December 2018 Reading Wrap-up

Happy new year, everyone!

I had wanted to get this post up in 2018 but I ran out of days. I managed to persuade myself that year-ends are social constructs and arbitrary anyway, so it doesn’t matter. The world keeps turning. Ha. 

Past Month’s Reading:

I still managed six books in December, depite end-of-year busy-ness. Here they are.
 

    1. Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson (Truly Devious #1) (YA thriller – 4 stars – review)
    2. The Midnight Watch by David Dyer (historical fiction – 4 stars – review)
    3. Olmec Obituary by L. J. M. Owen (Elizabeth Pimms #1) (mystery – 3 stars – review)
    4. Sixty Seconds by Jesse Blackadder (drama – 3.5 stars – review)
    5. Wundersmith by Jessica Townsend (Nevermoor #2) (MG fantasy – 3 stars – review)
    6. The Enchanted Sonata by Heather Dixon Wallwork (YA fantasy – 4 stars – review)

Favourite Bookish Photo:

Most of my photos in December were Christmas-related rather than bookish, but I thought this one turned out quite well. You can see all my bookish photos on my Instagram.

Currently Reading:

Physical book:  Nothing on the go right now. 

Ebook: The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi. This is an ARC and the official release is January 15. I’ve heard good things about it from people who’ve already read it and it sounds like something I’ll really enjoy. Here’s to getting the year off to a good start!

Audio book: I am about a third of the way through Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor. This is a lot longer than the audio books I usually listen to, so I’ll be working through this one for a while, I think.

Planning to read next:

I am planning to re-read The Bloodless Assassin by Celine Jeanjean and its sequel in preparation for the release of the third book in the series at the end of the month. Then I plan to make some headway through my ARCs. 

What are you reading? 🙂

November 2018 Reading Wrap-up

Past Month’s Reading

This has been a month of light and easy reads. Most of the month was taken up with uni work, so I didn’t read as much as I might have, but still got a few good titles in there. 

Here’s what I reviewed and read:

Favourite Bookish Photo: 

I didn’t post many photos this month, but this one of my haul of books by Canberra authors picked up at the library was my favourite. You can see all my bookish photos on my Instagram

Currently Reading:

Physical book: 

Truly Devious by Marueen Johnson. This is the first in a YA thriller series and while I think it suffers a bit for being protracted into a series rather than being one tightly-written volume, I have got more into it in the second half.  I will probably finish this tonight.

Wundersmith by Jessica Townsend. This has taken me quite a while to get through but I am on the downhill run with it. While I still love the characters and world, I feel this one is longer  than it needed to be.

Audio book: .

The Midnight Watch by David Dyer. This reminds me a little of the Station Eleven audio book in terms of narration and style. While it took me a while to get into,  I am now interested enough that I am putting it on every time I am driving alone. A good one for historical fiction fans, or those interested in a lesser-known aspect of the Titanic disaster.

Planning to read next:

.I have Sixty Seconds by Jesse Blackadder from the library, and this will be my final Australian Women Writer’s Challenge title for the year. After that, it’s a case of deciding whether to read library books, Christmas books, or some ARCs that I’m excited about.

What are you reading? 🙂

“Every story has four parts – the beginning, the middle, the almost ending, and the true ending.” // Review of “Legendary” by Stephanie Garber

Title: Legendary (Caraval #2)
Author: Stephanie Garber
Genre: 
Fantasy
Target audience: YA
Date Read: 22/10/18 – 2910/18
Rating: 
★★

Review: 

I honestly thought this would be a 4 star read at least, and for the most part it was. It was really only the last few chapters that disappointed me but they left me feeling unsatisfied enough that it brought me overall rating down.

This book picks up pretty much exactly where Caraval leaves off, and follows Tella, who is drawn into a second round of Caraval in order to uphold her end of a deal to find her missing mother. 

I really enjoyed the expansion of this world. We got to see the capital of the country the story takes place in, and I could really picture it. There was also an expansion of the mythology and history, and I really loved how this was woven into the plot, and some of the characters we got to meet as a result. 

