Friday, 4 November 2016

Hexenhaus, Becoming Aurora, and Daughter of Nomads

It's always sad when I don't enjoy and AussieYA book, but today I thought I'd share some mini reviews for a few books that haven't just haven't worked for me.

Hexenhaus by Nikki McWatters
Published Oct 31, 2016 by UQP
Source: the publisher
Rating: 2 stars

From the blurb: In 1628, Veronica and her brother flee for their lives into the German woods after their father is burned at the stake. At the dawn of the eighteenth century, Scottish maid Katherine is lured into political dissent after her parents are butchered for their beliefs. In present-day Australia, Paisley navigates her way through the burning torches of small-town gossip after her mother’s new-age shop comes under scrutiny.
Hexenhaus is Nikki McWatters' second YA novel. It's told over three different time periods, involving the witch hunts of 1628 in Germany and 1896 in Scotland, as well the present day in Bundanoon, NSW.

At first I found myself intrigued and horrified by the stories set in the past. In Bamberg,  seventeen year old Veronica's parents have both been burnt at the stake and she must now flee with her younger brother, Hans. In Renfrewshire, nineteen year old Katherine has also been made an orphan. She falls in with a crew of Jacobites, while working as a housemaid. And in the present day, Paisley must defend her mother when she's accused of bewitching a boy after he visited her new age store.

Unfortunately I found it hard to connect with the characters. This probably stemmed from the extremely short alternating chapters, especially in the beginning of the story. I was never fully able to immerse myself in any of their lives because before I could it was onto the next character.

It's clear this is a topic the author researched well, but sometimes the chapters sounded as narrative purely written to share said research, this was especially the case in Veronica's chapters.

I was 200 pages in when I realised this just wasn't holding my attention and I found myself not wanting to continue, I ended up skim reading to the end.

I have no doubt this will work for other readers as on the whole it was an interesting and well researched story.

Ableist language: nuts, lame, psycho, dumb.

Thank you to UQP for my copy.

Becoming Aurora by Elizabeth Kasmer
Published September 2016 by UQP
Source: the publisher
Rating: 3 stars

From the blurb: Sixteen-year-old Rory is at a crossroads in her life. While her gang plans its next move in a racially motivated turf war, Rory is sentenced to spend her summer at an aged care facility. She's proud of taking the rap for a crime her gang committed and reading to a feisty old boxing champion isn't going to change that.But what happens when Rory's path intersects with migrant boxer Essam's and she becomes the victim, not the perpetrator? Can she find the courage to face her past and become the girl her dad called Aurora?

Becoming Aurora is Elizabeth Kasmer's debut novel. Aurora, better known as Rory, lives in a small Queensland town and is part of a small gang of teenagers. They target businesses owned by immigrants. When we first meet Rory, it's clear she's taken the wrap for something the gang did and now has to do community service. At first she feels proud, she's cheered on by the gang and gets their tattoo, but she starts to form new opinions when she meets two people: Jack Sanford, a retiree, and Essam, an Iranian boy.

Becoming Aurora is a slip of a book and sometimes that is just perfect because I know it's going to be a succinct story. But in this case, I felt like someone had taken to the manuscript with shears, cutting out a lot of information. At the start of the story we learn that Rory went to court over the incident, but it's not clear what the gang did. We also learn her father died and again there's mystery surrounding that, but it takes a while for each event to be described.

I couldn't quite connect to Rory, she often talks about what she used to like, but we only know her as the girl she is now. She's racist, rude, and naive. But once she meets Jack via community service, and Essam because of the gang violence, she really started to grow as a character, and that was heartwarming.

Ableist language: maniac, demented.

Thank you to UQP for the review copy.

Daughter of Nomads (The Tales of Jahani #1) by Rosanne Hawke
Published June 2016 by UQP
Source: the publisher
Rating: 2 stars

From the blurb: First Moon of Summer, 1662: Fourteen-year-old Jahani lives peacefully in the village of Sherwan. But havoc is brewing in the Mughal Empire with tyrants and war lords burning villages in their quest to rule the northern kingdoms.
After an assassin strikes in a bazaar, Jahani discovers her life is not as it seems. Before long, she is fleeing with her mysterious protector Azhar.
Will their journey to the Qurraqoram Mountains lead Jahani to danger or to her destiny?

It's lovely to discover authors I haven't read yet and to read YA/Kid Lit that is unique, so I was intrigued by Daughter of Nomads. Unfortunately I was unable to connect with the story or Jahani herself. It was clearly well researched but there was a lot going on. I found myself reluctant to keep reading, but upon receiving the sequel, I forced myself to get to the end via skim reading.

I think this could be excellent for some readers and there are reviews that much more positive than mine so I wouldn't want to dissuade anyone from giving this a go.

Thank you to UQP for the review copy.


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