#WWW Wednesday – 03 May, 2017

Hello everyone! Apologies for my absence over the last couple of weeks. I had a 4000 word paper due a couple of days ago, which pretty much consumed my life for the time I was writing it. It turned out to be harder than I expected to write, but I got there in the end. It wasn’t my best work, but I’m reasonably confident I won’t fail the course, since I have done reasonably okay on the assignments worth the other 50% of my grade. And if I do fail, I will be disappointed for a bit, then shrug it off and do the course again next time it is offered (it’s a core one for my specialisation, so I do need to tick it off somewhere).

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You may notice that this post only features WWW Wednesday. That’s because I’ve set up a new blog for my writing. You may have already seen the post I wrote on Monday announcing this, or you may have seen my Facebook post. If not, you can read my first WIPpet Wednesday post in the new digs here.

So now 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 The Asp of Ascension by B. R. Meyers and posted my review here. I enjoyed the mystery and felt it had a lot of potential, but there were a few too many things that didn’t work for me, so it only got three stars.

After that, I read The Abyss Surrounds Us and its sequel, The Edge of the Abyss, both by Emily Skrutskie. My review of the first one is here, and the second one will go up this Friday.

I finally got back to the Series of Unfortunate Events for a while and read The Austere Academy by Lemony Snicket. It was nice to see the Baudelaires hanging out with some kids their own age, even if it didn’t last very long.

Last but not least, my review of The Secret Science of Magic by Melissa Keil was also posted since my last WWW post; you may remember me gushing about it. Click here to read the review.

What are you currently reading?

After seeing a really incredible stage production of it last week, and after discovering that I hadn’t donated my copy, I am trying to read  Dracula by Bram Stoker. Mostly to compare it with the performance, because I’m intrigued as to how much of the eroticism and repressed sexuality that seems to be in every adaptation was actually in the original text.

I know I’ve said in the past that I was swearing off vampires but Dracula doesn’t count. It’s modern vampires that I don’t like. The ones with ~feelings~ and who are all angsty about their nature. Unapologetically evil vampires I am still okay with.

What do you think you’ll read next?

I think I will try Poison Study by Maria  V. Snyder next. I own three of the books in this series and the four of them are on my April – June TBR. It’ll be good to knock a few off there, as well as being able to count them towards my Beat the Backlist challenge. Also everyone I know who has read these books has really loved them. And the covers are really stunning.

What are you reading this week? 🙂

~ Emily

“But perhaps I have enough time to figure out a few mysteries of my own” // Review of “The Secret Science of Magic” by Melissa Keil

Title: The Secret Science of Magic
Author: Melissa Keil
Genre: contemporary YA
Date Read: 13/04/2017 – 17/04/2017
Rating: ★★★★☆

Review:

Melissa Keil would honestly have to try pretty hard to disappoint me. I may not read much contemporary YA, but I will pick up anything she writes. This is her most recent book, released at the beginning of April, and it does not disappoint.

Sophia is a certifiable genius, but she can’t always read other people correctly and the mysteries of what the future may hold are giving her panic attacks. Joshua is obsessed with magic, and has harboured a crush on Sophia since Year 7. But how do you romance a genius when you’re barely scraping by?

Melissa Keil writes authentically geeky characters that I’ve always felt were “my people”. I think, though, that this was the book where I felt this the strongest. On top of that was the racial diversity that was never presented as a “thing”: Sophia is from a Sri Lankan family and her best friend is Indian-Australian. Sophia also suffers from anxiety, and while it is never stated explicitly, it’s fairly clear she is somewhere on the autism spectrum.

The romance was a cute slow-burn, exactly how I liked it. I got invested in these characters and their relationships, as well as in their other issues. While both POVs were in first person, it was never confusing.  The side characters were also well-constructed; no one felt two dimensional. I read my reviews of Melissa Keil’s other two books when I started writing this one, and I mentioned in one that it did feel a little bit like she had reused some ideas from her first book in her second. That was never a concern with this book.


(This review is part of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2017. Click here for more information).

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#WWW and #WIPpet Wednesday – 19 April, 2017

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Welcome to WIPpet Wednesday! This is a weekly blog hop hosted by yours truly. If you’re a writer, you are very welcome to join us by posting an excerpt from your WIP that somehow relates to the date. You can click the blue guy on the right of this blog to be taken to the link up.

