#AWW2021 #LoveOzYA Book Review – “Sky On Fire” by Jesse Greyson

Title: Sky On Fire
Author: Jesse Greyson
Genre: Dystopia
Intended audience: YA
Date Read: 20/05/2021 – 25/05/2021


Ahh. I was in the mood for a good dystopia and this definitely hit the spot in a lot of ways.

I loved that this was set in a specifically Australian climate-ravaged dystopia. Greyson is obviously drawing on her own knowledge of the Gold Coast when her characters navigate the city.

The world-building was strong enough to carry the story but didn’t get bogged down in details. It told me what I needed to know (solar flares, mutations) but left the rest to my imagination.

I also thought the central characters were really well done – they are all quite distinct and I never had any trouble knowing who was who.

Having said that, I was a little bit bothered that the only character who was either fat or disabled was the villain. While the manipulative, abusive mother was incredibly well-written, and I had genuine angry reactions to some of her actions, but there is a wider stereotype of disabled people as villains, and this plays into that.

Where the book started to fall down for me was in the plotting. I’m willing to give the benefit of the doubt and wonder if I just missed a sentence here or there that would have explained things, but as it was, there were a few plot inconsistencies that bothered me. At one stage, Dante had an hour to obtain another dose of insulin for his mother, but then spent the day exploring. Earlier in the book, Dante trades with a gang for insulin, because the gang had already hit up the MegaPharm. But then later in the book, the main characters raid the MegaPharm for more. It seemed unlikely to me that in the events of the book, the pharmacy would have been able to restock.

Having said all of that, the book had a strong hopeful ending that I really liked. A book’s ending can make or break it for me, and in this case, it made it.

This review is part of my 2021 Australian Women Writers Challenge. Click here for more information.

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#AWW2021 #LoveOzYA“We begin as we end; we end as we begin. It’s the middle we must hold onto ” // Review of “The Vanishing Deep” by Astrid Scholte

Title: The Vanishing Deep
Author: Astrid Sholte
Genre: Dystopia
Intended audience: YA
Date Read: 27/04/2021 – 02/05/2021


Please be warned, this review may be a bit spoilery at the end.

Last year, I tried reading Astrid Scholte’s Four Dead Queens but decided to DNF it. At the time I though it was a case of “it’s not you, it’s me”, but now I’m thinking maybe me and Astrid Scholte’s writing just don’t mix.

Some of it is personal preference, like the dual first person narratives, something I am never a fan of. At first, I didn’t even realise I’d switched to another character’s POV and was very confused.

I never particularly warmed to the two main characters, which made it really hard to be invested in the book at all. I really didn’t care for their romance, which I was supposed to believe took place in a single 24-hour period. I can understand being attracted to someone immediately, but the whole “I can’t get her out of my head” and “she’s so beautiful”… eh.

I especially had trouble with Lor, his one bit of angst got so repetitive! And the twist about him at the end wasn’t a surprise to him, so it felt odd that everything had been told to me in just such a fashion to not point me in that direction.

At least with Tempest, I could at least admire her devotion to her sister and family, even if I didn’t really like her.

The other problem I had was the world-building. None of it really made much sense (this was the same issue I had with Four Dead Queens). I could buy that the resurrected person was linked to their Warden via the Warden’s heartbeat, but given that the whole issue was the dead person’s heart was weakened and they could only be revived once, it didn’t make any sense that just stopping the Warden’s heartbeat instead would mean that the resurrected person could go on living after their twenty-four hours. And I had other issues, too, but that was the main one.

On top of all this, the ending felt quite flat with a unimpressive villain who disappeared without a word at the end. I wanted to really like this one but there were too many things that didn’t work for me.

This review is part of my 2021 Australian Women Writers Challenge. Click here for more information.

