Book Review: “Unwritten” by Tara Gilboy

Title: Unwritten
Author: Tara Gilboy
Genre: Fantasy
Target age group: Middle-grade
Dates read: 02/10/18 – 10/10/18
Rating: ★★★

Review:

I think a lot of my issues with this book can be blamed on the fact that I probably don’t enjoy MG fiction  quite as much as I thought I did. I kind of had this idea that I love MG and YA equally, but between this and the last MG book I read, I think I have to re-evaluate that.

None of that is this book’s fault.

Unwritten follows Gracie, a character in an unpublished fantasy story whose family have taken her out into our world to protect her from death at the end of the story. But when a meeting with the story’s author results in the author being pulled into the story world, Gracie and her family and friends have to go back into their world and try to change the story for the better.

I think my main issue was that I never really felt pulled into the story. I always felt a little bit detached. And I am fairly certain that is to do with the issue mentioned prevously. I think that I were ten years old, I would love this story.

It does have a lot to love. I especially liked the way concept of the story pulling on its characters and how Gracie could never be sure if she was doing something because she wanted to or whether the story was pushing her to do it.

There was a good twist that I didn’t see coming, but it seemed so obvious in hindsight (also, I just hardly ever see twists coming).

The theme of forging your own destiny and not letting yourself be misguided did sometimes seem a bit heavy-handed, but I wasn’t sure if that was just me being overly critical. Maybe it wouldn’t seem so obvious to a MG reader? See what I mean about me and books for this age-group having issues at the moment?

Tl;dr, I think this book was a case of “it’s not you, it’s me” and probably your MG reader wil love it. It is defintely an interesting story that I haven’t seen before.


(Thank you to the author, publisher and Netgalley for a free copy of  this book in exchange for a review)

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“I can’t make the forest grow faster because I want it to. I can’t will it to grow. It takes time.” // Review of “Only Human” by Sylvain Neuvel

Title: Only Human (Themis Files #3)
Author:
Sylvain Neuvel
Audio book narrator:
Full cast
Genre:
Sci-fi
Target audience: Adult
Date Read: 11/09/18 – 29/09/18
Rating:
★★

Review:

I’ve got to be honest: this book wasn’t as good as the first two in the series. For quite a while, I thought I was going to give it only two stars but it picked up enough in the final third for me to bump that up to three. But only just.

This book is set another 9 years after Waking Gods. Earth is in disarray, as Rose, Vincent and Eva discover upon return from the alien planet, Esat Ekt.

The problem with this book, from my POV, is that it seemed that Neuvel had been leading up to a situation where the world was in disarray just so he could use it as a metaphor for the disarray present in the world today, and give us some good old lectures on it. And I got So BORED.

There was little tension in the flashbacks because we knew from the start that they had done something morally questionable on Esat Ekt, it was just a question of what. And so much of the present day stuff was just them talking obliquely about their time on Esat Ekt. Or lecturing the reader. As I said earlier, it does pick up in the last quarter. There is a bit more action, and some more interesting character development. But in some ways, that was too little too late. It’s always a shame when a series ending doesn’t live up to the previous instalments.


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#WWW Wednesday – October 10, 2018

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?

circusheartsallfalldowncoverI finished All Fall Down, the second in Ellie Marney’s Circus Hearts series. I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as the first one, but I still gave it four stars. I did really like the love interest. He just really had it together. He was attractive and smart and had a good job and everything. I guess this is the nice thing about reading about 19 to 22-year-olds rather than 16-year-olds.

onlyhumancover Only Human by Sylvain Neuvel picked up enough in the last third that I gave it three stars rather than two, but I was still annoyed that a lot of it was quite lecturey. I am all for political books, but I prefer the politics to be woven into the story, rather than characters just having rants about the state of the world today.

After that, I read an ARC of Claw the System: Poems from the Cat Uprising by Francesco Marciuliano. I didn’t find this as funny as I had hoped, but there were still some laugh-out-loud moments and some very entertaining photos of cats throughout.

Click the titles to read my reviews of Caraval by Stephanie Garber, My Whole Truth by Mischa Thrace, All Fall Down by Ellie Marney and Claw the System by Francesco Marciuliano.

What are you currently reading? 

I expect to finish my ARC of Unwritten by Tara Gilboy in the next couple of days. This wasn’t quite what I expected and to my adult reader brain, seems a bit heavy-handed in its message, but it would probably not be quite so to an actual MG-age reader. 

On audio, I am listening to The Cottingley Secret by Hazel Gaynor.  I have a really good feeling about this one. Eleven years ago, I based my Year 12 individual drama performance on the story of the Cottingley fairies, and I’ve had an interest in them ever since. And I think this book takes the “the photos might be fake but the fairies might still be real” angle, which is how I feel about it, too. 

