“So pluck up your courage and take that risk! Add another story to the book of your life.” // Review of “Choose Your Own Autobiography” by Neil Patrick Harris

Title: Choose Your Own Autobiography
Author: Neil Patrick Harris
Genre: Celebrity memoir/choose your own adventure
Date Read: 10/02/2017 – 13/02/2017
Rating: ★★★

Review:

You may know Neil Patrick Harris as teenage MD Doogie Howser, or as Joss Whedon’s Doctor Horrible, or if you’re lucky, you’ve seen him on Broadway. This book is cute and fun, and really shows that he recognises just how blessed his life has been. It was also in quirky format that would not have worked for every celebrity memoir, but it did work for this one.

As you can probably tell from the title, the book is in a choose-your-own-adventure format, where “you are” NPH. I did start off reading it this way, and probably read about half of it by choosing the various paths, but after a while, I found myself continually being given choices I’d already read. At that point, I just started reading from beginning to end, skipping the pages I’d already read.

It was really fascinating reading some of the behind-the-scenes stories about performances I was familiar with him from. I particularly liked the anecdote about his Tony Awards opening song, “It’s Not Just For Gays Anymore” and how the Powers That Be had insisted the word “sodomy” be replaced with “same-sex love”, but Neil “accidentally” sang the original lyric during the performance/live broadcast.

The anecdotes about his personal life were also fairly interesting to read. He doesn’t go into a lot of detail, which is fine. He also talks about his almost-professional hobby of stage magic, but his descriptions of magic tricks did not really translate to the page. I ended up skimming those because they were pretty confusing to read. Maybe if I’d had a deck of cards handy and could actually follow the instructions, I might have made more sense of them. The notes from his celebrity friends that were scattered throughout were also sweet, but I’m not sure they really added much to the book overall.


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#WWW and #WIPpet Wednesday – 22 February, 2017

bookcrossinglogoSo quick question. Does anyone here do Bookcrossing? It’s that thing where you register a book and it gets a unique ID which you write on a little bookplate and then you leave it in a public place and hopefully the person who picks it up will register it and you get to see where your book travels.

I’ve known about it for ages but I’ve only just joined. I “released” my first few books this morning to an “official” crossing zone, so a place where other users actively look. It looks like my state, for all its tiny-ness, has a very active Bookcrossing community, which is quite exciting. I did make a pact with myself though, that I would release a few books before I go about capturing any and giving myself more books to read.

Anyway, that turned into a bit more than a quick question. But let me know if you’ve ever done it! On with the blog hops!

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Welcome to WIPpet Wednesday! This is a weekly blog hop hosted by yours truly. If you’re a writer, you are very welcome to join us by posting an excerpt from your WIP that somehow relates to the date. You can click the blue guy on the right of this blog to be taken to the link up.

I haven’t written much so far this week, as I’ve become stuck on a slow scene. I am tempted to just leave it for Future Emily to finish/fix in revisions. Future Emily won’t be too happy but that’s also Future Emily’s problem.

I have four paragraphs following on from last week’s snippet. Clara is letting the bad guys think she’s going with them, in order to let Max and Jana (Max’s aunt, and to Clara’s knowledge at this point, her godmother) get away. Max knows this is the plan because they were able to communicate telepathically, but Jana doesn’t.

She looked at the four strangers. “I get the feeling that even if we got away from you now, you would keep coming after me,” she said. “So I decided to come with you. After all, in the first words you spoke to me, you told me more about where I come from than these guys ever have.” She jerked her head towards Max and Jana and saw Conrad smirk at the dig. Max kept his expression neutral, but Jana began to open her mouth to argue.

“It’s fine, Aunt Jana,” she said. “I know it was ‘for my protection’” – she did air quotes as she spoke the last few words – “but I’m tired of not knowing anything. And if this does all fall apart, I can magic myself back to you, right?”

She tried to give her godmother a reassuring look. Locking eyes with her, she sent her thoughts through to her.

This is part of my plan. But do feel free to object out loud.

And now it’s time for WWW Wednesday! This blog hop is hosted by Sam over at A World Of Words. Link up with us by commenting on Sam’s post for this week, and just answer the three questions.

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What have you recently finished reading?

traitortothethronecoverI finished Traitor to the Throne by Alwyn Hamilton and while I figured out the twist right at the end before it was revealed, it was nonetheless a really fun book! Usually I’m not one for in depth political intrigue, but there was just enough in this one. And very little romance, which also worked for me.

I posted my Traitor to the Throne review here and you can also read my review of The Mesmerist by Ronald J. Smith here.

