“I have a story I was meant to live. And not even you can unwrite it.” // Review of “Romanov” by Nadine Brandes

Title: Romanov
Author: Nadine Brandes
Genre:
Historical fantasy
Target audience: YA
Date Read: 17/04/2019 – 19/04/2019
Rating: ★★★

Review:

Ah man. I was approved for this ARC back in November 2018 and I’d been really looking forward to it. I’d hyped it up a lot in my head. So imagine my disappointment when I re-read the blurb when I was about 20% into the book and realised that I had totally misread it the first time, and the reason it wasn’t quite meeting my expectations was beceause I was stupidly expecting something that was never promised to me.

For some reason I got into my head that the execution of the Romanov family would happen fairly early on, and that the book would be about Anastasia being on the run through the Russian wilderness.

There is far less adventuring than that. A good half of the book takes place before the execution, and depicts the exile of the Romanov family in Impatiev House. Apart from the occasional mention of spells, this first half felt like it was straight historical fiction. The fantasy is barely there. Then in the second half, the pacing speeds up the nth degree and everything is about spells and spellwork. It is almost two different books, and it was a little jarring.

In terms of characters, I really enjoyed the close-knit family dynamic of the Romanovs. I enjoyed the cheeky Alexei, and I actually was pretty into the forbidden romance between Grand Duchess Maria and Bolshevick soldier Ivan, which I learned after reading is actually historically accurate.

But apart from that, the characters all felt.. superficial, I guess. A bit shallow. I didn’t really buy the romance between Anastasia and Zash at all, except for one or two moments. And even I with my limited knowledge know that Tsar Nikolai II was not the loving, kind, beneficient ruler devoted to the Russian people that he is presented as here. I want to give benefit of the doubt, because it is from Anastasia’s first person perspective and she may well have viewed her father that way, but it would have been good to see her delve into the whys and wherefores of the revolution a bit more.

Still, I read the vast majority of it in one day, so take from that what you will. I have a copy of Fawkes, Nadine Brandes’ other historical fantasy, which I still intend to check out.


Thank you to NetGalley and the Publishers for a free copy of this book in exchange for a review.

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Down The TBR Hole #1

Down the TBR hole banner

Welcome to my first Down The TBR Hole post. I have stolen this idea off Sofii at A Book. A Thought. because  it seemed like a great way to get my TBR down. Maybe. Mine isn’t as out of control as some of yours 😋but it is probably still worth trying to get it down a bit. I don’t know how often I’ll have a chance to post these, but I’d love your comments on any of my decisions.

I actually have my GoodReads TBRs sorted into standalones and series, with another separate shelf for books I plan to read for the Australian Women Writers Challenge. For purposes of these posts, I’m going to start with the standalones shelf (which is effectively the want-to-read shelf on GoodReads).

Here’s how it works, feel free to join in!

    1. Go to your Goodreads to-read shelf.
    2. Order on ascending date added.
    3. Take the first 5 (or 10 (or even more!) if you’re feeling adventurous) books. Of course, if you do this weekly, you start where you left off the last time.
    4. Read the synopses of the books
    5. Decide: keep it or should it go?

So, without further ado!

Treason, Treason! by Josh Langston

This is an alternate history where the United States never existed and North America is still under British rule. In 2012, two scientists have invented time travel and go back to the War of Independence in the hopes of finding George Washington and helping him secure a better future.  I’ve had it on my TBR since 2014! And I actually do have the ebook already, and I’ve read the first chapter or two and enjoyed it.

~~ Decision: KEEP ~~

The End of Mr. Y by Scarlett Thomas

I already own a copy of this one, too! And it was highly recommended to me by some friends. I’m not sure that it will be exactly my cup of tea (I suspect it might get a little too deep and philosopohical), but I am definitely interested enough to keep it on my TBR.

~~ Decision: KEEP ~~

The Android’s Dream by John Scalzi

I read John Scalzi’s “Red Shirts” a few years back and wasn’t a big fan, but I always said I wanted to try another of his books. Having said that, the way the blurb of this one is written on GoodReads, it sounds like the humour is similar, and that’s one of the things I didn’t really click with in Red Shirts. I don’t think I’ll worry about this one.

