July to … erm, December TBR? Maybe?

So earlier this year, I thought making three-monthly TBRs rather than monthly would be a great idea. It worked pretty well for March – June. Then in July I was mentally exhausted and ended up in a reading slump, and in August I got bogged down with one single book that I needed to read for uni (plus all the other class readings), so this is as much as I managed to tick off this list over the past two months:

… Yikes.

I’ve been debating how much of this to stick with over the next few months. The top row is currently pending ARCs, most of which are publishing in October, so I shouldn’t ignore them. The second row is the titles for the Australian Women Writers challenge that I drew out of my TBR jar. I’ve already met the number of books I aimed for this year, however, I have not yet met my challenge within a challenge to read two books by LGBTI* women and two books by Indigenous Australian authors. Blood Guilt is by an LGBTI author, but I think I should also prioritise another Indigenous author as well in the coming weeks.

The bottom two rows are for the Beat the Backlist challenge, though I’m honestly debating whether or not to actually continue with this, since I haven’t linked up with the challenge at all during the year, and I’m kind of failing dismally at both the goals I set for myself. I think I would like to prioritise books I own (the bottom row) over books that I added to my TBR more than a year ago (second row from the bottom). I’ve also acquired a lot of new books lately that I want to read sooner rather than later.

With that in mind, here is my revised TBR, that I will aim to finish by the end of the year, along with a myriad of other books I am sure I will get distracted by.

Silly ARCs with your inconsistent cover sizes messing up my graphic. Ah well. I know that some of the titles aren’t all that readable in the condensed version, but I’m kind of tired and can’t be bothered listing all of them? I will link to them in my monthly wrap-up posts and you can see more about them as I get to them… or you can ask if you really want to know now! 😛

So there we have it. Twenty books to have read by the end of December. How hard can it be? 😉

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Announcement! New blog!

If you enjoy the posts here on A Keyboard and an Open Mind, don’t worry, it’s not going anywhere. WWW Wednesday and the twice-weekly book reviews will still happen as usual.

What’s changing is I’m taking my writing somewhere else. I thought about it, and I realised that amongst all the reviewer-type posts, any focus this blog once had on my writing has disappeared. WIPpet Wednesday is really the only time it gets to shine, and when I combine it with WWW Wednesday, it only gets a certain amount of the glory.

So I’d like to invite you to visit Letting the Voices Out, where I’ll be posting WIPpet Wednesday posts, as well as other posts on writing. At the moment, I’m doing the Story a Day in May challenge, trying to come up with some ideas for a sequel to With Memories and Magic. My intention is to post twice a week regularly, with some kind of reflective post on a Sunday. I’ll see how that goes.

I hope to see you there!

The NetGalley Book Tag

Thank you to Inge at The Belgian Reviewer for tagging me in this! I had this in my drafts folder and figured I needed to find time to finish it, only to discover it was sitting there, finished and ready to be posted! So I’m sorry it’s taken me so long!

Rules:

  • Link back to the tag’s creator (Kourtni Reads)
  • Thank and link back to the person who tagged you
  • Answer the questions the best you can. If you don’t use NetGalley, you can substitute other sites or places where you get books!
  • Tag a few people to do this too

Auto-Approved: Who’s one author whose books you automatically want to read, regardless of what they’re about?

I don’t know if I actually have any authors like this? I tend to have series loyalty more so than author loyalty. Liking one book by an author won’t necessarily entice me to read another one.

Request: What makes you want to request a book that you see on NetGalley?

Usually the cover strikes a cord with me first, then if the description also intrigues me, I will request it.

Feedback Ratio: Do you review every book you read? If not, how do you decide what books to review?

I send feedback to the publisher on every book I read, even if I don’t do a blog post about it. If I DNF it or it’s only an excerpt, I probably won’t blog about it, but I will send my thoughts back. I like keeping my ratio as close to 100% as possible.

Badges: If you could create your own badge to display on your blog, what would it be for?

I… don’t know. Maybe for preferred genres so that publishers can see the things you read most frequently?

Wish for It: What’s one book that you are absolutely dying to read?

