December 2016 TBR

Who else can’t believe it’s already December? I certainly can’t! I’ve still got two reading challenges to finish, and while I have the various things I need to finish over this month recorded in various places, I thought it might be a good idea to list it all here. In any other month, I wouldn’t be too worried about trying to finish this number of books, but December is always so busy, and I barely have a free weekend between now and Christmas. We can only hope!

Australian Women Writer’s Challenge

lettersendoflovecoverThe goal I set for myself at the beginning of the year was to read and review at least 12 books by Australian Women, including two by Indigenous authors and two by LGBTQI* authors. While I have reviewed 15, I still need to read one more by a lGBTQI* author. The book I have chosen is Letters to the End of Love by Yvette Walker. This book sounds really enjoyable from the blurb and the reviews, so I’m hoping I enjoy it. I have this one out from the library at the moment, so I can get to it asap.

The 2016 Choose Your Own Challenge Challenge

This challenge has been run out of a GoodReads group. At the beginning of the year, I chose 20 prompts, and I still have five to go, but I’ve worked out which books to read to fill them, and I have copies of all of them, so here’s hoping!

elenorecoverElenore by Faith Rivens = a book with a protagonist who has your occupation

Librarian, that is, not demon hunter. I’d be no good at that. Faith was good enough to provide me with an ARC of this book, and I’m really excited to read her debut.

motherofdreamscoverMother of Dreams edited by Makoto Ueda = a book about a culture you’re unfamiliar with

A colleague who recently passed away wanted her library to given away to family and friends. She was very interested in Japanese culture and had a lot of books pertaining to that among her shelves. This is one of the, uh, seventeen that I ended up with.

fairestcoverFairest by Marissa Meyer = an “in between the books” book (i.e. Book 1.5, 2.5, 3.5 of a series)

I recently replaced “the 16th book on your TBR” with this prompt, as for various reasons, that one wasn’t going to happen. But I’m gradually working my way through Marissa Meyer’s books that I am yet to read, and I’m excited to finally get to this one.

Pyramids by Terry Pratchett = a book published on the year you were born pyramidscover

I already had this on my list and was planning to get it from the library when I picked up a copy from a local market stall. It’s been a while since I read any Terry Pratchett, and this one is quite short, so I think it will be a good one to get back into his books with.

annefrankcoverDiary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank = a book from the Rory Gilmore Challenge

I remember starting Anne Frank’s diary once before, but I never finished it. I understand a lot more about the Second World War now, though, and I have seen the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam (I didn’t go in as the queue was around the block and I was quite sick; I ended up going back to the hotel and sleeping). I have a feeling this one is going to result in lots of tears.

So that’s it! I have 29 days and six books to get through (plus the one I’m reading at the moment)! Wish me luck!

~ Emily

“All that stuff about the pleasures and dangers of fantasy, and what are stories for?” // Review of “Sam Zabel and the Magic Pen” by Dylan Horrocks

Title: Sam Zabel and the Magic Pen
Author: Dylan Horrocks
Genre: Graphic novel/fantasy/sci-fi
Date Read: 25/11/2016 – 26/11/2016
Rating: ★★

Review:

This was an interesting book and I admire it for what it’s trying to do and the messages it is trying to convey, but I felt it got a little too bogged down in that and forgot to tell and interesting story at the same time.

Sam Zabel is an aspiring cartoonist, carving out a living writing bad superhero scripts that he hates, all the while trying to find the inspiration to write something truly incredible. Then one day, he comes across an issue of an old New Zealand comic from the 50s, and when he sneezes, finds himself transported to the world inside its pages. What follows are a whole lot of questions Sam is not sure he knows the answer to.

The themes of this book are ones worth considering. It touches on the objectification of women in comics, and how far can we allow the “it’s just fantasy” argument to go before fantasies that are presented in and absorbed through comics and other mass popular culture media become problematic. These are important things to consider, and I appreicated Horrocks bringing them up.