~~ Decision: GO ~~

Mademoiselle Chanel by C. W. Gortner

I was interested in this book as a fictionalised version of Coco Chanel’s rise through the fashion world. But to be honest, I don’t actually have that much of an interest in fashion or in Chanel personally so I’m not really sure why I sought this out. I can’t see myself being terribly interested in this.

~~ Decision: GO ~~

None of the Above by I. W. Gregorio

This is a book about a girl who discovers she was born intersex, a fact that gets around her whole school before she is able to properly process this herself. There are very few books that depict this experience and I try to read about diverse experiences, so this is on is staying on my TBR.

~~ Decision: KEEP ~~

I was going to do ten, but I’ve already had this post in draft form for a week and I want to get it posted, dammit! Haha. I guess 3 keeps and two goes is not too bad! I’ll keep whittling away at it through these posts whenever I get the chance.

See you next time!

Book Review: “Wolfhunter River” by Rachel Caine

Title: Wolfhunter River (Stillhouse Lake #3)
Author: Rachel Caine
Genre:
Thriller
Target audience: Adult
Date Read: 11/04/2019 – 17/04/2019
Rating: ★★★★

Review:

Back in 2017, I devoured books one and two in this series in four days. I absolutely loved them, so I was really looking forward to the long-awaited third instalment. It didn’t quite deliver on the fronts I hoped it would, but it was still a good read overall.

At the heart of the novel is the Proctor family, along wtih Sam Cade, trying to move on with their lives post-Melvin Royal. Their pasts still haunt them in ways they could never imagine, and there are betrayals lurking around every corner. I enjoyed this character-driven stuff even as I was a bit disappointed that the suspense was lacking.

The crime story and the suspense really picked up in the last third. Up until the 60% mark, I was thinking that not much had really been happening plot-wise, but there was enough in that last third to make up for the rest. It did get a bit complicated and I had to remember who a lot of different people were. A few different sub-plots all came together, so there was a lot to keep track of.

I suspect that this is something of a bridging book between the original Melvin Royal duology and future crime-solving instalments. I am definitely interested to see if/how this series continues.


Thank you to NetGalley and the Publishers for a free copy of this book in exchange for a review.

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WWW Wednesday -17 April 2019

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.

What have you recently finished reading?

I finished A Million Worlds With You by Claudia Gray. This was a great end to the series. I wasn’t sure how Claudia Gray was  possibly going to wrap everything up but she managed it, and it worked really well! Here are my reviews of the second and third books in the series.

I also read The Steam Engines  of Oz by Sean Patrick O’Reilly and Erik Hendrix with illustrations by Yannis Roumboulias. This was at the behest of my partner, who has started a YouTube channel talking about various Oz adaptations and how they relate to the original books. I didn’t love this. It didn’t have a whole lot of depth and while I’m not completely up on my Oz lore, even I spotted deviations from the original stories which didn’t really seem to add anything.

I also finished Wolfhunter River by Rachel Caine and enjoyed it despite it really only getting going in the suspense department in the last third. But it had a lot of really strong character stuff, and a pretty strong crime story, so still plenty going nfor it.

What are you currently reading?

I literally finished Wolfhunter River an hour ago, so I am something like 1% into Romanov  by Nadine Brandes.  I have really high hopes for this book, and I really hope it doesn’t disappoint. I had tickets to see Anastasia on Broadway later this year and then it closed in March so this book is all my Romanov-inspired fantasy for this year.

I have also started listening to Enchantee by Gita Trelease. I’m glad I’ve found an historical fantasy set in France that I am enjoying more than I enjoyed The Gilded Wolves. Though I think it is going to be a bit on the long side. We shall see.

On that note, thanks for your audio book recommendations last week! I appreciate it, and I’ve added a few to my wish list.

What do you think you will read next?

I’ve been saying this for weeks, but this week it really will be Changing Gear by Scot Gardner, another #LoveOzYA that is on the Children’s Book Council of Australia 2019 Notables list.

