“The problem with monsters is that those of our own making are the most terrifying of all.” // Review of “The Other Alice” by Michelle Harrison

Title: The Other Alice
Author:
Michelle Harrison
Genre: Urban fantasy
Target audience: Middle-grade
Date Read: 25/07/18 – 27/07/18
Rating:
★★☆

Review:

This was an interesting book, though I have to admit that I did find some of the world-building a bit lacking. Still, it kept me engaged and that’s the main thing.

Eleven-year-old Midge loves to hear the stories that his older sister, Alice, makes up. When Alice goes missing and her characters seem to be showing up in their home, Midge is the only one who can save her and give the story the ending it needs.

The characters in this story are vibrant and interesting. They are very well-drawn, with various distinct personalities. The backstories of Alice’s characters were interesting and tied in well with each other. I really liked the characters’ reactions to finding out they were made up by Alice. I thought that felt really believable and I did feel bad for them.

I did feel that some of the history and world-building was where it fell down, particularly in the use of the “gypsy curse” trope to give a fairytale feel to Alice’s family history. Many people have written about the reasons why the word “gypsy” and stereotypes such as the curse are problematic to Romani people, so I won’t go into it here. Also, a Romani character called Ramone? Really?

There were also a number of events that had no real explanation other than “it was ~magic~”, but there wasn’t enough set-up of how the magic worked for that to carry.

Still, this was an enjoyable MG fantasy. I think I would recommend it for older readers in that age group as there are some dark themes and a few violent characters. It’s probably one parents and kids could enjoy together.


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#aww2018 #LoveOzYA “I’m improvising, but I’ve been doing that my whole life.” // Review of “Unearthed” by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

Title: Unearthed (Unearthed #1)
Author: Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner
Genre: Sci-fi
Target Age Group: YA
Dates read: 20/06/2018 – 26/06/2018
Rating: ★★★

Review:

This book was marketed as “Indiana Jones in space” and while I can see that somewhat… I feel like that ended up giving me expectations for something this book wasn’t. So while I enjoyed it for what it was, I was disappointed it wasn’t what I was expecting.

So what was I expecting? Okay, so I love doing escape rooms, right? My partner finds them a little stressful but he humours me because in return I go to karaoke with him on wekeends. I was expecting this book to be some kind of epic scale escape room in book form, lots of solving puzzles and boobie-trapped rooms and such. And there was a bit of that. But there was really only one interesting puzzle (a musical one which was quite clever). The characters are out of the temple by about halfway to two-thirds of the way through the book and it becomes something completely different.

I liked Jules and Amelia, though I don’t think first person narration works when you have two POV characters. They sound much the same. Yes, they have different personalities and quirks, but I feel like probably everyone sounds fairly similar inside their head. It is different when you can hear different voices, but on the page, there’s not much to differentiate. I couldn’t get too engaged in the romance, as the action takes place over only a few days, maybe a week. I am more of a fan of a slow-burn over “we’re high on adrenaline and running for our lives and I’m gonig to kiss you now”.

Still, the action in the last quarter ramped right up, and the cliffhanger at the end was intriguing enough that I kind want to check out the next book when it’s released just to see where they go with that.


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

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#aww2018 #LoveOzYA “The house was always empty. Even when it wasn’t.” // Review of “I Had Such Friends” by Meg Gatland-Veness

Title: I Had Such Friends
Author: Meg Gatland-Veness
Genre: Contemporary
Target age group: YA
Dates read: 29/06/2018 – 30/06/2018
Rating: ★★

Review:

I feel like this book could have been good but it tried to tackle too many big issues in a short amount of space and ended up not doing them the justice they deserved.

There was also the issue that for probably 75-80% of the book, I just couldn’t stand the main character. He had basically no redeemable qualities, though he did finally get his act together towards the end. He is awful to his so-called best friend (and for someone who calls himself a nerd, he sure was judgey about cosplay and video games and anime). He’s pretty sexist, judging all the girls at school except the one he’s friends with because of course, she’s not like those other girls. And he’s so terrified of sounding like a girl or coming across as sissy, like that’s the worst thing you could possibly be perceived as.