Unfortunately, I found the storytelling a bit bland. Particularly at the start, there’s a lot of telling rather than showing. You’d expect a graphic novel to manage that better than a novel written in prose! The characters were all fairly two-dimensional character archetypes, and I didn’t feel that they each had their own unique voice. While obiously the artwork made them easy to tell apart, if I had been reading this in prose, it would have been one of those cases where I could barely distinguish them.

While this was a good idea, there was too much emphasis on the ~point, and not enough on storytelling to hold my interest for too long. I would recommend this if you are interested in the themes, but not so much if you’re just interested in reading some more graphic novels.


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#WWW and #WIPpet Wednesday – 30 November, 2016

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

wwwwednesday

What have you recently finished reading?

heatandlightcover

I read the first of the graphic novels I got from the library, Sam Zabel and the Magic Pen by Dylan Horrocks. I liked what it was trying to do but I felt it got a bit caught up in the message it was conveying and forgot about good storytelling.

By the time I post this, I will have also finished, or very nearly finished reading Heat and Light by Ellen van Neerven. I really liked the first two stories, but didn’t quite click with the third one as much. This is the second-last book for my Australian Women Writers 2016 Challenge! And I have the last one sitting on my bedside chest, woot woot!

What are you currently reading?

thetwocoverI’ve started listening to The Two by Will Carver, which is the sequel to Girl 4, which I mentioned in last week’s post. I’m not getting through it quite as quickly as I did Girl 4, and I’m not feeling quite as much tension. But it’s still well-written and I do want to find out what’s going on, so I will continue with it.

I had to return Six of Crows to the library unfinished as I had been struggling to find the concentration to read, and the due date snuck up on me! Unfortunately, the way our library system is set up means that you can’t renew books when people have them reserved after you, so I’ll have to get back to that one in the new year.

What do you think you’ll read next?

heartlesscoverMy last Australian Women Writers Challenge book for the year is Letters to the End of Love by Yvette Walker. Heartless by Marissa Meyer has also come in for me at the library and I’m pretty excited to read that, so it’ll probably be next. I also have Stars Above on hold and it has been saying on my record that it is in transit to my local branch for a week now! So I’m going to ask them about it when I go in this evening.

What are you reading this week?🙂

wednesdaybannerThe other blog hop for this week is WIPpet Wednesday. If you’re a writer, you are very welcome to join us in this one 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’ve added the 3 from 30 to the 11 from the month and I have five sentences for you today. Max is trying to get into the King’s chambers to obtain a possession of the King’s. No one is sure whether the royal family is alive or dead, but if they can get something owned by one of them, they can perform a magic trace to check. Of course, the King’s quarters are being guarded by soldiers from the invading force, so Max has aided himself with a shield and enhanced strength.

Max took a step back just in time to avoid the soldier as he lurched forward. He felt a pulse through the air around him as the soldier’s fist hit against his invisible shield. The man cried out in pain. Max smiled grimly to himself. It was good to know for certain that he had activated the runes correctly. 

That’s it from me this week! I will hopefully make it around to as many of your blogs as I can as soon as possible. I have a visit from my landlord tomorrow so I need to power through the rest of our tidying up tonight, and then I have choir tomorrow after that, and I’m going to the theatre Friday, but we’ll see how it goes!

~ Emily

Book Review: “Girl 4” by Will Carver

Title: Girl 4 (January David #1)
Author: Will Carver
Audio Book Narrator: NIcki Paull, Richard Aspel
Genre: Thriller/Crime novel
Date Read: 17/11/2016 – 21/11/2016
Rating: ★★★★

Review:


This was a really enjoyable thriller, and I enjoyed sinking my teeth into something dark again.

Detective January David is called to a murder scene, the fourth by a serial killer terrorising London, and finds that he recognises the victim, and that she is actually still alive… As the novel progresses, we hear from not only January, his wife, the murderer and the other murder victims as January races to try to prevent the murder of a Girl 5.

This book has a really interesting format. While it is written in first person present tense, it is like the characters are watching a movie of the events and giving commentary. Though they’re narrating as things happen, they also have knowledge of events that yet to come. “Little do I know that the killer is standing  right behind me…”, that sort of thing. The other murder victims are often narrating from beyond the grave, which seemed a bit weird at first, but eventually I settled into the format and it didn’t seem so strange.

