#AWW2018 // Book Review: “Wundersmith” by Jessica Townsend

Title: Wundersmith: the Calling of Morrigan Crow (Nevermoor #2)
Author: Jessica Townsend
Genre: Fantasy
Target audience: MG/early YA
Date Read: 10/11/18 – 21/12/18
Rating:
★★

Review:

For a while I thought this book was only going to be a 2-star read for me and I was SO DISAPPOINTED after how much I loved the first book. Fortunately, it picked up enough in the second half for me to bump it up to “I liked it” level, even if it wasn’t quite as good as the first.

Townsend expands on the world of Nevermoor that she established in the first book. Nevermoor really is a wonderful, whimsical fantasy world. We meet more interesting characters, while the core ffavourites from the previous ones are still around.

While a few interesting things happen in the first half of the book, I didn’t feel it really got going until the  second half… this may have been because this was when I sat down to give it my undivided attention, rather than reading in bits and pieces, which is how I read the first 250-odd pages. So that could also have contributed. There were a few challenge items I had to finish as well as some ARCs and library bookks, so as a book that I owned, I did keep putting it aside. I did have a theory about one of the main plotlines which turned out to be correct and was a little bit predictable.

Still, I am giving these books to my 12-year-old niece for Christmas and I expect that the issues I had with this book are not ones that she will have. And it’s cetainly not enough to put me off the series. I’ll be pre-ordering the next one along with everyone else.


This review is part of my 2018 Australian Women Writers Challenge. Click here for more information.

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#aww2018 “The boy steps into the day like he owns it.” // Review of “Sixty Seconds” by Jesse Blackadder

Title: Sixty Seconds
Author: Jesse Blackadder
Genre: Contemporary drama
Target audience: Adult
Date Read: 09/12/18 – 13/12/18
Rating:
★★☆

Review:

knew I wanted to read this book from the moment I read an interview with Jesse Blackadder around the time of its release. This book, dealing with the aftermath of a backyard drowning, is the author’s creative response to exactly that tragedy occurring in her own family when she was twelve. 

I think my main reason for not rating it higher is that I just couldn’t necessarily get into the characters, which I think is partly due to some stylistic decisions. There are three different POVs, Finn’s in third person, Jarrah’s in first person, and Bridget’s in second person… the second person in particular took quite a while to get used to. It’s a difficult POV to pull off, and I am sure I am not the only one who kept thinking “No, it’s not me doing these things.” But after  a while, I did get more used to it. Jarrah was the POV character I felt the closest to, I think because the first person narration really worked for his character and it made me feel closer to him than either of the other characters. There were actually some side characters I had stronger reactions to than the main ones.

The writing and pacing in this book is well done and quite tight. However, I did find that sometimes an event was glossed over, and we only got to see a character’s  quick reflection on it afterwards, rather than reading the event itself. I think some of the reason I wasn’t quite able to get into this one is because I don’t read a lot of straight contemporary stories. I read things set in the modern day, but they’re usually a romance or a thriller or some such. This focus on the everyday lives of people, even in the aftermath of something huge, is not quite my thing.


This review is part of my 2018 Australian Women Writers Challenge. Click here for more information.

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#AWW2018 // Book Review: “Olmec Obituary” by L. J. M. Owen

Title: Olmec Obituary
Author:
L. J. M. Owen
Genre: Mystery
Target audience: Adult
Date Read: 2/12/18 – 7/12/18
Rating:
★★

Review:

I have to admit my main reason for wanting to read this book was because it contained a fictionalised version of my own workplace. And reading those sections was pretty awesome because I was all like, “Hee! I understand that reference!” But once that novelty wore off, I found myself a bit flummoxed by how much the author was trying to squeeze into one book.

Between complicated family dynamics, a new job for the main character, shady academic behaviour and flashbacks to the figures in the historical mystery, there was a lot to take in. I’m not entirely sure it worked.

Sometimes the historical scenes felt a bit more like filler. It was interesting to see a bit about the lives of those whose skeletons Elizabeth was analysing, but at the same time, that wasn’t something Elizabeth would ever be able to know from her work, so there was no real connection between the two timelines.

I also felt that a lot of the character development felt forced rather than natural. Someone would be generally coming across as a decent person, then they would out-of-the-blue say something rude or mean for what seemed like no other reason than to establish them as an adversary.