I really want to read The Midnight Watch: a Novel of the Titanic and the Californian by David Dyer, but I’m holding out while I work through the books that I own. This is a book about how the Californian was nearby when the Titanic was sinking and could have saved a whole lot of lives, but basically ignored the distress signals. Afterwards, the captain and the nightwatchman tried to cover it up, but the truth eventually came out .

2016 NetGalley Challenge: What was the last book that you received as an ARC that you reviewed? If you’ve never received an ARC, what’s the last book you reviewed?

The last ARC I reviewed was The Life Assistance Agency by Thomas Hocknell. My review is here. Unfortunately, I wasn’t a big fan. The last non-ARC I reviewed was The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss and you can read that one here.

Tags!: I tag Claire and Yvo (please feel free to ignore if you’ve already done it/feel disinclined) and anyone else who fancies doing it.

“Don’t you see? He wasn’t coming to pay your debt. He was coming to see if you’d returned to pay it yourself.” // Review of A Gathering of Shadows by V. E. Schwab

Title: A Gathering of Shadows (Shades of Magic #2)
Author: V. E. Schwab
Genre: New Adult/Fantasy/Historical
Date Read: 29/04/2016 – 03/06/2016
Rating: ★★★

Review:

A Gathering of Shadows FinalIt didn’t actually take me a month to read this, I promise. But the distance between the two dates above just goes to show how easy I found it to put down this book when I had a pile of library books I had to finish first. I know that one of my issues was that it had been some time since I read the first book and I struggled to remember some of the details, but while I still love these characters and the world they inhabit, I have to admit that I found this book to be a case of Middle Book Syndrome.

In the four months since the events of the first book, Kell has been dealing with the aftermath of the sacrifice he made for his quasi-brother, Prince Rhy, as well as having lost the trust of most of the people of Red London. Lila, meanwhile, has found herself a ship just like she always said she would, but her captain, Alucard Emery, is returning to London to participate in the Element Games, an international magic tournament. But as our main players are reunited, others are on the hunt for them.

Kell, Lila, Rhy and newcomers such as Alucard Emery are as delightful as ever. Their relationships to each other, particularly in regard to the fallout from the previous book, were wonderful to read; you feel like you have been with these characters for a long time, and you can feel how deep their relationships with each other run. I think that one thing that made the story feel sluggish to me was the fact that for so much of the book, Kell and Lila were not having adventures together, as they had done in the previous book. Even once Lila is back in London, a significant amount of time passes before they are reunited.

The big buildup throughout the book is to that of the Element Games, but apart from giving us some very cool magical displays and revealing some of Lila’s newly discovered talents and Kell an outlet to let off some of the stress he’s been feeling, they do very little to advance the plot. It reminded me of the majority of Quidditch matches described in the Harry Potter books. While they provide a setting for events that might advance the plot, they are given too much time for something that isn’t actually advancing the plot itself. And the Games are won off-screen while our main characters are occupied elsewhere, so it’s not even like we got to witness the  big finale.

Some of the events throughout the book, along with the ending, have provided a concrete setup for the third book. I think that book will be back up to the standard of the first one. I should, perhaps, do myself a favour and re-read the first two in the lead-up to that one’s release.


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#WWW Wednesday – April 27, 2016

It is Wednesday, and that means WWW Wednesday! Yaaaay! WWW Wednesday is a blog hop in which we answer questions about what we’ve been reading this past week. This is hosted by Sam over at A World of Words. You can join in by commenting on today’s post over on her blog.

wwwwednesday

  • What are you currently reading?

I purchased The Raven King, the 4th book in the Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater, when it was released yesterday. At time of writing this post, I’m about 25% into it and… well, I was hoping the final book in the series would be a bit more exciting? Cabeswater is being a bit weird, and there have been a couple of important conversations, but mostly it’s just sort of ambling on…

edgeofdarkcoverI also read about 30% of The Edge of Darkness by K. L. Schwengel during train journeys on the weekend. I would have read a lot more except I spent a lot of the travel time sleeping. I plan to get back to this as soon as I’m done with the Raven King. I honestly don’t read a lot of high fantasy, but I do recommend this series.

  • What did you recently finish reading?

bluelilycoverI finished Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater, the third in the Raven Cycle. I was actually a bit disappointed in that one. I felt the story was really starting to drag, and I think that’s why I’m feeling especially disappointed that the new book doesn’t really seem to be picking up the pace. Review goes up on Friday. Speaking of reviews, mine for The Dream Thieves (Book 2) went up on Monday.

