“You get in there and fight, Emmett. Be worthy. Not in their eyes, but in yours.” // Review of “Nyxia” by Scott Reintgen

Title: Nyxia (The Nxyia Triad #1)
Author: Scott Reintgen
Genre: YA/sci-fi
Date Read: 11/11/2017 – 16/11/2017
Rating: ★★★

Review:

I’m generally more of a fantasy fan than straight science-fiction, bu I have to say that while some of the world-building in this book bothered me, the characters and writing certainly made up for it.

Emmett is one of ten young adults chosen to travel to the planet Eden to mine a new element called Nyxia. While ten have been chosen, only eight will make it through the gruelling training and receive the enormous pay-out. But the company they are working for, Babel, has secrets and Emmett is not sure the company they have entrusted themselves to can be trusted.

For a book with such a large cast, Reintgen does a fantastic job of creating individual characters. The cast is also diverse, with characters from all over the world chosen by Babel. There were only a couple of occasions where i got them confused; otherwise, they were always distinct.

As I said, the world-building was where I tripped up every now and then. For a start, while it is obviously set in the future, I could  never work out exactly how far. There was one reference to Babel swallowing Google in 2036, but that was the only indication. Some of the technology was cmopletely out of this world, but then the characters still signed their contracts with a pen on paper. Emmett’s music tastes were early-twenty-first century and earlier, and there was one scene where the characters spent the night watching old Disney cartoons. .There was no invented future popular culture, which I found a bit lazy.

Still, the writing was solid and the book had a great pace, which meant I was keen to keep reading and see how everything panned out. Despite my frustrations, I’m definitely keen to see where this series goes.


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#aww2017 Book Review: The Bromancers by Tansy Rayner Roberts

Title: The Bromancers (Belladonna University #3)
Author: Tansy Rayner Roberts
Genre: Urban fantasy
Date Read: 27/10/17 – 29/10/17
Rating: ★★★★

Review:

This series continues to be a huge amount of fun! This instalment sees Hebe Hallow trying to manage the members of Fake Geek Girl at a music festival, only to have her plans messed up the arrival of various signifiant others, including her own, and a body swap spell that sees two of the band members out for the count.

I really enjoyed seeing the world expanded beyond the university campus. Roberts managed to convey the crowded, messy, but buzzing atmosphere of a music festival, and added a magical twist.

Roberts still maintains distinct voices for each of her characters. I especially loved that Juniper got to play a bigger role in this one. She’s so delightful. I’m hoping that there might be future stories about these characters in which she might get to do something about her massive crush on Holly.

The Belladonna U stories are short and a lot of fun, particularly if you come from a geek culture background and get a lot of the references. Definitely recommended!


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

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Book Review: “The Rise of the Sparrows” by Sarina Langer

Title: The Rise of the Sparrows (The Relics of Ar’zac #1)
Author: Sarina Langer
Genre: YA/fantasy
Date Read: 17/10/2017 – 19/10/2017
Rating: ★★★★

Review:

I’ve had this on my Kindle for so long, probably since it came out! It’s one of those books I wished I got to sooner, because I ended up really enjoying it.

I think one of the bes things about this book was the fact that Rachael, the main character, was no special snowflake when it came to saving the world. Yes, she is a Chosen One, but she struggles to develop her magic and it is acknowledged that prophecies are vague and that things may not work out the way anyone expects.

I also really enjoyed the character development of Cephy, a young girl Rachael befriends after Cephy is kicked out of home due to her magical abilities.

The other characters were also well-developed. I particularly liked Cale, the leader of the group of rebels known as The Sparrows, and Aeron, the witch who seeks to disrupt the rebellion and put a child of her own on the throne, was suitably nasty.

I did feel that there were times when characters judtified the deaths they caused a bit too easily. There are some pretty shocking death scenes, too; not so much from a violence perspective (the level of violence is pretty standard fantasy fare) but the fact that they happen suddenly and caught me by surprise on a few occasions.

The world-building is simple but effective. There is no drowning the reader in unnecessary description. New locations are described as needed, and the history of the world is explained over a few conversations between Rachael and more knowledgable characters.

Overall, this is a strong series opener and I’ve been hearing good things about the sequel. I’m looking forward to continuing this series when I have the chance.


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#AWW2017 “How far a woman could travel if she really put her mind to it. And I put my mind to it.” // Review of “See What I Have Done” by Sarah Schmidt

Title: The Natural Way of Things
Author: Charlotte Wood
Genre: Thriller
Date Read: 19/10/2017 – 24/10/2017
Rating: ★★

Review:

Well, damn. This was one of my most anticipated reads this year.  I think it failed for me for a lot of reasons. 

