Genie's Weekly News (62) - Shakespeare with a twist, new books on my shelves and the latest thrillers I'm recommending

Sunday, 18 March 2018

I always enjoy seeing how Bell Shakespeare Company interprets Shakespeare's classics, and 'Antony and Cleopatra' did not disappoint! Of course, there's always room for some creative license, and the' ultra-modern set with the lighting effects and brilliant cast made all the difference. It was definitely a refreshing take on an ancient tale of love and the all-consuming quest for power which holds its roots in actual historical events. 

I'm looking forward to watching how Julius Caesar' compares later this year, though in between I'm sure their take on Moliere's The Misanthrope is sure to be a hit - according to the site it features a strong female lead who is 'savvy and sophisticated' and 'rejects false flattery' in a witty satire. It sounds like it might be the most relatable and sassy play of the year, I can't wait until tickets are released!

Now that uni has gone back for the semester, I've been trying to squeeze in as many books as I can between my compulsory readings, going through more than a few post-its and mugs of coffee in the process. While I haven't been posting as often on this little corner of the internet, some of my writing has been featured in Vertigo magazine with a review of The High Places by Fiona McFarlane.

Currently Reading

This book has been surrounded by hype since its release in January, so I've been keen to see if it really is the next Gone Girl or The Girl on the Train. The verdict so far? I'm already halfway through and there are subtle hints to the malice lurking behind closed doors, but I'm waiting for a big reveal to surprise me. It's a funny coincidence that I've started reading The Woman in the Window after finishing another one which also has a focus on questioning just how well you know your neighbours...

Recommendation of the Week

Like Sally Hepworth's previous releases, The Family Next Door offers a portrait of the challenges motherhood brings and secrets simmering beneath the surface of a perfect facade. But this latest novel is so much more, with suspenseful drama playing off every page, leaving you wondering just what the neighbouring women in Pleasant Court really have to hide. There was a twist I did not see coming, and that's what every good thriller needs! 

On the interwebs

  • The Stella Prize 2018 shortlist has been announced, with a few on there that I haven't heard of but hope to read by the end of the year.
  • Applications are open to bloggers, artists and other content creators to be part of the National Young Writer's Festival, closing on the 31st March. 

New additions to my shelves

  • The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night by Jen Campbell: The hardcover of this book looks stunning. and I can't wait to begin exploring the short stories inside.
  • Glitter by Aprilynne Pike: I discovered this on the shelf at work the other day and it sounds amazing already, depicting the scandals at the Versailles palace in a near-futuristic setting. It's reminding me just slightly of Claudia Gray's A Thousand Pieces of You with the past-meets-future vibe. 
  • Small Spaces by Sarah Epstein: This is next on my list to read and releases on 1st April! I'm always excited for debut Australian writers, and this riveting YA thriller is going to be big.

What are you reading this week?

{Blog Tour} Goodbye, Perfect by Sara Barnard

Friday, 16 February 2018

Goodbye, Perfect by Sara Barnard
Released: 8th January
Published by: Pan Macmillan Australia
Genre: YA Contemporary
Source: Publisher
Pages: 320
My Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
When I was wild, you were steady . . . Now you are wild - what am I?

Eden McKinley knows she can’t count on much in this world, but she can depend on Bonnie, her solid, steady, straight-A best friend. So it’s a bit of a surprise when Bonnie runs away with the boyfriend Eden knows nothing about five days before the start of their GCSEs. Especially when the police arrive on her doorstep and Eden finds out that the boyfriend is actually their music teacher, Mr Cohn.

Sworn to secrecy and bound by loyalty, only Eden knows Bonnie’s location, and that’s the way it has to stay. There’s no way she’s betraying her best friend. Not even when she’s faced with police questioning, suspicious parents and her own growing doubts. As the days pass and things begin to unravel, Eden is forced to question everything she thought she knew about the world, her best friend and herself.
Thank you to Pan Macmillan Australia for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review

Goodbye Perfect portrays a complex situation between best friends and the secret between them which spirals out of control. Illicit relationships between teachers and students have been on the newsfeeds on a number of occasions, and this book goes some way into analysing the fallout and consequences of police involvement through media coverage. Aside from the investigation is a glimpse into Eden's family life and how her own relationships are influenced by how she feels about Bonnie's actions.