I’m also about 100 pages into Terra Nullius by Claire G. Coleman, but I’ve put it on hold a little until I get through some more ARCs. 

What do you think you’ll read next?

I have an ARC of The Confectioner’s Guild by Claire Luana. I have a thing for baking witchcraft in urban fantasy. Possibly it’s the covers that are good enough to eat combined with drool-worthy descriptions. Also this one also has murder, which is always enjoyable in fiction form. 

What are you reading this week? 🙂

Book Review: “Claw the System: Poems from the Cat Uprising” by Francesco Marciuliano

Title: Claw the System: Poems from the Cat Uprising
Author: Francesco Marciuliano
Genre: Humour
Target age group:
All
Dates read: 10/01/18
Rating: ★★★

Review:

So I’m not really a poetry person, but I had hoped that the humour of this book would overpower this.

Sometimes it did. There were a few poems that made me really laugh out loud and I read a couple of them out loud to my mum.

But some of them felt less like poems and more just like sentences where the writer had pressed the enter key in the middle of sentences and called it a poem. But maybe that’s just me not being a poetry person? I don’t know.

There are some very adorable photos of cats throughout the book. I was also showing those to my mum while I was reading.

I enjoy cats, and I would have one if my partner were not allergic and if we could afford it. But maybe I’m not quite enough of a cat person to fully enjoy this one.


Many thanks to the author, publishers and NetGalley for a free copy of this  book in exchange for an honest review.

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#LoveOzYA #AWW2018 // Book Review: “All Fall Down” by Ellie Marney

Title: All Fall Down (Circus Hearts #2)
Author:
Ellie Marney
Genre: Contemporary/romance/crime
Target audience: YA
Date Read: 29/09/18 – 01/10/18
Rating:
★★★

Review:

After reading the first book in this series last month, I was really excited to find out more about the characters in this universe. I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as the previous book, but it was still a really enjoyable read.

All Fall Down centres on Fleur Klatsch, the daughter of the proprietor  of the Klatsch Karnival. After a streak of accidents, one of which finds her father in hospital, she finds herself trying to run the show and keep it all together. She is reunited with childhood friend Marco, who comes in as a PA to help.

I really loved getting to know Fleur in this installment. I wasa a bit wary of her in the first book because I thought she was just going to be a typical “mean girl” type, but there is much more to her than that. As Sorcha says in this book, she did the wrong thing for the right reasons.

I really loved Marco! I don’t know, he was just caring and sweet and really put together with his paisley waistcoats. And he has a really good job and a good head on his shoulders. I totally undestood his reasons for leaving the circus, but I also appreciated Fleur’s hurt and sense of abandoment. The only thing that bothered me a bit about Marco was that he called Fleur “Petal”, which I got was a reference to her name meaning flower, and in the context it was a childhood nickname. But I associate it with “Settle, petal” and my niece calling my mum “Petal” when she’s being cheeky and other condescending things, so it did jar me a bit when he called her that in the middle of an otherwise serious conversation. But I can let it go.

While the sabotage that begins in the first book continues here and the characters are investigating it, I felt that not a huge amount happened in the first half. But both the romance and the investigation took off about the second half, and the climax had me flying through the pages.

I also really appreciate how much research Ellie Marney puts into her stories. I ended up going and googling another circus after a mention of a disaster that took place there in the 50s. And even just how much detail there is in the general circus atmosphere. It’s pretty great.


(I am  grateful to Ellie Marney for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.)

This review is part of my 2018 Australian Women Writers Challenge. Click here for more information.

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September 2018 Reading Wrap-up

Past Month’s Reading

I didn’t feel as slumpy this month as I have recently, which has been nice! I have realised that what felt like a months-long slump is in fact, I think, a result of the fact that I’ve in a new role at work since April, which is busier, and harder, and I just don’t have the same attention span I usually do.

I’m also caught up in my reviews! It’s been a while since that’s been the case.

Here’s what I’ve read and reviewed this month: 

  • Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel (sci-fi – 4 stars – review)
  • Blackwing by Ed McDonald (fantasy – 3 stars – review)
  • Waking Gods by Sylvain Neuvel (sci-fi – 4 stars – review)
  • White Night by Ellie Marney (YA contemporary – 4.5 stars – review)
  • Dear Martin by Nic Stone (YA contemporary – 4 stars – review)
  • Nevermoor: the Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend (MG fantasy – 4 stars – review)
  • Caraval by Stephanie Garber (YA fantasy – 3 stars – review)
  • The Word Made Flesh: Literary Tattoos from Bookworms Worldwide by Eva Talmadge and Justin Taylor (non-fiction – 2 stars – not planning to review)
  • My Whole Truth by Mischa Thrace (YA contemporary – 3 stars – review)
  • Only Human by Sylvaini Neuvel (sci-fi – 3 stars – review forthcoming)

Currently Reading:

Physical book: Terra Nullius by Claire G. Coleman. I’m only a couple of chapters in on this and I’m not sure that it’s quite my thing. But I’ll keep going.

