#AWW2018 // Book Review: “Girl Reporter” by Tansy Rayner Roberts

Title: Girl Reporter
Author:
 Tansy Rayner Roberts
Genre: Sci-fi (superheroes)
Intended audience: New adult
Date Read: 22/11/18 – 25/11/18
Rating:
★★

Review:

I was really torn about what to rate this. There are some really well done sections, but I was kind of put off by a main character who didn’t take anything seriously, so it made it hard to feel like the stakes were ever very high. This was the same issue I had with The Martian: he’s stuck on a different planet and may well never get home and he’s making jokes about Aquaman and disco music.

This book did have some really good conversations about representation in media and whose voices should be privileged when it comes to particular stories. It handles racial tensions, sexuality crises and disability awareness really well.

I didn’t mind Friday’s quirkiness at first, in fact, I quoted a few lines in my GoodReads status updates that amused me a lot. But when it kept up, it got a bit old. There was also no build-up to the romance – literally the superhero she has been crushing on says “Hey, we’re going to be here a while, wanna make out?” and then they did. And then they were a couple. I need a bit of build-up!

The plot is a bit of a satire of the superhero genre, but I think the fact that I am not that into superhero books to begin with (I know, I know, I should just stop reading them if that is the case. I know, and yet I keep doing it!) made it all feel a little bit too OTT.

All in all, while this was… fine, I guess, I much prefer Roberts’ Fake Geek Girl series. The characters and world-building in that series just worked better for me.


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

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“All Eli had to do was smile. All Victor had to do was lie. Both proved frighteningly effective.” // Review of “Vicious” by V. E. Schwab

Title: Vicious
Author: V. E. Schwab
Audio book narrator: Noah Michael Levine
Genre: NA/Urban fantasy/superheroes
Date Read:
10/12/2017 – 28/12/2017
Rating: ★★

Review:

All right, all right. I should have known better. I said after not enjoying the final Shades of Magic book  that clearly Schwab’s are not for me. And yet, I was still intrigued enough by Vicious to pick up the audio book when I saw it on a display at my local library.

Thanks to a college science experiment, Victor and Eli develop superhero-like powers, but frmo there, everything goes drastically downhill. Ten years later, Victor escapes from prison with a plan to confront Eli and no one knows who will come out the other side.

As usual, Schwab’s writing is extremely readable. This is something I have always found with her work, even as I haven’t enjoyed the stories themselves. The plot (even though I didn’t like a lot of it) was quite tight in and of itself.

My main issue was that I didn’t really feel invested in either main character, and some of their motivations seemed rather out of the blue to me. A lot of their decisions annoyed me and the thirteen-year-old character, Sidney, seemed to have more sense than either of the two adults most of the time.

Victor’s power to turn pain up or down on a dial, either for himself or for other people,  worked on that trope that if someone can’t feel pain, their injury won’t affect them.This isn’t how pain and injuries work, and it bothered me that it seemed like his own wounds, as well a gun shot wound of Sidney’s, just had the pain turned down and then everything was fine.

I did find some of the worldbuilding intriguing. I liked the idea of near death experiences being the instigator for extraordinary powers and that the power someone developed hinged on what they were thinking as they died. But overall, I had the same reaction to this as several of Schwab’s other books and now I know to stick to my resolution  that she is not an author for me.


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#WWW Wednesday – December 06, 2017

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?

Ayeesh, from a week where I finished four books to a week where I didn’t finish anything.

It hurts my heart to say it but after taking a week to reach page 200, I decided to DNF Renegades by Marissa Meyer. I just felt that it way way too long, and nothing had happened at that 200-page point for me to really care about. But I also think maybe superheroes are just not my jam, since I thought Not Your Sidekick by C. B. Lee was just okay and I didn’t even reach page 100 in Not Your Villain.

I did manage to post my review of Killman Creek by Rachel Caine. Click the title to read it.

What are you currently reading?

