Book Review: Fake Geek Girl by Tansy Rayner Roberts

Title: Fake Geek Girl (Belladonna University #1)
Author: Tansy Rayner Roberts
Genre: Urban fantasy
Date Read: 08/10/17
Rating: ★★★★

Review:

This review will be fairly short, as the book in focus is quite short (I’m not even sure it would constitute novella length).

The story focuses on the inhabitants of the Manic Pixie Dream House, a share house for about six students from Belladonna Unversity, which has campuses for Real (magic) and Unreal (tech). The titular Fake Geek Girl is Holly Hadlow, who heads up a band of the same name and sings songs inspired by her twin sister’s nerdy pursuits. Drummer Sage is concerned Holly plans to go solo; meanwhile Hebe Hallow is working out her feelings for a boy from an elite magical family who appears to have lost his magical ability.

The characterisation in this story is very well done. Given the length of the book and the number of characters, this was no mean feat, but they are all easily identifiable. The references to nerd and geek culture also felt natural. Too often, I find authors try to make their character nerdy in an attempt to make them quirky and it comes off sounding inauthentic.

I also really liked the ultimate message of the book, that while Holly doesn’t understand the passion of Hebe and her friends for their various fandoms, she cares about it because they care.

It did take me a minute to realise that the POV character changed with each chapter; make sure you read the chapter titles to figure out who’s talking to you.

This is definitely a  fun start to a unique series. I’ve already read the second one, so watch out for that review, too.


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

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#aww2017 #LoveOzYA “Everything connects, but not everyone hears those connections. ” // Review of “The Foretelling of Georgie Spider” by Ambelin Kwaymullina

Title: The Foretelling of Georgie Spider (The Tribe  #3)
Author: Ambelin Kwaymullina
Genre: YA/dystopian
Date Read: 08/10/2017 – 11/10/2017
Rating: ★★★

Review:

I really wish I could tell you why I wasn’t more into this series. It ticked all the right boxes. Interesting premise, well-developed characters and tight plot, and yet I was never invested. I actually probably found this to be the case with this third instalment most of all.

While Ashala was still a strong narrative voice, I didn’t really connect with Georgie Spider, which made it difficult reading her POV. I liked the theme of the series coming together, that there is one person to look to the past, one to be in the now and one to look to the future, but I found Georgie’s naivety a little too much at times.

The action scenes were really good in this book; as I said, it was tightly-plotted and I loved the way it was structured. That was the one point where I did think Georgie’s POV worked – when she was seeing futures that were only a minute or so ahead of her present and helped the Tribe to be in the right place at the right time to defeat them.

Also, just a ilttle thing, but I loved that this series uses terms like “Detention centre”, terms we’re all too familiar with here in Australia at the moment when it comes to asylum seekers and refugees.

As I said, I think this series suffered from a case of “It’s not you, it’s me” as I was reading it. I would definitely recommend other fans of dystopia checking it out, even if I didn’t have the best run of it.

Reviews to the previous books in this series:

The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf

The Disappearance of Ember Crow


(This review is part of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2016. Click here for more information).

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#WWW Wednesday – October 11, 2017

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?

pretty good reading week this week! I finished The Beautiful Ones by Silvia Morena-Garcia. This was nearly a four-star read but became a 3.5 in the last quarter. It was really moving along and I was really involved and then it just sort of slowed down. Review here.

Then I read Fake Geek Girl and Unmagical Boy Story by Tansy Rayner Roberts, which are part of the Belladonna University series. It’s basically about a bunch of Australian university students who are also nerdy and into fandom and that sort of thing but also have certain magic abilities. The university is divided into Real (magical) and Unreal (non-magical) campuses. These are really short (like, short novella length) and really enjoyable. The third is coming out soon and I’m pretty sure I will read it. I’ll probably review these two together since they were so short.

I also posted my review of Garth Nix’s Frogkisser! this week. It is posted here.

What are you currently reading?

At the time of writing this post (Tuesday evening), I am about 150 pages from the end of  The Foretelling of Georgie Spider by Ambelin Kwaymullina. I thought the first two books in this series were fine (3 stars) but this one hasn’t grabbed me. Still, it will be nice to have completed a series.

Still going with The Asylum by Johan Theorin on audio. This is one of those thrillers were things are revealed to the reader gradually, but in order to keep the reader in the dark, the characters act like they didn’t already know about certain things. Which makes no sense. But I’m about 65% of the way through and I have some driving to do over the next few nights so I should get a decent amount listened to.

What do you think you’ll read next?

