#WWW Wednesday – May 09, 2018

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.

wwwwednesday

What have you recently finished reading? 

I finished Lessons in Letting Go: Confessions of a Hoarder by Corinne Grant. To be honest, at first I wasn’t sure if I would finish it, as the chapters about where her hoarding began and how it affected her life were quite depressing. But once she got onto how she faced the problem once she recognised it, I became much more engaged. Review will be up next week.

I am finally reviewing again! I posted my reviews of Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie and Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery this week. Click the titles to read them.

What are you currently reading? 

I am still going with Hero at the Fall by Alwyn Hamilton. I haven’t had much of a chance to make a dent in it. So far, though, I feel like it maintaining the standard of the previous two books.

I am also listening to The Strings of Murder by Oscar de Muriel. This is a great historical mystery and if you enjoy audio books, I definitely recommend this one. The narrator is great. The conflict between the two leads, London gentleman Ian Frey and his new boss, rough-around-the-edges Scotsman Adolpho McGrey, is a lot of fun.

What do you think you will read next?

I have borrowed a copy of Blackwing by Ed McDonald from a friend. This friend is as picky, if not more picky, than I am about fantasy, and he thought it was great, so I’m hoping I feel the same way.

What are you reading this week?~ Emily

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“The impossible could not have happened, therefore the impossible must be possible in spite of appearances.” // Review of “Murder on the Orient Express” by Agatha Christie

Title: Murder on the Orient Express
Author: Agatha Christie
Genre: Mystery
Date Read: 25/04/2018 – 26/04/2018
Rating:
 ★★★★☆

Review:

As someone who very often finds classic literature dry, stuffy and inaccessible,  I  had put off reading Murder on the Orient Express for a long time. It’s so iconic, and I didn’t want to sllog my way through it and then end up disappointed. I needn’t have worried. I flew through it in two days. It was completely engaging.

While I’d never read a Poirot book before, I had seen many an episode of the TV series starring David Suchet. Poirot is just as interesting a character on paper; his way of talking to people makes me laugh, but his powers  of deduction are masterful.

Having reached the end of the book, I could see why this particular one is so iconic, and widely considered Christie’s best. I tried keeping track of details, but of course, the outcome took me completely by surprise. Just when I thought things were getting completely unrealistic and ridiculous, that gets addressed and is part of the solution.

The reason that this doesn’t get a full five stars from me is because the decisions made by Poirot in literally the final paragraphs threw me off a bit. I couldn’t quite reconcile it, and even after googling some discussions surrounding the ending and coming to understand it, I still don’t know how I feel. But honestly, that was the only issue I had.


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“Dear old world, you are very lovely, and I am glad to be alive in you.” // Review of “Anne of Green Gables” by L. M. Montgomery

Title: Anne of Green Gables
Author: L. M. Montgomery
Genre:  YA/children’s classic
Dates read: 02/04/18 – 17/04/18
Rating: ★★★

Review:

When I told people recently that I was reading Anne of Green Gables for the first time, the most common reaction was shock. How could I not have read this as a young girl?! I know, I know. And I’m a little sad that I didn’t, because I think in leaving it until I was an adult, I missed the boat a little. I think there is a certain amount of childhood nostalgia attached to it, and I have missed out on that.

Still, Anne Shirley is a character who you can’t help but like. She’s overly talkative, and clumsy and dorky and makes mistakes, but she has a wonderful attitude towards the world at large, and I did constantly find myself smiling at the things she said. The side characters were also well-written; I really felt like I knew all these figures in the small farming community.

I did often find myself wishing that events were described as they happened, rather than us witnessing them via Anne telling her guardian, Marilla, about them afterwards. Sometimes she would go into detail, but sometimes we wouldn’t get more than a “Marilla, it was simply wonderful!”

I have the rest of the Anne books available, and while I didn’t love the book the way many have, the story was definitely enjoyable enough that I do want to revisit Avonlea again at some point.


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#WWW Wednesday – May 02, 2018

 

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.

wwwwednesday

What have you recently finished reading? 

I finished Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie in two days and really loved it… I was a little weirded out by the very last page or two and what goes down then… but I won’t say too much here  because I don’t want to spoil things.

Galax-Arena by Gillian Rubinstein. This was… quite strange. One of those books that seemed to have some interesting ideas but didn’t do enough with them. Also it was really obvious it was written in  the early 90s.

I didn’t review at all in April but I have some reviews scheduled to  go up in the coming days, and I should be back to my usual schedule of Monday and Friday review posts.

What are you currently reading? 