What are you reading this week? 🙂

“Fate doesn’t guarantee us a happy ending … but fate gives a chance.” // Review of “A Million Worlds With You” by Claudia Gray

Title: A Million  Worlds With You (Firebird #3)
Author:
 Claudia Gray
Genre: Sci-fi/romance
Target audience: YA
Date Read: 08/03/2019 – 14/03/2019
Rating: ★★★★

Review:

Please note: as this review is for a third book in a series, there may be mild spoilers for the first, A Thousand Pieces of You, and second, Ten Thousand Skies Above You.

I honestly wasn’t sure how Claudia Gray was going to tie everything up in this last book of the series. There seemed to be so much goinig on and so many variables. But she managed it and she  managed it well.

What I’ve really admired about this series is the way in which little hints dropped early on become so much more important later on. This continued in this book, right down to things that were mentioned as a possibility in the second book becoming important here. It’s clear that Gray had this whole series set out before she delved into writing it.

In this book, several of the universes where Firebird technology has developed are in communication with each other, and sometimes it got a bit confusing trying to remember who was who. Especially in one pivotal scene that I don’t want to spoil, but you’ll definitely know it when you get to it. Once again, some of the sciencey stuff did seem to be resolved a little too easily, but the woorld-building remained internally consistent so I didn’t mind too much.

As I’ve said in my previous reviews of this series, the romance is just as important, if not more important, than the science. THis one is no different. I understand that the splintering in book two is what has affected Paul, but I did just find him a bit mopey at times… and Marguerite thus had to spend a lot of time trying to convince him that their relationship was still something worth pursuing. I don’t know, this just got a bit old after a while. But there was a really lovely moment between Paul and one of the other Marguerites that made me grin stupidly. Again, you’ll know it when you get to it.

Theo was still Theo and I think overall, he actually turned out to be my favourite of the two guys. He just didn’t have as much to do in Book 1, which is why I didn’t realise earlier. 😂 I also want to note how much I loved the different versions of Henry and Sophia, Marguerite’s parents. they are delightful. It has been nice to read a YA series where the protagonist’s parents are not only both alive but actively involved in the events of the story.

I’m really glad I picked up the first book of this series on a whim. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know these characters and I’m definitely going to keep an eye on Claudia Gray’s other series.


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“Ten thousand skies, and a million worlds, and it still wouldn’t be enough for me to share with you” // Review of “Ten Thousand Skies Above You” by Claudia Gray

Title: Ten Thousand Skies Above You (Firebird #2)
Author:
 Claudia Gray
Audio book narrator: Tavia Gilbert
Genre: Sci-fi/romance
Target audience: YA
Date Read: 31/03/2019 – 08/03/2019
Rating: ★★★☆

Review:

Please note: as this review is for a second book in a series, there may be mild spoilers for the first, A Thousand Pieces of You.

This book was not as good as the first one in the series, and I got frustrated quite a bit! However, it did address some things that had bothered me in the first book, and some of the things that bothered me early in this book were actually addressed and questioned later on, so that was good. 

In the aftermath of the events in the first book, Paul and Marguerite are convinced that destiny brings them together in every universe, which is a bit… *gag*. But as she travels to various universes, this is actually questioned. Theo plays a much larger role in this book than Paul, who is often barely there at all. And after Paul being all Book Boyfriend Material-like in the first book, I have to say, Theo stepped up to the plate here. XD

On that subject, I want to make two notes about the love triangle in this series. The first is that this when you’re dealing with multiple universes and infinitie possibilities, it actually makes sense that a person would have more than one love interest. So I didn’t mind the love triangle aspect so much.

And second, I love the way Theo’s feelings for Marguerite don’t come between their friendship, that he respects that she didn’t choose him in their universe (even if he is jealous of his counterparts where she did), and it also doesn’t come between Theo’s friendship with Paul. Direct quote: “I love Paul just as much as you do. Anything you want to do to get your boyfriend back, I want to do to get my best friend back.” So often the love triangle comes at the expense of everything else and that didn’t happen here.

The plot did get a bit predictable at times. I called three major revelations well before they happened. But I didn’t expect the major twist towards the end, which sets things up for book three.