I thought I would try to read Blood Guilt by Lindy Cameron next. This will be my second LGBTI* read for the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge and will mean I will have finished the diversity challenge I set for myself within the regular challenge this year. And it also gives me enough time that if I don’t like it, I can find a different title (which is where I failed last year by leaving my second LGBTI* read until the week after Christmas, and then not being into it).

What are you reading this week? 🙂

~ Emily

 

 

P.S. If you feel so inclined, head on over to my writing blog, Letting the Voices Out, where I’ve shared an excerpt from my current WIP today.

“How did I find you?” “You didn’t. I found you.” // Review of The Beautiful Ones by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Title: The Beautiful Ones
Author: Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Genre: Romance/historical fantasy
Date Read: 27/09/2017 – 08/10/2017
Rating: ★★★

Review:

The first thing Iwant to note about this book is that the romance is the focus. Yes, two of the main characters are telekinetic, but you could replace that skill with any other and the story would be more or less the same. I wanted to get that out of the way early because I think that realisation would disappoint some people. I was fine, as I enjoy a good historical romance every now and then, and despite a slow start, I ended up pretty emotionally invested in this one.

Antonina Beaulieu can move things with her mind and she enjoys studying bugs and butterflies, but despite all of that, she is sent to the city to live with her cousins and hopefully attract a husband. While there, she meets Hector Auvray, who teaches her to control her talent and with whom she falls in love. But Hector has ulterior motives for pursuring her in return.

So there’s a particularly complicated love… square going on in this book? Hector’s initial pursuit of Nina is so that he can have access to her cousin Valerie, with whom he had an affair back when they were both much younger. The way these two clash forms an important aspect of the book. There is also Nina’s other suitor, Luc, who is more interested in her dowry.

I actually really appreciated the juxtaposition between Hector and Luc. Nina points out the way Luc calls her pretty and buys her trinkets but nothing else, and thinks she should hide her telekinetisis because it’s not something ladies let other people see. On the other hand, when Hector realises he is falling for Nina, he sends her rare beetle specimens and starts learning about entomology himself,  and of course, possessing the same talent as her and making his living from it,  never shames her for it.

Valerie was a character I tried to feel sympathy for, but mostly found I couldn’t. She has had to give up a lot, which I can appreciate, but she seemed determined to make things harder for herself and see the worst in everyone else, all of which eventually comes back to bite her.

absolutely loved Nina. I loved that she was a dorky country girl who liked bugs and always said the wrong thing and was insecure because people were awful to her due to her talent and also because she felt so out of place in the city. I enjoyed the scenes where she was surrounded by her extended family in the country, though it would have been nice for there to be some other friends in the city.

The world-building was also interesting. Set in a fictional world based roughly based on La Belle Epoque, I found it quite a different take the way what would have just been written off as “magic” in other books was something considered worthy of scientific study in this one. As I said,  though, the characters’ talents were really just set-dressing for the romance.

The plot was a bit of a slow-burn and it took me a little while to get into it properly, but there was some moments where I didn’t want to put the book down. I did feel that the book slowed down a little too much towards the end. Even though the stakes were still high in the last 15%, I felt less invested in the outcome. Everything also got tied up a bit too nicely,  with certain characters suddenly making good when I felt they could have been a bit more resistant.

Still, this was an enjoyable romance set in an interesting world and I would recommend to anyone looking into that.


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

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“I don’t expect to need rescuing. I’m not that sort of Princess.” // Review of “Frogkisser!” by Garth Nix

Title: Frogkisser!
Author: Garth Nix
Genre:
MG/fantasy
Date Read: 03/09/2017 – 19/09/2017
Rating: ★★

Review:

This book started off rather well. There were a few moments where I honestly laughed out loud. However, by the end of it, the style had worn a bit thin and I ended up having to force myself thruogh to the end. I think I would have loved this a lot more if I had read it as a child, and it’s just a shame that it’s not one of those children’s books that transcends its target age group.

When Princess Anya makes a ‘sister promise’ to her sister Morven to ensure that Morven’s boyfriend, Prince Denholm, is  turned back from a frog to a human, she has no idea that it will be the start of Quest to bring peace back  to her kingdom and defeat her disloyal stepstepfather. Along the road, she meets other people who have been transformed by Duke Rikard, along with a Good Wizard, Snow White (not the Snow White you think, though), a band of “good” robbers and a host of other vivid characters that help her to recognise the sheltered upbringing she has had.