I am listening to the audio bookk Earthly Delights by Kerry Greenwood. This is a cozy mystery set in Melbourne and the main character owns a bakery… I like it enough so far, though the baker is a bit judgey and like Galax-Arena, I can kind of sense this book’s age from some of the language used.

My reading at home book is Lessons in Letting Go: Confessions of a Hoarder by Corinne Grant. Corinne is a well-known Australian comedian and while I haven’t read much of this yet, I already really like her writing style. It’s interesting hearing about a more vulnerable side to her, too.

And my reading at work book is Hero at the Fall by Alwyn Hamilton, which is the final book in the Rebel of the Sands trilogy. I only started it today, and I’m only up to about page 10. I appreciated the cast of characters list at the beginning, since it’s been over a year since I read the last book. That really helped to jog my memory.

What do you think you will read next?

Despite avoiding it for ages because I’m about 90% sure it’s not going to be my thing, I picked up Nevernight by Jay Kristoff when I saw it on display at the library the other day. So I might try that. Or I might pick up either Greythorne or The Iron Line by L. M. Merrington. I went along to her book talk the other day and bought both and they are both currently sitting on a table near my TV tempting me.

What are you reading this week?~ Emily

May-June 2018 TBR

Read my April reading wrap-up here!

I made it through five of the books on my March-April TBR and DNFed a sixth, so once again there are two books to carry over into the new TBR period. In this case, it’s Scapegallows and Treason, Treason! To fill the other six spots, I’ve chosen a few books by Australian women for the Australian Women Writers Challenge, as I am a little bit behind on my review goal there. I’ve also chosen some other books that have been sitting on my GoodReads TBR for a matter of years.

Scapegallows by Carol Birch

Treason! Treason! by Josh Langston

Bookworm: a Meomoir of Childhood Reading by Lucy Mangan

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

Purple Threads by Jeanine Leane

All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

Lessons in Letting Go: Confessions of a Hoarder by Corinne Grant

The Gospel According to Jesus Christ by José Saramago

What are you reading this month?

 

April 2018 Reading Wrap-up

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This has been a very quiet reading month, since I had so much else going on. I was in Nepal for two weeks, and while I had grand intentions of reading many, many books on the plane, that totally didn’t happen. Then my parents were visiting. And  I was reading The Bone Season so slowly! I finally gave up on that.

Past Month’s Reading:

I have once again managed to tick off 6 of the 8 books I nominated for my bimonthly TBR list. Treason, Treason! and Scapegallows will carry over into the next two months.

Here’s my March-April TBR:

The  things I read were:

I also DNFed The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon. I had really wanted to try to push through with this one, since I had bought a physical copy, but when I decided not to continue, a weight lifted off my shoulders.

As you can see, I’m a little behind on my reviewing at the moment, due to travel, family commitments, etc. But I’ve got a couple scheduled now, so I’m finding my groove again.

Currently reading:

Physical book: As I finished Galax-Arena only today, I haven’t started a new physical book yet. 

Audio book: Earthly Delights by Kerry Greenwood. It’s a cozy mystery set in Melbourne and I am enjoying it so far.

Planning to read next:

I will probably pick up Lessons in Letting Go: Confessions of a Hoarder by Corinne Grant next, seeing as I have it from the library.  I’ll also post my full planned TBR for the next two months tomorrow.

How is your reading going?

#WWW Wednesday – April 25, 2018

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.

wwwwednesday

What have you recently finished reading? 

It’s been a slow reading week. The only thing  I finished  was a very short audio book, The Best Bear in All the World by Paul Bright, Brian Sibley, Jeanne Willis and Kate Saunders. This was written for the 90th Anniversary of Winnie-the-Pooh. Each author wrote a Winnie-the-Pooh story set during one of the seasons. They did a pretty good job of capturing what I love about the original books.

Last night I finally realised how much I was not enjoying The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon and decided to DNF. It was taking me far too long to read and I was looking for distractions. I actually wish the book had been more about Paige’s gang. I really liked Jaxon, Nick, et al. Didn’t care so much for Warden, and half the time I couldn’t keep track of the other characters because they were referred to by their numbers.

What are you currently reading? 

I am finally reading Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie. Why didn’t I read this book long ago?! I kept putting it off because I thought it would be dated and dry, but I am nearly halfway through it, having really only started it this morning. I’m trying to keep track of all the little details which will no doubt be key to the resolution, but I have no real hope of solving this case and I will wait patiently for the denouement.

What do you think you will read next?