I have started The Game You Played by Anni Taylor but I’m taking it slowly because unfortunately, the reviews that mentioned poor editing are correct. I can’t even blame that on it being self-published, so I don’t know what’s going on there. I think this is also going to be a bit of a slow read and I’m possibly comparing it to Stillhouse Lake/Killman Creek, which is probably not fair.

My main read at the moment is The Penultimate Peril, the second-to-last book in the Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket. I had never read this one or the last one when I was younger, so this is a new experience. I was torn between finishing this series before the end of the year, or ticking off more books on my monthly TBR. I decided finishing this in 2017 would be more satisfying.

What do you think you’ll read next?

I will definitely read The End by Lemony Snicket and see the series through. Knowing I’m so close to the end of this series is giving me a bittersweet feeling, but I think I might check out some of the other books set in the same universe.

What are you reading this week? 

~ Emily

#WWW Wednesday – November 29, 2017

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 had a great reading week this week, finishing no less than four books!

I finished Stillhouse Lake by Rachel Caine after posting on Wednesday night, then found the sequel, Killman Creek available to read straight away on NetGalley. These were intense! But if you like thrillers, I definitely recommend. I reviewed Stillhouse Lake on Monday and my review of Killman Creek is scheduled for Friday.

After that, I read Stay: the Last Dog in Antarctica by Jesse Blackadder. This is a middle-grade book based on a true story of a fibreglass Guide Dog (these are outside supermarkets all over Australia and you can put money in them that goes to Guide Dogs Australia) who was smuggled to Antarctica in 1991 and has lived there ever since. This was a sweet little book, and the last one I needed to fulfil my Australian Women Writers Challenge for 2017.

Last but not least, I listened to Looking for JJ by Anne Cassidy on audio. I think this was supposed to be YA thriller, but it was more just a drama. It’s about a girl who has been released from prison after killing her best friend when they were ten. She is trying to start a new life under a new name, but the press interest makes it hard. I enjoyed it, though her boyfriend really bothered me because he was a controlling jerk and that was never addressed. :\

I also finally got around to reviewing Not Your Sidekick by C. B. Lee. You can read that review here.

What are you currently reading?

I have just started Renegades by Marissa Meyer and I’m keen to see her take on superheroes. So far I love the idea of the Puppeteer villain. At time of writing, I’m only at Chapter 4, so apart from that, I don’t have much of an opinion just yet.

I’ve also just started the sequel to Looking for JJ, Finding Jennifer Jones. It has a different narrator, though, which is mildly annoying.

What do you think you’ll read next?

I’ve said it the last couple of weeks and it might still be The Game You Played by Anni Taylor. Another thriller but I seem in the mood for those right now. Though there are a lot of reviews for this one that say it is overlong, so I’m a bit wary.

What are you reading this week? 

~ Emily

“Jess is too big for her skin, as if she might float away in the exhilarating possibility of the moment.” // Review of “Not Your Sidekick” by C. B. Lee

Title: Not Your Sidekick (Sidekick Squad #1)
Author: C. B. Lee
Genre:
YA/sci-fi/romance
Date Read: 28/11/2017 – 31/11/2017
Rating: ★★★

Review:

I really wanted to love this book for everything it was doing. Sadly, I didn’t feel the writing was quite good enough for to do anything more than mildly enjoy it.

Since it seems she is not going to manifest any kind of superpower like those of her parents and sister, Jess Tran begins applying for internships which might help her at least find a good college program. When she begins working for the town’s biggest supervillain, along with her longtime crush, Abby, she begins to question the superhero culture of the United States, and wonders whether the Heroes League of Heroes may have something to hide.

If I were just rating this book on its diversity, it would get five stars. In fact, it would probably get ten stars out of five. Jess is Asian-American and bisexual, and the romance between her and Abby is cute.  And a slow-burn, which is how I like my romances. There’s no insta-love here. One of Jess’ best friends, Bells, is a black trans guy and the other, Emma, has two mums. It’s so nice to see this sort of thing in a book that doesn’t focus on it. It’s just incidental in how these people live their lives.

