Sunday, April 16, 2017

Review: Geekerella by Ashley Poston

Firstly, thanks to Quirk Books for this review copy <3

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Date Read: March 23 - 30 2017
Date Released: April 4th 2017
Publisher: Quirk Books
Source: Review copy via publisher
Genre: Contemporary
My Rating:

Synopsis:
"Cinderella goes to the con in this fandom-fueled twist on the classic fairy tale.
Part romance, part love letter to nerd culture, and all totally adorbs, Geekerella is a fairy tale for anyone who believes in the magic of fandom. Geek girl Elle Wittimer lives and breathes Starfield, the classic sci-fi series she grew up watching with her late father. So when she sees a cosplay contest for a new Starfield movie, she has to enter. The prize? An invitation to the ExcelsiCon Cosplay Ball, and a meet-and-greet with the actor slated to play Federation Prince Carmindor in the reboot. With savings from her gig at the Magic Pumpkin food truck (and her dad’s old costume), Elle’s determined to win…unless her stepsisters get there first.

Teen actor Darien Freeman used to live for cons—before he was famous. Now they’re nothing but autographs and awkward meet-and-greets. Playing Carmindor is all he’s ever wanted, but the Starfield fandom has written him off as just another dumb heartthrob. As ExcelsiCon draws near, Darien feels more and more like a fake—until he meets a girl who shows him otherwise."

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When I heard about Geekerella I knew it was the book for me. Fandoms? Conventions? Cosplays? Oh my god this was my high school and uni years.

Our modern Cinderella is Danielle (Elle), a regular high school teen who seems odd to outsiders but seems familiar to those of us who are dedicated fans of anything. Elle is an extremely passionate Starfield fan, having grown up with the intergalactic TV series and it’s what connected her parents. She knows every episode off by heart and is faithful to the show’s original cast and story. Elle also writes fanfic and keeps a dedicated blog of her thoughts on the show, this is a true fan girl right here (doesn’t that sound familiar?). Can someone be annoyingly selfless? Because I found Elle to be selfless to the point of spineless and never sticking up for herself. Whatever people wanted, she did their bidding no complaints. I was screaming GIRL SAY NO COME ON but nope she let people walk over her, bully her, taking it all in stride. Just once I wanted her to be like the Princess Amara or Prince Carmindor she adored, the way they took the initiative to act rather than sit back and let their enemies defeat them. There’s a lot of development required for Elle, she’s got to learn to go for things.

Prince Charming comes in the form of hottie teen heartthrob Darien Freeman who’s been cast in the role of Prince Carmindor and I loved his character so much. There’s the juxtaposition of what he does from his point of view, such as requesting someone to take him off a signing schedule, to how the act is actually perceived – he comes off as pretentious and self-entitled. The poor guy only wants a break from the media and paparazzi, to take a breather, but everybody is breathing down his neck. I thought Poston did a great job of portraying how difficult it must be to be a teen celebrity, especially one controlled by others and trying to please everyone. It’s a different side to the glamorous lifestyle, lacking freedom and making things like going to the vending machine to buy something, an extremely hard thing to achieve. I liked his own journey of trying his best to do the role of Carmindor justice because for him it’s personal – he’s a Starfield fan too. Along the way he learns what he really wants out of life.

I found the modern twist Poston put on the characters to be really fun and creative. There’s the typical evil stepmother and stepsisters but the stepsisters are YouTube beauty vloggers who are materialistic. I also liked that there’s more to the stepsisters than meets the eye. Then we’ve got the ‘fairy godmother’ who is just so fitting… and the very literal pumpkin. I had a right laugh when I got to that part. The characters represented their original fairy tale monikers but held their own as Poston’s creation. Also props to Poston to the natural way diversity was incorporated.

The romance is sweet and develops in the back-and-forth of text messages which I found really cute. I thought it was fitting given how the story has social media/technology driven vibes. The conversation has this prince and princess theme in the form of Carmindor and Amara. It’s here the two are able to voice their truths and find a reprieve from their everyday problems. At the same time, the method of communication presents the issue of safety because two strangers texting each other never having met… it’s almost like online dating? You really don’t know who’s on the other end. Both Elle and Darien voice this concern which is good and they don’t ever really talk about meeting – which is like BUT YOU MUST from the perspective of the reader. There are swoony moments, angsty moments and just how does a text message manage to slay me? Don’t you feel it’s easier to talk to someone and say what you really want to say via text/IM?

The plot being centred around a fandom and cosplay is just ughh *hugs this book* it gave me all the fuzzy feelings. It took me back to a time when I used to write (horrible) fanfiction, and spend my nights reading HP fanfic. I was transported to the world of cons and cosplay (I actually went back to my photos of Animania, ah the nostalgia). This was a world that spoke to me and I got it. I got the difficulty of Elle getting her Starfield cosplay correct, to the buttons and crown (there was this one time I wanted to cosplay Organization XIII from Kingdom Hearts and making the robe is HARD, I didn’t go through with it). There’s the whole online community, everybody different in real life but united by their fandom, it’s so supportive and fun. Watching Elle navigate her fandom world as she raced against the clock to get her costume together was so exhilarating.