I’ve finished the first draft of Memories and Magic! The last chunk is a bit haphazard, as I realised I need to fix some structural issues in the third act before I can make it run smoothly, but I sort of have a whole A – Z progression. In this scene, Clara’s memories of being a princess have just been restored after several months of her living with some false ones.

The scene didn’t change for several minutes. Finally, the blue of the rune faded and the ink on the wall disappeared, as usual. All eyes turned to Clara. She wavered on her feet for a moment.

“Huh,” she said weakly before passing out on the floor.

Yep.

My last assignment for the semester is due on June 09, so writing will go on the backburner for the next couple of months. It’s kind of a good time to finish a draft, as I’ll actually be distracted from wanting to start revisions too soon. I’ll still try to have something to share each Wednesday, even if it’s just something I’ve slapped together on the day.

Sort of on that note, a random writing observation: I realised the other day why I’ve never successfully written a contemporary. It’s because pretty much all ideas and characters I have for contemporary stories are based on my own experience, to the point where writing them in the third person feels weird and distant. Even though that’s what I write everything in, so it is kind of my default. Now that I have realised this, though, I’m going to try writing in first person and see if that helps.

And now 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.

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What have you recently finished reading?

I finished Soulless by Gail Carriger and reviewed it here. It wasn’t my favourite but it was amusing enough.  I would have preferred a bit more urban fantasy and a bit less comedy of manners in the end.

I also finished The Secret Science of Magic by Melissa Keil. I fell in love with it on page one and stayed in love right to the end; not really a big surprise given how much I’ve enjoyed Keil’s other books. If you read YA and were ever a geek at school, you should read them. She nails it. It doesn’t read like she’s even trying, it just feels completely authentic.

Okay, I’ll stop gushing now. 😛 My review of that one will be up on Friday. If you’re interested, I also posted a review for The Man from Snowy River by Elyne Mitchell over here.

What are you currently reading?

I’m reading The Asp of Ascension by B. R. Meyers, which I requested from Netgalley because I feel like there aren’t enough books that use Ancient Egyptian mythology as their basis and this one sounded fun. When I started it yesterday, I was fairly bored but I’m about halfway through now and it has grown on me.

What do you think you’ll read next?

Next I will be reading The Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie. I have the sequel waiting for me on NetGalley, but I don’t think it’s one to read out of order. I’ve kind of hyped this series up in my head because it’s premise is lady pirates fighting genetically-engineered monsters in a dystopian future and also there’s LGBT representation, so it’s got huge potential. I just hope it lives up to it!

What are you reading this week? 🙂

~ Emily

#WWW and #WIPpet Wednesday – 12 April, 2017

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Welcome to WIPpet Wednesday! This is a weekly blog hop hosted by yours truly. If you’re a writer, you are very welcome to join us by posting an excerpt from your WIP that somehow relates to the date. You can click the blue guy on the right of this blog to be taken to the link up.

Today I have three lines (1+2) describing Max’s experience of Clara’s magic. Clara is transporting a group of Mages back to her home after a run-in with some not-so-good ones. This particular night is the first time this particular power has manifested, but she quickly got the hang of it.

Max couldn’t believe how instantaneous the transfer was. One second, he was on picnic bench in the park, the next second, in his kitchen. There was no darkness in between, no nausea like he had imagined travel at such a speed might induce. There was just nothing. It was seamless.

And now 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.

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What have you recently finished reading?

I finished Walpiri Women’s Voices: Our Lives, Our History (Oral history series) and reviewed it here. It was interesting, but somewhat hard to read since it was just transcripts of the oral histories with no embellishments or anything. I actually left it unrated because I wasn’t sure what rating to give.

I also finished The Man from Snowy River by Elyne Mitchell. This was a really fun adventure story. Even though I had never read it before, nor seen the movie, it made me feel nostalgic, I think just because I grew up surrounded by the Australian bush (even though I have no desire to move back there).

I also reviewed Puberty Blues by Kathy Lette and Gabrielle Carey; you can read that here.

What are you currently reading?

I am finally currently reading Soulless by Gail Carriger. It has some genuinely laugh-out-loud moments due to clever writing, but I feel like there is not much plot to speak of. I imagine I will finish this over the next few days but at the moment, I’m not feeling terribly inclined to pick up the next book in the series.

What do you think you’ll read next?

