#aww2018 Book review: “False Awakening” by Cassandra Page

Title: False Awakening
Author: Cassandra Page
Genre: urban fantasy
Dates read: 26/12/17 – 04/01/18
Rating: ★★★

Review:

I reviewed the prequel to this book almost exactly two years ago. I think this book suffered a little from me not remembering all the details of the previous book; however, the dreamscapes of Cassandra Page’s Oneiroi world do make for enjoyable reading.

Dream-therapist Melaina thought that her problems with nightmare spirits and dream blights was over with, but  that’s not the case. Other people around her are still being possessed, the Morpheus himself wants an audience with her, and her cousin has gone msising. All three things seem to be connected, but can Melaina save those she loves?

The dream sequences are definitely what I enjoyed best about this book. Page expands on the world-building she did in the first book, bringing in new Oneiroi characters, setting up more of their laws and customs. Once again the scenes where Melaina fights off the blights in other people’s dreams were also well done. There was a lot of action, and the rules of the magic system were well maintained.

The characters are well-written and I particularly like the contrast between Melaina and her wealthy relatives. I have to admit, though, that with the exception of the climax, I never really felt myself invested in the characters and what was going to happen to them.

also have to admit that I will always simultaneously love reading books set in my adopted city of Canberra and also find it a bit weird recognising all the locations. This is obviously not a criticism of the author; just an observation!


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

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“Sooner or later, everyone’s story has an unfortunate event or two…” // Review of “The End” by Lemony Snicket

Title: The End (A Series of Unfortunate Events #13)
Author: Lemony Snicket
Genre: Middle-grade
Date Read: 08/12/2017 – 11/12/2017
Rating: ★★★

Review:

It  was bittersweet, reaching the end of this series after reading it on-and-off all year. While the last book probably wasn’t my favourite of the series, I did really like the way everything wrapped up, even though I know others found the ending quite unsatisfying.

Throughout this series, Snicket’s writing style sometimes ground my nerves, either with its desire to sound clever, or with its repetition, or some other literary quirk that is rather unusual in books aimed at this age-group. This happened a bit more than often in The End and I did end up skimming a page here and there.

The thing I found most impressive about this particular book was that it had me feeling a bit sorry for Count Olaf. Having spent 12 book seeing him as nothing but a comical villain, it was actually quite nice to see a bit more depth to him, and get a glimpse into his back story. The entire series deals with the fact that even the noblest of people can sometimes do questionable things, and no one is entirely saint or sinner, and this was highlighted a lot here. Still, I felt some of the world-building, and the history-building, was a little flimsy at times. but I felt satisfied and a bit nostalgic when I got to the end.

The style and nature of A Series of Unfortunate Events is not for everyone, and I don’t recommend reading too many of the books at once, as the repetitious nature is more obvious that way (I tended to read two or three then have a break). However, it is quite unique and I recommend it, both for adult readers and children alike.


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“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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