I’m not quite sure just yet. I have set up my May-June TBR but I’m not really feeling like any of the titles on it right now. I’m just looking over my Australian Women Writers TBR shelf on GoodReads and thinking maybe Galax-Arena by Gillian Rubenstein might be a good option.  It’s aimed at an older-MG/lower-YA audience, so should be fairly digestible.

What are you reading this week?~ Emily

#WWW Wednesday – April 18, 2018

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.

wwwwednesday

I am back from Nepal! I had a great time, though the trek itself was quite challenging, physically and emotionally. But I had a fantastic group of people supporting me. Those 12 days went way too fast, but I am glad to be home.

What have you recently finished reading? 

I finished Ready Player One by Ernest Cline before I went away.  I… look, there’s an okay YA dystopia in there somewhere, but I couldn’t find much of it. It was my first ever one star review! (Said review is full of spoilers, read at your own risk).

I also read The Sherlockian by Graham Moore prior to that. It was fine, but nothing special. I definitely enjoyed Graham Moore’s other novel more. I reviewed it here.

Remember how I was all  “I’m going to read so many books on the plane and have a super long post for you when I get home!”? Yeah, I read two. And one of them was super-short.

The first was Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery. I had never read it before and I’m not sure if perhaps I missed the boat with it? I mean, I enjoyed it, but I think a lot of people probably have a certain amount of nostalgic love for it that comes from reading it when one is the same age as Anne Shirley.

I also picked up and read Folk Tales from Nepal by Kesar Lall at Pokhara airport. The English translation wasn’t brilliant but it was fun reading these stories while I was travelling around the locations where they took place.

What are you currently reading? 

At time of writing, I haven’t actually picked up The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon since the day before I left for Nepal. I wasn’t entirely into it. Coincidentally, one of the women in my group was reading it on the plane and she wasn’t that into it either, but we did both say we would see it through. .

What do you think you will read next?

I want to try and read something else off my March-April TBR before the end of the month. I am leaning towards Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie because I didn’t read that on my Jan-Feb TBR either… but I also have an ARC of Bookworm by Lucy Mangan, so I should probably read that soon… I don’t know. I’ll see what I’m in the mood for.

What are you reading this week?~ Emily

March 2018 Reading Wrap-up

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First of all, just a quick note to say that as of today, A Keyboard and an Open Mind will be a bit quite until mid-April. I am heading to Nepal on Monday, returning to Australia on April 14. While I’m away, I’m going to have only the most basic of Internet access, so I won’t be scheduling any book reviews! I’ll see you on the other side!

Past Month’s Reading:

Here’s my March-April TBR:

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While I only ticked three books off my official list, I did power through ten books all together.

The  things I read and reviewed were:

  • Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh (non-fiction/memoir/comic – 3 stars – not reviewed)
  • Deadly Sweet by Lola Dodge (urban fantasy – 4 stars – review)
  • Deep Storm by Lincoln Child (sci-fi/thriller – 2 stars – not reviewed)
  • Daddy Darkest by Ellery Kane (thriller – 3.5 stars – review)
  • Call Me Sasha by Geena Leigh (memoir – 3 stars – review)
  • A Kiss from Mr Fitzgerald by Natasha Lester (historical romance – 4 stars – review)
  • The Last Days of Night by Graham Moore (historical fiction – 5 stars – review)
  • The Sherlockian by Graham Moore (historical fiction – 3 stars – review)
  • Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (YA dystopia – 1 star – review)
  • Manhattan (Lovers and Liars #1) by Liz Meldon (erotic/fantasy – 3 stars – not reviewed)

Currently reading:

Physical book: The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon. This is not what I expected it to be but I’m hoping I’ll still enjoy it. It’s quite long but I have a four-hour train trip on Sunday, so I’m hoping to get through a decent amount of it then.

Audio book: I don’t have an audio book on the go right now. 

Planning to read next:

I am headed to Nepal on Monday! I have several ebooks earmarked for reading on the plane including Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery and A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. Part of me wants to say that I’ll spend my 30 hours of plane travel (about 15 hours each way) powering through all  my books, the other  part of me knows I will totally spend probably a fair chunk of it watching movies or playing games on the in-flight system.

As I noted above, this blog will be quiet over the next couple of weeks, but I’ll hopefully be back into blogging as soon as I return.

How is your reading going?

“Being human totally sucks most of the time. Videogames are the only thing that make life bearable.” // Review of “Ready Player One” by Ernest Cline

Title: Ready Player One
Author: Ernest Cline
Genre:  YA dystopia
Dates read: 24/03/18 – 27/03/18
Rating: ★

Review:

Spoilers Ahoy!

Consider yourself warned.