I will probably read The Secret Science of Magic by Melissa Keil. This was only released last week and while I don’t read a lot of contemporary YA, I was at the top of my library’s queue for this one. I will read anything this woman writes. And I just found out it has diverse characters, too! The MC is South Asian. So yay that, too!

What are you reading this week? 🙂

~ Emily

Book Review: Life in Outer Space by Melissa Keil #aww2016

Title: Life in Outer Space
Author: Melissa Keil
Genre: Contemporary YA
Date Read:
08/03/2016 – 10/03/2016
Rating: ★★★☆

Review:

lifeinouterspacecoverAfter having enjoyed Melissa Keil’s second novel, The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl, so much when I read it last year, it was only a matter of time before I sought out her first one, Life In Outer Space. While I didn’t enjoy it quite as much, Melissa Keil certainly has a wonderful narrative voice that makes her books a pleasure to read.

Sam and his friends are unapologetic geeks, just trying to get through the last couple of years of school without getting beaten up too many times by the local jocks. Then along comes Camilla, the daughter of a famous music journalist. She seems to work some kind of magic on everyone in their year group, but especially Sam, and before he knows it, she has completely rewritten his normal routine for him.

I have to admit that one reason it took me nearly six months to get around to this book was that while I was pretty sure I loved Cinnamon Girl for its writing as much as anything, I wasn’t sure I’d be as interested in a book with a male protagonist. Sam is a really sympathetic character, though; he would resonate with anyone who was a nerd or geek as a teenager, myself included. As with her other book, it was really obvious that Melissa Keil has a lot of geek-cred. She didn’t just do a bit of research into nerd culture, she understands completely the references she is making.

I did think that Camilla was a little bit too Manic Pixie Dream Girl (look it up on TVTropes) to feel like a real character. She gets on with both the popular crowd at school and the geeks in Sam’s group, she plays WoW (and is good at it, much to Sam’s amazement), and she’s a super-talented songwriter, though she doesn’t like to talk about it. Still, she wasn’t quite at Mary Sue levels of special snowflake, so I was still able to enjoy her part in the story.

The whole narrative is cute and light-hearted, even when the subject matter gets a bit heavy. My main issue was that I felt that perhaps Melissa Keil had recycled ideas from this book into her second (which I read first), as there were lots of similarities. For example, the main character in this book is an aspiring screenwriter with writer’s block; the main character in Cinnamon Girl is an aspiring comic writer with writer’s block. In both books, a character appears who makes huge changes in the lives of the characters around him/her. However, I was reading fairly quickly and was for the most part able to ignore these.

I definitely recommend Melissa Keil’s work to any fans of contemporary YA. She has a third book coming out this year and she is definitely an author to keep an eye on!

#WWW and #WIPpet Wednesday – 09 March, 2016

 First up is is WWW Wednesday, 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.

  • wwwwednesdayWhat are you currently reading?

Life in Outer Space by Melissa Keil. I read her other novel, The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl (review here) last year and loved it. There are quite a few similarities between the two (the most obvious being that this has an MC who is an aspiring filmmaker, while Cinnamon Girl had an aspiring comic artist, and they’re both struggling to write), but her narrative voice is just so great, so I’m overlooking it. I think I’m finally out of my reading slump!

  • What did you recently finish reading?

I finished Seraphina by Rachel Hartman last night. I really enjoyed it! It had been too long since I read something with dragons. I would dearly love to read the second book, but I’ve had several people warn me that while they loved the first one, they found the second one severely disappointing. There are lots of GoodReads reviews to that effect, too, so I don’t want to risk it.

I also completed the audio book of Matthew Flinders’ Cat by Bryce Courtenay on my way to a meet-up with my writing group tonight. It’s not the sort of book I’d normally read, but I did enjoy it, in spite of some really tough subject matter at times. My mum is telling me I should read The Potato Factory and its sequels, also by Bryce Courtenay, but I haven’t quite decided yet whether or not I will. Humphrey Bower is a very good narrator, though, and he did all of Courtenay’s books, but to be honest this has has given me an urge to listen to his reading of the Chaos Walking series again.

I eventually gave up on Cogling by Jordan Elizabeth Mierek last week. It just got too boring. I also read a review that said there was a scene where one character was imprisoned and possibly being sexually assaulted, and their solution to that was not to take down the people doing the assaulting, but just swap out their friend with a homeless girl no one would miss. I’m sure the homeless girl really appreciated that.