What are you currently reading?

fearlesstravelersguidecoverI have started The Fearless Traveler’s Guide to Wicked Places by Peter Begler. It’s quite slow-going and while I am liking it, I’m not sure it would keep an actual middle-grade reader interested. My reading speed also slows right down when I’m reading something slower-paced, so it might take me a little while to finish.

cornerofwhitecoverI also began A Corner of White by Jaclyn Moriarty on audio yesterday. This has been on my Australian Women Writers Challenge TBR for a while, so when I saw it available on Overdrive, I picked it up. It has various narrators, but one of them is Fiona Hardingham, who I just recently listened to narrating The Dark Unwinding.  She’s got a lovely, silky voice that’s really easy to listen to.

What do you think you’ll read next?

adverbscoverI’ve got a couple of ARCs still pending but one of them has been on NetGalley for a year after its publication and the other is not published until  the end of April, so I feel I can let them both sit for a while. After 3 ebooks, I’m rather hanging out for a physical book. I think it untoldcoverwill either be Untold, the second book in the Lynburn Legacy series by Sarah Rees Brennan or Adverbs by Daniel Handler. They’re the two things I’ve currently got out from the library, so it would be good to get through them and then return to working through things I own.

What are you reading this week? 🙂

~ Emily

Book Review: Traitor to the Throne by Alwyn Hamilton

Title: Traitor to the Throne (Rebel of the Sands #2)
Author: Alwyn Hamilton
Genre: YA/Fantasy
Date Read: 30/01/2017 – 16/02/2017
Rating: ★★★

Review:

Contrary to what the dates above sort of indicate, it didn’t take me over two weeks to read this. I started it when I was in the wrong mood for it and only read perhaps 25% over a few days… a week or so later I came back and devoured the rest in the same amount of time.

During a surprise attack on the Rebel Camp, Amani finds herself taken prisoner and trapped in the Sultan’s harem, with no means of escape. She turns to spying, finding a way to sneak information out, but the Sultan has his own plans for her.

I know a lot of people were disappointed that Jin doesn’t play a bigger role in this book, but I actually really appreciated the fact that this wasn’t one of those cases where the middle book is mostly about the romance. Amani has to rely on herself, and there was no lovey-dovey-ness for the most part. I actually found myself annoyed when Jin showed up again, because then it did get a bit mushier, and I’m way more here for the political intrigue.

Speaking of which, SO MUCH political intrigue. We meet a few more princes and princesses, both loyal to the Sultan and not, as well as plenty of foreign dignitaries from all the surrounding countries. And the Sultan himself. I actually… really liked him? In the first book, he’s just that far-off evil villain, but we really got his side of things in this one. It’s not that he’s evil, exactly. It’s that he’s ruthless. And I really liked how unapologetic he is about that. Of course, his weakness is thinking he knows everything that’s going on, and that’s going to make for some interesting situations in the next book.

I think the reason this book and I got off on the wrong foot was the way it opens. It does not pick up straight after the events of the previous book; instead, it’s been a little while. The first few chapters give us an overview of the events that have happened off-page, but it really is just an overview, which is somewhat dissatisfying. Once I got past this, though, the book really started to pick up.

When I finished Rebel in the Sands, I felt a bit disappointed because the book had turned out to not be what I was expecting. I hadn’t been sure if I would even continue. But for whatever reason, I got excited about this one anyway, and I’m glad I read it. Now I’m looking forward to the third book and to seeing how the revolution pans out.


(Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for a review)

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Sunday Summary – February 19, 2017

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Fun fact:
this is my 650th post on this blog. And I received my 5000th comment on Wednesday’s post. Crazy talk!

This week in writing

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I had a write-in with my writing group this morning, and finished up the week with 3703 words. I’m on the downhill run with the first draft of With Memories and Magic now, which is really exciting! At first, I hadn’t been sure that I would complete the first draft in February, which was my goal, but I am on my way to doing just that. In March, I’m going to work on a short story I have planned, then come back to edit this in April.

This week in reading

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I’m finally making headway through my ARCs! I finished both Traitor to the Throne by Alwyn Hamilton The Mesmerist by Ronald L. Smith this week and I’ve started The Fearless Traveler’s Guide to Wicked Places by Peter Begler. So far I’m enjoying it; I think it’s going to be a really good whimsical, dreamscape-type fantasy.

This week in blogging

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I posted my review of the Mesmerist on Friday (read it here) and I have my Traitor to the Throne review scheduled for tomorrow. I’m just finishing up visiting WIPpet Wednesday posts in a few other tabs in my browser right now.

This week in health and fitness

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February has been a hard month on this front. Between the heat and just feeling crap, I’ve done less exercise than I would have hoped to, and have eaeten a lot more junk than I should have. As a result, today I’m sitting at about 200g above the weight I was at the end of January. This is after some fluctuation over the last few weeks. I’m still hopeful that I can get to my goal weight by April 1, I just need to get serious about it again.

