tale and when it started with Cat’s childhood, I was surprised and was surprised further when it carried on til she was at least late 20s. Can’t really peg this down as YA at all. I have to admit that I don’t particularly like Cat. She seems to me as someone who ignores her inner voice and continued to struggle to do so to comply with the world’s general good opinion even though doing so feels like it denying who you are. She then was like a ghost for quite a long time ‘til the dam broke and she could not deny herself anymore.

The story is told from Cat’s sole perspective and the author has done marvellously well in showing the readers just how like a ghost Cat was. Even though I don’t like Cat, I found myself sympathising with her throughout and it’s rare that I’d sympathise with a character I don’t like. That’s what I found most amazing about this book.

Thank you Angry Robot and NetGalley for the privilege to read & review galley.

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Review: What’s Left of Me

What’s Left of Me by Kat Zhang
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Source: eGalley courtesy of HarperCollins Australia and Netgalley -get your own copy from The Book Depository

My first thought was: hhmm, and interesting spin to Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD). And it really was fascinating. And then, as the story unfolds and characters were questioning the cruelty of the world against hybrids (ie. unsettled personalities), I thought… What a cruel & stingy Creator! 2 souls in one body? Just too miserly to create the extra bodies for these ‘extra’ souls? And I just couldn’t get this thought out of my head…

Therefore, I couldn’t say that I enjoyed the book very much. I did find it a gripping sort of story but I was too conflicted with whether I agree with this world or not. What’s to agree when it all seems to be so cruel whether these souls settle or not, there are always pain for both souls. Not a one escape.

The story is told from the perspective of Eva –the recessive soul who should have died but instead have hung on in bare existence. Of course, because of the sharing of body with Addie, the dominative soul, I sometimes found it a bit jarring and have to keep reminding myself they’re in 1 physical body and therefore, the actions are being done through 1 body whilst the one to actually activate / move the body may be Addie or Eva.

I do love the characters and the plot but I don’t think I’ll be keeping up with this series. As I said above, it feels too conflicted and painful for me (maybe I’m overly sensitive?). If you know of a child reading this book, especially ones who know someone with MPD, I’d recommend parental guidance and stress that this is fiction (just in case).

Thank you HarperCollins Australia and NetGalley for the opportunity to read & review

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Review: White Ninja

White Ninja by Tiffiny Hall
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Not my usual cup of tea but I just couldn’t resist this time. It’s just not what I would normally read as its intended audience is a lot younger (10-13 yo) than I am and I don’t usually read books for this age groups. However, this book sounded like so much fun that my curiosity is aroused.

I loved the variety of characters from the popular gorgeous older sister, the tough evil bully and his cohorts, the overweight insecure BFF, to the mysterious good looking boy. Even the mother and her partner have such unique characteristics that I’m a little bit jealous since my family is relatively normal 😉

Whilst I myself am not into martial arts, hubby is, but I do love watching martial arts movies. There is something mystical about ninjas though and that is what really intriguing. Even though the fighting scenes confused me a little with all the roundhouse kickings and axe kicks and flying kicks and so on, I still found the whole book to be very entertaining.

I would fully recommend this book to the truly adventurous and also to the adventurous at heart (like me). I’m planning to gift this as a Christmas present for a niece of mine –can’t wait to hear her thoughts!

Thank you Harper Collins Australia and NetGalley for the privilege to view & read galley

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Review: Heart of the Dragon’s Realm

Heart of the Dragon's Realm
Heart of the Dragon’s Realm by Karalynn Lee
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is more of a comfort read to me. A fantasy romance novella I could devour in a single sitting with a cuppa and a bikkie. *sighs* just lovely!

Unfortunately, Princess Kimri sounded like a brat right off the beginning. Understandably, she has just been sold to be a bride of a king of a mountain kingdom (a far and isolated kingdom) for a bunch of weapon. I supposed she has a right to be angry but silent treatment? That’s just a bit childish! So, it was a rough beginning.

Thankfully, it wasn’t long before her true goodness shines through and I loved her for her caring loving nature, acceptance of cultural differences, willingness to change, her strength and courage. Her relationship with the king is one that develops slowly but sweetly. And it sufficed to say that he is just lovely.

It was an easy relaxing sweet read that I thoroughly enjoyed and I fully recommend it for those looking for fantasy romance (as opposed to anything epic).

Thank you Carina Press and NetGalley for the privilege to read & review eGalley

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Review: Moonlight & Mechanicals

Moonlight & Mechanicals
Moonlight & Mechanicals by Cindy Spencer Pape
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Source: eGalley courtesy of Carina Press via NetGalley

I’ve definitely come to the party late! Didn’t realise that it was the fourth book of series either however it’s a series of the “world” as main characters are different in each book. I’ve not read the first 3 books but I don’t think that was a detriment at all. If you’ve read the other books, you may have a different opinion.

Nevertheless, it was a really fun read. I love this steampunk London where it’s not just foggy anymore; it’s so very smoggy that you’d need a mask with filters if you’d want to keep your health. Of course, if you’re a supernatural (for example, a werewolf), that’s not totally necessary. There is a definite demarcation line between the poor and the wealthy with no better future in view. Survival is not only threatened by health or poverty but there many of the poor are disappearing with rumours of ‘mechanical’ men as abductors.

I loved Wink –she is brainy, spunky, and all-round-capable. She’s a fun MC to follow. She’s really smart (she makes these pet toys which all carry hidden weapons) and also kicks some serious ass (not always literally). She has loved Liam (love this name too!) since she was 14 and hoped that he’d wait for her to grow up. Liam, on the other hand, had committed himself to a life of bachelorhood. Wink wants marriage and children, lots of children – will she be able to knock down Liam’s protective walls?

“Damn it, Winifred, that was a mistake.” He stepped closer, his voice more raw than she’d ever heard it. Liam was the only one who ever used the long version of her name, and she decided that from him, she rather liked it.
However, she didn’t care for his attitude. She sat up straighter, crossing her arms over her chest. “I find I take exception to being considered a mistake.”
“That’s not what I meant.” He paced restlessly in front of her. “You’re too good for me.”
“Not only is that the most clichéd line ever, it presupposes that I don’t know my own mind. It appears I don’t get any say in the matter of my so-called best interests.” She was making a fool of herself.

A terrific set of world with lovable characters make for enjoyable read. The mystery itself was also set up really well with a typical crazy evil bad guy. However, I found the romance slightly lacking; not enough struggles / sufferings and it was resolved pretty quickly & too easily. Noting that it’s a short-ish sort of book though, this would have to be it. There is also a love triangle (ugh!) but this time, I actually find it ticklish funny. The whole setup was destined to fail but not without hope and not that painful.

Thanks to Carina Press and NetGalley for the privilege to read & review eGalley

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