It was of course frustrating to read in the beginning how Eden truly struggled with telling the authorities what she knew about the scandal, but you can see how Barnard has written this story in the hopes that it reads authentically. While this drama surrounding Bonnie's relationship with their music teacher was the main plot point as Eden questioned her loyalty and who to trust, there was the other side of the book which was more heartwarming. It would have been interesting to delve deeper into the history behind Eden's adoptive family, but even so it was a great point of character development to see how she interacted with her older sister over the course of the novel.


Friendship, family, and the consequences of a relationship which should never have happened all converge in this YA contemporary novel which questions how far you'd go to protect the secret of someone you care about.

Happiness for Humans by P.Z. Reizin - Would you trust an AI system with your love life?

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Happiness for Humans by P.Z. Reizin
Released: 11th January 2018
Published by: Hachette
Genre: Adult Contemporary
Source: Publisher
Pages: 452
My Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Don't tell anyone, but Jen is one of my favourite people. 

(Machines aren't supposed to have favourites. Don't ask me how this has happened.) 

Jen is sad. Aiden wants her to be happy. Simple? Except that Jen is a thirty-something woman whose boyfriend has just left her and Aiden is a very complicated, very expensive piece of software. Aiden knows Jen inside out. With access to all her devices, he knows her most played song, can find her favourite photos and single out the insta-quotes which most inspire her.

Based on observations and unique algorithms, he has calculated that Jen should find a new man to achieve optimum wellbeing. And with the whole of the internet at his disposal, he doesn't have to look far to find a perfect specimen and engineer a meeting. Except Jen seems to be remarkably unwilling to fall in line with Aiden's flawless plan.

Can a very artificially intelligent machine discover emotional intelligence in time to fix Jen's life? And find out what exactly makes human beings happy?
It's not every day that you come across a book this witty, enjoyable and delightfully charming. Happiness for Humans is at times outlandish, yet never strays too far from being endearing and funny in all the right places. Jen works with Aiden as part of her job to make 'him' become more human-like and relatable. When he escapes onto the internet however, anything could happen. But what would an AI system know about love and happiness? That's just what this novel challenges us to find out, and remember that romance can blossom from even the most unlikely of circumstances.

This is a bit of a flyer, but here's what seems to have happened. Because I am a massively complex system, programmed to learn for myself, to correct my own mistakes, even to redesign my own software, I have somehow - by accident - definitely by accident - found myself with the ability to be aware of my own thoughts.

The narration and writing style stands out for its unique perspectives and alternating POV's. It's hard to fathom being able to 'relate' to an AI system in a book, but somehow P.Z. Reizin has made these sections some of the most heartwarming. Poor Jen has just had her long-term boyfriend leave her for someone else (with some drama that follows from that little side-note), finding Aiden and her best friend Ing as confidants of sorts. Seeing things from quite a methodical, and yet also heartfelt perspective with Aiden was definitely an interesting way to explore how relationships develop.

Don't be fooled by the blurb, as far from being over-technical or drawling on into a predictable love story, there is so much more substance here which makes it such a worthwhile read. To what extent can algorithms predict the compatibility between two people? And just how do we decide what's best for us? If there's one thing to learn from this book, it's that being human is messy, complicated, and sometimes downright confusing. Though in the small things, like a smile to express the indescribable joy of simply being alive in the present moment, is where we can find what makes our existence worthwhile. After all, in the end there are some things that even the most intelligent machines will not be able to understand.


Part romantic comedy, and think-piece on what makes us human, P.Z. Reizin's debut is a ray of sunshine in the latest literary releases. Cleverly written and uplifting, if you want a surefire way to brighten up your day, you need to read this book.

Genie's Weekly News (61) - Taking recommendations, reaching reading goals, finding a blogging balance

Sunday, 11 February 2018

The quote on my calendar for this month is from Maya Angelou: "Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better". It got me thinking, where do I see this blog improving and what's really important? Though it's been said before in the blogging community, the aphorism 'it's all about balance' is still relevant. Blogging is something I genuinely enjoy doing, so though I may not always be able to post as often as I'd like, I do try to spend time on the content that does go up here. I may have just missed out on completing my goodreads challenge last year, and even though I've set it for 50 again this time around, it's a good feeling to let go of all the effort worrying about reaching a certain number just for the sake of it. When it comes to my interests, I've realised it's about reading what I love, stepping out of my comfort zone at times to try something new, and still leaving room for the other important facets of my life. As I said in my past recap, it's about appreciating the little things which can put a smile on your face.

