ARC Review – ‘Ninth House’ by Leigh Bardugo

Title: Ninth House
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Genre: Fantasy
Word/Page Count: 400 pages (paperback)
Publication Details: by Hachette Australia on October 9th, 2019
RRP: $29.99 AUD (paperback)

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The mesmerising adult debut from Leigh Bardugo. A tale of power, privilege, dark magic and murder set among the Ivy League elite. Alex Stern is the most unlikely member of Yale’s freshman class. A dropout and the sole survivor of a horrific, unsolved crime – the last thing she wants is to cause trouble. Not when Yale was supposed to be her fresh start. But a free ride to one of the world’s most prestigious universities was bound to come with a catch.

Alex has been tasked with monitoring the mysterious activities of Yale’s secret societies – societies that have yielded some of the most famous and influential people in the world. Now there’s a dead girl on campus and Alex seems to be the only person who won’t accept the neat answer the police and campus administration have come up with for her murder.

Because Alex knows the secret societies are far more sinister and extraordinary than anyone ever imagined.

They tamper with forbidden magic. They raise the dead. And, sometimes, they prey on the living . . .

Going in, let’s be clear – this isn’t a young adult novel, it’s Leigh Bardugo’s adult debut; it’s extremely confronting at points with references to and on-page depiction of sexual assault, child rape and statutory rape as well as mutilation and general gore. If you feel this may be a potential trigger, please search for more specific posts which outline exactly content is included so you can decide whether this is suitable to read.

I’m really glad that I knew of the trigger warnings going around on social media so that I wasn’t blindsided going into this. I had some qualms about the focus on sexual trauma, but Leigh Bardugo’s tweet discussing how the protagonist’s experiences in Ninth House were drawn from her personal life made me feel that it would be handled sensitively. I’m really glad that I read this book after all because it’s certainly NOT misery porn and none of the scenes depicted are at all gratuitous or feel like they’re included for shock value (although I can only speak for how I perceive it myself).

Now that’s out of the way! How was the book? In a word: AMAZING. 😍

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ARC Review – ‘The Deathless Girls’ by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

Title: The Deathless Girls
Author: Kiran Millwood Hargrave
Genre: YA Fantasy
Word/Page Count: 368 pages (paperback)
Publication Details: by Hachette Australia on September 24th, 2019
RRP: $19.99 AUD (paperback)

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

Gothic, intoxicating, feminist, darkly provoking and deeply romantic – this is the breathtakingly imagined untold story of the brides of Dracula, by bestselling author Kiran Millwood Hargrave in her much-anticipated YA debut.

They say the thirst of blood is like a madness – they must sate it. Even with their own kin.

On the eve of her divining, the day she’ll discover her fate, seventeen-year-old Lil and her twin sister Kizzy are captured and enslaved by the cruel Boyar Valcar, taken far away from their beloved traveller community.

Forced to work in the harsh and unwelcoming castle kitchens, Lil is comforted when she meets Mira, a fellow slave who she feels drawn to in a way she doesn’t understand. But she also learns about the Dragon, a mysterious and terrifying figure of myth and legend who takes girls as gifts.

They may not have had their divining day, but the girls will still discover their fate…

The first thing that drew me to this book was the absolutely stunning cover. And in this case you should ABSOLUTELY judge the book by its cover because the story within is beautiful, lushly drawn and will inextricably twine around your heart.

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ARC Review – ‘Becoming Dinah’ by Kit de Waal

Title: Becoming Dinah
Author:  Kit de Waal
Genre: YA, Contemporary
Word/Page Count: 288 pages (paperback)
Publication Details: by Hachette Australia on July 23rd, 2019
RRP: $16.99 AUD (paperback)

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Blurb from Goodreads:

A YA coming-of-age road trip novel about obsession, self-discovery, female power, and the people we meet along the way – by Costa Award shortlisted author Kit de Waal. The perfect read for anyone who’s ever wondered where they came from and where they might be going next.

In her first YA novel, Costa-shortlisted Kit de Waal responds to classic Moby Dick by tearing the power away from obsessive Captain Ahab and giving it to a teenage girl.

Dinah’s whole world is upside down, dead things and angry men and cuts all over her head that are beginning to sting….

Seventeen-year-old Dinah needs to leave her home, the weird commune where she grew up. She needs a whole new identity, starting with how she looks, starting with shaving off her hair, her ‘crowning glory’. She has to do it quickly, because she has to go now.

Dinah was going to go alone and hitch a ride down south. Except, she ends up being persuaded to illegally drive a VW campervan for hundreds of miles, accompanied by a grumpy man with one leg. This wasn’t the plan.