Ebook: All Fall Down, the second book in the Circus Hearts series by Ellie Marney. This book released yesterday and I have an ARC to read. I’m not enjoying it quite as much as the first book, but I think I like this love interest a bit more so it balances out.

Audio book: Nothing on the go at the moment.

Planning to read next:

I’m not quite sure but it will probably be another ARC. Unwritten by Tara Gilboy, which sounds like a fun middle-grade story, is looking likely.

With regards to audio books, I have got A Boy Called Christmas by Matt Haig on my computer. I just have to put it on my phone so I can listen to it when I’m driving.

What are you reading? 🙂

Book Review: “My Whole Truth” by Mischa Thrace

Title: My Whole Truth
Author: Mischa Thrace
Genre: Contemporary
Target age group:
YA
Dates read: 24/09/18 – 25/09/18
Rating: ★★★

Review:

This was a fairly good story let down by some rather repetitious storytelling and fairly flat character development.

When Seelie kills a man after he attacks her, she is forced into a trial by media (as well as school population), as well as coming up against the powoerful family of the man she killed. On top of that, her friendship group is changing and she is not sure how she will make it through.

And I’m going to say this, even though some might consider it a spoiler. Others may appreciate the warning. The attack on Seelie does involve her being raped. While this isn’t spoken about for quite a while in the book and I think it is sort of supposed to be a reveal, there are those who might find it triggering to suddenly get to that part of the book.

The thing that  bothered me the most in this book is that when it came to the characters and their relationships,  nothing ever changed. I know that is true to life, sometimes you just don’t get on with someone and that’s that. But in a book, I expect some kind of arc. This bothered me particularly when it came to the relationship between Seelie and her mother. I wouldn’t have minded whether they reconciled their differences a bit, or if Seelie had moved out in a huff, but it was just the same the whole book. There was also something that was revealed about one of her friends, and it never really came to much. I thought he was lucky that the rest of their group still considered him a friend at all, but instead, he kept expecting things of them.

I did really enjoy the relationship between Seelie and her best friend, Lyssa. Seelie’s crush on Lyssa wasn’t over-dramatic, but her fears about making a move and ruining the dynamic of their group rang true. I  also liked the relationship that burgeoned between Seelie and her lawyer, Cara. At first, Seelie isn’t sure what to expect of a lawyer in her 20s who has a matching pair of heels for every outfit, but they develop a bond which turns into friendship after the trial.

Plot-wise, I thought this was a realistic depiction of the aftermath of such an assault. Things like a condition of bail being that Seelie return to school once her injuries have healed, even though everyone at school calls her a murderer, seemed especially likely.  I did feel like there was some filler in there that could have been left out. The narration inside Seelie’s head often felt quite repetitive. Again, I’ve no doubt someone in Seelie’s situation would honestly have thoughts going around and around in circles, but it is not engaging for the reader.

Still, I think its valuable that these types of stories are beginning to be told more often, and I am grateful to Netgalley and the publishers for providing me with a copy of this one.


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“I love you, Tella.” “I know. I wouldn’t be here if you didn’t.” // Review of “Caraval” by Stephanie Garber

Title: Caraval (Caraval #1)
Author: Stephanie Garber
Genre: Fantasy
Target audience: Young adult
Date Read: 17/09/18 – 21/09/18
Rating: 
★★

Review:

I decided to pick up this book because I was in a circus mood for quite a while and this seemed an obvious choice. It wasn’t terrible, and I liked a lot of the ideas, but I ultimately felt everything was just a bit underdeveloped.

I’m going to start with the romance because that was probably the thing that stood out the most to me and not in a great way. Mostly because it only took place over five days, and I’m sorry, it’s not true love after a week. I’m not saying you can’t be attracted to someone in that time, but from Julien’s perspective, particularly, it wasn’t enugh time for such strong feelings to develop. And from Scarlett’s perspective, I didn’t buy that he was as important to her as her beloved sister after only a few nights.

Speaking of the characters in more general terms, I didn’t feel like they had a whole lot of personality. I will say I did like Scarlett’s development from doormat to… well, I won’t say she became badass, but she definitely became less doormat-y and grew into her own.