  • What do you think you’ll read next?

I gave up waiting for my library’s on order of A Gathering of Shadows, the sequel to A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab, to come in, and bought the ebook. I imagine that will be next, before all the hype wears down (I know, that’s not something people say all that often, but this is one where I want to share in the excitement!).

Two of my holds came in at the library this week, and I also just randomly picked up two more library books as well. They are, in no particular order:riversoflondoncover

So that’s my next few weeks’ reading cut out for me, I think!

What have you been reading this week? Any recommendations?

~ Emily

Interview: Emily Witt

Thanks to Gloria for having me on her blog to talk about writing and A More Complicated Fairytale!

Gloria Weber

Author Book Review (10).pngMUAHAHAHAHA!

You know what my maniacal laughter that sound means.  Another authors has become prisoner to my blog.  Are you ready to meet our latest test subject guest?

Hiya, I’m Emily. I’m an Australian librarian/archivist living in Canberra. I tend to write romance with a little fantasy thrown in for good measure. When I’m not reading or writing, I can also be found singing in choirs or doing musicals with local theatre groups.

Ooooooo… I like to sing too!  But I sort of follow the Geneva Convention and that bit about torture sometimes, so I’ll spare you this time.  In exchange for my kindness, would you tell me your writer origin story?

I’ve been writing pretty much as long as I can remember. In creative writing assignments in primary school I always went above and beyond what was actually asked because I’d always get carried away. Once…

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Book Review: The Madness Underneath by Maureen Johnson

Title: The Madness Underneath (Shades of London #2)
Author: Maureen Johnson
Genre: YA/urban fantasy
Date Read:
15/02/2016 – 16/02/2016
Rating: ★★★

madnesscover

After finishing The Name of the Star, the first book in the Shades of London series, I immediately went to the library to pick up the next book. While this one certainly isn’t as strong as the first, I still found it a really enjoyable read.

After dealing with a direct attack on her life, Rory is in therapy and her parents are incredibly protective, but she wants to go back to Wexford. She can’t talk to anyone about her experiences, and would rather just get on with things. Eventually she gets her way, but she’s falling behind at work, not really sure how much she actually likes her boyfriend, and really wishes she could figure out what to do with her new-found ghost-extermination ability.

Maureen Johnson has a really engaging writing style, which is probably lucky, because it meant that it took me 150 pages to realise that nothing really happens in this book, and even then, I still wanted to keep reading it. It was more like a whole book of world-building, I guess, with only some slight character development for the already existing characters and the introduction of some new ones.

Usually when I write reviews I do a paragraph on the world-building and a paragraph on characters, but there’s really not much to say here that I didn’t already say in my review of The Name of the Star on Friday. We really get little else about Rory or the other central characters, and the final chunk really seemed to be just setting up for the third book. Rory makes some really poor choices at times, though I can see why a person in her position may think they seemed like good ideas at the time. I really disagreed with a choice she made right at the end, though that choice in particular leads to events that are going to be important in the third book.

Having said that, these are fun characters to be around, and enough did happen to make a book (though only just). I’m now onto the third one, and I’m hoping it will pick up again.

Book Review: The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

Title: The Name of the Star (Shades of London #1)
Author: Maureen Johnson
Genre: YA/urban fantasy
Date Read:
10/02/2016 – 12/02/2016
Rating: ★★★★

namestarcover

After following Maureen Johnson on Twitter for something like three years, one of her books seemed the obvious choice for the “a book by an author you feel you should have read by now” item on my 2016 Reading Challenge. While this book wasn’t entirely what I expected, I did end up enjoying it and went straight to the library to pick up the second one afterward.

Born and raised in New Orleans, Rory Deveaux moves to England with her parents, and starts attending boarding school in London while her parents lecture at Bristol University. The same day as she arrives, the population of London is equally horrified and fascinated by a murder that mimics very closely the first murder of Jack the Ripper back in 1888. After several more murders and the city being on lock-down, Rory sees a man at the murder-site that no one else can. And that’s when things begin to get really weird.