One could argue that this is a fairly typical representation of a lot of country boys, and you’d probably be right… but I can’t stand when this stuff is unchallenged within a text. And highlighting it with the occasional “I know it made me a bad person to think that” doesn’t really make him any better. ve

Oof. That was a bit of a rant. Sorry. Hamish just really bugged me.

The story tries to tackle sexuality, grief, domestic violence, and coming of age issues, and sometimes it nearly hits the mark. But I just never felt any kind of emotional pull while reading, and I predicted the outcome, too. It just never really felt true enough. A lot of this is probably because I didn’t like Hamish enough to care, but I think also the writing style was a bit detached and disjointed, making it hard to really get drawn in.

I do think Gatland-Veness shows promise as a writer. This one just didn’t work for me.


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

Thank you to Pantera Press and NetGalley for a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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“There is a spectrum to assholery. I’m pretty low on scale.” // Review of “Zombie Playlist” by K. J. Chapman

Title: Zombie Playlist
Author: K. J. Chapman
Genre: Dystopia (zombie apocalypse)/humour
Target age group:
YA/NA
Date Read:
23/06/18
Rating: ★★

Review:

I will say out the outset of this review that most of my feelings towards this book are on me. This was a fun story and most of my reasons for not liking it more are  a matter of preference. Zombies aren’t usually my thing but I had been following Chapman on Instagram for a while and wanted to support a fellow indie author, so knowing this was quite short, I took a chance.

The two main characters, Dagger and King, were on opposite ends of the badass spectrum, and on reflection, I think I like my characters somewhere in the middle. While they did both grow over the course of the story, and thus come a little way off the end and into the middle, it took until then for them to really grow on me, so I wasn’t feeling too connected to them to start  off with, and we therefore all got off on the wrong foot.

I also didn’t even realise until a few chapters in that the book wasn’t set in America, rather than England. There were turns of phrase as well as the use of “asshole” rather than “arsehole”, which is how I would expect it to be spelled in a British or Australian book. So I kept forgetting where they were and it was odd whenever they mentioned going to Cornwall, it pulled me up a bit, too.

I did really like the last couple of chapters; I thought it lead to a good conclusion for the story. I did feel that there was probably enough material in the book that it could have been fleshed out into a full-length novel, but I got to the end and felt satisfied with the journey i had taken with the characters. Most of the character development for Dagger particularly happened towards the end so that was when she was most able to grow on me.


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“We’re meant to go. We’re not meant to stay forever.” // Review of “Uprooted” by Naomi Novik

Title: Uprooted
Author: Naomi Novik
Audio book narrator: Katy Sobey
Genre: Historical fantasy
Date Read: 20/05/18 – 13/06/18
Rating:
★☆

Review:

This started of well. I was enjoying the language and the mythology that was beinig constructed around main character, Agnieszka, and her village. But the plot began to drag and I wasn’t invested in the characters and after I while, I was just very underwhelmed.

The writing is really lyrical and beautiful. I think when I started the book, I was in the mood for something fairytale-like, and this fit the bill perfectly. Katy Sobey’s very soothing narration helped a lot, too. At somewhere around the 50-60% mark, though, I suddenly realised that the characters had very little personality and I didn’t really care about them at all. And once you have a realisation like that, it’s hard to come back from it. 

I also felt uncomfortable with the inevitable romance between Agnieszka and the  Dragon. There is no basis for it. The Dragon only ever insults Agnieszka,  or scowls at her, or sighs at her, even when they’re working together. And how does 17-year-old Agnieszka manage to do what several centuries-old wizards haven’t with regard  to The Wood?

Speaking of The Wood, it was a bit of an odd villain? I felt the same about the Wood as I did with the villain in V. E. Schwab’s A Conjuring of Light… its presence was over the whole story, but I never found it particularly threatening. Even though it obviously was. It was just a little too easy for the main characters to save those they needed to, so I always felt it would all work itself out in the end and I just wasn’t worried.