None of the characters were particularly likeable, but I still wanted to know exactly what was going on, and how the case would unfold. The story starts in the middle, with the discovery of Girl 4, then goes back to the beginning when Girl 1 was murdered, then comes back and through to several more murder victims. I did find the twist at the end a little bit unbelievable, though there had been some clues to it previously, so it wasn’t completely out of the blue.

There is a small speculative fiction element to the novel in the form of January’s prophetic dreams that warn him that another murder victim will be found within 24 hours. At first it felt a bit out of place in an otherwise straight thriller/detective novel, but it actually worked quite well, and I think this plays more of a part in the later books in the series as well.

Overall, while it took a little while to really settle into this book, I found it quite entertaining in the end and look forward to continuing the series.


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Sunday Summary – November 27, 2016

sundaybanner

I’m going to preface this entire post by saying I’ve been tired this week. Finding my routine again after several weeks without one has actually been hard. I’ve made some progress over the past few days and I think next week will probably be better, but I’m still working on it. I could really use a holiday.

This week in writing

writingthumb

At the start of November I challenged myself to write 750 words a day for the whole month. I knew it would be hard, particularly during the Merry Widow run, but I have also run out of steam on my current WIP, which isn’t helping.  I’ve basically said “bugger it” to a numbers-based challenge, and I’m going to do the work I need to do to move my WIP forward.

Goal for the week: Read and edit through what I’ve written so far of Operation: Sugarplum. Re-work the outline and do some research into relevant Christmas traditions.

This week in reading

readingthumb

I’ve been reading very slowly this week. I think under other circumstances I would have well and truly finished Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo by now. But I did read the graphic novel Sam Zabel and the Magic Pen by Dylan Horrocks this weekend.

Goal for the week: Try to get back into better reading habits. Aim for half an hour a day.

This week in blogging

blogginthumb

I’ve replied to and reciprocated all comments from Wednesday’s post. I also posted a book review on Friday and have another one scheduled for tomorrow. Yay for getting back on schedule!

Goal for the week: Write Sam Zabel review and continue with BAU blogging.

This week in health and fitness

fitnessthumb

Heh. I’m still on the right  track with this, though last week was a tiring week where I didn’t always reach 10k steps. Honestly, there’s not much to add here. I did return to the gym after several weeks away. That was exciting, though I was sore for today.

Goal for the week: Continue building good habits.

That’s it from me. It’s late and I need to head to bed if I want to make a good start to the week!

~ Emily

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Book Review: “Doctor Who: Big Bang Generation” by Gary Russell

Title: Doctor Who: Big Bang Generation
Author: Gary Russell
Genre: Sci-fi
Date Read: 14/11/2016 – 18/11/2016
Rating: ★★

Review:

Yikes. While it’s true that the Doctor Who novels have always been a bit hit or miss for me, I’ve got to say this one was worse than most.

When a pyramid from another world appears in Sydney Harbour on Christmas Day, 2015, the Doctor, along with old friend Bernice Summerfield and her family, have to find an ancient artefact and put it back where it belongs before the pyramid and the people who built it destroy the universe.

I’ll get my big rant out of the way first. I’m Australian. And there were a lot of little things that made me feel Gary Russell didn’t do much research into Australia before he wrote the book, even though it was apparently written while he was spending time in the Blue Mountains. For example, he (through the Doctor’s inner monologue) wonders over the fact that Australia is caught between its British colonial roots and more recent American influences. All right. So far so good. But the example of this is that we spell “harbour” with a “u” and “Labor” without it. Yes, our Labor Party is spelled that way because it was influenced by the American Labor party in the early 20th century. But in any other context, we spell it “labour”, which about two seconds of research could have confirmed. It was little things like that this that made the Australian aspect ring false, and I was disappointed, because I really wanted an Australian-themed Doctor Who story!

I also didn’t like many of the characters. While the Twelfth Doctor is often grumpy and curmudgeonly, I usually find that he’s loveable underneath it all. That didn’t really come out in the dialogue of this book until right at the end. I will admit I am not familiar with Bernice Summerfield, having never listened to the audio adventures she featured in (I thought I had, but it turns out I was confusing her with Evelyn Smythe), but I really didn’t warm to her, either, and the other members of her family all felt like rather 2D characters.

