“You get in there and fight, Emmett. Be worthy. Not in their eyes, but in yours.” // Review of “Nyxia” by Scott Reintgen

Title: Nyxia (The Nxyia Triad #1)
Author: Scott Reintgen
Genre: YA/sci-fi
Date Read: 11/11/2017 – 16/11/2017
Rating: ★★★

Review:

I’m generally more of a fantasy fan than straight science-fiction, bu I have to say that while some of the world-building in this book bothered me, the characters and writing certainly made up for it.

Emmett is one of ten young adults chosen to travel to the planet Eden to mine a new element called Nyxia. While ten have been chosen, only eight will make it through the gruelling training and receive the enormous pay-out. But the company they are working for, Babel, has secrets and Emmett is not sure the company they have entrusted themselves to can be trusted.

For a book with such a large cast, Reintgen does a fantastic job of creating individual characters. The cast is also diverse, with characters from all over the world chosen by Babel. There were only a couple of occasions where i got them confused; otherwise, they were always distinct.

As I said, the world-building was where I tripped up every now and then. For a start, while it is obviously set in the future, I could  never work out exactly how far. There was one reference to Babel swallowing Google in 2036, but that was the only indication. Some of the technology was cmopletely out of this world, but then the characters still signed their contracts with a pen on paper. Emmett’s music tastes were early-twenty-first century and earlier, and there was one scene where the characters spent the night watching old Disney cartoons. .There was no invented future popular culture, which I found a bit lazy.

Still, the writing was solid and the book had a great pace, which meant I was keen to keep reading and see how everything panned out. Despite my frustrations, I’m definitely keen to see where this series goes.


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Book Review: “Now That You’re Here” by Amy K. Nichols

Title: Now That You’re Here (Duplexity #1)
Author: Amy K. Nichols
Genre:
YA/sci-fi/romance
Date Read: 02/11/2017 – 09/11/2017
Rating: ★★★

Review:

I picked this book up on a whim at the library because I find parallel universes really interesting. I thought that the story started strong, though towards the end, the romance got a bit overpowering.

After an explosion, Danny wakes up in a different body in a different universe. He meets Eevee, a girl he had briefly met in his own world, but in this one, she is a science geek, not an artist, and along with her best friend, wants to help Danny get home. But as that possibility becomes surer and surer, Danny is not so sure he wants to leave, and Eevee realises she doesn’t want to lose him.

The world that Danny finds himself in is our own world, and I really liked the divergence between it and the one he came from. The major point of difference is the outcome of the Cold War; in Danny’s world, it never really ended, and the US is full of invasive surveillance and run by a totalitarian government.

Now, I’m not a science geek. I like my sci-fi to be “soft sci-fi”. I think this book does a good job of that. There are some moments where the science talk started going over my head, but for the most part, I didn’t feel too overwhelmed by it. It helped that Danny was there to go “Huh?” whenever the other characters started babbling at each other. I really appreciated that Eevee is a science geek without it being “quirky”, which is often the case with nerdy/geeky female characters. Though there were a couple of occasions early on in the book where she seemed to have a bit of an “I’m not like other girls” attitude, this didn’t play too much of a part, so I let it slide.

As I said, in the last third, the romance did start to play more of a part. It became one of those all-consuming teen romances, and look, I know that’s what it feels like when you’re a teenager, but as an older reader, it still makes me roll my eyes a bit. I understand Eevee rebelling against her parents’ strict regime (they’re the types of parents who have her life planned out for her), but I don’t like it when this rebellion strays past the realms of sensible.

The ending felt a bit rushed and inconclusive. The official attempts to send Danny back to his own world don’t work, but then just suddenly he gets sucked back there while they’re working on alternate theories. I know there’s a second book in the series where we get to see what our world’s Danny is doing in the parallel universe while his counterpart is here; I don’t know if there was supposed to be a third book where things got tied up? Still, this was an enjoyable read, and if this is your sort of genre, I recommend picking it up.


