#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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“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 – February 28, 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

I didn’t post here last Wednesday as I have decided to alternate Wednesday posts between this blog and my writing blog. That way I might actually find time to visit fellow participants in each blop hop! So this post covers my last two weeks of reading.

What have you recently finished reading?

First up, I finished The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. While I had a couple of issues with the pacing and being able to keep track of a fairly large cast of characters, I thought this was a great insight into the life of a Black teenager in present-day America. I reviewed it in more detail here.

I also read Adulthood is a Myth by Sarah Andersen. This is the book form of the webcomic Sarah’s Scribbles. It is cute, though I think I like it better as an isolated comic I sometimes see on the Internet, rather than all of them packed in together.

Because of the amount of walking and hiking (and driving to the mountains) I’m doing to train for my trek in Nepal in April, I’ve finished many audio books! Though I haven’t necessarily loved many of them, they have been a good distraction when I have been walking uphill for four hours (I am not even kidding).

First I finished Magonia by Maria Dahvana Headley, which was fine, I guess. I felt the balance between the sci-fi elements and the fantasy wasn’t quite achieved, and most of the characters annoyed me, but I did like most of the world-building and the mythology. You can read my full review here.

Then I finished the audio book of Across the Nightingale Floor by Lian Hearn. This was another 3-star book, as I felt it read more like a MG book, except it had more mature content in it. While it is the first in a series, it concluded enough that I’m not going to keep going.

After that was The Matchmakers by Jennifer Colgan. This was a cute fantasy romance about a cupid-type Fey who has to team up with a human to help three couples fall in love or they both lose their ability to love forever. I did enjoy this one.

And then there was Bootleg by Alex Shearer, which was a fairly short kids’ book about a Britain under control of the Good For You Party, which bans chocolate and all other sweets. This one was a bit silly but in the way you let slide when reading children’s books.

I’ve still got to get reviews written for most of these!

What are you currently reading?

I’ve had barely any time to read, what with hiking and actually finding inspiration for my own writing again, so I’m still reading the same ebook I started after The Hate U Give. It’s called Deadly Sweet and is by Lola Dodge, and even if I end up hating it (I am enjoying it so far), that cover is going to be one of my favourites of the year.

I am also reading Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh. I am sure many of you remember the blog of the same title, which gave us such gems as The Alot and This is Why I’ll Never Be an Adult (where “Clean all the things!” originated). The book is a mixture of some of the blog posts and some new content.

What do you think you’ll read next?

That’s a great question, I’m glad you asked it! I’m actually working on my March/April TBR right now! Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie and The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon are the two left over from my January-February TBR but knowing me I’ll probably get distracted by something else 😛

What are you reading this week?~ Emily

“Sometimes you can do everything right and things will still go wrong. The key is to never stop doing right.” // Review of “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas

Title: The Hate U Give
Author: Angie Thomas
Genre:
YA Contemporary
Date Read: 10/02/2018 – 14/02/2018
Rating:
 ★★★★

Review:

This book had been sitting on my Kindle for months, and while I kept i ntending to read it, I kept putting it off because I was pretty sure it wouldn’t be an easy read. There were definitely times when I got angry or frustrated, but for the most part, this was a really accessible account of what it can be like being black in America today.

This book was inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, and I don’t think I have ever read a book that felt quite so contemporary. Not just the issues presented, but in other ways. This one refers to things like Tumblr and how Black Twitter mobilises in the face of another shooting; this actually made me realise how little social media is utilised in so-called contemporary books (or at least the ones that I’ve read, which admittedly, isn’t a huge number).

The book is written in first person, so the narration, as well as the dialogue, is written in a style appropriate to that of a black American teenage girl. I’ve seen some reviews say the writing is terrible, but I think there’s a difference between “this is terrible writing” and “the author’s deliberate stylistic choice did not work for me”.  I appreciated hearing a different voice in the narration; one YA contemporary does sound very much like another lately, especially those written in first person.

I did like the way the black community was depicted; it was a warts ‘n’ all representation, though to be honest, I did sometimes lose track of who was related to whom and how, and who was working for whom. I also thought the way Starr’s conflict between the different selves she created for herself, depending on whether she was with her black family and friends or her white friends at school was well-depicted. After reading the author’s notes, I realise there is a lot of Angie Thomas in there. The attitudes of the white people around Starr at her school were well-done without being heavy-handed. I expect some white readers may get defensive over the portrayal, but honestly, it was quite realistic.

I did sometimes feel that the pacing was a bit off. Sometimes, something would feel repetitive or like it was being padded out, but then we got barely a glimpse of Starr’s testimony at the Grand Jury later on in the book. This was really the only thing that knocked a star off my rating.