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“Without the threat of suffering, we can’t experience true joy.” // Review of “Scythe” by Neal Shusterman

Title: Scythe (Arc of a Scythe #1)
Neal Shusterman
Genre: Dystopia
Target audience: YA
Date Read: 26/03/20 – 01/04/20


Hmmm…. I don’t actually know where to start with this book. I liked it! Don’t get me wrong. I just… wasn’t entirely convinced by the world it was set in, which meant I struggled to believe why some of the events would take place.

Just a note that this review will probably be kind of spoilery because I’m picking apart a few things. So read on at your own risk.

One of my main qualms with the story was the idea that humanity has given its power over to an all-knowing AI called The Thunderhead, which came into being when the cloud developed self-awareness. The narration kept mentioning how Thunderhead was the sum of all human knowledge and that humanity now “knew all there was to know” and that “there was nothing left to learn” and I just… how did they know that? Did the Thunderhead tell them so and they just accepted it?

And while was acknowledged that perfect lives with no threats to existence lead to lives of complacency and drudgery, no one ever felt like they ought to do anything about it, which I found a bit frustrating.

I never really felt attached to either of the main characters. They had no chemistry and their romance felt like an afterthought… apart form an initial spark of attraction, I never felt like there was much chemistry. To be honest, I spent most of the book wishing I was reading about Scythe Faraday and Scythe Curie at the very beginning of the post-mortality age. That would have interested me a lot more. Even Goddard, who was a pretty 2D villain, would have been interesting to see in the early stages of his career as a Scythe.

Sometimes the pacing was odd and what should have been important events, such as Citra’s name being cleared of murder, happened off-screen. I’m not necessarily saying the book should have been longer; it’s already 450 pages. But the focus felt like it was sometimes on the wrong thing.

Phew. Okay. Yes, so far this reads more like a 2 star review than a 3.5… so why the higher rating? Well, I really did love Faraday and Curie, and the more I found about them, the more I liked them. Flouting the Scythe Commandments in the way they did and the ramifications got me quite invested in their story. As I said, that’s what I have would have liked to have read, more so than Citra and Rowan’s… training montage? (Also I will admit I am sucker for a good forbidden romance and I felt there was more to this one than to Citra and Rowan’s).

And regardless of how I felt about the plot, there is no doubt that Neal Shusterman can write. I found this when I read another of his YA dystopias, Unwind, in 2016. There’s a scene in that book that I can still imagine vividly, despite the years and the many books that have passed. That doesn’t happen to me very often.

And Scythe was similar. There’s a visceral quality to the descriptions. You really feel like you’re there. And I was in that strange place I sometimes end up in with books where I wasn’t that interested in the characters but I still wanted to know how everything turned out. The book has a really strong ending. I know this is a trilogy but it almost stands on its own, just as Unwind did, despite being first in a series.

Will I continue with the series? Haven’t decided yet. I have put a reserve on my library’s copy of the audio book, but it’s not available for three months. By then I might not be so worried, but it’s on my list for now. It is possible that now that the first book has set everything up and Citra and Rowan have completed their training, the second and third books will really get going and I will find them more engaging. That’s something I’ll definitely bear in mind.

P. S. Since I mentioned it so much, here’s my review of Unwind from 2016.

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

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


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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#WWW Wednesday – August 15, 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.


I didn’t participate in WWW Wednesday last week because I didn’t feel like much had changed in my reading  from the week previous. Plus I’m currently in the midst of a uni course, so I decided that for the next month or so, I need to alternate my Wednesday blog posts between my two blogs, rather than doing both.

So what have I been up to in the last fortnight?

What have you recently finished reading?

I finished Loch of the Dead by Oscar de Muriel, the fourth in the Frey & McGray series and all there is of this series for now. I actually DNFed this about halfway through on audio but after a few days I realised I still wanted to know what happened, so I got hold of the paperback from the library. I’m glad I did finish it as it ended up being really addictive, if a little confusing.