Once again, the pacing was sometimes strange. I’ve realised that this is a quirk of these books: start by throwing the reader into an exciting scene. Then have a series of flashbacks to explain how Marguerite reached this moment. Most of the time in each world was focused on Paul and Marguerite’s feelings, and often the science-y bit was wrapped up quite easily in a chapter before they left for the next world. The really important information all came in the final quarter.

One of my frustrations with these books is never knowing how the characters’ other-world counterparts feel about having their bodies taken over for a period. To that end, I did appreciate the return to the Russiaverse of the first book, even if most of the chapters spent there seemed a bit… useless. Again, it was mostly just a way for Marguerite to figure out her feelings, rather than there being much in the way of the plot moving forward. But revisiting a past ‘verse did mean that Marguerite had to recognise that her actions have consequences for her counterparts, and that was important.

In terms of the audio book, Tavia Gilbert is once again a really great narrator. I was a bit disappointed that there were fewer accents, though. In the first book, all the Russian characters had Russian accents. Here, they were American, as though we were hearing their conversation through a Babel Fish (google it if you don’t understand that reference). This one does say that Theo has a slightly Dutch accent in the Russiaverse, so I can understand not using the heavy French accent from the first book, but the Marguerite and Vladimir have grown up in Russia, so there’s no reason for them to have anything else.

… sorry, that last paragraph got a bit long-winded.

The book ends on a cliffhanger, and I was glad I had a copy of the third book to move straight onto. Despite these frustrations, I think it is mostly a case of middle-book-syndrome, and i absolutely want to see how everything pans out.


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WWW Wednesday -10 April 2019

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.

What have you recently finished reading?

I finished Ten Thousand Skies Above You by Claudia Gray. It’s been a long time since  I sped through an audio book in a week. Yes, I had more solo driving recently, but i think it was also that I was actively putting this on whenever I possibly could. It’s not as good as the first one (my review will be up tomorrow and explains why), but it definitely does some good setting up for the last book.

On a related note, click the title to read my review of A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray.

What are you currently reading?

Of course, I have now moved onto A Million Worlds With You by Claudia Gray, which is the third and final book in the Firebird series. I am actually reading this one, rather than listening… I’m not very far in at the moment because I haven’t had much reading time. I’m doing a uni intensive this week, but tomorrow and Friday we don’t have site visits so I can bus to campus and read during travel time.

I’m at about 20% on Wolfhunter River by Rachel Caine. As I said, I haven’t had much reading time so I haven’t been able to give it much attention. I have a couple of days off next week in addition to the Easter public holidays so I might try to devote a morning to it or something.

What do you think you will read next?

I have some library books but I’m not sure where exactly I’ll go. Does anyone have any audio book recommendations? I can’t decide what to spend my next Audible credit on.

What are you reading this week? 🙂

Teaser Tuesday – April 10, 2019 – A Million Worlds With You by Claudia Gray

Hello, and welcome once again to Teaser Tuesday.

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by The Purple Booker. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too.

I did this meme for a couple of months back in 2015 when it had an entirely different host. I’ve decided that starting this month, I’m going to try to get more involved in the bookish community, and I’ve got a few memes to participate in.  I look forward to getting to know you all better!

Today’s teaser is from page 1 of A Million Worlds With You by Claudia  Gray. This is the third book in the Firebird series, which I have been reading over the past few weeks and really enjoying. I have only just started this one and didn’t want to flip too far in and spoil myself, and you have to admit, this is a pretty gripping opening paragraph.

“I can’t breathe. I can’t think. All I can do is hang onto this cable and stare down at the river at least four hundred feet below me.”

You can visit The Purple Booker for more Teaser Tuesday posts!

~ Emily

Friday Five: 5 Bookish Snacks

Hello everyone! Welcome to my first Friday Five post. I’m joining Molly from Molly’s Madness in this meme. I’ve seen various iterations of Friday Five around the Internet, but this one is book-themed.

This week’s topic: Top five reading snacks

This was a tricky topic as I tend not to allow myself too many snacks while doing things like reading. My problem is I graze mindlessly and next thing I know I’ve polished off an entire block of chocolate or something. But these are the things I would choose if that wasn’t an issue.