The world-building was fairly basic but fine, but I just found myself not that impressed with the writing. A lot of the plot was fairly predicatable, and there was something stopping me from getting truly invested in the characters. The plot did pick up a bit more in the last quarter or maybe third, and I actually think that maybe things will improve in the second book (which I have started recently). While it may not have been my favourite book, I can totally appreciate the love it is getting from people who identify with the different aspects of Jess and her friends, and I want to support that so that perhaps more of these types of books will get published.

“All that stuff about the pleasures and dangers of fantasy, and what are stories for?” // Review of “Sam Zabel and the Magic Pen” by Dylan Horrocks

Title: Sam Zabel and the Magic Pen
Author: Dylan Horrocks
Genre: Graphic novel/fantasy/sci-fi
Date Read: 25/11/2016 – 26/11/2016
Rating: ★★

Review:

This was an interesting book and I admire it for what it’s trying to do and the messages it is trying to convey, but I felt it got a little too bogged down in that and forgot to tell and interesting story at the same time.

Sam Zabel is an aspiring cartoonist, carving out a living writing bad superhero scripts that he hates, all the while trying to find the inspiration to write something truly incredible. Then one day, he comes across an issue of an old New Zealand comic from the 50s, and when he sneezes, finds himself transported to the world inside its pages. What follows are a whole lot of questions Sam is not sure he knows the answer to.

The themes of this book are ones worth considering. It touches on the objectification of women in comics, and how far can we allow the “it’s just fantasy” argument to go before fantasies that are presented in and absorbed through comics and other mass popular culture media become problematic. These are important things to consider, and I appreicated Horrocks bringing them up.

Unfortunately, I found the storytelling a bit bland. Particularly at the start, there’s a lot of telling rather than showing. You’d expect a graphic novel to manage that better than a novel written in prose! The characters were all fairly two-dimensional character archetypes, and I didn’t feel that they each had their own unique voice. While obiously the artwork made them easy to tell apart, if I had been reading this in prose, it would have been one of those cases where I could barely distinguish them.

While this was a good idea, there was too much emphasis on the ~point, and not enough on storytelling to hold my interest for too long. I would recommend this if you are interested in the themes, but not so much if you’re just interested in reading some more graphic novels.


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Book Review: Unmasking: Lemon’s Thesis

Title: Unmasking: Lemon’s Thesis
Author: Gloria Weber
Genre: Urban fantasy (superheroes)
Date Read:
11/02/2016
Rating: ★★★★

unmasked1coverIt’s been a good while since I read anything with superheroes in it, and the last one wasn’t that great. Thankfully, Gloria Weber has set up both an interesting setting and well-developed characters, which meant my Friday evening spent reading this was time well spent.

Lemon “Em” Law is a super-genius living in Trowbridge City, a city heavily populated with superheroes and villains. As the daughter of one of the city’s most infamous supervillains, Em is pretty used to being vilified by everyone around her, She tries to ignore the negative treatment and instead work on her thesis. Unfortunately, the connections she makes during her research mean that her identity puts even more people in danger…

Trowbridge City is really well developed, and the world-building is nicely woven into the plot. I didn’t notice any info-dumps, but little details like a news program specifically designed to follow super news gave us the information we needed when we needed it. The fact that Em is also attending college throughout the book allows for professors to throw in tid-bits of information, and flashbacks from other characters’ POVs filled in the gaps where necessary.

Em is a really well-drawn character; I really felt for her as time after time, people sneered at her or whispered behind her back. Other characters, from the university’s Dean Chambers, to Yellow Fellow himself, and other heroes and villains who made appearances, all felt distinct and unique. The bonus chapter at the end also drew a really good picture of Em’s mother, and how a person could get to the point where they would end up in a relationship with someone like Yellow Fellow.

The book is quite short, and I did feel a bit “What? Is that all?!” when I got to the end, but I am definitely keen to see where the series continues to go, and to spend more time with Em in Trowbridge City.

(Thanks to Gloria Weber for a free copy of this book)

Book Release: UNMASKING: Lemon’s Thesis

In lieu of a book review today (I don’t know when I last finished a book, and that makes me sad), I have some exciting news for you. Fellow blogger and WIPpeteer, Gloria Weber, has just released her new book, set in a city populated by superheroes and supervillains. Read on to find out more!