Like in the first book, I actually found the game itself a bit dull. The suggestion is that Caraval is usually much more general and it is only the two games described in the book that are tailored to individuals (Scarlett and Tella respectively). Still, it feels a bit of a stretch that so many people would play when there can really only be one winner, since the clues won’t make sense to anyone else. 

I don’t want to give anything away so I’m going to be rather vague about what happened in the end that left me disappointed. It was mostly the revelation of Legend’s identity. It just… didn’t seem epic enough after all the build-up. Some readers will probably find the whole scenario quite romantic, but I just rolled my eyes. 

The very ending was still compelling enough that I want to see the series through, but I can’t say that it is an all-time favourite. 

“Possibilities are where the best stories begin.” // Review of “The Cottingley Secret” by Hazel Gaynor

Title: The Cottingley Secret
Author:
Hazel Gaynor
Audio book narrator:
Karen Cass, Billie Fullford-Brown
Genre:
General fiction/magical realism
Target audience: Adult
Date Read: 09/10/18 – 24/10/18
Rating:
★★★

Review:

I’ve been intersted in the Cottingley Fairies ever since I researched the case and turned into a drama project in my final year of high-school. So as soon as I saw the word Cottingley in this book’s title, I knew I wanted to read it.

This book tells the story of Olivia, visiting Ireland after the death of her grandfather, and the parallel story of Frances Griffiths, one of two cousins who historically took photographs of fairies in Cottingley, Yorkshire, in 1917 and caused a worldwide stir. As Olivia reads Frances’ memoir, she discovers they share more of a connection than just a belief in fairies.

I have to admit, while I liked Olivia for the most part, there were times when I wanted to shake her. I could tell from the first time he was mentioned that her fiance was obviously an awful person, and I wished she realised that sooner and was  a bit more decisive. I did like that she was a book binder! I know book binders! I really appreciated the  sensitive handling of Alzheimer’s disease through the character of Olivia’s Nanna, Martha. I thought that was very well done.

As I said, I was pretty familiar with the case of the Cottingley Fairies, but the chapters from Frances’ perspective did give extra insight into how a young girl might have felt thrust into the spotlight unwillingly in the way she and Elsie were.

I did appreciate the little hints of magic throughout both the historical and contemporary stories. While it is acknowledged that the photos were fakes, Hazel Gaynor leaves it up to the reader to decide whether or not fairies are real or whether they were a figment of a young girl’s imagination. The two stories are woven together particularly well towards the end, and I actually found myself getting a little bit teary in the final chapter. In a good way, of course.


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Book Review: “Unwritten” by Tara Gilboy

Title: Unwritten
Author: Tara Gilboy
Genre: Fantasy
Target age group: Middle-grade
Dates read: 02/10/18 – 10/10/18
Rating: ★★★

Review:

I think a lot of my issues with this book can be blamed on the fact that I probably don’t enjoy MG fiction  quite as much as I thought I did. I kind of had this idea that I love MG and YA equally, but between this and the last MG book I read, I think I have to re-evaluate that.

None of that is this book’s fault.

Unwritten follows Gracie, a character in an unpublished fantasy story whose family have taken her out into our world to protect her from death at the end of the story. But when a meeting with the story’s author results in the author being pulled into the story world, Gracie and her family and friends have to go back into their world and try to change the story for the better.

I think my main issue was that I never really felt pulled into the story. I always felt a little bit detached. And I am fairly certain that is to do with the issue mentioned prevously. I think that I were ten years old, I would love this story.

It does have a lot to love. I especially liked the way concept of the story pulling on its characters and how Gracie could never be sure if she was doing something because she wanted to or whether the story was pushing her to do it.

There was a good twist that I didn’t see coming, but it seemed so obvious in hindsight (also, I just hardly ever see twists coming).

The theme of forging your own destiny and not letting yourself be misguided did sometimes seem a bit heavy-handed, but I wasn’t sure if that was just me being overly critical. Maybe it wouldn’t seem so obvious to a MG reader? See what I mean about me and books for this age-group having issues at the moment?

Tl;dr, I think this book was a case of “it’s not you, it’s me” and probably your MG reader wil love it. It is defintely an interesting story that I haven’t seen before.