I’ve seen some people say “Should I read this book or Dear Martin?” (another book about contemporary black teens) and even without having read the latter is, “Read both.” This is an important book, but it is only one author’s experience. I hope that the popularity of this particular story will mean that we get to hear of more black authors’ experiences in the near future.


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#WWW Wednesday – February 14, 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?

Only one finish this week: Keep Her Safe by Richard Parker. I know many people really loved it but I wasn’t a fan. I just couldn’t make sense of a lot of it. You can read my review here. Sorry it’s a bit ranty.

I actually DNFed Hellhole by Gina Damico, as the humour wore off after a while and I wasn’t really into the story. And given that I had completely forgotten about it until I looked at last week’s post to start this one, I guess that shows how much I was into it.

I also posted my review of Hunted by Meagan Spooner this week. You can find that one here.

What are you currently reading?

I am finally reading The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. For those unaware, this book came out of the Black Lives Matter movement and is about a black teenager whose best friend is shot by a white police officer while unarmed. I have put it off for a long time because I was worried about how I would find it. And it isn’t an easy read and is making me frustrated and angry a lot of the time, but in a good, this-book-is-challenging-me way.

On audio, I am still listening to Magonia by Maria Dahvana Headley, though I’ll probably finish it today or tomorrow. I like many of the ideas, but I’m not so sold on the plot itself. The MC is surrounded by characters who refuse to explain what is going on, mostly for the sake of padding out the plot, which is annoying. And I don’t care about her best friend who is trying to find her back on earth. I’ll finish this but unless the ending is really impressive, I don’t think I’ll read the sequel.

What do you think you’ll read next?

I’m going to try to knock a couple more books off my February TBR. Possibly Dollhouse by Anya Allyn will be next. Or The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon if I feel like a physical book instead of an ebook.

What are you reading this week?~ Emily

#WWW Wednesday – February 07, 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 two more audio books this week! All my training for my Nepal trek in April is paying off. I was driving for about five hours on Saturday, with a two-and-a-half hour hike in the middle. Good for audio books but my bum was rather sore by the end of the day.

First off, I finished Hunted by Meagan Spooner. The style of writing in this is a bit like The Night Circus in that half the time, I wasn’t sure I was into the story much. Then I sort of got used to its rhythms and the fact that it was more character-driven than anything else, and I really loved the descriptions of the setting. So if you like your Beauty and the Beast retellings and those things mentioned above, I recommend this one overall.

Next I finished You Sent Me Letter by Lucy Dawson. The problem with this was that it wasn’t very thrilling for a thriller. Though I wanted to know how it ended, I felt a bit unsatisfied by the time I actually got to the end. Oh well.

I also finished the ARC of Your One and Only, a sci-fi YA romance by Adrianne Finlay. I had been putting this off for ages, but I ended up really enjoying it.

This week I reviewed Lion by Saroo Brierley and Your One and Only as well.

What are you currently reading?

I started Hellhole by Gina Damico which is about a squeaky-clean teenager who ends up accidentally summoning a demon, who moves into his basement. It started off quite funny, though it’s worn a little thin. I’m still waiting to see if it picks up again.

On audio, I am listening to Magonia by Maria Dahvana Headley. This is not what I expected at all; from the descriptions, I expected it to be a lot closer to literary fiction, but it’s actually far more standard YA than that (by which I mean, accessible language, snarky teenage MC, etc). But it is interesting to see a totally different mythology being drawn on to most fantasy books.

What do you think you’ll read next?

Since I didn’t get around to it this week, I will stick with saying Keep Her Safe by Richard Parker. I’m hoping this will be a better “wake up to find a stranger in your home” thriller than You Sent Me A Letter turned out to be.

What are you reading this week?~ Emily

“We may have created them, but like all children, they grow up and make their own lives.” // Review of “Your One and Only” by Adrianne Finlay

Title: Your One and Only
Author: Adrianne Finlay
Genre:
YA/sci-fi/romance
Date Read: 29/01/2018 – 02/01/2018
Rating: ★★★

Review:

I was approved for this on NetGalley months and months ago, and for some reason kept putting it off. With the publication date looming, I thought I’d better get onto it, and when I did, it turned out to be a compelling read.

Jack is a human in a world of clones. The clones are suspicious of him because his behaviour doesn’t fall in line with theirs, and he doesn’t understand their ceremonies. Althea-310 can’t help feeling different from her sisters and drawn to Jack. As their world starts to fall apart, they find hope in each other.

This is definite soft sci-fi, and while some of the “science” did make me raise my eyebrows a little, I found the story was engaging enough that I was willing to handwave the world-building that didn’t seem exactly right. It did take me a few chapters to get my head around exactly how the communities of clones had come to be and how they lived and reproduced, but I did get there in the end.