 

Welcome to Trowbridge City. It’s home to superheroes, maniacal villains, and everyday citizens. The stories here aren’t about good versus evil, but about hard choices, prejudices, and experiences complicated by superpowers.

Lemon “Em” Law is a super genius and she’s also the daughter of Trowbridge’s most infamous super villain, Yellow Fellow. After being fired, bullied by her professor, and dumped all in the same day there’s only one thing she can do! And that’s work on her thesis. Truth is, the last thing Em wants to be is evil. Unfortunately that thesis of hers is so revolutionary it could be dangerous. Is she ready to learn the secrets behind the masks?

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Unmasking: Lemon’s Thesis is available on Amazon now. Here is a handy link. Ebook is $2.99 and the print copy is $9.99

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Gloria Weber lives in Ohio with her husband, son, daughter, and many pets. She has been writing for publication since March 2006. Over a dozen of her short stories have been published in ‘zines and anthologies. During the not-writing-times, she can be found doing not-fun-at-all-adult/mom/wife stuff, yoga, running very slowly (because that’s as fast as she can go), or cooking/baking. No matter what she is doing, she is a geek. There’s no turning that off.

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You can find more info about Unmasking: Lemon’s Thesis, including an excerpt, on this page.

Book Review: HERO by Perry Moore

Title: Hero
Author: Perry Moore
Genre: Sci-fi/superheroes
Format: Various, available from Amazon (I read the paperback)
Date Read: 28/04/2014 – 01/05/2014
Rating: ★★☆

Review:

I’m using the GoodReads ratings system for this book – it was better than “okay”, but I wouldn’t really go as far as to say “I liked it”. It had a lot of promise but something about it fell flat in the delivery.

perrymooreheroThom Creed is sixteen years old, and coming to terms with not only the fact that he is gay, but also that he is developing superpowers. His father is a disgraced superhero who has banned all superheroics from their house, and is also quite homophobic, so for a boy who just wants his dad to be proud of him… yeah.

Perry Moore was inspired to write this novel after compiling a list of 60 gay comic book characters who all met untimely ends, or were at least tortured, vilified and ostracised by the other heroes (somewhat akin to the Women in Refrigerators list compiled by Gail Simone and others to show the treatment of female characters in comics). He wanted to portray a gay superhero who actually got a happy ending, who is accepted by his friends and who doesn’t end up somehow screwing everything up for himself and everyone else.

This is an admirable cause and I think that the struggles of a gay teenager coming to terms with his sexuality were well done. It was things like the crushing disappointment Thom felt when the guy he liked mentioned having a girlfriend that convinced me of this aspect of the story. I read that Perry Moore was very conscious of avoiding the cliches that often plague gay characters, and I think he was quite successful at this.

The problem is the superheroes. For a start, they are all thinly disguised versions of the DC heroes with which we are already familiar. Superman (“Justice”) is there, as is Batman (“Dark Hero”), and plenty of others. The heroes-in-training with Thom have interesting powers, I guess, but their characters are all pretty generic. There were no parallels between the secret identity of a superhero and the secret identity a gay person might have to protect, something I took for granted would happen from the moment it became clear Thom was gay. While this isn’t exactly an original trope in the superhero genre (X-Men, anyone?), it would have given some depth to the world the novel was set in, which felt rather empty and under-developed. The novel’s Big Bad and climax also came pretty out-of-the-blue, and while I’ve read other reviews of this book that say it was obvious who was killing heroes (oh yeah, did I mention there’s also something of a murder mystery going on?), I didn’t see it that way. Then again, I do often miss details that give away things like that, so maybe I am the one who’s wrong here.

All in all… this book tries really hard, and I admire that, but I think it tries to be too many different things and that is its downfall. A better edit and some more development would have done wonders.

(Disclaimer: I apologise for this review not being up to my usual standard… time has got away from me the past couple of weeks and suddenly it is 10pm on Review-Friday night and I have to finish the post. Blah.)

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