The writing style in this book emulates older fairytale-type stories and writers. It had a very quaint aspect to it. This was clearly what Nix was going for and I am sure some people will love it, but it didn’t really work for me, especially as I felt it clashed with some of the more modern aspects of the story, like the fact that Anya needed to find the ingredients for a lip balm. I suspect that the writing style also contributed a lot to me not feeling much of a connection with any of the characters.

The quest nature of the story didn’t really do much for me either; it felt a bit “they went here, got this and then went on to the next thing.”

Still, there were some things I liked. There were several occasions where Nix took a common fantasy trope and then turned it on its head. The story was often quite self-aware about that, and I enjoyed the way he played with those. The story did pick up in the last quarter, and the climax was quite entertaining, and the resolution was satisfactory. It was just that the journey there wasn’t quite my cup of tea.


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#WWW Wednesday – October 04, 2017

.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?

I didn’t post last week because at that point I hadn’t fininshed anything or posted any reviews since the previous week.

This week, though, I have finished A Dangerous Language by Sulari Gentill, which was the 8th book in the Rowland Sinclair historical mystery series. I posted my review here. Then I read Life is Like a Musical by Tim Federle, which is theatre-themed self-help book, which I loved. I reviewed it here.

I  also finished reading The Invisible Man by H. G. Wells via the Serial Reader app. As predicted, I did purchase the full version of the app, so I read it a bit quicker than the estimated 21 days. I felt this story was actually much more compelling than other Wells I have read, but nothing will ever quite beat Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds.

What are you currently reading?

I am about 35-odd% of the way through The Beautiful Ones by Silvia Morena-Garcia. There are aspects of it I really like, like the world-building, particularly the fact that what would in other books be “magic” has a scientific explanation. Or at least, science is interested in it and people are doing research and stuff. And I love Nina, but there are other characters I’m not into so much and it’s a bit slow-going. So we’ll have to see.

On audio, I am listening to The Asylum by Johan Theorin. This is a Swedish thriller and I’m listening to the English translation of course. The hero is a bit naive and has a ~past~ in which he did some things that make him an idiot (imho), and not especially sympathetic. But I’m still listening for now.

What do you think you’ll read next?

I still have The Foretelling of Georgie Spider by Ambelin Kwaymullina from the library, and I imagine it will be quite a quick read like the first two books in the series. I might actually pick it up before I finish The Beautiful Ones if I want something with a faster pace.

What are you reading this week? 🙂

~ Emily

 

 

P.S. If you feel so inclined, head on over to my writing blog, Letting the Voices Out, where I’ve shared an excerpt from my current WIP today.

“Life is like a musical: it’s here one moment and gone the next.” // Review of Life is Like a Musical by Tim Federle

Title: Life is Like a Musical: How to Live, Love, and Lead Like a Star
Author: Tim Federle
Genre: Non-fiction/memoir/self-help
Date Read: 28/09/2017 – 29/09/2017
Rating: ★★★★

Review:

Tim Federle is my people. If we’d been at school together, we would have been friends because then we would have each had someone to geek out with about musicals when no one else cared. While the advice in this book might be somewhat generic, I really enjoyed the theatre anecdotes that he used to back up his claims, a lot of the time because I could relate, having had a similar experience somewhere in my amateur theatre experiences.

This book is full of lessons Tim learned during his time on Broadway as a dancer, as well as later, writing theatrical material and novels. You can see some of them on the cover: “Let someone else take a bow”, “take the note” (i.e. accept constructive feedback without getting defensive”) and “Dance like everyone’s watching”. He applies these lessons to wider life, careers and relationships.

I really enjoyed some of the anecdotes about being backstage at a theatre. I’ve never performed on Broadway, just at a couple of local theatres in the towns where I’ve lived, but the experiences are much the same. I laughed out loud a lot. I also enjoyed the stories about the big names the Tim worked with on Broadway.

This book probably isn’t for everyone, and I think it probably will particularly appeal to those like me who have a theatre background (even if it’s not a very extensive one). But I laughed out loud several times and related to Tim’s stories so often, so I definitely recommend checking it out.


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

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September Reading Wrap-up and October Reading List

Past Month’s Reading:

After a couple of dismal months in July and August, September was a bit of a return to regular reading habits. For the most part. I finished six books, have reviewed three and have the review for a fourth scheduled. That being said, not many of them were on my current TBR:

The other things I read and reviewed were:

My hope is at the end of October, there will be far more ticks on that graphic than there are now. There will be at least two more.