But while she’s driving, Dinah will be forced to confront everything that led her here, everything that will finally show her which direction to turn…

In her first YA novel, Costa-shortlisted author Kit de Waal responds to the classic Moby Dick with entirely new characters, a VW campervan, and by tearing the power away from obsessive Captain Ahab and giving it to a teenage girl who’s determined to find a new life, far away from her unconventional upbringing.

Becoming Dinah‘ is the first in the Bellatrix collection of YA books recently launched by Hachette Children’s Group which is focused on bringing attention to a diverse range of women’s stories written by leading female voices. Kit de Waal reimagines the classic 1851 novel ‘Moby Dick‘ by Herman Melville via our present-day society with the male sailor Ishmael going from a minor player in Captain Ahab’s quest for revenge to a young woman important in her own right at the center of her coming-of-age story.

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Book Review – ‘Contender’ by Taran Matharu

Title: Contender
Author: Taran Matharu
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Science Fiction
Word/Page Count: 345 pages (paperback)
Publication Details: by Hachette Australia on June 11th, 2019
RRP: $19.99 AUD (paperback)

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Blurb from Goodreads:

Introducing an epic new trilogy from Taran Matharu, author of the New York Times–bestselling Summoner series. 

Throughout history, people have vanished with no explanation. A group of teenagers are about to discover why.

Cade is settling into a new boarding school, contemplating his future, when he finds himself transported to another realm. He soon discovers their new world is populated with lost remnants from the past: prehistoric creatures, ancient relics, and stranger still — people. Overwhelmed by his new surroundings, Cade has little time to adjust, for soon he and his fellow classmates are forced to become contenders in a brutal game, controlled by mysterious overlords.

But who are these beings and why did they choose these teens? Cade must prepare for battle . . . because hiding is not an option.

The saying goes not to judge a book by its cover, but in this case, what you see is what you get! The immediate impression upon seeing a depiction of the protagonist wielding a sword against dinosaurs is that this is an action-packed heart-pounding roller-coaster ride of a read and that is certainly the case right from page 1.

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ARC Review & Blog Tour – ‘All That Impossible Space’ by Anna Morgan

Title: All That Impossible Space
Author: Anna Morgan
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Word/Page Count: 288 pages (paperback)
Publication Details: by Hachette Australia on June 25th, 2019
RRP: $19.99 AUD (paperback)

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Blurb from Goodreads:

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 personal measure of a book’s quality is whether a) I read it in one sitting, or b) if it compelled me to stay up ridiculously late to finish reading it. All That Impossible Space achieved BOTH. I wouldn’t have started it at 9pm at night if I had any idea it would keep me up past midnight, but I have no regrets!

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Review – ‘All The Lonely People’ by David Owen

Title: All The Lonely People
Author: David Owen
Genre: YA, Contemporary, LGBT
Publication Details: by Hachette Australia on 8th January, 2019
Word/Page Count: 320 pages (paperback)

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Everyone tells Kat that her online personality – confident, funny, opinionated – isn’t her true self. Kat knows otherwise. The internet is her only way to cope with a bad day, chat with friends who get all her references, make someone laugh. But when she becomes the target of an alt-right trolling campaign, she feels she has no option but to Escape, Delete, Disappear.

With her social media shut down, her website erased, her entire online identity void, Kat feels she has cut away her very core: without her virtual self, who is she?

She brought it on herself. Or so Wesley keeps telling himself as he dismantles Kat’s world. It’s different, seeing one of his victims in real life and not inside a computer screen – but he’s in too far to back out now.

As soon as Kat disappears from the online world, her physical body begins to fade and while everybody else forgets that she exists, Wesley realises he is the only one left who remembers her. Overcome by remorse for what he has done, Wesley resolves to stop her disappearing completely. It might just be the only way to save himself.

I really wanted to love this and it had all the ingredients to be the perfect dish for me, but it didn’t quite come together in the way I hoped. I still encourage anyone interested in reading it as there are a lot of timely issues explored in this book and the premise is absolutely killer – what if cyber bullying caused one victim to LITERALLY fade away?

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Book Review – ‘Master of Sorrows’ by Justin Call

Title: Master of Sorrows
Author: Justin Call
Genre: Fantasy
Publication Details: by Hachette Australia on 26th February, 2019
Word/Page Count: 448 pages (paperback)

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Synopsis:

The Academy of Chaenbalu has stood against magic for centuries.

Hidden from the world, acting from the shadows, it trains its students to detect and retrieve magic artifacts, which it jealously guards from the misuse of others. Because magic is dangerous: something that heals can also harm, and a power that aids one person may destroy another.