I felt for Jack, who was raised in virtual isolation and disliked by the closest things he had to peers. But I was more interested in Althea. I liked seeing her progression from one of the clones to individual and how she questioned what was happening to her.

It did bother me that the clones isolated Jack in part because he had a tendency towards violence, but they couldn’t recognise that many of their own also had these same tendencies. The clones were supposed to be perfect, and Jack was different. I couldn’t work out whether that was supposed to be their cognitive dissonance, or a case of the world-building/story not quite working the way the author wanted it to.

I wouldn’t say the romance is gradual, but it did feel like it unfolded at a good pace. In terms of content, apart from some kissing, there is the clones’ monthly Pairing Ceremony. Though Pairings are never really described explicitly, the clones do discuss how they are taught what each of the other clones likes, and how to pleasure them. I did like this exploration of a completely new culture’s attitude towards sex.

There were a few occasions where the pacing felt a bit off, including at the end (during and after the climax). There were also a couple of scenes where dialogue went around in circles a bit.

I can’t say sci-fi romance is a sub-genre I’ve read much of, but if this is an example of it, then I feel like I should broaden my horizons.


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

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#WWW Wednesday – January 31, 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?

My goodness, two autobiography/memoirs finished this week? And they were both audio books? That is most unlike me. I reached the end of The Hospital by the River by Catherine Hamlin on Friday. I have to admit that there were times when I disagreed with things she said, but that just went to show that someone can have different values to you and still be a wonderful person overall. I actually went and donated to the Catherine Hamlin Fistula Foundation as soon as I had finished.

Over the weekend, I started and finished Lion, previously published as A Long Way Home, by Saroo Brierley. This was made into a movie last year starring Dev Patel and Nicole Kidman. Saroo was separated from his family at age 5 with only scant knowledge of his name or hometown, and lived on the streets of Kolkata before being placed in an orphanage and eventually adopted by an Australian couple. Twenty-five years later, the advent of Google Earth meant he was able to trawl through satellite images of India looking for familiar landmarks until he identified his home town and was reunited with his birth mother. It’s a fascinating story. My review will be up on Friday.

Unfortunately, I decided to DNF Every Breath by Ellie Marney. I had hoped to enjoy this one as I have seen Ellie Marney speak and she is a great person, and I also admire her for kick-starting the #LoveOzYA movement. But I think maybe her books aren’t for me? I was just bored.

Two reviews this week: Mr Stink by David Walliams and The Hospital by the River. Click the titles to read them.

What are you currently reading?

In print, I am reading and ARC of  Your One And Only by Adrianne Finlay. This is a YA sci-fi romance that will be released next week. I haven’t read any proper sci-fi in a while and I am liking this one, though I do have some questions about the science the premise is based on. But the story is engaging enough that I’m willing to let that slide, so that’s a good sign.

On audio, I am listening to Hunted by Meagan Spooner. This is a Beauty and the Beast retelling set in medieval Russia and drawing on other Russian fairytales as well. So far I’m really enjoying it.  I am also really enamored with the cover. I’m finding my groove with audio books again. For a while, I was distracted by some new musical discoveries, but the novelty of those has worn of a bit now.

What do you think you’ll read next?

I think I might go with Keep Her Safe by Richard Parker, which I  requested after seeing such good reviews from other bloggers. I have been reading a fair bit of YA lately, so an adult thriller is probably a good option.

What are you reading this week?~ Emily

#WWW Wednesday – January 24, 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 The Empty Grave (Lockwood & Co. #5) by Jonathan Stroud and it was a very satisfying conclusion to the series. Sometimes when I had read the previous installments, I didn’t really get why the characters were doing things or going to certain places, but everything drew together very nicely at the end.  I’m really looking forward to seeing what Stroud comes up with next. I posted my review on Monday.

 

What are you currently reading?

I have started reading Every Breath by Ellie Marney. Ellie Marney was one of the instigators of the #LoveOzYA movement, so I’ve been keen to check out this series for a while. I am only in chapter 2 at time of writing so it’s very early days, but based on the couple of chapters and the blurbs for all three books (I picked up all three from the library at the same time), it might be one of those YA series that could either go very, very right or very, very wrong.

I am still going with The Hospital by the River by Catherine Hamlin on audio but I have made some good progress and I think I’m at about the 80% mark now.

What do you think you’ll read next?

As it was last week, I’m not quite sure. I would like to knock one more book off my Jan-Feb TBR before the end of January, as then I’ll be halfway through it. I also need to look at some of my ARCs pretty soon.

~ Emily