Having said that, overall, the writing style is quite readable and accessible. There were some info dumps regarding ancient history, archaeology and linguistics, but they were interesting enough that they didn’t feel too info-dumpy. I am always a bit hesitant about things like eidetic memory and dreams to help a character solve a mystery (both things that happen in this book) – they both make it a bit too easy in my opinion, but that is a matter of personal preference.

At this stage, I don’t feel like I’m going to go on to the subsequent books in the series, though I haven’t entirely written them off yet. I just don’t think it’s the kind of thing where I can read all of it back to back.


This review is part of my 2018 Australian Women Writers Challenge. Click here for more information.

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#AWW2018 // Book Review: “Girl Reporter” by Tansy Rayner Roberts

Title: Girl Reporter
Author:
 Tansy Rayner Roberts
Genre: Sci-fi (superheroes)
Intended audience: New adult
Date Read: 22/11/18 – 25/11/18
Rating:
★★

Review:

I was really torn about what to rate this. There are some really well done sections, but I was kind of put off by a main character who didn’t take anything seriously, so it made it hard to feel like the stakes were ever very high. This was the same issue I had with The Martian: he’s stuck on a different planet and may well never get home and he’s making jokes about Aquaman and disco music.

This book did have some really good conversations about representation in media and whose voices should be privileged when it comes to particular stories. It handles racial tensions, sexuality crises and disability awareness really well.

I didn’t mind Friday’s quirkiness at first, in fact, I quoted a few lines in my GoodReads status updates that amused me a lot. But when it kept up, it got a bit old. There was also no build-up to the romance – literally the superhero she has been crushing on says “Hey, we’re going to be here a while, wanna make out?” and then they did. And then they were a couple. I need a bit of build-up!

The plot is a bit of a satire of the superhero genre, but I think the fact that I am not that into superhero books to begin with (I know, I know, I should just stop reading them if that is the case. I know, and yet I keep doing it!) made it all feel a little bit too OTT.

All in all, while this was… fine, I guess, I much prefer Roberts’ Fake Geek Girl series. The characters and world-building in that series just worked better for me.


This review is part of my 2018 Australian Women Writers Challenge. Click here for more information.

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#LoveOzYA #aww2018 “I’m just considering how I can be an evil genius at the same time as being so very stupid.” // Review of “All Aces” by Ellie Marney

Title: All Aces (Circus Hearts #3)
Author:
Ellie Marney
Genre: Contemporary/romance/crime
Target audience: YA
Date Read: 06/11/18 – 09/11/18
Rating:
★★

Review:

I can’t really explain why I wasn’t as into this final installment of Circus Hearts as I was the first two. I think it is partly because I am coming out on the other side of my really enthusiastic desire for circus and carnival books. I crammed a lot of them into the last couple of months and I have may have finally worn myself thin on them.

There is still plenty that I liked in this one. I really enjoyed the descriptions of Zep Deal’s performances. I’ve never seen a cardsharp perform before but I trotted off to YouTube after finishing this to find something akin to what is described in the book because it sounded amazing.

Ren, our narrator, is a bit different to the narrators of the previous two books. She’s more awkward, which I enjoyed, and single-minded, which leads to trouble (of the good variety, of course). I really felt for her in the scenes with her family where she felt torn between family obligation and her love of the circus.

I guess one of the things was I just didn’t get an immediate sense of the chemistry between Ren and Zep the way I did with the couples in the previous two books. But I did love the scene where Zep demonstrates his pickpocket abilities while distracting Ren with his proximity, and also, Ellie Marney continues to be the queen of the steamy make-out scene.

As you can see, there is plenty still to like, and I think it’s more to do with me than the book that I wasn’t more into it. If you are in the mood for YA contemporary, this is definitely a series I recommend. Click to read my reviews of books one and two, which were five and four star reads for me respectively. 


(Thanks to Ellie Marney for including me in her review crew and providing me with a free copy of All Aces in exchange for a review)

#AWW2018 // Book Review: “Ruby Moonlight by” by Ali Cobby Eckermann

Title: Ruby Moonlight
Author:
  Ali Cobby Eckermann
Genre: Historical fiction/verse
Target audience: Adult
Date Read: 30/10/18
Rating:

Review:

Every time I read a book of poetry, I start my review with “so I don’t read a lot of poetry…” and I want to give that disclaimer again. Going by the other reviews of this book, people who read poetry regularly liked it a lot more than I do, so their reviews probably have more standing than mine. But I still wanted to express my thoughts.

