Tag Archives: Reviews

Book Review: My Chemical Mountain

Sometime last year, I read a little known YA novel called My Chemical Mountain. To be honest, the title caught my attention because of its similarity to the band name My Chemical Romance. I wasn’t quite sold given the blurb below, but I loved the cover so thought I’d give it a try anyway.


Rocked by his father’s recent death and his mother’s sudden compulsion to overeat, Jason lashes out by breaking into the abandoned mills and factories that plague his run-down town. Always by his side are his two best friends, Charlie, a fearless thrill junkie, and Cornpup, a geek inventor whose back is covered with cysts. The boys rage against the noxious pollution that suffocates their town and despise those responsible for it; at the same time, they embrace the danger of their industrial wasteland and boast about living on the edge. 

   Then on a night the boys vandalize one of the mills,  Jason makes a costly mistake–and unwittingly becomes a catalyst for change. In a town like his, change should be a good thing. There’s only one problem: change is what Jason fears most of all.

While I have read many disaster-apocalypse novels and a good few dystopians, this was first foray into ‘ecopunk,’ in that the book explores the consequences of pollution, corporate indifference and the effects of industrial waste on the environment. This story has stuck with me not least of all because of the grim, gritty, dark world the story is set in. This is neither a true post-apocalyptic nor a real dystopian story, but rather portrays the reality for many existing industrial towns right now. This is a very scary reality indeed, albeit exaggerated for the sake of fiction, and in many ways reminded me of the Chernobyl disaster and how the surrounding area was and is still affected by radiation today. Oh how I’d love to read a novel set in that vicinity!

What I truly loved about this story, and found so refreshing, was the all-boy main cast when having a strong, female lead is usually prerequisite for any YA novel. Along with the all-male cast, the emphasis in this novel is most certainly on male friendship instead of romance, which is also rare in YA. While I did appreciate this different approach, I must admit that at times this book felt more MG than YA because it was lacking certain tropes I’ve come to expect from YA. I think this novel might appeal more to younger readers, especially boys around the 10-13 age, but can be enjoyed by adults as well. Not that who the target audience should be really matters given how engaging these characters are. There was something so charming about Charlie’s reckless confidence, something endearing about Cornpup’s righteousness and something just undeniably lovable about Jason’s compassion – these are all characters I’ll definitely have a hard time forgetting. While the plot is rather straight forward without many twists or turns, I found the boys’ struggle against their toxic environment and the corporations that govern their lives totally compelling and alarming.

If you’re looking for a short, sci-fi light read with a refreshing focus on boys, friendship and the power one individual can have against a tyrant, then I strongly recommend this book! My Chemical Mountain gets 4/5 ink splats from me.

4 inksplats

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Posted by on November 25, 2014 in Reviews


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Review: The Index – Book 1: Mages by Katherine Gilraine

I’ve had this book (an electronic copy) for a lonnng time. Katherine got on my case and I started reading it, but struggled my absolute ass off with the book. And not for the reasons you might think.

Mages follows a group of extremely powerful beings, Mages trapped on Earth with a High Mage who has been the cause of much anarchy, destruction and death throughout the universe.

Mages was an interesting book – the characters, and there are many, are all vivid and easy to keep track of and remember. The High Mage sometimes fell into stereotypical ways of talking and thinking but his ambiguous nature made him memorable and interesting. Some of the other main characters, the High Mage’s children, for example, were different enough that they complemented each other and were made believeable as siblings; also, the High Mage’s main adversary was a powerful, confident and humourless woman, qualities that made her easy to follow and trust.

The magic system in Mages is also interesting – the Mages have aura’s which give them their power and each Mage has different auras and different powers. They’re also able to sense auras, so they know what kind of Mage they’re dealing with. There was only one thing that I had a problem with – the Mages seem too powerful and use their powers too openly.

