Review: Skink No Surrender by Carl Hiaasen [Skink #7/ Standalone-ish]

 

“The #1 New York Times bestselling author Carl Hiaasen serves up his unique brand of swamp-justice in Skink—No Surrender.

Classic Malley—to avoid being shipped off to boarding school, she takes off with some guy she met online. Poor Richard—he knows his cousin’s in trouble before she does. Wild Skink—he’s a ragged, one-eyed ex-governor of Florida, and enough of a renegade to think he can track Malley down. With Richard riding shotgun, the unlikely pair scour the state, undaunted by blinding storms, crazed pigs, flying bullets, and giant gators.

Carl Hiaasen first introduced readers to Skink more than twenty-five years ago in Double Whammy, and he quickly became Hiaasen’s most iconic and beloved character, appearing in six novels to date. Both teens and adults will be thrilled to catch sight of the elusive “captain” as he finds hilariously satisfying ways to stop internet predators, turtle-egg poachers, and lowlife litterbugs in their tracks. With Skink at the wheel, the search for a missing girl is both nail-bitingly tense and laugh-out-loud funny.”

Goodreads Description

Thanks to NetGalley and Orion Publishing Group for the copy! 🙂

I love Carl Hiaasen’s writing. He’s the author of Hoot, which I adored. You get a real feel for the area he’s describing; it’s like you’re there, it’s so vivid. You also get a great feel for the wildlife and how passionate about them the author must be.

Skink No Surrender is the latest in a series. There are six books already out. This one is due out September 23rd. I haven’t read the others and I didn’t feel like I’d missed anything when reading Skink No Surrender. I will definitely be chasing down the first six and devouring them ASAP though, because this book was FANTASTIC!

Hiaasen’s writing is so good, it just cocoons you in the story he’s telling. The characters were all well-developed, even the very minor ones. Everyone was interesting and had their own voice. And if anyone does quirky characters well, it’s Carl Hiaasen. The plot moved at just the right pace – it was fast enough to keep me hooked, but slow enough to let the scenery and the people develop well.

I genuinely don’t have anything negative to say about this. The synopsis for Hiaasen’s books never excites me that much, but when I pick them up and start reading, they’re awesome!

If you’ve never tried a Hiaasen novel, do pick one up. Even if you think it’s not your thing – the writing is so gripping, it’ll pull you in within a few pages. They are really easy books to get into and quick, short reads.

I recommend this book to people who want a book they can just sink into without much effort (I find some books I have to work at a bit before I really get into it and reading feels relaxing again; if you’re like this too, then I recommend Carl Hiaasen); and people who are after gorgeously depicted books about Florida and/or the wildlife found there. Oh, and if you like your characters quirky with a capital Q, you will love Skink, Malley and Richard.

Ratings

Quality of Writing: 5 out of 5

Enjoyment Level: 5 out of 5

Emotional Depth: 4 out of 5

[Goodreads Rating: 5 out of 5 ]

*Plus kudos for amazing writing that sucks you in and doesn’t let you go

Have you read this one? What did you think? If not, is it on your TBR?

Review: Has Anyone Seen Jessica Jenkins? by Liz Kessler

“Unexpectedly discovering you have a superpower can lead to trouble, as 13-year-old Jessica Jenkins finds out in this exciting new adventure from BLUE PETER BOOK AWARD-shortlisted author, Liz Kessler.

Jessica Jenkins is missing…

Jessica Jenkins has always thought she was a perfectly ordinary girl, until the day that part of her arm vanishes in the middle of a Geography lesson! Her best friend Izzy is determined to help Jessica realise what a great opportunity the power to turn invisible could be, but where has her new ability come from? Does this mean she’s a superhero? And, when her friends are threatened, can Jessica use her superpower to help?

A wonderful new book from bestselling author Liz Kessler.”

Goodreads Description

Thanks to NetGalley and Orion Publishing Group for the copy! 🙂

I requested this one because I loved Liz Kessler’s Emily Windsnap series. I wasn’t expecting this one to be as good as those, leave alone better, and I was right.

Jessica isn’t half as charismatic as Emily Windsnap. Her voice just didn’t capture me at all. I cared enough to worry when she was in trouble, but I was much more interested in her best friend, Izzy.

