#HocusPocusReadathon – Wrap-up Post

Hey Team Undead! The Hocus Pocus Readathon has come to an end! And I made it to the end! I’m pretty chuffed, honestly!

This readathon is hosted by Tiffy and Alyssa. I have chosen to participate as part of Team Undead, since those are the prompts that worked best for me. Our team leaders are Nox and Fyrekatz.

I have clearly got over my reading slump as I’ve been flying through books this week. With travel and moving house, I was feeling really down about how little reading I’d done, so it’s making me really happy to see these totals building up.

You can read my halfway point check-in here. And now, here are the rest of my titles for the readathon.

  1. Zombies, Graveyards and Cats. Oh my! Read a book with a non-human main character. (5pts)
    Vampire Islandby Adele Griffin was a random digital library find and a short read. I listened to the audio book while I was cooking. The phrase “vegan vampires” caught my eye and sounded amusing, but I couldn’t work out what the book was trying to do… partially it seemed to be making an environmental statement, but other parts of it seemed to go against that, and I wondered if it was just trying to be funny.
  2. The Sanderson Sisters have risen. Read a book with a female protagonist. (5pts)*Ahhh!

    I loved The Kingdom by Jess Rothenberg so much! I was on the edge of my seat the whole time and when I got to the twists at the end, I realised all the clues had been there all along! I want to read a sequel with a Fantasist uprising, but this one does end kind of perfectly, so if there is no sequel, I will still feel satisfied.

    * The Team Undead strength gives us the ability to swap out one of our prompts for one from another team, so this prompt replaces Winifred Sanderson raises you from the dead. Read a book that can bring someone back from the grave (5 pts). I was initially going to use the “Read a fantasy novel” prompt from Team Sanderson but I rejigged my TBR and this one worked better.

  3. Help your team stand up to Winifred Sanderson. Read the Group Read. (10pts)


    I chose Serpent and Dove by Shelby Mahurin for my group read. So this was unexpected! For a while it felt like a 3 or 3.5 star read, then somewhere along the  way, I got totally sucked in and had to actively force myself to put it down and go to bed on Friday night so I could get up for work on Saturday.If I were rating it purely on how it gripped me while I was reading it, it would be a five star read… but I only gave it four because there were things that bothered me when I wasn’t reading it but when I was thinking about it… some of the language was anachronistic, and I also had no idea where or when it was set… is it a fictional kingdom in this world? Somewhere else? And they have indoor plumbing but no cars or electricity or anything…

    And as much as I enjoyed reading the romance, I could never *quite* believe in it… even if he is the first person to ever treat you well, and he’s pretty sexy, how do you develop feelings for someone who is honour-bound to kill you if he learns who you really are? How do you get past that?

The only thing left to do now is watch the movie to celebrate! I am writing this post on Saturday but by the time it goes live on Sunday I will have done that.

I’ve had a really good time doing this readathon. I’ve met lots of new bloggers and added a whole bunch of books to my TBR. I’ve definitely got the readathon bug now, so I’ve signed up for the Triwizard Tournament Readathon, which starts on October 31! Maybe I’ll see you there!

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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.

“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