Other Highlights this week

highlightsthumbToday a group of friends and I went to our local cinema to see the filmed production of the musical Newsies. It’s been one of my favourite musicals for a few years, but I’d only ever heard the soundtrack. It was so great to finally see how it was performed. ^_^ Here’s a bit of a glimpse of how it looked, though it doesn’t really do the full show justice.

~ Emily

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Book Review: “The Mesmerist” by Ronald J. Smith

Title: The Mesmerist
Author: Ronald J. Smith
Genre:
  Historical fantasy
Date Read: 08/02/2017 – 13/02/2017
Rating: ★★☆

Review:

This is a book that I may very well have loved as a 10 or 12-year-old, so I’m willing to accept that the low rating I ultimately gave it as a 27-year-old is a case of “It’s not you, it’s me”.  While the premise of this book sounded cute, it ended up falling flat for me.

Jessamine Grace and her mother make a living as sham spiritualists in Victorian England, until one day Jess discovers that she actually can talk to ghosts. Subsequently, she is thrust into a world of demons, ghouls, necromancers, fairies and angels, and sets out to avenge the deaths of those she loves.

My main issue was Jess herself. She was just so prissy and annoying. The book is in first person present tense, which is not easy to pull off, and I feel that the author did not manage it. There were also constant reminders to English-ness, or to being English – it seemed odd; I don’t think a regular English person would constantly be thinking “I’ll do that – after all, I am English.”

I also felt that there was a bit too much going on, so none of the world-building ever really got enough attention. As you can see from my summary, there are lots of different supernatural elements and they really all only get a bit of a turn to shine. On top of that, the book tries covering some socio-political issues of the time, as well as introducing a plague into the city.

Having said that, I did find that plot picked up in the last 25% or so. Before that, a lot of the action tended to be off-screen, whereas at this point, the main characters were really part of it and coming into their own.

As I said before, I do feel that a younger Emily would have enjoyed this more, so I recommend not writing the book off based on my review, particularly if you are interested in it for a younger reader. It just wasn’t for me.


(Thank you to the publishers and NetGalley for providing me wi  th a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review)

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#WWW and #WIPpet Wednesday – 15 February, 2017

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I thought I might mix it up this week and put WIPpet Wednesday at the top of my post. I knoooow. I live on the edge like that.

WIPpet Wednesday is a weekly blog hop hosted by yours truly. If you’re a writer, you are very welcome to join us by posting an excerpt from your WIP that somehow relates to the date. You can click the blue guy on the right of this blog to be taken to the link up. It’s the 15th, so I’m sharing six paragraphs. Clara is testing out her newly-developed telepathic and teleport-y powers to create a distraction.

I didn’t quite make it around to all of you last week, but I will try to do better this week! (I seem to say that a lot.)

~*~

Max? she thought. Jana? Can you hear me?

She sent the same thought out several times in a row. She had no way of knowing whether or not they had heard her, but she kept her mind trained on thoughts of them, open to a response. When there had been no voices inside her head for a while, she tried again, and with relief, heard Max’s voice in reply.

Clara? Where are you?

I’m a block away, she replied. I’m getting the hang of this ability. I’m going to appear with you guys again in a moment, and pretend I’m giving myself up and going with them. That will give you and Jana a chance to get away. Go back to the park and meet me by the sculpture.

Okay, Max’s voice replied inside her head. Be careful.

I will.

~*~

She then proceeds to be pretty kickass if I do say so myself.

And now it’s time for WWW Wednesday! This blog hop is hosted by Sam over at A World Of Words. Link up with us by commenting on Sam’s post for this week, and just answer the three questions.

wwwwednesday

What have you recently finished reading?

chooseautobiocovverI read Choose Your Own Autobiography by Neil Patrick Harris over the weekend. As you can tell from the title, it is in choose your own adventure form, though after a while I was ending up faced with a choice between three paths I’d already read. At that point, I just started going through from beginning to end and reading the pages I hadn’t read yet. It was cute and fun and not especially memorable, but it was interesting hearing some behind-the-scenes stories about the performances I’ve really enjoyed him in.

themesmeristcoverI also finished The Mesmerist by Ronald L. Smith. This improved a bit in the last 25%, but I was underwhelmed. I do think 10-12-year-old me would have enjoyed it, so it’s probably a bit of a case of “it’s not you, it’s me”.  This was an ARC and the official release was last week, so I hope to have the review up this Friday.

I also posted my review of Beauty Queens by Libba Bray. Click the title to read it.