Liz Kessler’s writing is on the more juvenile end of the “middle grade” scale. Children will adore the magic and the characters accurate to their age range. (Jessica and her friends hanging out at a cafe and discussing Maths and Geography and things made me all nostalgic!). (If you’re in the US, Jessica and co are in Year Eight, which I think is equivalent to seventh grade.) I think younger children than 12/13 would enjoy this too though. They seem like they would be good to read aloud with a younger child.

The superhero aspect was ok. I wasn’t overly into the science-y stuff and if I found it confusing, I’m pretty sure a 12 year old would too. There was only one science-heavy scene that went over my head though. I got the basic concept of how it happened, but there was a bit of science-dumping. Also, I just wasn’t that into how it all happened.

Like I said, I loved Izzy, she was the highlight of this book for me. Smart, kooky, a bit left out. I loved her 🙂

I’d recommend this to those who are after child-friendly superhero books, a light and fun read for when you’re tired or ill, or just for a bit of nostalgia.

Ratings

Quality of Writing:  3 out of 5

Enjoyment Level: 3 out of 5

Emotional Depth: 1 out of 5

[Goodreads Rating: 3 out of 5]

*Plus kudos for an awesome sidekick!

Have you read this one? What did you think? If not, is it on your TBR?

Review: Accession by Terah Edun

“Sixteen-year-old Katherine Thompson wasn’t trained to rule a coven. That was her sister – perfect, beautiful Rose. But when a mysterious plane crash kills off the heir presumptive of the Sandersville coven she has no choice.

After stepping in to fill her sister’s shoes, Katherine realizes she didn’t have a clue – faery wars, depressed trolls and angry unicorns are just the beginning.

For centuries, her family has served the high Queens on both sides of the Atlantic but it is a well-known rule that mid-level witches stay away from high-level Queens.

But when Katherine’s youngest cousin vanishes without a trace in the Atlanta court and no one wants to investigate, Katherine decides to step into the darkness on her own. She will soon discover that nothing, especially in a queen’s court, is as it seems.”

Goodreads Description

Thanks to NetGalley and All Night Reads for the copy! 🙂

I’m a bit conflicted about Accession, if I’m honest, but I can’t help but add it to my ever-growing list of favourite books. I mean, there are were-peacocks and trolls and licorns and EVERYTHING you always wanted in a book but could never find!

I loved it for the sheer imaginative effort. I loved it for Katherine (she was a great character to read about). I loved it for the witches. I loved it for getting me hooked on witch books.

But here’s the thing. It was tough to read sometimes. It kept me hooked and I didn’t want to put it down, but the dialogue was sometimes very stilted. Especially when it was between Katherine and her mother. Also, it didn’t work as a book in its own right. I know it’s the first in a series, but it still has to function as a story on its own with beginning, middle and end. To me, there wasn’t nearly enough information and plot advancement. The ending wasn’t satisfying at all. It felt like the story just stopped. I hope the next one doesn’t take too long because it feels like I’m halfway through a book, rather than one book into a series.  So I will read the sequel because the world is so flipping awesome and I do want to know what happens as well.

I’d recommend this one if you’re after a really new take on fantasy creatures etc. Just be forewarned about the writing, and I would wait until you have the next one as well before starting, to be honest.

Ratings

Quality of Writing: 2 out of 5

Enjoyment Level: 3 out of 5

Emotional Depth: 2 out of 5

[Goodreads Rating: 3 out of 5 ]

*Plus kudos for a BRILLIANT imagination!

Have you read this one? What did you think? Is it on your TBR?

Top Twenty Male Characters

In this post, I listed the top ten characters I’d want with me if I were stranded on an island. They were all female, so I thought I’d balance things out and share with you my favourite male characters.

The Wizard Section

1. Gandalf

2. Albus Dumbledore

3. Harry Potter

4. Rincewind

5. Merlin

So these ones are obvious. Harry will always be third, but I actually can’t really choose between Gandalf and Dumbledore for first place.  I think Gandalf just pips Dumbledore to the post though.

Other wizards I love: most of the Discworld wizards, Ron/Fred/George/Charlie/Bill/Arthur Weasley, Hagrid,  Saruman (I love to hate him, and he has nice hair), Professor Flitwick (the one from the books and the first film)… Rothen, Dannyl and Lorlen from Trudi Canavan’s books. Oh and the High Lord from those too, Akkarin.