On top of  that, the plot was rather convoluted and confusing. This is technically the second in a trilogy, but as other Doctor Who novels generally stand somewhat alone, I expected the same from this one. Perhaps everything would have made more sense had I read the first book, but I don’t really know. There were a lot of time loops, and characters jumping from one century to another and one planet to another. When a lot of side characters felt much the same, I was never really sure where we were or how it all tied into the larger plot.

Overall, this one was far more “miss” than “hit” for me, but of course, I won’t let that put me off exploring more of the series.


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#WWW and #WIPpet Wednesday – 23 November, 2016

Hi all! I’ve finally finished the three week run of The Merry Widow, which really knocked me out. Even on nights I wasn’t performing, I was just exhausted and not doing anything useful. Now that the run is completed, though, I should be able to get back to reading and blogging regularly. I’ve missed you guys!

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

wwwwednesday

What have you recently finished reading?

girl4coverI finished reading Doctor Who: Big Bang Generation by Gary Russell. It was, to be honest, pretty awful, but I ticked off another challenge item with it. My review will go up on Friday.

I have also finished the audio book of Girl 4 by Will Carver, which was a thriller with a serial killed on the loose. It was an interesting format, and definitely gripping. I enjoyed it. I’ll have a review up next Monday.

I review Artie and the Grime Wave by Richard Roxburgh last Friday. You can read that here.

What are you currently reading?

sixofcrowscoverSix of Crows by Leigh Bardugo came in from me at the library, so I’m finally getting to see what all the fuss is about! I had thought it was a trilogy so I was holding off reading it, but when I learned that it was only a duology and that Crooked Kingdom is the conclusion, I decided to get onto it sooner.

I’m also listening to the audio of The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen. I’m enjoying it, but the narrator has a sort of whiny voice which is a bit annoying. It’s fairly short, though (a bit over 8 hours) so I’m putting up with it.

What do you think you’ll read next?

heatandlightcoverI picked up Heat and Light by Ellen van Neerven fro m the library today, so I’ll probably pick up that next. It will be one of my books for the Australian Women Writers Challenge. I also have a feeling this is going to be one of those weeks where I end up with a whole heap of my library holds coming in at once, so I will have a few more in the next few days. Oh, and I picked up a couple of graphic novels today as well, beacuse they had a display of them  when I walked into the library and I couldn’t resist. They won’t take long to get through.

thetwocoverOn audio, I think I’ll pick up the sequel to Girl 4, which is called The Two, once I finish The False Prince. I think it’s a trilogy in the vein of I Hunt Killers, rather than a long series of unrelated stories with the same investigator, if that makes sense. Though if I really love The False Prince I might want to immediately continue with that one. We’ll see.

What are you reading this week?🙂

wednesdaybannerThe other blog hop for this week is WIPpet Wednesday. If you’re a writer, you are very welcome to join us in this one 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. Today I added the digits of 23/11 together, then also threw in the 2 from 2016, for nine paragraphs.

The last sections I shared from Operation: Sugarplum were from Clara’s POV. Now it’s time for something from Max’s. He’s just walked in on a conversation between the people intent on taking over the palace and the Kingdom.  He’s a member of an Order called the Aligarian Mages, and the room is half-filled with them.

“And you are?” asked the man who had been speaking.

“Maxwell Drosselmeier, Aligarian Mage, second level. Who are you?”

“My name is Josef Bauer, and as of this morning, I am in charge of your order, as well as your country.”

“You led the attack?”

“Yes.”

Max looked around the room. “And the rest of you are just letting this happen because…” The unfinished statement hung in the air.

“Max, perhaps you should wait until General Bauer is ready to address all of the Mages,” said a woman, Sofia, finally.

Max bristled. He was often talked down to by virtue of being significantly younger than the rest of the  Mages, and the newest addition to the Order, but in this case, it seemed more condescending than usual.

“Fine,” he said finally. “I’m sure this is all just some grave misunderstanding and everything will become clear soon enough.”