What are you currently reading?

traitortothethronecoverI’m finally getting through Traitor to the Throne by Alwyn Hamilton. I think I was not in the mood for it when I started it, and I missed some vital information, which left me confused, but now that I’ve figured out the info I missed, and am also getting into the action, I’m really enjoying it more than the first book! I know a lot of people have been disappointed by the lack of Jin in this one, but I’m actually appreciating that it is really Amani’s story, and not Amani+Jin’s story. Also Rahim for Sultan, y/n?

scarletlettercoverI’m also listening to The Scarlet Letter by Nathanial Hawthorne on audio. My plan is to use Overdrive to get through a few classics I’ve never read before, though to be honest, I’m probably not devoting my full attention to it. I do admire Hester Prynne, though. But apart from often staring at the letter, everyone seems to treat her pretty much as normal? Which seems odd?

What do you think you’ll read next?

fearlesstravelersguidecoverI think probably The Fearless Traveler’s Guide to Wicked Places by Peter Begler. I can aspire to have one ARC review up before the book’s release date, at least! It’s another middle-grade one like The Mesmerist, but it’s got some really good reviews so far so I’m hoping I like it. I also have a couple of library books out that I want to get to soon.

What are you reading this week? 🙂

~ Emily

“It’s always darkest before the ultimate sparkle.” // Review of “Beauty Queens” by Libba Bray

Title: Beauty Queens
Author: Libba Bray
Audio Book Narrator:
Libba Bray
Genre:
YA/dystopia/satire
Date Read: 26/01/2017 – 08/02/2017
Rating: ★★★★☆

Review:

You’re going to have to forgive me if I gush a lot about this book. It was just so very clever. It’s quite a dark satire, which was right up my alley, and it touched on so many issues that affect teenager girls, while never straying from the larger plot.

In a slightly alternate America where nearly everything, including the Presidency, is a product of The CorporationTM, a plane carrying the 50 State Finalists of the Miss Teen Dream pageant crashes on a tropical island, killing all but 12 of the Beauty Queens and all of their attendants. Now the girls have to survive not only what the jungle throws at them, but also a secret plot to use their deaths to start a war.

The thing about this book is that in the hands of many another author, it would have turned into one of those books where the girls all turn on each other in complete bitchiness. There is a little bit of bitchiness, but the girls rise above it, knowing that they need to survive. These girls are capable! And they learn huge amounts about themselves and each other while they do it all, including that sex is not a dirty word and that they can be more than just pretty. They all have their own reasons for joining the pageant, and these come out as the book goes on. The girls all have individual personalities, and I was really impressed with the way Bray handled a large ensemble cast without any of the characters falling into two-dimensions. That’s not to say they’re not stereotypical. They are, because the book addressing those stereotypes, but I came to sympathise with these girls anyway as I learnedtheir stories and watch them evolve.

The book also covers so many issues that teen girls have to face, including body image/positivity, , female sexuality, transexuality, racism, rape culture, the way women are expected to apologise for existing and a whole host of others that I am forgetting right now.

I admit that it did disappoint me a bit when a group of ridiculously attractive boys showed up to help save the day. For a book that was so much about female empowerment, having that did lessen the effect a bit. It’s not that boys aren’t allowed or anything, and their presence did serve as a vehicle to address some of the sexuality issues that the book was interested in, but it would have been nice for a book like this to have the girls save the day on their own.

I am often a bit wary when I see that an author is narrating their own book (a writer is not necessarily a performer) but Libba Bray’s narration is brilliant and I can’t recommend it enough. True, I did download the ebook in order to finish a bit quicker, but if you can find the time to listen to it, do!

Disclaimer: this book’s brand of humour will not be for everyone. I’m a very sarcastic, deadpan person, so the fact that so much of the satire was delivered in that form really appealed to me. Judging by other reviews, some people have found it completely over the top and unrealistic. And it is, to a point. The footnotes, “commerical breaks” and “words from your sponsor” (the Corporation) also make the format a unique one that won’t appeal to all readers. But I hope you won’t let all that put you off giving this book a chance.


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#FictFBFeb17 Days 6, 9-12

Fictional Flashback February is hosted by Faith Rivens. It is mostly running on Instagram and Twitter, using the hashtag #FictFBFeb17, but I’m also linking it here. My blog posts are also someitmes including an extra story to go along wtih the image. . See the bottom of the post for the whole months’ worth of prompts.

Today I’m playing catch-up, as I’ve missed a few days, and we’re nearly halfway through the month, so it seemed as good a time as any.

Day 6: “Fade”

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Day 9: “Fear”

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Day 10: “Friendship”

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 NB: Max is the other protagonist in With Memories and Magic. Sometimes I think he has a crush on Clara, but if he does, he’s not talking about it, and is pretending they’re just friends anyway. 😛
Day 11: “Found”
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Day 12: “Four”
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It’s now past my bedtime and I have to get up and go to work tomorrow, so I’ll leave this here and post the images to Instagram tomorrow. In the meantime, here are the other prompts.
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