For a start, at 70 pages, this is a very short book, and the poems rarely take up the whole page. I found it hard to truly connect to the characters as there wasn’t a huge amount of detail. I would have liked to see more of Ruby’s interaction with the spirit that was watching over her, and more of a development of the relationship between Ruby and Jack. There were also sections where I wasn’t entirely sure whose side I was supposed to be on, or how I should feel, and I was left feeling conflicted and unsatisfied.

And… well, this is possibly the controversial bit. It didn’t feel like poetry? It just felt like the author had written sentences and then added random line breaks. Like I said, I don’t read a lot of it, but I always felt there should be a bit more to it than that. I tried reading parts out loud to try to grasp the flow but even then I didn’t really get it. Maybe I just don’t get it overall?


This review is part of my 2018 Australian Women Writers Challenge. Click here for more information.

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#AWW2018 // Book Review: “Terra Nullius” by Claire G. Coleman

Title: Terra Nullius
Author:
Claire G. Coleman
Genre: SF (Dystopia)
Target audience: Adult
Date Read: 22/09/18 – 29/10/18
Rating:
★★★

Review:

I have to start this review by saying if Terra Nullius gets recommended to you as a particular type of book, and you read the first few chapters and think “This is not what I was told it would be”, just keep going. About a third of the way through, there is a shift in the storytelling, and after that, everything changes, even though nothing has actually changed. If that makes sense.

It’s hard to say too much without giving away vital spoilers, but I will try.

This story is told from multiple perspectives.  At first, they are disparate, but as the story goes on, they begin to converge until the majority of characters are present at the climax.

The characters are all very well constructed. I sympathised with some, questioned others and outright hated a few more. And the thing is, people like these characters have existed, and continue to exist. This might be science-fiction, but it is relevant to Australia’s history, and its future. The social commentary is always underlying, never exactly outright, but it is clear the comment Coleman is making on our past and future.

The writing style may feel a little dry to some, but I thought it worked for  the story being told. At first I was a little worried it will be “literary” than I usually like (in quotes because I am always iffy about that word to describe a particular writing style but I never know what to replace it with) but once I got into it, that didn’t bother me.


This review is part of my 2018 Australian Women Writers Challenge. Click here for more information.

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#LoveOzYA #AWW2018 // Book Review: “All Fall Down” by Ellie Marney

Title: All Fall Down (Circus Hearts #2)
Author:
Ellie Marney
Genre: Contemporary/romance/crime
Target audience: YA
Date Read: 29/09/18 – 01/10/18
Rating:
★★★

Review:

After reading the first book in this series last month, I was really excited to find out more about the characters in this universe. I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as the previous book, but it was still a really enjoyable read.

All Fall Down centres on Fleur Klatsch, the daughter of the proprietor  of the Klatsch Karnival. After a streak of accidents, one of which finds her father in hospital, she finds herself trying to run the show and keep it all together. She is reunited with childhood friend Marco, who comes in as a PA to help.

I really loved getting to know Fleur in this installment. I wasa a bit wary of her in the first book because I thought she was just going to be a typical “mean girl” type, but there is much more to her than that. As Sorcha says in this book, she did the wrong thing for the right reasons.

I really loved Marco! I don’t know, he was just caring and sweet and really put together with his paisley waistcoats. And he has a really good job and a good head on his shoulders. I totally undestood his reasons for leaving the circus, but I also appreciated Fleur’s hurt and sense of abandoment. The only thing that bothered me a bit about Marco was that he called Fleur “Petal”, which I got was a reference to her name meaning flower, and in the context it was a childhood nickname. But I associate it with “Settle, petal” and my niece calling my mum “Petal” when she’s being cheeky and other condescending things, so it did jar me a bit when he called her that in the middle of an otherwise serious conversation. But I can let it go.

While the sabotage that begins in the first book continues here and the characters are investigating it, I felt that not a huge amount happened in the first half. But both the romance and the investigation took off about the second half, and the climax had me flying through the pages.

I also really appreciate how much research Ellie Marney puts into her stories. I ended up going and googling another circus after a mention of a disaster that took place there in the 50s. And even just how much detail there is in the general circus atmosphere. It’s pretty great.


(I am  grateful to Ellie Marney for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.)

This review is part of my 2018 Australian Women Writers Challenge. Click here for more information.

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#aww2018 #LoveOzYA “You thought your community was gone? Think again, babe.” // Review of “White Night” by Ellie Marney

Title: White Night
Author: Ellie Marney
Genre: Contemporary/romance
Target audience: YA
Date Read: 05/09/18 – 10/09/18
Rating:
★★★☆

Review:

This book  totally found its way under my skin. I was thinking about it all the time when I wasn’t reading, and I had ideas about where the story was going and was supremely worried for the characters.