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Book Review: “I Am Watching You” by Teresa Driscoll

Title: I Am Watchinig You
Author: Teresa Driscoll
Genre:
Thriller
Date Read: 01/11/2017 – 02/11/2017
Rating: ★★★★

Review:

This was not a good choice of book to read when I had a final paper to write! I started reading it on my phone when I had 20 minutes or so to kill while waiting for a friend, and then ended up reading the whole thing in a couple of days because I got so drawn in. I’m writing this review while it’s still fresh in my mind, thus further delaying the writing of the essay.

I have a bit of a fascination with missing persons stories. I have not known anyone who went missing for more than a few hours, but the thought of not knowing what happened to a loved one, and possibly never knowing, makese my stomach churn. So obviously I read lots of books about it and evoke that feeling in myself. That seems sensible.

This book looks at the case of missing girl, Anna Bollard, from four different perspectives. There’s her father, who has his own secrets; the friend who should have been looking out for her, who has not been entirely forthcoming about what happened that night; the witness who feels she could have prevented everything; and the private investigator hired on a related matter who has just become a father and is only now beginning to understand how a missing child can affect the parents. I felt these four characters were all quite well-developed, even if I didn’t necessarily like all of them.

Some of the characters held attitudes that I really didn’t agree with, and while I reminded myself that characters can believe certain things without that being a reflection of the author’s beliefs, these attitudes weren’t really challenged within the text,  so it sort of felt like the author was supporting them. And there was a husband that really gave me an off vibe; he was suppoesdly protective but to me it seemed overly controlling, so that bothered me, too.

The mystery itself had a number of red herrings, and I wasn’t sure that there were quite enough clues as to the actual villain’s identity throughout. It felt a bit out of the blue when it was revealed at about the 85% mark. Still, as I said, this book had me completely engaged, so I definitely recommend for any fans of the thriller genre.


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#aww2017 Book Review: The Bromancers by Tansy Rayner Roberts

Title: The Bromancers (Belladonna University #3)
Author: Tansy Rayner Roberts
Genre: Urban fantasy
Date Read: 27/10/17 – 29/10/17
Rating: ★★★★

Review:

This series continues to be a huge amount of fun! This instalment sees Hebe Hallow trying to manage the members of Fake Geek Girl at a music festival, only to have her plans messed up the arrival of various signifiant others, including her own, and a body swap spell that sees two of the band members out for the count.

I really enjoyed seeing the world expanded beyond the university campus. Roberts managed to convey the crowded, messy, but buzzing atmosphere of a music festival, and added a magical twist.

Roberts still maintains distinct voices for each of her characters. I especially loved that Juniper got to play a bigger role in this one. She’s so delightful. I’m hoping that there might be future stories about these characters in which she might get to do something about her massive crush on Holly.

The Belladonna U stories are short and a lot of fun, particularly if you come from a geek culture background and get a lot of the references. Definitely recommended!


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

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Book Review: “The Rise of the Sparrows” by Sarina Langer

Title: The Rise of the Sparrows (The Relics of Ar’zac #1)
Author: Sarina Langer
Genre: YA/fantasy
Date Read: 17/10/2017 – 19/10/2017
Rating: ★★★★

Review:

I’ve had this on my Kindle for so long, probably since it came out! It’s one of those books I wished I got to sooner, because I ended up really enjoying it.

I think one of the bes things about this book was the fact that Rachael, the main character, was no special snowflake when it came to saving the world. Yes, she is a Chosen One, but she struggles to develop her magic and it is acknowledged that prophecies are vague and that things may not work out the way anyone expects.

I also really enjoyed the character development of Cephy, a young girl Rachael befriends after Cephy is kicked out of home due to her magical abilities.

The other characters were also well-developed. I particularly liked Cale, the leader of the group of rebels known as The Sparrows, and Aeron, the witch who seeks to disrupt the rebellion and put a child of her own on the throne, was suitably nasty.

I did feel that there were times when characters judtified the deaths they caused a bit too easily. There are some pretty shocking death scenes, too; not so much from a violence perspective (the level of violence is pretty standard fantasy fare) but the fact that they happen suddenly and caught me by surprise on a few occasions.

