#AWW2020 #LoveOzYA Book Review: “Oasis” by Katya de Becerra

Title: Oasis
Author:
Katya de Becerra
Genre: Fantasy/Sci-fi
Target audience: YA
Date Read: 18/05/20 – 22/05/20
Rating: 
★★☆

Review: 

Okay, so this was… weird. I honestly am not sure whether it’s a 2.5 or maybe a 3 star rating but this is definitely a case of not living up to the hype. I was expecting to give this 5 stars when I read it. You know those times when you think “Did I read the same book my friends did? I don’t get it.” Yeeaaaah.

The writing was engaging, I will give it that. There are some great descriptions, though I think the author did better when describing abstract things like the heat or the weird dreams Alif, the MC, has, than when describing more physical things like the sand dunes.

I never believed in the characters, which I think was my main issue. I’m supposed to believe this group have been friends for years, when all they seem to do is quibble. There are multiple times when Alif has the realisation that despite Luke having been part of their group for a long time, she “never really knew him”. Like, surely you have to be really good friends with someone to go on an overseas trip with them. And if you’re that close, and you’re not interested in archaeology, surely you can tell your friend that visiting her dad’s dig site isn’t really for you. You know, rather than getting there and being a jerk about it.

Also Luke and Tommy facing off and getting all macho at each over over Alif… ugh.

The world-building was limited and there was minimal explanation of anything… and then there was the open-ended conclusion that just left me feeling unsatisfied. I genuinely don’t actually understand what happened, and what it meant for the events of the previous 100 pages. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy an open ending, but this was just… a nothing ending.

I’m really disappointed because I’d been really looking forward to it, and I knew a few people who’d really enjoyed it. I guess it was just not to be.


This review forms part of my 2020 Australian Women Writers Challenge. Click here for more information.

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Where did you go, Emily?

So who else is ready for 2020 to be cancelled?

From starting the year covered in bushfire smoke, to massive hailstorms, to job insecurity only exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, is it any wonder I have only finished one book in the past month, or that my last post here was March 03?

Any wonder that I was spending more time playing pointless time-wasting games on my phone rather than actually reading?

But! I am in a fortunate position, compared to many others. I will probably start working from home 3-4 days a week this week (there are parts of my job I simply can’t do remotely, but at least this way I’ll be able to afford the parking fees and won’t have to take public transport).

I have a wonderful group of friends with whom I’m voice chatting/Zooming a lot, and we’ve been checking in on each other daily.

And since a lot of us were in a musical together, and now can’t meet for rehearsals, we’ve started a book club!

Knowing that there are others reading the same book I am and really enjoying it has been so motivating over the last few days. We’ve set up a Facebook group and while official discussion doesn’t start until April, there have already been a few posts about our first read, Scythe by Neal Schusterman. I’m about halfway through it already and enjoying it. There will definitely be lots to discuss.

I’m hoping that this means I’m out of my reading slump, and that I’ll be seeing you around the blogosphere again soon. I’m even thinking that with more time at home, I might manage to revive my YouTube channel (I had announced on Twitter that I was letting it die).

In the meantime, take care, everyone, and I’ll see you soonish.

Emily’s Top 12 Books of 2019

This year I hit on a better way to do my top books of the year post. In past years, I’ve always looked at my GoodReads yearly challenge page in December and tried to narrow down a top ten for the year. Often the books at the end of the year were fresh in my mind but memories of the ones from earlier were starting to fade. It always felt weird having mostly books from the last few months in such a wrap-up post.

That’s why during 2019, I’ve kept a list of my favourite book each month as the year went along, so I can safely say these were my favourite books of the year, even if I sometimes can’t remember why. (Except for really mind-blowing favourites, the details tend to fade for me).

So without further ado, here are Emily’s Top 12 Books of 2019:

January:

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor. The prose in this book is spectacular all the way through, but nothing beats the chapters where Lazlo and Sarai fell in love over the course of a shared dream. *swoon*

February:

Famous Last Words by Katie Alender. This was such a fun, ghostly book! It reminded me that I enjoy ghost stories (as long as they’re not too scary). It was also a fun thriller, which is what I needed after all the SFF.

March:

A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray. Mostly, I loved this book because of its forbidden romance element in the Russia-verse, but the whole book was so entertaining! And the audio book is so well performed by Tavia Gilbert.