Currently reading:

Ebook:  The Beautiful Ones by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. I’m currently at 15%. I think Nina is a total sweetheart, and I’m looking foward to seeing how the romance plays out, since her love interest has some dubious motives and quite a lot to hide.

Audio book: The Asylum by Johan Theorin. Currently at 27%. The protagonist seems naive but there have been some genuinely creepy moments and I think the last chapter was the catalyst for things to really start happening.

Planning to read next:

I have actually read the first chapter or two of The End of Mr Y by Scarlett Thomas (I had left my Kindle at work) and I am very interested, so I will continue with that next. I have The Foretelling of Georgie Spider (The Tribe #3) by Ambelin Kwaymullina out from the library, so I definitely want to read that and finish up the series (it’s nice to actually complete a series). I also want to read Blood Guilt by Lindy Cameron, to ensure that I complete my personal diversity challenge for the Australian Women Writers Challenge. After that, it will depend what mood I am in!

#aww2017 Book Review: “A Dangerous Language” by Sulari Gentill

Title: A Dangerous Language (Rowland Sinclair Mysteries #8)
Author: Sulari Gentill
Genre: Historical fiction/mystery
Date Read: 20/09/2017 – 27/09/2017
Rating: ★★★

Review:

Leaping into the eighth book in a series without having read the others is a risk. I have to admit the main reason I picked this ARC up on NetGalley was because I had seen Sulari Gentill host a panel at the recent Canberra Writer’s Festival and was interested to sample her writing. I think I probably would have been a bit more engaged had I been familiar with the core cast of characters from books one through seven, but this book was enjoyable nonetheless.

In 1930s Australia, Rowland Sinclair finds himself caught up in intrigues between the government, and Fascist and Communist factions when he agrees to help a notorious anti-Fascist speaker get into Australia before the government can ban him. The journey takes him across Australia and nearly gets him killed on more than one occasion.

I enjoyed the characters in this far more than the mystery or the political machinations, really. The core cast are a really fun bunch, and hopeless romantic that I am, I also really enjoyed watching Rowly wrestle with romantic feelings and other related entanglements. I did enjoy the way Gentill wove actual historical events into the story, though at the same time, I am never quite sure how to feel about actual historical figures as characters in novels.

There were two murders featured in the story, though they felt like window dressing for the political machinations, which seemed to be more of the focus. For a significant portion of the book, there was no focus on either death. One of them was solved towards the end, but the other one was just concluded via a note in the epilogue, and I think was mostly there to create some tension at the beginning of the story, when Rowland and his friends thought the victim might have been their friend and colleague, Edna. Once it was established that Edna was safe, there was no real reason for the main characters to give the death any more than a passing interest.

That sort of peripheral focus on the murders is something I am not sure isn’t a feature of the series. I have no idea what form the mysteries take in the other books and so I don’t know if it is just that I wasn’t used to it, being a newbie. Ditto the excerpts from newspapers and other publications of the time at the beginning of each chapter. I have no idea if this is a stylistic feature present in all the books; if it is, I would probably bear with it a bit more, though as it was, I felt they weren’t always necessary and at times, I even skipped them.

Still, I can definitely see why this is a popular series, especially with those who are big readers of historical fiction.


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

(This review is part of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2017. Click here for more information).

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#aww2016 #LoveOzYA “And whatever you end up discovering – try to think of me kindly. If you can.” // Review of “The Disappearance of Ember Crow” by Ambelin Kwaymullina

Title: The Disappearance of Ember Crow (The Tribe  #2)
Author: Ambelin Kwaymullina
Genre: YA/dystopian
Date Read: 12/09/2017 – 14/09/2017
Rating: ★★★

Review:

Knowing that I enjoyed the first book in this series, The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf, well enough but was not blown away by it meant that I went in without expecting to be blown away by this one.  I had pretty much exactly the same reaction to this one: it has a tight, interesting plot and is well-written,  but for some reason, it just didn’t wow me.

Even though it had been over a year since I read the first book, I didn’t have too much trouble getting back into this world, so that was a good sign. This instalment took the world-building of the previous book and expanded on it, and I did enjoy seeing more of the physical setting as well as getting more of the history.

I didn’t find the romance between Ember and Jules interesting at all. They barely knew each other, and there was no chemistry between them. It didn’t really make much sense to me that Jules would go out of his way to help Ember on a few days’ acquaintance.

I did enjoy the climax of the novel. It was exciting and had some good twists. I honestly can’t tell you why I didn’t get more into this book. I think it was just a case of “it’s not you, it’s me”.


(This review is part of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2016. Click here for more information).

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