5. Pretzels

If you’re looking for something savoury but don’t want anything greasy that will get fingerprints all over your book, pretzels are a good alternative to crisps. I could easily polish off a whole packet though I’m supposed to watch my salt intake, so I’d have to just pour myself a small bowl and ration it over my reading session.

4 . Cheese and crackers

This can be anything from Jatz and Homeband Tasty to fancy fruit and nut crackers with Brie or Camembert. Probably a good match with some character-driven literary fiction. Hey, now there’s an idea for a blog series: matching snacks to books as you do meals with wine.

3. Chocolate

I mean, duh. Bonus if it’s the ones with different flavoured cremes in the middle. I don’t know why, but Cadbury Roses is the vibe I’m getting when I think books + chocolate.  Though in googling that link I discovered they’ve changed a bunch of flavours and the wrappers, so it’s possible this reading experience would be wholly disappointing now.

2. Fresh fruit

Things like grapes or strawberries are particularly good because you can have a bowl full of them and just grab some whenever you need. Plus, it’s totally healthy! (Shhh, sugar? What sugar?)

1. Hot beverage

I usually do actually have a cuppa of some sort with my while I’m reading. I’m mostly a coffee in the morning, tea for the rest of the day type of person. I used to drink a lot more hot chocolate but I think maybe the combination of milk and it being very sweet makes it kind of hard on my stomach nowadays.

“I would love you in any shape, in any world, with any past. Never doubt that.” // Review of “A Thousand Pieces of You” by Claudia Gray

Title: A Thousand Pieces of You (Firebird #1)
Author:
 Claudia Gray
Audio book narrator: Tavia Gilbert
Genre: Sci-fi/romance
Target audience: YA
Date Read: 23/03/2019 – 31/03/2019
Rating: ★★★★☆

Review:

Well, this was unexpected. I have been aware of this series for years, but it was never high on my TBR. I chose it as a whim when I was looking for an audio book to start while I was cooking. I had no idea I’d end up loving it and being as invested in it as I was.

While ostensibily a science fiction story (the characters are using a device that allows the user to jump between parallel dimensions), I would say the romance plays a larger part. There were aspects of it that I found annoying, such as Marguerite declaring that she was “in love” with a character she had known for three weeks. It also gets a bit love triangle-y, though it eventually becomes clear that Marguerite favours one guy over the other.

While I like the idea of two people being drawn together in every universe, the idea of this transcendtal love did seem a little bit overblown. But at the same time, this isn’t just accepted by the characters. Marguerite wonders whether  being in love with one version of Paul means she loves every version, since the same traits carry over from dimension to dimension. The complications of this are taken into consideration so I was glad they didn’t just decide it was fate and never question it.

I mean, it probably also helped that I liked Paul. Book boyfriend material right there. Particularly the Imperial Russia version of him. But also the home-universe version of him. He’s awkward but protective but doesn’t smother Marguerite in any way.

Speaking of which, I really enjoyed the different universes. Marguerite, Paul and Theo visit a futuristic version of London, a version of Russia still ruled over by the Romanov family, and a version of the world where climate change is much more drastic and most people live in underwater stations. There’s also a world that’s nearly the same as their home universe. In some ways, that was probably the hardest one to pull off and I think Gray did a good job of conveying seemingly tiny differences that are actually huge.

The pacing is sometimes a bit weird. At least a quarter of the book is set in the Russia universe, and that is mostly comprised of a slowburn romance. There are twists in the last third and most of the action happens in the last quarter. The twists had been hinted at early on in the book and I did have at least one moment of “Ohhhhhhh!” when a seemingly innocuous comment from Paul had momentous implications for Marguerite (and the reader, who knew what it meant).

Also shout-out to Tavia Gilbert, who performed the audio book. Not only did the different characters all have different voices that suited them perfectly, she adapted those for each of the worlds Marguerite visited. I was very impressed.

I tried to talk myself into waiting a week for the second audio book to become available through my library system, but I gave in only a few hours later and used my Audible credit to get the next one. I didn’t want to wait!


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