The Fighter Section

1. Dimitri Belikov

2. Aragorn

3. Gimli

4. Gale

5. Finnick

Again, fairly obvious, but I love them! Dimitri is from Vampire Academy, Aragorn and Gimli are from Lord of the Rings, and Gale and Finnick are from the Hunger Games trilogy.

Other fighter types I love:  The Luggage (this may or may not be male, but I love him/her/it so am popping him/her/it on my list), Cery (Trudi Canavan), Eddy (Vampire Academy), Four (Divergent)…

The Philosopher Section

 

1. Pudge

2. Etienne St Clair

3. Cricket Bell

4. Will Grayson

5. Levi

One and four are John Green characters (the Will Grayson I’m talking about is the one who has a friend called Jane); two and three are Stephanie Perkins characters; five is a Rainbow Rowell character (from Fangirl).

Other philosopher types I love: Well Neville Longbottom I guess, he’s very profound at times; Will Herondale, Jem Carstairs (Infernal Devices), Gus from TFIOS; Bilbo Baggins; Sam Gamgee…

The I-Don’t-Know-Where-To-Put-You-But-I-Love-You-Anyway Section

1. Magnus Bane

2. Oskan

3. Peter Pan

4. Josh

5. Will Parry

Magnus is from Cassandra Clare’s books; Oskan is from the Icemark Chronicles (which is little known, but I highly recommend it), Josh is from the Dream Merchant (another highly recommended, little-known read), and Will is from His Dark Materials.

Other characters I love:  Tiny Cooper (John Green),  Seth (Wicked Lovely), Mariah Mundi (Mariah Mundi), Althalus (the Redemption of Althalus)

Who are some of your favourite male characters? 

Review: The Mapmaker’s Daughter by Caroline Dunford

 

“Sharra’s world is a terrifying place. Violent seismic ‘Shifts’ and outbreaks of an all-consuming black fire radically alter landscapes on an increasingly frequent basis. Only the Map Makers can predict where the Shift will fall, and Sharra, daughter to one of the most famous Map Makers, yearns to join their ranks and break a cultural taboo which forbids female cartographers.Sharra’s father, Lord Milton, is one of the few to challenge the current order, but his shadowy past limits his political reach and his second wife, Lady Ivory, is determined to manipulate him to ensure a privileged future for herself and her daughter, Jayne. The main obstacle standing in Ivory’s way is Sharra.”

Goodreads Description

Thanks to NetGalley and Bloomsbury Spark for the copy! 🙂

The Mapmaker’s Daughter sounded fantastic, and the free sample I got from Amazon before requesting the full title on NetGalley, was. I was expecting dramatic adventures and lots of action. Unfortunately, the book fell kind of flat for me. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed it and the last few chapters were excellent (minus one thing which really brought it down). It just had flat parts, where reading was a drag and I was quite bored in some places. It just didn’t resonate enough with me, it could have been so awesome. If all of it was like the first chapter and the last two chapters, it would have been at least a four-star read for me.

The world this story is set in is so interesting, and well-developed, but I felt like I was being told a story about people interacting with each other when what I really wanted was to look at this crazy, deadly world some more. The world itself was so dynamic and I felt like I was constantly being dragged away from that.

The characters were ok. There wasn’t a character I really loved. Ivory was sufficiently evil to rile me up though, and Milton was the kind of man I wanted to yell at. I liked Maven’s snark; he was the character I liked the most, as well as his grandmother. As for the main character, Sharra… Well I liked who she became, but I didn’t really like her or dislike her.

This book is worth reading and it is worth bearing with the dull parts. The world is brilliant, the map is brilliant, and the message tube things were awesome. There were some really great scenes and some really boring ones.

Overall, read it for the worldbuilding and the ending! 🙂

Ratings

Quality of Writing: 2 out of 5

Enjoyment Level: 3 out of 5

Emotional Depth: 2 out of 5

[Goodreads Rating: 3 out of 5 ]

*Plus kudos for a brilliant ending!

Have you read this one? What did you think?

Review: Roomies by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando

“It’s time to meet your new roomie.