  1. I think I over-hyped it in my head.
  2. I think I assumed it was going to be things that it never promised it would be.
  3. It turned out to have a literary fiction vibe, which is perfectly fine, but not my thing.

See What I Have Done is a fictionalised account of the murders of Andrew and Abbie Borden in 1892. It is told from the points of view of sisters Lizzie and Emma Borden, their maid, Bridget Sullivan and an mysterious outsider, Benjamin.

I expected this book to be thrilling and tense, and for me to never quite know what was going on. I didn’t know what was going on, but that was more because no one really knows what happened that day, not because I felt Sarah Schmidt was making me ask any new questions about the case. With the exception of a bit of getting into the characters’ heads, there was very little here that I hadn’t already learned by reading the Lizzie Borden Wikipedia entry.

What Sarah Schmidt did do well was the claustrophobic, tense atmosphere of the Borden house. There were times when I had to stop reading because the descriptions of someone throwing up or the smell of the three-day-old mutton heating on the stove made me feel sick. But after a while, even that stopped having an effect on me. As I said, I think this was more in the literary fiction vein than I was expecting, and so a lot of the language use and other techniques that would impress fans of that genre, but they just don’t do it for me.


This review forms part of the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge for 2017. Click here for more information.

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Book Review: The Asylum by Johan Theorin

Title: The Asylum
Author: Johan Theorin
Audio book narrator: Thomas Judd
Genre: Thriller
Date Read: 28/09/2017 – 13/10/2017
Rating: ★★

Review:

Heh. For a thriller, I did not find this book especially thrilling. I think some of that may have been due to a clunky translation from Swedish, but I think also it required more willing suspension of disbelief than I was willing to give it.

Jan Hauger takes a position at The Dell, a pre-school attached to St Patricia’s Psychiatric Hospital for the children of the patients’ parents. Jan wants to make contact with a person in his past who he believes is inside, and the other staff of the Dell have their own secrets and connections to the asylum as well.

Disclaimer: it’s possible the next paragraph won’t make much sense. I’ll try to be as coherent as possible.

This is the type of thriller where certain facts have to be revealed at certain times. They are things the characters already know, or even events in the characters’ past that he was present for, but if the reader knows about them, it ruins the suspense. As a result, the character sometime acts as though they aren’t aware of these things they lived through until it’s revealed to the reader. It annoys me when this happens. It’s poor writing.

Jan was an incredibly naive character and learning more about his past in the last third of the book didn’t really justify a lot of his choices to me. I just kept thinking “Well, you brought this upon yourself with all your stupid decisions, didn’t you?” I think the very ending was supposed to make me go “Oh no! After everything he’d been through!” but I just though, “Really? That’s the final punchline?”

It also didn’t make a lot of sense to me that a whole pre-school would be established next to a psych hospital when the children were only meeting with their parents one a week for an hour. The idea of having the passage between the hospital and the school seemed a lot of effort when they could probably just come with their foster parents to the front door.

Having said all that, there were a few honestly creepy moments. Mostly when Jan was creeping through the underground passage from the pre-school into the hospital. And one particularly claustrophobic chapter in Jan’s flashbacks. So it wasn’t all bad. Just mostly not really one I could get behind.


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#aww2017 Book Review: Fake Geek Girl by Tansy Rayner Roberts

Title: Fake Geek Girl (Belladonna University #1)
Author: Tansy Rayner Roberts
Genre: Urban fantasy
Date Read: 08/10/17
Rating: ★★★★

Review:

This review will be fairly short, as the book in focus is quite short (I’m not even sure it would constitute novella length).

The story focuses on the inhabitants of the Manic Pixie Dream House, a share house for about six students from Belladonna Unversity, which has campuses for Real (magic) and Unreal (tech). The titular Fake Geek Girl is Holly Hadlow, who heads up a band of the same name and sings songs inspired by her twin sister’s nerdy pursuits. Drummer Sage is concerned Holly plans to go solo; meanwhile Hebe Hallow is working out her feelings for a boy from an elite magical family who appears to have lost his magical ability.

The characterisation in this story is very well done. Given the length of the book and the number of characters, this was no mean feat, but they are all easily identifiable. The references to nerd and geek culture also felt natural. Too often, I find authors try to make their character nerdy in an attempt to make them quirky and it comes off sounding inauthentic.