April:

I have to say it’s a tie between Ten Thousand Skies Above You and A Million Worlds With You by Claudia Gray because I couldn’t get enough of this series, even when it was a bit predictable. Honourable mention to Romanov by Nadine Brandes because even though I didn’t love it as much as I’d hoped, it made me think a lot about the real Romanovs and got under my skin.

May:

The Red Labyrinth by Meredith Tate. This was a fun, twisty dystopian, with an ending that left me wanting more. I’m not sure if there will actually be a second book but I sure hope so, because that ending was quite something!

June:

The Diviners by Libba Bray. This had so many things I like – old-timey New York City (it’s set during Prohibition), ghosts, serial killings and occult mischief. And it was just the right amount of scary. Not to mention January LaVoy does such a great job on the audio version, really bringing this whole world to life.

July:

The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis– maybe this is because of nostalgia? Even though I never read the books as a child, I did watch the BBC adaptation an awful lot. I really need to get back to my plan to read the rest of the Narnia books.

August:

Women of Wasps and War by Madeleine D’Este. I read this nearly all in one sitting. It was so powerful and made me feel a lot of things. It explored societal privilege in detail and I particularly liked how D’Este examined the way you can love an individual and still recognise they are part of the oppressive system.

September:

Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. I’d been looking forward to this book for a while by the time it was released. It took me a little while to get into it but I eventually realised that was because I was reading it in small doses. It needs your full and undivided attention. I loved learning about Mexican mythology, and the writing is poetry!

 

October:

The Kingdom by Jess Rothenberg. Almost-human robots in a dystopian Disneyland. What’s not to love? This was fast-paced and incredibly fun! I was worried I had hyped it up to myself too much, but it lived up to my expectations! Now I want a sequel where the robots stage a revolution!

November:

Portable Curiosities by Julie Koh. I’ve become more interested in short story collections in the past few months and this was definitely a quirky, enjoyable one. Sometimes I had to think about the stories before I figured out what they were really saying, and there were a few that I didn’t get at all, but the satire was really entertaining.

December:

A Holiday by Gaslight by  Mimi  Mathews. I was in such a readinig slump and this delightful little Victorian romance was exactly what I needed to pull me out. It had everything I wanted in a romance and loved the characters.

You  can see the full list of books I read this year at my GoodReads 2019 Challenge page.

Here’s to more amazing books in 2020! Can’t wait to hang out with you all some more!

 

Announcing a brief hiatus!

Hello, everyone.

This is just to let you know that A Keyboard and an Open Mind might be a wee bit quiet over the next few weeks.

I’m going to America to celebrate both my 30th birthday and the completion of my Masters degree in style.

We are spending a week in New York City, and then two weeks on the West Coast, culminating in three days at Disneyland!

Depending on how fiercely I read on the plane, I may manage to schedule some reviews while I’m away, but it’s just as likely that I will get onto that when I get back, as well as WWW Wednesdays and other blog hops that I’ve fallen off the wagon with.

In the meantime, you can follow along on my Instagram if you so desire.

See you on the other side!

#WWW Wednesday – 27 February 2019

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?

I finished Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor and can safely say that I was going through a weird bunch of chapters last week when I rambled about it for three paragraphs. XD I would love if Laini Taylor wrote more stories set in this universe – Lazlo and Sarai’s story is definitely completed but there’s lots of stuff in the epilogue that could be expanded upon… it even finished with “The end… or is it?” which makes me wonder if she’s seriously considering it.

also read Famous Last Words over the weekend. This was a random pick at the library which turned out to be really addictive and enjoyable! I enjoy contemporary ghost stories! I forgot. It was a bit predictable (I had the serial killer picked nearly from the get go) but it was also really addictive.

I have finally found my review groove again and am actually caught up! Everything I’ve read this year has a review either posted or scheduled. You can read my reviews of The  Zigzag Effect by Lili Wilkinson and Second Star by JM Sullivan by clicking their titles.

What are you currently reading?

I started the audio book of Bird Box by Josh Malerman today. I don’t have Netflix so since everybody was watching the movie, my obvious reaction was “I should read the book”. I have some questions about how they manage certain things with blindfolds, but so far, it has explained the things that have occurred to me. Can someone tell me if it’s ever explained why the children have no names? That part is bugging me.

