Sunday, 17 December 2017

Book Review: The Stray, by Amanda Geisler

The Stray (The White Wolf Trilogy, #1)The Stray by Amanda Geisler

A young adult novella in the same stream as Vampire Diaries, Teen Wolf and New Moon, The Stray follows the perspective of a number of supernatural teens living in small-town New Jersey. Rya Garcia, a werewolf and the heir to position of alpha to her pack, makes a bold move when she insists on breaking a stray werewolf out of captivity in order to help preserve the secrecy of their existence. She uses her influence with Zac, the son of the town's resident werewolf researcher, to gain entry onto the compound where the stray is kept, but quickly discovers that interest in her kind is much more prolific and advanced than any of them had known.

Geisler begins her story with impact, straight into the action of a wolfpack meeting out in the forest at night. Rya attends with her trusty sidekick Toby, and puts forward her suggestion about the stray to Erik, the bitter, angry black wolf who has forced his way into power over the rest of the werewolves in the absence of Rya's parents. The lore of werewolves is clearly significant to the author, and is woven throughout the story.

From here, some of the pacing was a little off, meaning that significant characters weren't consistently present throughout the story or were introduced quite late in the piece, undermining some of their impact, leading to some confusion and sometimes lacking in adequate consequences for total satisfaction of storytelling. Though not my favourite of the wide cast of characters, I appreciate what Geisler was aiming for in her creation of Rya, an independent, strong young female lead. Her aggression got the better of her several times throughout the story, and I hope this will backfire on her in future stories to create more drama and conflict as she attempts to assert her dominance. I connected more with Toby, who I thought was fun and loyal, very much depicted as the friendly puppy at Rya's side, and Colby, though I wish he was in the story sooner. His mildness and togetherness gave some balance to the rash cast of younger characters whose recklessness gets the story started. There were also some questions left unanswered about how the human population had become aware of the wolves in the first place, and Erik's human backstory. With two more books in the series yet to be released, and with Geisler just starting out in her authorial career, it can be hoped that these characters and subplots are more fully developed in coming stories.

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Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Book Review: The 100, by Kass Morgan

The 100 (The Hundred, #1)The 100 by Kass Morgan
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I'm a big fan of the show and I understand that it's unfair to compare the two due to the differing strengths and opportunities of each medium, but I don't think this novel lived up to its potential. Such a shame! I wanted to like this, and I wanted it to delve more into the relationships and the true depths of the characters in the way only a novel can. But alas. This novel is more teen than young adult, with a lot of focus on best friends and boyfriends and feeling betrayed and left out, though with a couple of YA elements thrown in to age it that could have been utilised more powerfully.

Introducing the same premise from which the show was spawned, young space-dwelling characters Clarke, Wells and Bellamy find themselves stranded on an unfriendly post-apocalyptic Earth, fighting for survival. They set up camp and instinctively follow the lead of Wells, the son of the Chancellor who damned them all by sending them down to a possibly radioactive world, because he's the only person who seems to have his act together. A ragtag group of 100 juvenile delinquents, there's a bit of infighting and power struggle, as one would expect between such extreme characters in such an extreme circumstance. Only, sadly, it doesn't feel all that believable. The characters are underdeveloped and flat. Their reactions to events are let down by the lack of description, feeling or build-up, resulting in character deaths that could go unnoticed, their impact minimal. It's a pity, because this book reads like a first draft script for the pilot episode of the show, following the same events for the most part, and there was so much more that could have been done with these diverse characters in this extreme setting. As the show proved.

Probably the highlight of the book for me was Glass, a character left out in the show, or rather, amalgamated with Clarke to give her some substance. Glass escaped the dropship just as Bellamy boarded, and tells the story of events that transpire on the arks in the days and weeks following. Her main focus is on her boyfriend, which didn't entertain me all that much, but I was interested by her day-to-day life, showing how people truly live on board the life-saving arks, such as exchanging and recycling materials at a market because there's nothing new, ever, to work with when you're an isolated space community. I liked that concept, and how it (and other technologies we don't have today but which could conceivably exist by that time in the future) was normalised into her society.

Unsure if I'll read the rest of the series. I don't think I'm the right audience. This book would suit a younger reader looking for angst and romance over science fiction.

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Friday, 15 September 2017

Six Things I’ll Do In Six Weeks When My Thesis Is Submitted

If we wait until we’re ready, we’ll be waiting for the rest of our lives. 