(Thank you to the author, publisher and Netgalley for a free copy of  this book in exchange for a review)

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“I can’t make the forest grow faster because I want it to. I can’t will it to grow. It takes time.” // Review of “Only Human” by Sylvain Neuvel

Title: Only Human (Themis Files #3)
Author:
Sylvain Neuvel
Audio book narrator:
Full cast
Genre:
Sci-fi
Target audience: Adult
Date Read: 11/09/18 – 29/09/18
Rating:
★★

Review:

I’ve got to be honest: this book wasn’t as good as the first two in the series. For quite a while, I thought I was going to give it only two stars but it picked up enough in the final third for me to bump that up to three. But only just.

This book is set another 9 years after Waking Gods. Earth is in disarray, as Rose, Vincent and Eva discover upon return from the alien planet, Esat Ekt.

The problem with this book, from my POV, is that it seemed that Neuvel had been leading up to a situation where the world was in disarray just so he could use it as a metaphor for the disarray present in the world today, and give us some good old lectures on it. And I got So BORED.

There was little tension in the flashbacks because we knew from the start that they had done something morally questionable on Esat Ekt, it was just a question of what. And so much of the present day stuff was just them talking obliquely about their time on Esat Ekt. Or lecturing the reader. As I said earlier, it does pick up in the last quarter. There is a bit more action, and some more interesting character development. But in some ways, that was too little too late. It’s always a shame when a series ending doesn’t live up to the previous instalments.


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Book Review: “Claw the System: Poems from the Cat Uprising” by Francesco Marciuliano

Title: Claw the System: Poems from the Cat Uprising
Author: Francesco Marciuliano
Genre: Humour
Target age group:
All
Dates read: 10/01/18
Rating: ★★★

Review:

So I’m not really a poetry person, but I had hoped that the humour of this book would overpower this.

Sometimes it did. There were a few poems that made me really laugh out loud and I read a couple of them out loud to my mum.

But some of them felt less like poems and more just like sentences where the writer had pressed the enter key in the middle of sentences and called it a poem. But maybe that’s just me not being a poetry person? I don’t know.

There are some very adorable photos of cats throughout the book. I was also showing those to my mum while I was reading.

I enjoy cats, and I would have one if my partner were not allergic and if we could afford it. But maybe I’m not quite enough of a cat person to fully enjoy this one.


Many thanks to the author, publishers and NetGalley for a free copy of this  book in exchange for an honest review.

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Book Review: “My Whole Truth” by Mischa Thrace

Title: My Whole Truth
Author: Mischa Thrace
Genre: Contemporary
Target age group:
YA
Dates read: 24/09/18 – 25/09/18
Rating: ★★★

Review:

This was a fairly good story let down by some rather repetitious storytelling and fairly flat character development.

When Seelie kills a man after he attacks her, she is forced into a trial by media (as well as school population), as well as coming up against the powoerful family of the man she killed. On top of that, her friendship group is changing and she is not sure how she will make it through.

And I’m going to say this, even though some might consider it a spoiler. Others may appreciate the warning. The attack on Seelie does involve her being raped. While this isn’t spoken about for quite a while in the book and I think it is sort of supposed to be a reveal, there are those who might find it triggering to suddenly get to that part of the book.

The thing that  bothered me the most in this book is that when it came to the characters and their relationships,  nothing ever changed. I know that is true to life, sometimes you just don’t get on with someone and that’s that. But in a book, I expect some kind of arc. This bothered me particularly when it came to the relationship between Seelie and her mother. I wouldn’t have minded whether they reconciled their differences a bit, or if Seelie had moved out in a huff, but it was just the same the whole book. There was also something that was revealed about one of her friends, and it never really came to much. I thought he was lucky that the rest of their group still considered him a friend at all, but instead, he kept expecting things of them.

I did really enjoy the relationship between Seelie and her best friend, Lyssa. Seelie’s crush on Lyssa wasn’t over-dramatic, but her fears about making a move and ruining the dynamic of their group rang true. I  also liked the relationship that burgeoned between Seelie and her lawyer, Cara. At first, Seelie isn’t sure what to expect of a lawyer in her 20s who has a matching pair of heels for every outfit, but they develop a bond which turns into friendship after the trial.