I can definitely see what people love about this book, and I myself have really enjoyed some of Novik’s other work. This one wasn’t meant for me.


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“Monsters are in the eye of the beholder.” // Review of “Shine” by Candy Gourlay

Title: Shine
Author: Candy Gourlay
Genre:
YA contemporary
Date Read: 10/06/18
Rating:
 ★★★★☆

Review:

This was a chance find at the library. I sat down with the intention of reading it all in one sitting because it’s a long weekend and I wanted to catch up on some reading. I ended up reading it one sitting because it got to the point where I couldn’t have put it down if I tried.

This book has so much going for it. A main character of colour, who also has a disability (she has  a condition colloquially known as the  Calm, which prevents her from speaking, so she communicates in sign language). There’s an examination of how children cope when it feels like a disable sibling gets more parental love and attention. There’s mental illness rep.  There’s mythology and writing that feels like a modern folk tale.

The book is split into two parts: the present-day narration from Rosa, and letter-style segments from Rosa’s mother Kara to her twin sister, Kat. These two stories seem separate at first, but weave together nicely by the end. The way the story unrolled really gripped me.  I wasn’t sure if there were ghosts or monsters or whether someone was out to get Rosa and I really wanted to know. I was able to guess a few things, but having an inkling of what was coming didn’t impact on my enjoyment in any way.

I did wish there was a bit more about the setting, Mirasol. At first, I thought that it was somewhere to the north of Scotland because part of the mythology is that it rains all the time. But then it seemed to be more of an African nation, perhaps? But then, there was reference to pesos being the currency, which made me think South America at first, but on discovering that the author was born in the Phillipines, I wondered if it was supposed to be there. A bit more clarity on the real-world stuff to go with the mythology would have been good.

I mentioned mental illness rep above. It’s good that it’s there, but at the same time, I was in two minds about it and the way that particular storyline was resolved. There was a scene where a character referred to the mentally ill character as a monster and Rosa stepped in and said “She’s not a monster, she’s ILL.” Which is great. But she never receives any help and the conlusion of her story is less than desirable (I won’t say anything further  because I’m trying not to spoil anything).

While my library categorises this book as junior fiction (effectively, middle-grade), and Rosa is thirteen, I would probably put this book on the younger side of young adult. Some of it was quite dark, and I wonder whether younger readers would be able to pick up on all the clues throughout the book the way I did.


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#WWW Wednesday – May 23, 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.

wwwwednesdayWhat have you recently finished reading? 

I‘ve had so much going on the last couple of weeks and I also fell into a bit of a reading slump. With that combination, it took me a full three weeks to finish Hero at the Fall by Alwyn Hamilton. It was… fine, and I was interested enough in the outcome that I wanted to stick it out, but I can’t say I was terribly invested in the characters. I can’t be bothered writing a full review but you can read my thoughts on GoodReads here.

I finished The Strings of Murder by Oscar de Muriel on audio and this one was a lot more enjoyable. I have recently signed up for an Audible subscription, and while I didn’t pick up the second book immediately, I think it might be next month’s choice. I’ll have my review of this one up this week.

I posted by review of Lessons in Letting Go: Confessions of a Hoarder by Corinne Grant this week. You can read it here.

What are you currently reading? 

I have started the audio book of Uprooted by Naomi Novik at the recommendation of a friend. I am really enjoying this so far. The prose has a really fairytale-like quality, and the narrator’s voice is really suited to that. I’m not entirely sold on the Dragon, but I am hoping he’ll improve.

I’m also reading The Owl Service by Alan Garner. A few people at work read it and I wanted to get in on the action. I’m not quite sold on it yet, but I think I know where it’s going and it sounds like it could get interesting. Opinion at work is divided, so it’ll be interesting to see where I fall.

What do you think you will read next?

I have Purple Threads by Jeanine Leane and After the Party by Jesse Blackadder out from the library. Neither of these is what I would normally read but they are for my Australian Women Writers Challenge, in particular, my own diversity challenge-within-a-challenge.

What are you reading this week?~ Emily

#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

“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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#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