-Lemony Snicket 

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With the final FINAL deadline for my Masters thesis now six weeks away, to the day, I’m obviously feeling the crunch (hello and goodbye, September break – you are spoken for!) but also really starting to miss some of the leisure activities that have been shelved as the year has progressed. Below is a non-comprehensive list of the things I plan to do when the thesis is done.

Read books 

Oh god, YES, BOOKS!!! Having no time hasn’t stopped me from accumulating and desiring books, and my bookshelf is currently home to exactly 83 unread books (yes, I did just hop up and count them) along with many, many more read ones that I’d LOVE to have time to reread. I actively avoid libraries and bookstores because they just add more to my to-be-read list and it feels like a painfully long time since I could just stumble across a new book and sit and indulge in it right then and there. 

Watch movies 

So, I heard Wonder Woman is coming out – oh, missed another one. There’s still a Blockbuster Video hire store proximal to me and my membership card is going to get a workout these Christmas holidays as I binge my way into the modern cinematic era.  

See my friends 

Supposing any of them even remember me, I am really looking forward to having the time to actually see my friends. Not just liking their posts on FB; not just giving them an apologetic wave on my way past their classroom to do my photocopying; not just indefinitely rescheduling lunch with them. I miss having the time to go for our weekly walks and play in the park with my nephewling and wander around Southbank browsing the markets chatting even though it’s always the same stuff for sale. I miss having the time somewhere in my foreseeable future in which I could fly to Rockhampton or Gladstone for a weekend to spend time with my more distant friends. Studying and teaching full-time has been impossible to balance with sustaining non-daily relationships and I am so grateful to have the amazing (and understanding) friends I’ve got. I’m excited to see more of all of you. 

See my family 

As above. While I’m quite sure my parents haven’t forgotten they have a daughter, it would be prudent to remind them more frequently to ensure this never happens. Also I miss them. I would like to find more time to visit with my cousins and grandma, who are relatively local, and to get to New Zealand more to see my family over there. Everyone is very supportive of me and my study, of course, and I’m grateful for that encouragement and belief in me, but it sucks how much time it’s sapping from me at this crunch-time point. 

Watch TV 

People are always like, “Are you up to date with Supernatural?” “Have you watched Battlestar Galactica?” “Did you ever end up finishing Hannibal?” I have SO MUCH television to catch up on, and also have other great shows coming out later this year that I’m invested in: Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, for one, and Stranger Things, which are both releasing their second season right after my thesis is submitted. How fateful is that??! 


The one you’re all waiting to hear. Yes! The weekly ritual of devoting two hours on a Wednesday night to creative writing has been cute, but is hardly a replacement for good, wholesome writing time. I’m looking forward to whole weekends where I get lost in a scene and have to be reminded to eat. When half my brain is stuck in a guilt cycle of “You should really be working on something else right now, shouldn’t you…?” it’s been impossible to make any real progress on my actual books this year. I’m eager to shrug something off and replace it with book writing.

Now all I need to do is maintain the illusion that finishing the thesis will clear out my schedule completely, and to forget that the thesis deadline falls at the start of reporting season at school, and to forget that report cards are followed by Year 2 swimming week, and to forget that swimming week is followed by classroom clean-up… I need a holiday from my life.

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Book Review: Devil's Advocate, by Jonathan Maberry

Devil's Advocate (The X-Files: Origins, #2)Devil's Advocate by Jonathan Maberry
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved so much about this book. I didn't know what to expect as I hadn't read the author before, but that left only room to be impressed. Set around what those of us in the know can recognise immediately as an X-File (of the paranormal experiment conspiracy type), teenage Dana Scully explores an early interest in the occult and paranormal before this faith is burnt, revealing the inner sceptic we know and love from the series later in her life. The depiction of little Scully is very satisfying - she's the classic good-girl, of course, smart and sensible, but she sticks up for herself and the voice Maberry delivers her in is entirely believable as a young version of the Scully we meet in the pilot. As the story follows a fifteen-year-old Dana, we get an insight into her childhood and family life that before we could only infer, and it too is gratifying, in particular the relationship between Dana and Melissa. Scully's sister is only a relatively small recurring role, for a short time, in the series, but is expanded here to depict a truly loving and close sisterhood between the girls, with Dana as the little sister always looking up to the elder but simultaneously growing into her own person. The dynamic is warm and fun, and I took great pleasure from the many passages of prose where the girls shared a scene. The other highlight for me were the words themselves. I wish I could remember every playful or meaningful line, but there were too many; the characterisation surprisingly consistent for an adult male writing a teen girl (extra kudos) and so there are many great and quotable Scully-esque lines from her inner monologue. There were many places where I stopped to reread a line or paragraph because I love a beautiful arrangement of words, but I suppose nothing compares with little Dana admitting she has visions, or naively uttering the famous lines 'The truth is out there' and 'I want to believe' years before she would ever meet Mulder. Really, really happy with this book, and only wish I'd had the time to read it more solidly, because X-Files is made for bingeing. Recommended for Scully fans.