Plot-wise, I thought this was a realistic depiction of the aftermath of such an assault. Things like a condition of bail being that Seelie return to school once her injuries have healed, even though everyone at school calls her a murderer, seemed especially likely.  I did feel like there was some filler in there that could have been left out. The narration inside Seelie’s head often felt quite repetitive. Again, I’ve no doubt someone in Seelie’s situation would honestly have thoughts going around and around in circles, but it is not engaging for the reader.

Still, I think its valuable that these types of stories are beginning to be told more often, and I am grateful to Netgalley and the publishers for providing me with a copy of this one.


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“I love you, Tella.” “I know. I wouldn’t be here if you didn’t.” // Review of “Caraval” by Stephanie Garber

Title: Caraval (Caraval #1)
Author: Stephanie Garber
Genre: Fantasy
Target audience: Young adult
Date Read: 17/09/18 – 21/09/18
Rating: 
★★

Review:

I decided to pick up this book because I was in a circus mood for quite a while and this seemed an obvious choice. It wasn’t terrible, and I liked a lot of the ideas, but I ultimately felt everything was just a bit underdeveloped.

I’m going to start with the romance because that was probably the thing that stood out the most to me and not in a great way. Mostly because it only took place over five days, and I’m sorry, it’s not true love after a week. I’m not saying you can’t be attracted to someone in that time, but from Julien’s perspective, particularly, it wasn’t enugh time for such strong feelings to develop. And from Scarlett’s perspective, I didn’t buy that he was as important to her as her beloved sister after only a few nights.

Speaking of the characters in more general terms, I didn’t feel like they had a whole lot of personality. I will say I did like Scarlett’s development from doormat to… well, I won’t say she became badass, but she definitely became less doormat-y and grew into her own.

The plot and world-building had similar issues. I just wished everything was a bit… more. A bit more magic, a bit more exploration of the island, a bit more explanation of who Legend was and how and why Caraval was the way it was… There was a line in the last third that said something along the lines of “Scarlett had been collecting buttons since she’d been here” and my first response was “… had she?” Because nothing was memorable.

I also had some issues with the reveals in the final chapter. I know we were supposed to think the character orchestrating everything was terribly clever, but… it seemed far-fetched, and honestly made this character seem like a bit of a psycopath to put Scarlett through it all?

Having said all of that! I actually am still intrigued enough by this world that I am interested in reading the sequel. So make of that what you will.


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#StepBoldly #aww2018 “The point is—as far as the Society is concerned—if you are not honest, and determined, and brave, then it doesn’t matter how talented you are.” // Review of “Nevermoor: the Trials of Morrigan Crow” by Jessica Townsend

Title: Nevermoor: the Trials of Morrigan Crow (Nevermoor #1)
Author: Jessica Townsend
Genre: Fantasy
Target audience: Middle-grade
Date Read: 11/09/18 – 17/09/18
Rating: 
★★★

Review:

Well, this was just delightful. I knew that Nevermoor won a whole slew of awards when it came out, but all the “it’s the next Harry Potter” proclamations still made me wary. But actually, I think this is one time when those comparisons are actually justified. 

Nevermoor is a whimsical, charming world where inhabitants ride the Brolly Rail (a version of London’s Tube where riders hook onto the system with the handles of their umbrellas) and it is perfectly normal for a hotel housekeeper to be a giant cat. The descriptions of Christmas were so lovely that I was able to ignore the fact that Christmas has no reason to exist in a fantasy land. Everything was just a little bit fairytale. 

The characters also all had a fairytale quality about them. There was a bit of David Tennant’s 10th Doctor in Jupiter North, and a bit of Alice in Morrigan Crow. But as well as the whimsy there’s also a real depth to them. 

I do admit the book felt a little long at times, but I would also be hard-pressed to tell you which parts I would cut out. It is a bit like the fourth Harry Potter book in that there was training, then an event, then training for the next event, then the next event happens… but I always wanted to know what happened next. And I think because the characters were engaging and the writing was so lovely, I was able to forgive it. The only thing I worry about is that the size of the book may be intimidating to readers of the target age. But I think any avid reader will be hooked immediately and push through regardless.


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

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