I also really liked the ultimate message of the book, that while Holly doesn’t understand the passion of Hebe and her friends for their various fandoms, she cares about it because they care.

It did take me a minute to realise that the POV character changed with each chapter; make sure you read the chapter titles to figure out who’s talking to you.

This is definitely a  fun start to a unique series. I’ve already read the second one, so watch out for that review, too.


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

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“How did I find you?” “You didn’t. I found you.” // Review of The Beautiful Ones by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Title: The Beautiful Ones
Author: Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Genre: Romance/historical fantasy
Date Read: 27/09/2017 – 08/10/2017
Rating: ★★★

Review:

The first thing Iwant to note about this book is that the romance is the focus. Yes, two of the main characters are telekinetic, but you could replace that skill with any other and the story would be more or less the same. I wanted to get that out of the way early because I think that realisation would disappoint some people. I was fine, as I enjoy a good historical romance every now and then, and despite a slow start, I ended up pretty emotionally invested in this one.

Antonina Beaulieu can move things with her mind and she enjoys studying bugs and butterflies, but despite all of that, she is sent to the city to live with her cousins and hopefully attract a husband. While there, she meets Hector Auvray, who teaches her to control her talent and with whom she falls in love. But Hector has ulterior motives for pursuring her in return.

So there’s a particularly complicated love… square going on in this book? Hector’s initial pursuit of Nina is so that he can have access to her cousin Valerie, with whom he had an affair back when they were both much younger. The way these two clash forms an important aspect of the book. There is also Nina’s other suitor, Luc, who is more interested in her dowry.

I actually really appreciated the juxtaposition between Hector and Luc. Nina points out the way Luc calls her pretty and buys her trinkets but nothing else, and thinks she should hide her telekinetisis because it’s not something ladies let other people see. On the other hand, when Hector realises he is falling for Nina, he sends her rare beetle specimens and starts learning about entomology himself,  and of course, possessing the same talent as her and making his living from it,  never shames her for it.

Valerie was a character I tried to feel sympathy for, but mostly found I couldn’t. She has had to give up a lot, which I can appreciate, but she seemed determined to make things harder for herself and see the worst in everyone else, all of which eventually comes back to bite her.

absolutely loved Nina. I loved that she was a dorky country girl who liked bugs and always said the wrong thing and was insecure because people were awful to her due to her talent and also because she felt so out of place in the city. I enjoyed the scenes where she was surrounded by her extended family in the country, though it would have been nice for there to be some other friends in the city.

The world-building was also interesting. Set in a fictional world based roughly based on La Belle Epoque, I found it quite a different take the way what would have just been written off as “magic” in other books was something considered worthy of scientific study in this one. As I said,  though, the characters’ talents were really just set-dressing for the romance.

The plot was a bit of a slow-burn and it took me a little while to get into it properly, but there was some moments where I didn’t want to put the book down. I did feel that the book slowed down a little too much towards the end. Even though the stakes were still high in the last 15%, I felt less invested in the outcome. Everything also got tied up a bit too nicely,  with certain characters suddenly making good when I felt they could have been a bit more resistant.

Still, this was an enjoyable romance set in an interesting world and I would recommend to anyone looking into that.


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

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“Life is like a musical: it’s here one moment and gone the next.” // Review of Life is Like a Musical by Tim Federle

Title: Life is Like a Musical: How to Live, Love, and Lead Like a Star
Author: Tim Federle
Genre: Non-fiction/memoir/self-help
Date Read: 28/09/2017 – 29/09/2017
Rating: ★★★★

Review:

Tim Federle is my people. If we’d been at school together, we would have been friends because then we would have each had someone to geek out with about musicals when no one else cared. While the advice in this book might be somewhat generic, I really enjoyed the theatre anecdotes that he used to back up his claims, a lot of the time because I could relate, having had a similar experience somewhere in my amateur theatre experiences.

This book is full of lessons Tim learned during his time on Broadway as a dancer, as well as later, writing theatrical material and novels. You can see some of them on the cover: “Let someone else take a bow”, “take the note” (i.e. accept constructive feedback without getting defensive”) and “Dance like everyone’s watching”. He applies these lessons to wider life, careers and relationships.

I really enjoyed some of the anecdotes about being backstage at a theatre. I’ve never performed on Broadway, just at a couple of local theatres in the towns where I’ve lived, but the experiences are much the same. I laughed out loud a lot. I also enjoyed the stories about the big names the Tim worked with on Broadway.