Of the Academy’s many students, only the most skilled can become Avatars – warrior thieves, capable of infiltrating the most heavily guarded vaults – and only the most determined can be trusted to resist the lure of magic.

More than anything, Annev de Breth wants to become one of them.

Whatever you do, do not read the Goodreads blurb! It gives away a major plot point that isn’t even explored in this book, and is instead set up to be mined for dramatic potential in the sequel. I can see the reasoning in giving away a future plot twist because the subversion of the Chosen One trope is really compelling and what prompted me to request this from the publisher. However considering that the first book really only hints at this development, that’s a good way to get people excited and then let down at the end when it goes nowhere fast. But I’m still glad I received this book because it was an addictive and riveting read, so putting the blurb aside, let me judge this book on its own merits.

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Book Review – ‘Shadow Captain’ by Alastair Reynolds

Title: Shadow Captain
Author: Alastair Reynolds
Genre: Science Fiction, Space Opera
Publication Details: by Hachette Australia on 8th January, 2019
Word/Page Count: 432 pages (paperback)
Synopsis: (from Goodreads)

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The gripping sequel to the Locus award winning science fiction adventure, Revenger, tells a story of obsession and betrayal as two sisters hunt for the greatest treasure in the universe.

Adrana and Fura Ness have finally been reunited, but both have changed beyond recognition. Once desperate for adventure, now Adrana is haunted by her enslavement on the feared pirate Bosa Sennen’s ship. And rumors of Bosa Sennen’s hidden cache of treasure have ensnared her sister, Fura, into single-minded obsession.

Neither is safe; because the galaxy wants Bosa Sennen dead and they don’t care if she’s already been killed. They’ll happily take whoever is flying her ship.

Shadow Captain is a desperate story of cursed ships, vengeful corporations, and alien artifacts, of daring escapes and wealth beyond imagining … and of betrayal.

Even though there was a lot left to explore in the Revenger universe and that book had an open ending, I still somehow didn’t expect a sequel as the main character’s arc seemed to have run its course. Well, I did comment in my review that: “I had no idea what to expect from one page to the next; there was no safety net, no predictability whatsoever!” so of course the author would surprise me with a sequel!

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ARC Review – ‘A Danger To Herself And Others’ by Alyssa Sheinmel

Title: A Danger To Herself And Others
Author: Alyssa Sheinmel
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Mental Health
Publication Details: by Hachette Australia on 12th February, 2019
Word/Page Count: 352 pages (paperback)
Synopsis: (from Goodreads)

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Only when she’s locked away does the truth begin to escape… 

Four walls. One window. No way to escape. Hannah knows there’s been a mistake. She didn’t need to be institutionalized. What happened to her roommate at her summer program was an accident. As soon as the doctors and judge figure out that she isn’t a danger to herself or others, she can go home to start her senior year. In the meantime, she is going to use her persuasive skills to get the staff on her side.

Then Lucy arrives. Lucy has her own baggage. And she may be the only person who can get Hannah to confront the dangerous games and secrets that landed her in confinement in the first place.

Well, this didn’t last long on my February TBR, I ended up devouring this overnight in one sitting! I had a feeling from the blurb that this book would feature an unreliable narrator and it looked like a suspenseful read – boy, did it deliver! I found myself so engrossed in the drama and intrigue that I couldn’t put it down until I reached the end!

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Book Review – ‘Nightchaser’ by Amanda Bouchet

Title: Nightchaser
Author: Amanda Bouchet
Genre: Romance, Science Fiction
Published by: Hachette Australia on 2nd January, 2019
Word/Page Count: 416 pages (paperback)
Synopsis: (from Goodreads)

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Tess Bailey: the galaxy’s Most Wanted.
Captain Tess Bailey is in deep trouble. She and her crew are on the run, pursued by a tyrant who’ll take them dead or alive. Tess’s best hope is a tall, dark, and much-too-appealing stranger, Shade Ganavan, who says he can help her. But his motivations are far from clear…

Shade Ganavan: arrogance, charm…and that special something that makes you want to kick him.
With the dreaded Dark Watch closing in, what Tess and Shade don’t know about each other might get them killed…unless they can set aside their differences and learn to trust each other before it’s too late.

This was a delightful easy read that I breezed through over a few nights – as a sci-fi romance, it thrilled me with the world-building and made me invest in the relationship between Tess and Shade! It is definitely important to note that there is a heavy romantic element to the storyline, so if that doesn’t sound appealing, then this may not be for you. But if you like some sexual tension and flirty banter mixed in with space battles and intergalactic banditry, I’m happy to recommend this! 🙂

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