Currently Reading

I know what you're thinking - "what a weird combination!"...and that would be right. But, they've both come highly recommended and I'm actually starting to tick off some of the books on my TBR posts for non-fiction and paranormal genres. In their own very different ways, they're both great reads so far. It's a win-win.

Previous Posts

  • I shared my Stella Sparks on books I read by Australian women writers in 2017

Recommendation of the Week

I'll have a full review up soon, but for now I'll say that this book is delightfully charming, quirky and heartwarming. This was a feel-good read that made me laugh and had a romance blossom with a twist. If you want a book to make you smile then please pick up Happiness for Humans, you won't regret it!

What I've Been Watching

Black Mirror: I finally got around to watching the latest season, and while it was gripping as ever - it felt much darker than the ones before it. Binge-worthy? For some, maybe. Even though every episode was equally thought-provoking, it's also disturbing enough to want to take a break between episodes and watch videos of fluffy kittens or something.

Black Books: As a bookseller how have I not started watching this until now? It's the type of ridiculous comedy that you'll either cringe at or die laughing, but I can definitely see myself getting through its three seasons.

What's the last book you read that made you smile?

Reading Widely: Fantasy/Paranormal novels on my 2018 reading list

Thursday, 1 February 2018

There has come a point where I feel like I’ve been neglecting certain genres, or at least I haven't given them a proper chance. I’ll be the first to admit that I'm not usually the biggest fantasy/paranormal reader, with the last time I really got stuck into a series was with Hush Hush, Fallen, and maybe a Jennifer L. Armentrout at some point…

Yes, that was something of a ‘phase’, and truth be told, I did enjoy those books back then (around seven years ago). Would I re-read them? Well, you never know – but I think it’s safe to say I might judge them a little differently today.

Those thoughts aside, I’m genuinely looking to once again branch out with an open mind and try something new. I’ve been reading some fantasy novels sporadically over the past few years, though 2018 is as good a time as ever to finally dedicate more space on my shelves and in my reading schedule to shaking things up a bit.

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo (The Grishaverse #1): How have I not read a Leigh Bardugo book yet? The hype speaks for itself so my expectations are high, but since Six of Crows is also on my list, I'd better get to this series first. 

Year One by Nora Roberts (Chronicles of the One #1): Even with Nora Roberts being such a prolific writer, this would be the first of hers I've explored. It might not fit quite so neatly into the fantasy genre, but the magical elements, dystopian edge and dark, gritty premise definitely has me intrigued. 

Thief's Cunning by Sarah Ahiers: I actually read Assassin's Heart not too long ago and enjoyed it overall, thanks to the thrill of those huge betrayals and twists towards the end. I'm hoping to see more worldbuilding in this sequel.

Assassin's Apprentice by Robin Hobb: Another book on assassins, but I couldn't go past Robin Hobb. Her works take up a sizeable chunk of our sci-fi/fantasy section at the bookstore I work at, and I could swear I have a copy of this floating around on my shelves somewhere - it's time to bring it back out and finally read it.

Wintersong by S Jae Jones: I ordered a copy of this for myself recently after seeing other bloggers rave about it, and the musical element really piqued my interest.

Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare (The Infernal Devices #1): A re-read! I really loved this book when I first visited it years ago, and I want to continue with the series. My one concern? The love triangle. On the other hand, the historical setting in Victorian London is what I'm really here for. 

Uprooted by Naomi Novik: A book that's been sitting on my shelf at home that I still haven't gotten to, and that's going to change.

Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman: I've only read Neil Gaiman's graphic novels of The Graveyard Book, The Sleeper and The Spindle and Hansel & Gretel which were all brilliant. I think reading short story collections is a useful way to gain a broad overview of how an author writes, and Fragile Things looks like a promising place to start. 

Dark Lover by J.R. Ward: I haven't read any stories about vampires since Twilight, so this should be interesting

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss:
It's without a doubt that Patrick Rothfuss writes absolutely beautifully, and I think I really need to read this book a second time before Wise Man's Fear to truly appreciate it. 

What fantasy writers do you swear by?