  • What do you think you’ll read next?

I haven’t decided yet, but I have a few books to choose from. To be honest, I should be putting reading on the backburner for a bit while I start on my uni work. Semester started on Feb 15, and I have my first assignment due March 16… do you think I’ve done any work yet? This is the one disadvantage to studying online/via correspondence.

wednesdaybannerNext up is WIPpet Wednesday, a blog hop we writer types do each week, in which we share snippets from our WIP that somehow relate to the date. You can find our linkup by clicking the little blue guy to the right. Please feel free to join in! Today is the ninth of March, so I’m sharing nine sentences. This follows on from last week’s scene. Jasper Cortain and his wife have been brought to the Palace to be quizzed about the Princess’ whereabouts by the Captain of the Guard.

Two of the guards pushed the doors open and led the way into the room beyond. The room had no windows and Jasper started when he realised the room was lit by a glowing orb floating at about eye-level at the back of the room. He may have suspected the use of magic in the palace, but it was still a surprise to witness it. Below the orb was a desk, and a man in red robes behind it. His had his fingers linked together and was resting his chin on them, watching as the guards parted to give him a view of Jasper and Helena.

“Gentlemen,” he said, addressing the guards. “What have you brought me?”

“Witnesses saw the princess being led to this man’s house,” said the guard who had first spoken to Jasper at his front gate. “He’s as much as confessed to being a
magician on the way here.”

“Did he indeed?”

 The Captain’s name is Eli Masden, and you met him back in December. He’s the psychopath I mentioned last week, though in some of his scenes he has tried to convince me that he’s really a sympathetic character underneath it all. I don’t trust him at all.

I’m going to love and leave you all now. As I mentioned above, I had a meet-up with my writing group tonight, which means time has got away from me, and I should be heading to bed pretty soon. See you all later!

~ Emily

Book Review: The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl by Melissa Keil

Title: The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl
Author: Melissa Keil
Genre: contemporary YA
Date Read: 25/09/2015 – 26/09/2015
Rating: ★★★★☆

Review:

cinnamongirlcoverI don’t normally read contemporary YA; teenagers being teenagers and doing normal teenage things and having normal teenage dramas doesn’t really interest me. But look at that cover. I had to pick it up. And I loved it.

Alba is an aspiring comic book artist from a small Australian town who has just finished school and, just like the rest of her friends, is wondering what comes next. Her best friend can’t wait to get out and move to the city, and several of her other friends are also leaving. But Alba’s happy working in her mum’s bakery, and scared of leaving everything she knows. Oh, and thanks to a viral YouTube video, dooms-dayers everywhere believe that the world is coming to an end and that Alba’s town of Eden Valley is the Last Safe Place, so they’re flocking there. Basically, everything is changing, and Alba’s not sure if she likes it.

I kept muttering “This is so Australian” under my breath as I read this book. I grew up in small-town Australia and this book captures the feel of those small towns immensely. While my experience doesn’t exactly mirror Alba’s, it felt incredibly relatable, partially because of those similar experiences.

Alba herself is fantastically written. For starters, she’s a plus-size heroine, but this is not a plot-point; it is merely mentioned and then she moves on. She’s a very rambly narrator, and actually nerdy/geeky/dorky, unlike a lot of YA heroes, who I feel authors kind of want to make “nerdy”, but only insofar as to make them “quirky”. Alba would have easily fitted in among my group of school friends, and I have a feeling Melissa Keil would have, too. I don’t know much about comics, but it was clear that Keil does.

Alba’s friends all have distinct personalities, and I loved the way they all interact with one another. In a city environment, they may not have really been friends, but that’s one thing about small towns: you befriend the people who are there. And thanks to the style of the narration, you feel like you are part of their group. Their Christmas traditions feel like they’ve been going on for years, and their fears and desires for the coming months and years are all incredibly real.

The only thing I was a bit disappointed with, and this is the reason for 4.5 stars rather than 5, was the romance. I won’t say who Alba ends up with, because there are a couple of possibilities and I don’t want to spoil it, but I will say that I had hoped that they would be able to just figure out their issues and remain friends, rather than it becoming romantic. I had assumed for three-quarters of the book that they would stay platonic, and I actually really liked it that way.

That was my only qualm, and I think I’m going to go and look up Melissa Keil’s other book, Life in Outer Space. It sounds like it has a similar feel, and would be just as adorable.