Now, I would tell you about the wa Katherine plotted this novel, what I liked and didn’t like, but I can’t. You see, when I converted the PDF that Katherine had sent me to a format that I could read on my Blackberry’s MobiPocket App, the conversion totally removed every single quotation mark present in the text. 😦

As a consequence, I was having to constantly re-read every single page of the novel, just to get an idea of what the characters were doing, etc. At first I thought, honestly, that Katherine hadn’t included quotation marks in the text with the dialogue, but I checked the original PDF and it definitely has quotation marks. But because of the problem (dumb bloody phone, or App, or whatever the cause was) I just couldn’t really get into the novel – I can’t tell you what the novel is actually about, or analyse the plot in any way.

I must add that this wasn’t a fault of the novel or Katherine – it’s a problem with either my phone or the program I use to convert to a format that I can read on my phone.

So what am I going to do? Well, I feel that I do need a break from the frustration of trying to figure out what’s dialogue and what’s not, so I’m going to put aside the novel for now. It’s an interesting novel, with a cool magic system and interesting characters and I will get back to it once the problems with reading on my phone are sorted out.

For the promise this novel has shown from the little I did coherently understand I’ll give it a 7,5 / 10, a score which may well increase once I can read the novel as it was meant to be read. 🙂

If you’d like to find out more about Katherine and her work, check out her website here; to order Mages, click here for Amazon US and here for Amazon UK. Check out the links above for links to her second novel – Book 2: Secrets.



Posted by on October 13, 2010 in Reviews


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Black Ships – Jo Graham

Black Ships

Black Ships


Yesterday evening I finished Black Ships. I had been reading it in the bath, so I set the book aside and lay back, thinking about what had just ended. Guys, if you see this book on a bookstore’s shelf, buy it and read it and get lost in it; I did, and I now know that I’ve read a book that’ll always stay with me.


Let me quickly put this into perspective for you: I primarily read Epic Fantasy and Hard SF (many other genres inbetween but the two above are my great loves), and I had  read David Anthony Durham’s Acacia before Black Ships; you see, since I had an idea what to expect from Jo’s book, I knew that I wasn’t going to be reading Epic Fantasy, so I didn’t expect anything like that from Black Ships.


But I also didn’t expect to be utterly mesmerized by the book! 🙂

Black Ships is a beautiful read, absolutely and without doubt, beautiful! Jo’s economy and elegance with words completely pulls you in – she tells the story with exactly the right amount of detail, thereby painting her landscapes and characters in effortless strokes.



You never have one of the moments where you think, ‘Huh? What’s that?’ and then have to go back and re-read a section. You also never have to skip a section – Jo never bored me, and every word that slipped in through my eyes stayed there. There were never any words that seemed out of place or wrong, where as soon as you read them, you think, ‘Okay, I wouldn’t have used that word or so many words to explain that or this.’ and her narrative style is so easy on the eyes and brain that before you know it, you’ve finished the first 100 pages and it doesn’t matter that you missed your favourite TV show or that it’s half-past 3 in the morning; but don’t misunderstand me either – I could put this book down and go do something else, but the fact that I’m trying to articulate here is that Black Ships was always in my mind. I never stopped thinking about the book or the characters or the world that Jo Graham shows us.


Some books that I’ve read have pride of place above the others: Pet Sematary because I read it when I was nine years old; The Reality Dysfunction because I finished that 1000+ page book in less than a week (that’s how incredible the book is) and now Black Ships because of its beauty. 🙂


This is one of the tiny minority of books that brought tears to my eyes, and I am proud to say that; I lived with Jo’s characters for two weeks and now that the journey is over, I am sad, there’s no doubting that. I’ll miss Gull and Xandros and Aeneas, their ancient world, and yes, I’ll even miss the Lady of the Dead. I’m purposefully not telling you what you can expect plotwise because 1) you can check out her own website for that ( and 2) I hope you discover this book the same way I did, read it for what it is and not for what you think it might be, and love it the same way I do. 🙂


I give this 9/10 – it’s compelling, stunning, memorable, and beautiful. 🙂


Jo Graham

Jo Graham



Posted by on August 24, 2008 in Reviews


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