This book probably isn’t for everyone, and I think it probably will particularly appeal to those like me who have a theatre background (even if it’s not a very extensive one). But I laughed out loud several times and related to Tim’s stories so often, so I definitely recommend checking it out.


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

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#aww2017 Book Review: “A Dangerous Language” by Sulari Gentill

Title: A Dangerous Language (Rowland Sinclair Mysteries #8)
Author: Sulari Gentill
Genre: Historical fiction/mystery
Date Read: 20/09/2017 – 27/09/2017
Rating: ★★★

Review:

Leaping into the eighth book in a series without having read the others is a risk. I have to admit the main reason I picked this ARC up on NetGalley was because I had seen Sulari Gentill host a panel at the recent Canberra Writer’s Festival and was interested to sample her writing. I think I probably would have been a bit more engaged had I been familiar with the core cast of characters from books one through seven, but this book was enjoyable nonetheless.

In 1930s Australia, Rowland Sinclair finds himself caught up in intrigues between the government, and Fascist and Communist factions when he agrees to help a notorious anti-Fascist speaker get into Australia before the government can ban him. The journey takes him across Australia and nearly gets him killed on more than one occasion.

I enjoyed the characters in this far more than the mystery or the political machinations, really. The core cast are a really fun bunch, and hopeless romantic that I am, I also really enjoyed watching Rowly wrestle with romantic feelings and other related entanglements. I did enjoy the way Gentill wove actual historical events into the story, though at the same time, I am never quite sure how to feel about actual historical figures as characters in novels.

There were two murders featured in the story, though they felt like window dressing for the political machinations, which seemed to be more of the focus. For a significant portion of the book, there was no focus on either death. One of them was solved towards the end, but the other one was just concluded via a note in the epilogue, and I think was mostly there to create some tension at the beginning of the story, when Rowland and his friends thought the victim might have been their friend and colleague, Edna. Once it was established that Edna was safe, there was no real reason for the main characters to give the death any more than a passing interest.

That sort of peripheral focus on the murders is something I am not sure isn’t a feature of the series. I have no idea what form the mysteries take in the other books and so I don’t know if it is just that I wasn’t used to it, being a newbie. Ditto the excerpts from newspapers and other publications of the time at the beginning of each chapter. I have no idea if this is a stylistic feature present in all the books; if it is, I would probably bear with it a bit more, though as it was, I felt they weren’t always necessary and at times, I even skipped them.

Still, I can definitely see why this is a popular series, especially with those who are big readers of historical fiction.


(Thank you to the publishers and NetGalley for providing a free copy of this book in exchange for a review)

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

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#AWW2017 #LoveOzYA “What other beautiful things had fear been hiding from her? ” // Review of “A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares” by Krystal Sutherland

Title: A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares
Author: Krystal Sutherland
Genre: contemporary YA/Magical realism
Date Read: 07/09/2017 – 11/09/2017
Rating: ★★★★

Review:

I’m beginning to think that I’m actually a YA contemporary fan, even though I always tend to preface reviews with “I don’t read a lot of contemporary, but…” Some of my favourite reads this year have been YA contemporaries, and this one is added to that list. 

Esther Solar’s family has been cursed by Death, and each family member is going to die from their worst fear. Esther doesn’t know what hers is yet, but when she is reunited with childhood friend, Jonah, they resolve to face each item on her list and see if she can’t get through to the other side.

This book has such a bitteresweet tone, but don’t let the surface fluffiness fool you. This book gets deep. And dark. It does not treat mental illness lightly, but shows how it can tear a family apart. The characters are great, but rather heartbreaking. In addition to mental illness, the book also tackles domestic violence and also pulls no punches there.

I loved the magical realism aspect for the most part. I found Sutherland’s characterisation of Death really fascinating, and the idea of Death being able to fall in love, and die, and be taken by surprise sometimes, I thought was awesome. The fact that it was never clear whether he was really there or whether it was all in Esther’s head worked for the most part, though I might have liked the ending to be a little less ambiguous. There was also a reveal towards the end about Esther’s grandfather’s interactions with Death, which was a reveal to the reader, but not to Esther. Up until that point, though, Esther had been acting as  though she hadn’t been aware of the facts that came to light here, and I felt it was cheating a bit to have her act that way for the sake of narrative convenience.

Still, I found myself getting a little teary at the end and not wanting to let these characters go. They certainly got under my skin.

Trigger warnings: self-harm, suicide, domestic abuse.


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

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