When East Coast native Elizabeth receives her freshman-year roommate assignment, she shoots off an e-mail to coordinate the basics: television, microwave, mini-fridge. That first note to San Franciscan Lauren sparks a series of e-mails that alters the landscape of each girl’s summer — and raises questions about how two girls who are so different will ever share a dorm room.

As the countdown to college begins, life at home becomes increasingly complex. With family relationships and childhood friendships strained by change, it suddenly seems that the only people Elizabeth and Lauren can rely on are the complicated new boys in their lives . . . and each other. Even though they’ve never met.

National Book Award finalist Sara Zarr and acclaimed author Tara Altebrando join forces for a novel about growing up, leaving home, and getting that one fateful e-mail that assigns your college roommate.”

Goodreads Description

Thanks to BookBridgr and Hodder and Stoughton for the copy! 🙂

This is a book I will definitely be picking up again. It’s my new comfort read! At 279 pages it’s a quick and fun read, but it doesn’t lack depth or emotion. It isn’t a heart-wrencher, but it isn’t shallow either. There’s romance in it, but it isn’t a love story. It would be a great pick me up if you’re feeling down or ill. It would also be great for by the pool or on long journeys.

I devoured Roomies. I had to know what was going to happen, I had to spend more time with the two girls. It was written through both girls’ eyes, with one author writing Lauren’s chapters and the other author writing Elizabeth/EB’s. (I tried to find out which author wrote which character, but I couldn’t. If you know, please let me know!)

Roomies is mostly narration but it includes the emails Lauren and Elizabeth/EB exchange. I loved seeing them both grow, I loved seeing their relationship grow, and I loved their individual lives. I didn’t much like Elizabeth/EB’s high school friends, but I loved Lauren’s best friend, Zoe. I also loved Keyon.

For me the story was kind of lopsided, since I didn’t connect well with Elizabeth/EB and she really got on my nerves at times, but I LOVED Lauren. I loved Lauren’s storyline. There wasn’t a character in her parts that didn’t feel solid. Elizabeth/EB’s friends sucked and I didn’t like either Alex or Mark. I didn’t like Elizabeth by the end and I kept wanting to call her Emma (no idea why!).

The ending was super frustrating and may have lost the book a whole star.

So there were problems, but I still loved it and consider it a favourite. I’d recommend it for Lauren’s storyline – it really was good!

Ratings

Quality of Writing: 4 out of 5 – it would have been five if EB’s secondary characters were better developed

Enjoyment Level: 3 out of 5 – lost a star for the ending and another star for the issues I had with EB’s storyline

Emotional Depth: 3 out of 5

[Goodreads Rating: 3 out of 5 – I wish I could give this a higher rating though. If it was just Lauren’s POV it would be a 4.5]

*Plus kudos for being a great read

Have you read this? Is it on your TBR?

TBR Jars: July Thoughts and August Picks [Inc Feature Picks for August]

Untitled

So last month’s picks were Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr and The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens.

I LOVED Wicked Lovely. I gave it 4 stars and it made my favourites shelf 🙂 I then devoured the rest of the series back-to-back. The last one was my favourite. I can’t believe I left these on my shelf for so long.

I gave The Old Curiosity Shop a go, but I’m not in the right headspace for really wordy classics right now. Usually summer is my classics time, but not this year. I’ll come back to that one another time.

So despite failing at reading a classic, I still read four books from my own shelves (Wicked Lovely is a five-book series with two or three ebook novellas; but I only own the first four books).

I decided to change up the way I do my TBR Jars, so that they are even less like jars than they were before. Oops! I am going to pick two books from my shelves that I haven’t read before. That’s it, no random number generators, no faffing with bits of paper and actual jars… I’m going to select two books that appeal to me right now, That way I stand more chance of actually reading them.

So August’s picks are:

Pirates! by Celia Rees

A Study In Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle

Sherlock is technically a classic, but hopefully a faster-paced, slightly more modern one.

The feature picks for August

Reading the Future [2 of 6]: Monument 14 by Emmy Laybourne

Little Black Book Reviews [2 of 10]: Love and Skate by Lila Felix

The Monthly Meet Melanie [2 of 6]: Films

Hope you’re having a good week! Leave any questions about my film preferences in the comments and I’ll answer them in the Monthly Meet Melanie.