Ayeesh. According to GoodReads, this is only the third book I’ve rated one star, in my 7 years on the site. It’s the first time I’m reviewing a book I’ve given that rating. To be fair, I wasn’t quite sure if a 1 star rating was exactly right, since that means “I didn’t like it” (going by the GoodReads system, which is what I use) and there were parts that I thought were okay. But the more I thought about it, the more disappointed with the book I became. I will say that I think there is a reasonably okay YA dystopia somewhere in this book. It just got overshadowed by inconsistent world-building, dudebro characters and the author’s smugness.

Let’s start with the world-building. Giant VR that everyone is just always plugged into? Sounds cool! A competition based on the creator’s obsession with the 80s? That sounds fun! Except the descriptions of the world inside the OASIS were inconsistent. First we were told that Wade can’t touch or feel anything within the system, but then there are references to him doing exactly that. This could be explained by the fact that he upgrades his equipment throughout the book, but things like downing a drink made no sense even then.

The fact that so much of the action took place in a VR also meant the stakes weren’t very high. There would be a dramatic end-of-chapter cliffhanger, “X was dead.” Except, in most cases (to be fair, not all), it was just his avatar. Sure, he lost all his progress within the game, but they can always start again. The real world was shown just enough for us to supposedly understand why everyone would prefer to live in OASIS. But it was all tell and no show. Instead of Wade avoiding sinister characters who might mug or rape him, we just got a throwaway line about how you had to be careful outside because there were people who might mug or rape you. The idea of trailers stacked on top of one another does give a sense of trailer park environment in a high density situation, but it didn’t really make actual sense when I thought about it for more than two seconds.

The constant barrage of pop culture references actually didn’t add anything to the story. The narrator would name-drop a whole bunch of authors, or movies, and then do very little with them, if anything. In a lot of cases, it became unclear exactly who the target audience was, since people who understood the references already didn’t need the huge explanations of them, but those who did not would still be able to tell they were getting a condescending “Oh, you didn’t understand this one? Guess you’re not a real geek” explanation. Even when the references weren’t shoehorned in necessarily, the way they were reffered to made no sense. This was particularly true of song titles, which were always referenced in the format of “Song Title, sung by XXX and released by LABEL in 1985.” No one talks about music that way!

The main character, Wade Watts, is literally the white male geek who is overweight, doesn’t have any friends and lives in his mother’s basement. Just switch out basement for rusty abandoned car, or sparse rented room later on. He is the most knowledgable, super-geeky, super-good-at-video-games, super-clever at solving the competition puzzle geek who ever geeked. I literally don’t understand how he has time to go on in-game quests, work a full time job and still watch dozens of movies and TV episodes the way he says he does. He’s only had five years. It’s actually not that long when you consider how much media he has suppoesdly consumed.

He’s also the epitome of the Nice Guytm.  The “romance” in this book is fairly typical of the type that white guy nerds with no friends who live in their parents’ basements think they are deserving. Wade has a crush on a character called Art3mis, who he has followed from afar on her blog, and meets during the competition. They hang out together for a while, they even become close friends,  but when Wade tells her he’s in love with her, and she tells him to back off, he of course does the opposite of that. He sends her chat requests and emails, and even stands outside her avatar’s base blaring 80s music from a boom box. Of course, she falls for him in the end, too, because persistantly stalking someone until they change their mind is romantic, y’all. Actually, after the spoiler about Aech, I really hoped that Art3mis was the online girlfriend she referred to. But that was too much to hope for.

One of the “spoilers” that has me putting a spoiler warning on this post is that there is a diverse character. This SHOULDN’T BE A SPOILER. But it is, because for literally the first 325-odd pages of a 375 page book, we think she is a white male, because that’s what her avatar is. And while Wade of course questions Art3mis on whether she is actually a woman (because could a woman really have all that geeky knowledge? Girls are usually fake geeks, amirite?), the same never goes for Aech. It was also like Ernest Cline was told he needed diverse characters, so he just created a fat, black, gay woman and ticked all his diversity boxes with one character. Who was still shown and referred to as a white man thereafter. (Okay, caveat to this bit of the rant: it was actually a clever idea that a black woman would choose to create a white, male avatar and thus create her own privilege in possibly the only environment where you can do that… but this was never really explored, so why even bother?).

While I was reading Ready Player One, I couldn’t help making comparisons with Marie Lu’s Warcross, which I read at the end of 2017. The characters actually had personality and there were stakes outside of the Warcross game as well as within it. I  would recommend reading that one (or basically any other book with a similar concept) rather than this one.


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