Basically, I adored Geekerella and I thought Poston did an amazing job turning a much loved classic into a relatable modern fairy tale of fandoms, love and friendship. Never underestimate the power of a fandom y’all.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Review: Waking Gods (Themis Files #2) by Sylvain Neuvel

Firstly, thanks to Random House for this review copy <3

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Date Read: March 16 - 20 2017
Date Released: April 4th 2017
Publisher: Del Rey
Source: Review copy via publisher
Genre: Science Fiction
My Rating:

Warning: this reviews contains major spoilers for book 1 Sleeping Giants


Synopsis:
"As a child, Rose Franklin made an astonishing discovery: a giant metallic hand, buried deep within the earth. As an adult, she’s dedicated her brilliant scientific career to solving the mystery that began that fateful day: Why was a titanic robot of unknown origin buried in pieces around the world? Years of investigation have produced intriguing answers—and even more perplexing questions. But the truth is closer than ever before when a second robot, more massive than the first, materializes and lashes out with deadly force.

Now humankind faces a nightmare invasion scenario made real, as more colossal machines touch down across the globe. But Rose and her team at the Earth Defense Corps refuse to surrender. They can turn the tide if they can unlock the last secrets of an advanced alien technology. The greatest weapon humanity wields is knowledge in a do-or-die battle to inherit the Earth . . . and maybe even the stars."

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Last chance - if you haven't read Sleeping Giants DO NOT PROCEED.

Sleeping Giants was one of my favourite books of 2016, it absolutely blew my mind with the concept and Neuvel’s immersive writing style. I’d never read such wonderful plot twists… until Waking Gods that is. Waking Gods surprised me at every turn and was even more impactful than book 1.

The book opens 9 years after the events of Sleeping Giants, with a new robot having appeared out of thin air in the middle of London. Everybody is in a tizzie because what could this mean and what do they do, when do they bring Themis in?

Since coming back to life at the end of Sleeping Giants, Rose has been struggling with who she is for the past 9 years. The 4 years she spent working on discovering Themis are not a part of her, and while she’s still a brilliant scientist she questions the ‘Rose’ during those 4 years which she can’t remember. I can’t blame her for continuing to question her existence – I mean who wouldn’t be if they were brought back to life? Sleeping Giants Rose approached the discovery of Themis with a positive energy and fervour that made Themis her life. The Rose after is much more hesitant. She is no less brilliant but she’s now seeing things in a much more cautious and negative light. Everybody basically tells her to harden the eff up but it takes her the course of the book to develop and come to terms with who she is.

Kara and Vincent have gotten a lot closer since book 1 and I love their dynamic. I never would have pictured them becoming a couple when they were first introduced but oh how far things have come. Kara is still kind of reckless but hilarious with her witty comebacks, and Vincent is still a genius but I could totally see that they’re in love. Vincent especially has a smaller ego and is always considerate of Kara and it’s so damn sweet. Their life as a couple is also their work and I admired their ability to maintain such a strong relationship despite their differences. Their banter was fun and delightful as always and showed how well they got along.

The unnamed man who I think of as the mastermind behind all of this is still pulling strings and manipulating people throughout the story, however I feel like he’s grown softer. I really admired the way Neuvel did this character’s voice. He elicits such reactions from people with his calm and blunt comments and I could always ALWAYS tell when it was him speaking. There’s something so penetrating about the structure of his words and sentences that cannot be misinterpreted. It’s jarring to the receiver, and to those who aren’t used to him it’s kind of hilarious the way they get angry. Then you’ve got Rose and Vincent who answer normally while Kara responds with her usual wit because they’re so used to him. Neuvel has really done a fantastic job with this unique and recognisable voice through both books. He’s managed to give the character growth in his subtle and infrequent shows of emotion with the way he protects those he’s come to care about.

As with the first book there’s a lot of science and I’m no scientist but I could tell Neuvel had really done his research. The science is in-depth yet Neuvel is also able to explain it in layman terms, presenting these in interview style as a scientist talking to a pleb like me, ahem, I mean non-scientist. There’s more maths, more chemistry and metallurgy, and heaps of biology with talk of DNA and evolution. It was fascinating and planted a lot of seeds in my brain with the direction this story was going. Neuvel’s writing style is easy-going, flowing well and immersive – I couldn’t stop turning the pages!

The plot though, my goodness! Alien robots that are posing to be a threat to mankind seems standard but there’s so many plot twists and mind-fuck moments. There’s punch you in the feels moments too that left me in denial (I’m STILL in denial damn it) and an ending to end all endings with a whopping cliffhanger.

To say Waking Gods is one of the most breathtaking and thought provoking books I’ve ever read in my lifetime is an understatement. It messed with my brain and my heart. Thank goodness there’s a book 3 – I made sure to check with Neuvel and he’s confirmed it’s in the works!