I really enjoyed the combination of Rory adjusting to a new school combined with the reaction to the Rippermania. Johnson depicts the public’s macabre fascination with these types of events really well. While Rory is somewhere in the middle, her friends range from those who love the facts about the original case and are using it predict what will happen this time around, to others who find the whole thing sickening.

While it is fairly clear from the blurb that the story would involve ghosts, I was a little bit surprised about where it went with this plot. I don’t want to give away anything, but I will say I was a bit disappointed when the Jack the Ripper murders ended up being more of a means to the killer’s end rather than especially relevant.

Overall, a fun, quick read with some scary moments that made me get up and pull the blinds closed. Recommended for urban fantasy fans.

Book Review: Time Lord Fairy Tales by Justin Richards

Title: Doctor Who: Time Lord Fairy Tales
Author: Justin Richards, David Wardle (illustrator)
Genre: Sci-fi/fairy tale retelling
Date Read: 29/12/2015 – 03/01/2016
Rating: ★★★★

Review:

fairytalescoverEveryone knows I’m a big Doctor Who fan. I’ve even visited the TARDIS and it was maybe one of the best days of my life (click here for pictorial evidence). And you only have to scroll through my reviews to see how much I enjoy fairy tale re-tellings. Even so, I was a little bit apprehensive about this book. I didn’t finish Tales of Trenzalore, and the Doctor Who novels do tend to be a bit hit-or-miss. This book was wonderful, though.

I’m going to assume that all of the stories in here are based on existing fairy tales, though I didn’t recognise all of them. Some stand-out ones included a Beauty and the Beast variation in which the Twelfth Doctor assists to reverse the effects of a time-loop-genetics-DNA screw-up, and another of The Pied Piper of Hamlin, in which the Second Doctor helps the crew of a space station to defeat an infestation of Cybermats. Not all the stories mention the Doctor, though they all star alien races from the series that we all know and love.

In all the stories, the writing was in that kind of quaint fairy-tale style that you expect from bedtime stories, but the sci-fi features were woven seamlessly into the writing. I could completely imagine some stuffy Time Lord official sitting by his child’s bedside in the Capital, telling him any one of these stories.

Now all that remains is for someone to write the fanfiction where a Gallifreyan child recognises the Doctor as one of the characters, and then the Doctor realises that he is indeed the character he so loved in his own childhood. Because that would be adorable.

Book Review: Winter by Marissa Meyer

Title: Winter (Lunar Chonicles #4)
Author: Marissa Meyer
Genre: YA/sci-fi/fairytale retelling
Date Read: 10/11/2015 – 14/11/2015
Rating: ★★★★

Review:

wintercoverWhen I first read Cinder, the first of the Lunar Chronicles, I wrote on my LiveJournal that it was pretty enjoyable but I wasn’t 100% sure that I was actually interested in continuing. Except then Scarlet, the second book, arrived for me at the library before I had time to cancel the hold, so I figured I might as well read it. And then I read a couple of things that I didn’t enjoy at all, and I figured the Lunar Chronicles were fun if nothing else, so I bought the e-book of Cress, and fell in love with Cress and Thorne. Kai and Cinder also grew on me a lot in that one, so I was actually very keen to see where their revolution led them in book four. While my GoodReads review is littered with snarky updates, I actually did really enjoy Winter and it was a great conclusion to the series.

While this book is long (it comes in at over 800 pages), there are nine or ten point-of-view characters, so it is hardly surprising. I had to slog through some of it, but I would be hard pressed to actually name any parts I would cut. While I was obviously interested in some characters more than others, all the storylines are woven together so well that you really need all that length for the story to conclude properly.

The characters undergo a huge amount of growth in this book, as they gear towards a revolution to depose the evil Queen Levana. They are all put a long way out of their comfort zones, and seeing them deal with this was exciting and at times, even shocking. We really saw how evil the Lunar regime was. The series wraps up really well, and I actually got a bit teary at the end, seeing how everything worked out for the characters. Apparently I got more attached to them than I ever intended to. While Marissa Meyer has other fairytale-inspired books in the works, it is always a bittersweet feeling saying goodbye to an enjoyable series. Highly recommended!

Read my reviews for Cinder, Scarlet and Cress.