The plot and world-building had similar issues. I just wished everything was a bit… more. A bit more magic, a bit more exploration of the island, a bit more explanation of who Legend was and how and why Caraval was the way it was… There was a line in the last third that said something along the lines of “Scarlett had been collecting buttons since she’d been here” and my first response was “… had she?” Because nothing was memorable.

I also had some issues with the reveals in the final chapter. I know we were supposed to think the character orchestrating everything was terribly clever, but… it seemed far-fetched, and honestly made this character seem like a bit of a psycopath to put Scarlett through it all?

Having said all of that! I actually am still intrigued enough by this world that I am interested in reading the sequel. So make of that what you will.


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#WWW Wednesday – September 26, 2018

 

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?

This is the last two weeks’ of reading for me as I didn’t post last week.

I finished Nevermoor by Jessica Townsend, which was charming, but maybe a bit long. I persuaded someone at work to order a copy so fingers crossed she’ll read it soon and I’ll have someone to talk to about it. I reviewed it on Monday.

Then I finished Dear Martin by Nic Stone. I actually thought I had downloaded the audio book, but when it ended up being the ebook, I read it in a day. It was very engaging. Like The Hate U Give, it is partially inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement but it presents the issues in a different way. I posted my review on Monday.

After that was Caraval by Stephanie Garber. This was… fine. It had a lot of potential that I don’t think it truly lived up to. Everything was just a bit underdeveloped. But I still kind of want to read the next book? I’ll have a review up on Friday.

I picked up The Word Made Flesh: Literary Tattoos from Bookworms Worldwide because it was on display at the library. It was fine but it was very US-centric for something claiming to be “worldwide” and it also was very literature-heavy. There was a bit of genre fiction and some childhood classics but it was very heavy on the James Joyce and Dostoevsky types.

Last but not least, this morning I finished My Whole Truth by Mischa Thrace. This was a good depiction of dealing with sexual assault and other related trauma but I did feel like it went around in circles a bit and there wasn’t a huge amount of character development. I’ll get my review up next week.

What are you currently reading? 

circusheartsallfalldowncoverI’m still in the first chapter of All Fall Down, the second in Ellie Marney’s Circus Hearts series because I only started it today. Say what you like about self-publishing, I love that I only have to wait a month between each book in this series rather than a year.

onlyhumancoverI have to be honest that Only Human by Sylvain Neuvel is a let down after the first two books in this series. It’s just one big lecture. I have a long drive tomorrow and will probably finish it during that, but it won’t rate as highly as the other two.

What do you think you’ll read next?

Since I’m in the middle of reading various ARCs, the next one I need to get through is Unwritten by Tara Gilboy. This is a middle-grade fantasy and sounds a bit like Nevermoor, which I read recently. So I’m looking forward to it.

What are you reading this week? 🙂

#StepBoldly #aww2018 “The point is—as far as the Society is concerned—if you are not honest, and determined, and brave, then it doesn’t matter how talented you are.” // Review of “Nevermoor: the Trials of Morrigan Crow” by Jessica Townsend

Title: Nevermoor: the Trials of Morrigan Crow (Nevermoor #1)
Author: Jessica Townsend
Genre: Fantasy
Target audience: Middle-grade
Date Read: 11/09/18 – 17/09/18
Rating: 
★★★

Review:

Well, this was just delightful. I knew that Nevermoor won a whole slew of awards when it came out, but all the “it’s the next Harry Potter” proclamations still made me wary. But actually, I think this is one time when those comparisons are actually justified. 

Nevermoor is a whimsical, charming world where inhabitants ride the Brolly Rail (a version of London’s Tube where riders hook onto the system with the handles of their umbrellas) and it is perfectly normal for a hotel housekeeper to be a giant cat. The descriptions of Christmas were so lovely that I was able to ignore the fact that Christmas has no reason to exist in a fantasy land. Everything was just a little bit fairytale. 

The characters also all had a fairytale quality about them. There was a bit of David Tennant’s 10th Doctor in Jupiter North, and a bit of Alice in Morrigan Crow. But as well as the whimsy there’s also a real depth to them. 

I do admit the book felt a little long at times, but I would also be hard-pressed to tell you which parts I would cut out. It is a bit like the fourth Harry Potter book in that there was training, then an event, then training for the next event, then the next event happens… but I always wanted to know what happened next. And I think because the characters were engaging and the writing was so lovely, I was able to forgive it. The only thing I worry about is that the size of the book may be intimidating to readers of the target age. But I think any avid reader will be hooked immediately and push through regardless.


This review is part of my 2018 Australian Women Writers Challenge. Click here for more information.

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