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Review: Strange the Dreamer (Strange the Dreamer #1) by Laini Taylor

Firstly, thanks to Hachette Australia for this review copy <3

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Date Read: February 11 - 26 2017
Date Released: March 28th 2017
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Source: Review copy via publisher
Genre: Fantasy
My Rating:

Synopsis:
"The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around - and Lazlo Strange, war orphan and junior librarian, has always feared that his dream chose poorly. Since he was five years old he's been obsessed with the mythic lost city of Weep, but it would take someone bolder than he to cross half the world in search of it. Then a stunning opportunity presents itself, in the person of a hero called the Godslayer and a band of legendary warriors, and he has to seize his chance to lose his dream forever.

What happened in Weep two hundred years ago to cut it off from the rest of the world? What exactly did the Godslayer slay that went by the name of god? And what is the mysterious problem he now seeks help in solving?

The answers await in Weep, but so do more mysteries - including the blue-skinned goddess who appears in Lazlo's dreams. How did he dream her before he knew she existed? And if all the gods are dead, why does she seem so real?

In this sweeping and breathtaking new novel by National Book Award finalist Laini Taylor, author of the New York Times bestselling Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy, the shadow of the past is as real as the ghosts who haunt the citadel of murdered gods. Fall into a mythical world of dread and wonder, moths and nightmares, love and carnage."

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In typical Laini fashion, Strange the Dreamer made my heart ache with its lyrical writing and phenomenal plot.

The story is told in third person from two main perspectives, our dreamer Lazlo Strange and our girl Sarai. Though they may seem different on the outside, on the inside they’re both idealists.

I really loved Lazlo’s gentle and dreamy perspective. There aren’t many guys like that in the books I’ve read so I appreciate a genuinely nice guy who’s shy, kind and thoughtful. He’s always got his head stuck in a book, and fairytales and fantasies at that. I found him perceptive in his own way, noticing the little things that only someone who stands on the sidelines can see. All his hours reading books pay off though and his knowledge may not be in alchemy, but myths and fairytales stem from some truth. People underestimate him because he’s kind, considerate and quiet. But screw them because this is a guy who sees beyond and thinks outside the box – here’s a dreamer that’s the hope for a lost city. Lazlo is just the sweetest guy and you can’t help but immediately root for him.

The story then breaks to the perspective of a girl in a citadel and I was sort of like nooooo I want more Lazlo. Of course, then I instantly fell in love with Sarai and her life up there. Her character and person is so beautiful. She’s so conflicted because while she is meant to hate her supposed enemies, her gift has allowed her to see what her people have done to them and she can’t help but understand their hate. She can’t help but feel compassion towards them as she battles her need to hate what they did to her people. Sarai is so kind and sweet with a strong moral compass – I really want to be her friend!

Each of the secondary characters have their own story and I was especially fascinated by the few others in the citadel with Sarai, and the citizens of Weep who Lazlo became familiar with. The Godslayer and Azareen have their own back story which I can’t wait to see more of. There’s also Minya who creeps the hell out of me, she’s this little girl but she’s not and I’m like omg this one is scary.

When Lazlo and Sarai meet there’s this lovely purity to it. Here are two people who have suffered in their own ways but are filled with light. It’s the stuff of dreams (literally), with endless possibilities and anything can happen. Including the growing hope of a possible harmony between two races that have caused carnage and done unspeakable things to each other. There’s something so epic about these two and every moment they have together is hard won and precious. I loved the innocence to the way these two interacted. They’re both kind of na├»ve in the way of romance but there’s no denying their connection – they share the same ideals, always giving others the benefit of the doubt and treating them with kindness. Lazlo and Sarai shone so brightly for me and yet I felt like they were standing on a precipice and everything could fall.

The mystery of Weep immediately drew me in and I can tell Taylor barely scraped off the top layer in terms of revelations in this book. There’s so much going on what with supposed gods (Godslayer had to slay something godly right?), floating citadels, metals with unknown composition and lost memories. While it’s a completely different world, I couldn’t help but draw similarities with the DoSaB trilogy in terms of themes and characterization. For fear of spoilers I won’t say anymore about the plot, only that it twists and turns and punches you in the feels. Not once but multiple times. I came out of this with a bruised yet hopeful heart.

While I found Strange the Dreamer to be slow in pace, I can’t deny Laini’s writing is as gorgeous as always. Her style just keeps you wanting more. Her way with words is stunning. Everything is altogether more bright and glowing, the world around us vivid and vibrant. Everything is also more devastating, the bloodshed more tragic, the strength of each emotion multiplied tenfold. Your eyes take in the writing, your brain processes the words and it’s a jolt to each neuron as your heart feels like it’s exploding.

Laini Taylor has cemented as a master of fantasy, a queen with words and uniquely epic tales filled with hope and lovely characters. I can’t wait for Muse of Nightmares!