I also finished  Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel on audio. This one took me a long time to warm to but at some in the second half I suddenly realised “Oh, I am actually invested in this, huh.” There’s not much plot, but it made me ponder on life’s big questions a lot. Not many books make me do that. I reviewed it here.

Then there was Legion by Brandon Sanderson, which I had read back in 2014 but forgotten the details of. It’s a really intriguing premise – that genius Steven Leeds cannot contain all the knowledge in his brain so it off-shoots into self-aware hallucinations that help him do things.  I actually reviewed this back in 2014 so it was interesting writing a new review and seeing how my feelings changed. That’ll be up on Friday.

And last but not least, just this evening I finished Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel, which I recommend listening to if you are an audio book person because it takes the form of interviews and recordings. I really enjoyed this. It explores a lot of the geo-political situation that proof of ultra-intelligent alien life would create. And the unnamed interviewer is played by Andy Secombe, who also read the Frey and McGrey books, so it was interesting hearing him take on a quite different character.

What are you currently reading?

I am trying to finish Blackwing by Ed McDonald so I can give it back to my friend who loaned it to me. The second book is out now so he wants to re-read the first. It’s got a really intriguing plot, but there’s something about the pacing or maybe it’s the anti-hero main character. I just can’t get through much of it at once.

I also picked up The Fandom by Anna Day from the library, which I’ve had on my TBR since it came out. I have a feeling this is going to be one of those YA books where I get to the end and shake it and wish it had lived up to its potential. The characters only paid £10 for their photo-op at ComicCon, which makes me think the author doesn’t quite know enough about her subject matter. I also don’t think it’s going to be cleverly subversive like I was hoping. But I could be completely wrong.

What do you think you will read next?

I’ve  downloaded Waking Gods by Sylvain Neuvel and while I haven’t started it at time of writing, I am on the late shift at work tonight and will begin it while driving home.

legionskindeepcoverI also have White Night by Ellie Marney from the library, and my hold on Skin Deep, the sequel to Legion, came in today and I will pick it up tomorrow. So one of those will definitely be next.

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.


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

“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: ★


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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“You have ink in your blood, boy, and no help for it.” // Review of “Ink and Bone” by Rachel Caine

Title: Ink and Bone (The Great Library #1)
Author: Rachel Caine
Genre: YA/alternate history/fantasy
Date Read: 11/16/2016 – 16/06/2016
Rating: ★★★★☆


inkandbonecoverEveryone knows I love a good alternate history. This one also brings in elements of dystopia, steampunk and fantasy, blended beautifully into a great, character-driven series opener.

In a world where ownership of original books is illegal and all knowledge is controlled the Great Library of Alexandria and its daughter libraries across the world, Jess Brightwell is the son of a book smuggler, running illegal books across town to weathy collectors. When he is offered a place to study at the Library, his father insists he take it, but as Jess studies and works towards a coveted position somewhere in the Library, he starts to learn that perhaps this ancient institution should not be held in such high regard.

While some of the world-building in this book took me a little while to get my head around, I took to Jess pretty much instantly, and the other characters as they were introduced. It’s no easy task having a large ensemble of characters as this book does (Jess has several classmates, and at least six or seven of them are focused on). However, these characters each felt like a different, three-dimensional person. Their proctor, Scholar Wolfe, probably became my favourite, as it was revealed that underneath the harsh exterior was a man trying to atone for past sins and do what he thought was right.

Amongst the large cast, we have different ethnicities represented, as well as LGBTQI*relationships. Oh, and there is NO LOVE TRIANGLE! AT ALL! I wish this wasn’t such a novelty in YA, but it really is. There are romances and relationships going on, but there is no situation where two characters are obsessed with the same third character, and both think they are entitled to him/her.

As I said above, some of the world-building is a little hard to follow, but I think by about halfway through I had mostly grasped how the Library ran things and how technology worked in this world. While not all of it entirely made sense to me, I was happy to just roll with things.

The second book in this series comes out sometime in July, and I am very excited that I won’t have to wait too long to join this world again.

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