I am also reading Jigsaw of Fire and Stars by Yaba Badoe, which was another library book. The voice is really interesting and quite distinctive. It has a magical realism vibe… With that cover and the description on the back, I actually didn’t realise it is set in the present day, so that was a bit jarring. But I’m still interested to see where it goes.

I am still going on The Dying Flame by R. L. Sanderson, but it’s on a bit of a hold while I read my library books!

There are a couple of other things I have just started, but I’m not quite committed enough to them to mention them here just yet. Maybe next week.

What do you think you will read next?

I’m thinking it’s time to read Romanov by Nadine Brandes. I could totally go some historical fantasy about the Russian royal family right now. I also maybe added a whole bunch of books about the Romanovs, both fiction  and non, to my TBR the other day so it’s highly possible I might proceed to fall down that rabbit hole.

What are you reading this week? 🙂

“Time travel isn’t a wonder; it’s an abomination.” // Review of “All Our Yesterdays” by Cristin Terrill

Title: All Our Yesterdays
Author: Cristin Terrill
Audio book narrator: Jessica Almasy
Genre: Sci-fi
Target audience: YA
Date Read: 30/10/18 – 11/11/18
Rating: ★★★★

Review:

Time travel books can be really tricky, but I think this book pulled it off quite well. It stuck to its own rules and never made things too complicated. But it told a good story, which is the main thing. I did predict a few things before they happened, but that doesn’t necessarily make a book bad.

It was really interesting reading a book where you saw both the past and future selves of various characters. Terrill was very  successful in showing the progression from one version to the other, particularly in light  of a “the road to hell is paved with good intentions” scenario.

The book does throw you in at the deep end a bit, and it doesn’t always explain things up-front. In particular, the identity of “documents” that the main characters are imprisoned over doesn’t get explained until right towards the end. Even the characters’ connections  to one another are obscured for a while, though I was abe to figure some of them out before they were explained.

I thought Jessica Almasay did quite a good job of subtly  differentiating between the narrations from Em’s perspective and those from Marina’s. I wonder if the two voices would feel as different if one was reading the print book.

This is another one of those books where I only  realised how attached I’d become to the characters when I found myself getting teary at the end. While I had predicted some of the broader parts of the climax and resolution, the little things got me. This is a tightly written debut novel, and I’m going to check out what the author has published since this one.


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Book Review: “‘Twas the Knife Before Christmas” by Jacqueline Frost

Title: ‘Twas the Knife Before Christmas (A Christmas Tree Farm Mystery #2)
Author:
Jacqueline Frost
Genre: Cozy mystery
Target audience: Adult
Date Read: 14/11/18 – 17/11/18
Rating:
★★★

Review:

Okay, I have to be honest, I went into this book not expecting too much. I thought the story would be a bit OTT, and that I wouldn’t be abe to take it too seriously, but that I wouldn’t mind, because it’s a Christmas story and you can get away with that in Christmas stories.I didn’t expect to get really invested!

When Holly’s best friend, Caroline, is accused of the murder of Derek Waggoner, whose body is found in a giant bowl of mints at the town’s annual Christmas Lights ceremony, Holly sets out to prove her innocence. But doing so attracts the attention of the killer, putting Holly in danger for the second Christmas in a row.

While this is the second in a series, it stood alone well enough. The book filled me in on the details I needed to know from the previous book, and most of the focus was on the events of this one.

As i said, I got quite invested in Holly and her friends. I wanted Caroline to get out of jail. I wanted to know why Sherriff Gray seemed to have pushed Holly away after kissing her quite publicly and dramatically last Christmas (I actually really loved Sherriff Gray a lot just in general). Even the minor characters had really distinct personalites and I really enjoyed getting to know them.

I was a bit annoyed that when the murderer is finally revealed, they have a big villain monologue while they train a gun on Holly. I did raise my eyebrows a little bit at the suggestion that the real Santa did have something to do with  Holly getting out alive, as well as a few other Christmas miracles. But hey, didn’t I say you can get away with a lot in a Christmas book?

I do have the first book  in this series on my Kindle and I intend to read it closer to Christmas (when I am hopefully through my ARCs and have finished my 2018 challenges). I’m definitely looking forward to revisiting Mistletoe, Maine, even if I am doing it in the wrong order.


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

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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? 😉

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.