Bo has a lot on his mind, between footy, the end of high school and crisis in his family that his parents aren’t talking about. When Rory, a girl from the local off-the-grid commune, begins attending his high school and he finds himself drawn into her way of life.

One thing I’ve noticed since I’ve started reading Ellie Marney’s books this year is that she has the ability to really capture the Australian experience of being a young adult. These aren’t just teenagers that could be lifted out of her book and transplanted somewhere else. These are very definitely Australian teenagers. This is an Australian small town. There’s just something about the descriptions and the way the characters speak that wouldn’t work anywhere else.

I loved Bo’s character development and Rory’s. Their romance is affected by things like Rory not having access to a phone, and it was interesting to see that explored. Bo’s wider friendship circle is also great; everyone felt real. Sprog in particular has a great arc that’s central to the plot.

The off-the-grid community was also well-written. I liked that it wasn’t presented as a crazy cult from the get-go, and that the majority of people living there genuinely wanted to do something good for the world. A sense of unease begins to develop and by the last fifty pages, I couldn’t have put the book down even if I had wanted to. The only reason I knocked off half a star was because I did feel that sometimes the speeches given by Ray, the sort-of-head of the commune, were often a bit info-dumpy. They served a purpose but I did find myself skimming them a bit.


This review is part of my 2018 Australian Women Writers Challenge. Click here for more information.

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#LoveOzYA #AWW2018 “So in this situation, am I the right hand or the left hand?” “My dear, you are the ball.” // Review of “All the Little Bones” by Ellie Marney

Title: All the Little Bones (Circus Hearts #1)
Author:
Ellie Marney
Genre: Contemporary/romance/crime
Target audience: YA
Date Read: 28/08/18 – 29/08/18
Rating:
★★★★

Review:

I’ve stopped opening reviews with “I don’t read a lot of YA contemporary but…” because I realised that’s not true anymore. What is still true is that I probably lean away from YA contemporaries that are as heavy on the romance as this one, but as you can see from my rating, it didn’t bother me in this case.

Trapeze artist Sorsha and apprentice strongman Colm are on the run from their family-run circus up north after an act of self defence results in a man’s death. Uneasily, they join another circus troupe, where they must navigate the social structures already in place and their growing feelings for each other, all while trying to keep their heads down so the police don’t come knocking.

I loved the performance atmosphere of Klatch’s Karnival, where Sorsha and Colm end up. For a start, the descriptions of the various routines and the costumes, and the set-up were all wonderful. I’m no full-time circus performer but I do perform in amateur musical theatre in my spare time, and there was so much that rang completely true to me. One of my favourite parts was a scene where Sorsha and her roommate Ren have a very philosophical, metaphorical conversation about envelopes, which then turns into a run of bad jokes about envelopes, which then results in laughing fits, and then a second wind of laughing fits over how you’re laughing at such bad jokes. This is me and my theatre friends after a week of dress rehearsals and three opening performances in 36 hours.

Speaking of Ren, I really enjoyed the diverse cast of circus cast and crew, though Ren was a particular favourite. She is Indonesian and there is lots of Indonesian language in the text. I also really liked the way she and Sorsha became fast friends. I was a bit worried because one of the first characters Sorsha meets is Fleur, the daughter of the circus proprietor, and I was getting a Mean Girls vibe from her, which made me a bit wary. Fortunately, though, Fleur is also fleshed out and has her reasons for being the way she is, and we’re getting a whole second book in the series focused on her, which I’m excited for!

Plot-wise, the romance probably happened a bit faster than I would generally like (I am a big fan of the old slow-burn, and when I say slow-burn, I mean, like, five books of will-they-won’t-they :P) but this is not insta-love either because the characters have actually known each other quite some time, and this is where they acknowledge the attraction that has been building. Also, I get super awkward when reading anything romantic that goes beyond a bit of kissing (probably the reason I don’t read a whole lot of romance) but this was just the right amount of sexy and I enjoyed it a lot.

When it comes to the non-romantic aspects, just know that there were certain moments when I was muttering “oh no, oh no!” under my breath on the bus on the way to work. The pace is fast and I was always eager to see what happened next. I can’t wait to see what happens in Book 2!


(I am immensely grateful to Ellie Marney for providing me with a free, early copy of this book via a giveaway. This book releases September 1, 2018.)

This review is part of my 2018 Australian Women Writers Challenge. Click here for more information.

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