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Thursday, 13 July 2017

Six Cities I Still Desperately Want to Visit

Only those who risk going too far find out how far they can go. 

-Walter Bishop, Fringe 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

A moderately well-travelled individual, I have been lucky enough to visit some beautiful cities around our wonderful world, gathering memories, ideas, inspiration and keyrings along the way. While I have some definite favourites I have crossed off my list – and which I frequently daydream about revisiting – there are six cities I am yet to see which remain desperately high on my travel agenda. 


The Parthenon. The Acropolis. The Erechtheion. Thousands of years of western history on everyday display for the general public in the form of temples, monuments, ruins, not to mention everything in all the museums. My lifelong fascination with Greek mythology and the history of culture and language is all satisfied, in my pipedream, in one good long holiday in Athens. 


There are a number of factors calling me to Northern Ireland’s capital city. Probably the most obvious is The Elm Stone Saga, which is set not too far from there. I had planned to go (planned, booked, paid for, all but packed for) many years ago but the tour I organised was cancelled at the last possible minute and I ended up in London instead, and somehow, I have not managed to find the time or the right prompt to try and visit again. So, to this day, I have never been to Northern Ireland. But Belfast attracts me especially, more so than Coleraine, where Aristea is first found in Chosen. Have you watched The Fall? Belfast is the setting of this police drama/thriller, and it’s depicted so beautifully, highlighting the stunning architecture and night-time lights of this unsung city. It’s on my list! 


In none of my three visits to Germany have I been to the capital, one of the most liveable (and presumably visitable) cities in the world. This must be amended! Friends of mine who have been rave about its beauty and the safe, easy feeling of being there. I want to see the remains of the Wall, visit the Holocaust memorials and look at the Brandenburg Gate. More than all that, I just really want to see more of Germany – my very favourite country so far. 


I’ve seen Sydney and Melbourne, lived most my life in Brisbane, and have played with the idea of flying to Adelaide to see pandas, but the Australian city I most want to see after watching Secret City is the capital. It’s not one you hear about often – exciting holiday stories are usually about trendy windswept adventures through Melbourne or upbeat fun in Sydney – and in primary school SOSE it always felt like that dot you draw on the map last, like, oh yeah, we’ve got that capital somewhere around here… I had never been intrigued by it until Secret City was shot there. TV shows do such a great job of selling locations to me, have you noticed? They use wonderful sweeping camera shots of all the beautiful government buildings and the geometric patterns made by their careful urban planning. It looks pretty. 


I’ve stopped over here for an hour or so on a flight back from Wellington, but it doesn’t count because I never left the airport. I’d like to see this great southern city while it still (kind of) stands. The destruction wrought on it has done heartbreaking damage to what looks like a gorgeous, charming old place. The cathedral comes to mind as something I truly want to see, but I’m sure in a city of this age, second-hand bookshops, antique stores and quirky side street finds would still be aplenty, and these are my favourite things to do in a new place. 


I have always wanted to visit the Canadian capital. Maybe it’s the name; I like the name. Vancouver. I like saying it, the way it feels to produce the sounds in my mouth, and I like writing it. I like the ou. The things that catch your fancy when you’re a wordsmith. In pictures it looks delightfully pretty and clean, and friends of mine who have lived or visited Vancouver sell a story of a cultured, pleasant place. This is where they film Supernatural and The X-Files, which helps keep it at the forefront of my mind throughout the television season. People always have the nicest things to say about trips to Canada, and I like the idea of a northern-hemisphere, semi-frozen version of Australia with bears that don’t drop.