The world-building is simple but effective. There is no drowning the reader in unnecessary description. New locations are described as needed, and the history of the world is explained over a few conversations between Rachael and more knowledgable characters.

Overall, this is a strong series opener and I’ve been hearing good things about the sequel. I’m looking forward to continuing this series when I have the chance.


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#AWW2017 “How far a woman could travel if she really put her mind to it. And I put my mind to it.” // Review of “See What I Have Done” by Sarah Schmidt

Title: The Natural Way of Things
Author: Charlotte Wood
Genre: Thriller
Date Read: 19/10/2017 – 24/10/2017
Rating: ★★

Review:

Well, damn. This was one of my most anticipated reads this year.  I think it failed for me for a lot of reasons. 

  1. I think I over-hyped it in my head.
  2. I think I assumed it was going to be things that it never promised it would be.
  3. It turned out to have a literary fiction vibe, which is perfectly fine, but not my thing.

See What I Have Done is a fictionalised account of the murders of Andrew and Abbie Borden in 1892. It is told from the points of view of sisters Lizzie and Emma Borden, their maid, Bridget Sullivan and an mysterious outsider, Benjamin.

I expected this book to be thrilling and tense, and for me to never quite know what was going on. I didn’t know what was going on, but that was more because no one really knows what happened that day, not because I felt Sarah Schmidt was making me ask any new questions about the case. With the exception of a bit of getting into the characters’ heads, there was very little here that I hadn’t already learned by reading the Lizzie Borden Wikipedia entry.

What Sarah Schmidt did do well was the claustrophobic, tense atmosphere of the Borden house. There were times when I had to stop reading because the descriptions of someone throwing up or the smell of the three-day-old mutton heating on the stove made me feel sick. But after a while, even that stopped having an effect on me. As I said, I think this was more in the literary fiction vein than I was expecting, and so a lot of the language use and other techniques that would impress fans of that genre, but they just don’t do it for me.


This review forms part of the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge for 2017. Click here for more information.

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Book Review: The Asylum by Johan Theorin

Title: The Asylum
Author: Johan Theorin
Audio book narrator: Thomas Judd
Genre: Thriller
Date Read: 28/09/2017 – 13/10/2017
Rating: ★★

Review:

Heh. For a thriller, I did not find this book especially thrilling. I think some of that may have been due to a clunky translation from Swedish, but I think also it required more willing suspension of disbelief than I was willing to give it.

Jan Hauger takes a position at The Dell, a pre-school attached to St Patricia’s Psychiatric Hospital for the children of the patients’ parents. Jan wants to make contact with a person in his past who he believes is inside, and the other staff of the Dell have their own secrets and connections to the asylum as well.

Disclaimer: it’s possible the next paragraph won’t make much sense. I’ll try to be as coherent as possible.

This is the type of thriller where certain facts have to be revealed at certain times. They are things the characters already know, or even events in the characters’ past that he was present for, but if the reader knows about them, it ruins the suspense. As a result, the character sometime acts as though they aren’t aware of these things they lived through until it’s revealed to the reader. It annoys me when this happens. It’s poor writing.

Jan was an incredibly naive character and learning more about his past in the last third of the book didn’t really justify a lot of his choices to me. I just kept thinking “Well, you brought this upon yourself with all your stupid decisions, didn’t you?” I think the very ending was supposed to make me go “Oh no! After everything he’d been through!” but I just though, “Really? That’s the final punchline?”

It also didn’t make a lot of sense to me that a whole pre-school would be established next to a psych hospital when the children were only meeting with their parents one a week for an hour. The idea of having the passage between the hospital and the school seemed a lot of effort when they could probably just come with their foster parents to the front door.

Having said all that, there were a few honestly creepy moments. Mostly when Jan was creeping through the underground passage from the pre-school into the hospital. And one particularly claustrophobic chapter in Jan’s flashbacks. So it wasn’t all bad. Just mostly not really one I could get behind.


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#aww2017 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.


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

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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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“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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