“We’re meant to go. We’re not meant to stay forever.” // Review of “Uprooted” by Naomi Novik

Title: Uprooted
Author: Naomi Novik
Audio book narrator: Katy Sobey
Genre: Historical fantasy
Date Read: 20/05/18 – 13/06/18
Rating:
★☆

Review:

This started of well. I was enjoying the language and the mythology that was beinig constructed around main character, Agnieszka, and her village. But the plot began to drag and I wasn’t invested in the characters and after I while, I was just very underwhelmed.

The writing is really lyrical and beautiful. I think when I started the book, I was in the mood for something fairytale-like, and this fit the bill perfectly. Katy Sobey’s very soothing narration helped a lot, too. At somewhere around the 50-60% mark, though, I suddenly realised that the characters had very little personality and I didn’t really care about them at all. And once you have a realisation like that, it’s hard to come back from it. 

I also felt uncomfortable with the inevitable romance between Agnieszka and the  Dragon. There is no basis for it. The Dragon only ever insults Agnieszka,  or scowls at her, or sighs at her, even when they’re working together. And how does 17-year-old Agnieszka manage to do what several centuries-old wizards haven’t with regard  to The Wood?

Speaking of The Wood, it was a bit of an odd villain? I felt the same about the Wood as I did with the villain in V. E. Schwab’s A Conjuring of Light… its presence was over the whole story, but I never found it particularly threatening. Even though it obviously was. It was just a little too easy for the main characters to save those they needed to, so I always felt it would all work itself out in the end and I just wasn’t worried.

I can definitely see what people love about this book, and I myself have really enjoyed some of Novik’s other work. This one wasn’t meant for me.


Find me on:
GoodReads | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Advertisements

#WWW Wednesday – June 13, 2018

Hello, everyone. Just a quick note before we get to the crux of today’s post. I’ve revitalised my Facebook author/blogger page recently, and am talking about what I’m reading as well as my own writing projects. If that sounds like something that might interest you, head on over to Emily Wrayburn and give it a like. 🙂 I’m also cross-posting a lot on Instagram, if that is more your jam.  And now, on with the show.

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?

Let’s start with the good news first! I read a wonderful upper-MG/lower-YA book called Shine by Candy Gourlay.  This was a chance find at the library and I read it in one sitting. I have already reviewed it here. It felt like a modern folk-tale and while I had a couple of qualms about it, I couldn’t put it down.

I also finished Uprooted by Naomi Novik on audio during my bike ride home this evening. It started off strong but in the end, I didn’t love it as much as I hoped. It ended up dragging on a bit too long for me. 😦 I’ll try to have a review up this Friday.

Due to still feeling reading slumpy, I also got ruthless  with some DNFing this week. First it was Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco. It sounds like the audio book is a lot better but I was reading the hardback and the tropey-ness and 21st century feminist attitudes in the 19th century setting just got too annoying after a while. I googled some spoilers and I have a feeling I would have felt very unsatisfied by the ending had I got there. So that was a relief.

Next I DNFed Purple Threads by Jeanine Leane, because it just wasn’t really my thing, and I turned to Twitter to seek out recommendations of Indigneous Australian authors writing YA and other things I generally enjoy reading.  No point in trying to diversify my reading if I end up giving 2 or 3 star ratings to everything and saying “this was fine, but not my cup of tea.”

What are you currently reading?

I have started All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque. I am only three chapters in but I can definitely see why it is such a classic book. Having said that, I will probably go slowly with this and read it in between other things. (Which reminds me, I was supposed to be doing that with Dracula, too. I should get back to  that.)

I am also reading Orphan Monster Spy by Matt Killeen, which is about a fifteen-year-old Jewish girl who infiltrates a Nazi boarding school. I’m only a few chapters in so far but I think it will probably be pretty full on. It doesn’t look like the author is going to pull any punches.

What do you think you will read next?

I am excited to start the audo of A Fever in the  Blood by Oscar de Muriel, which I picked up  from the library this afternoon and currently converting so I can put it on my phone. This is the sequel to The Strings of Murder, which I loved and reviewed here. This will tide me over until my Audible account ticks over into a new month and I can get another book on there.

Not sure what I’ll read physical book-wise. I am still feeling slumpy, dammit! It’s been a good six weeks! Though I have figured out this week that the key to getting reading done is to sit at one of the smaller tables in the break room, rather than the main one where I always end up just talking to people rather than reading. Maybe that will help?

What are you reading this week?~ EmilyP.S. If you’re  interested, head over to my writing blog, Letting the Voices Out, to read a snippet of my current WIP.

“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.


Find me on:
GoodReads | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

#WWW Wednesday – June 06, 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?

Nothing finished this week, but I did finally post my review of The Strings of Murder by Oscar de Muriel. Rolicking Victorian mystery made even more fun by the audio book narrator. You can read my review here.

What are you currently reading?

I’ve started Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco because I’m feeling a bit reading slump-y and I wanted some good ol’ fashioned YA. It’s tropey and anachronistic, and I’m making snarky updates on GoodReads every few pages. But I expect I will still finish it, in spite of wanting to smack the love interest every second time he opens his mouth.

Still going with Uprooted by Naomi Novik on audio and Purple Threads by Jeanine Leane. Not much to say on either of them right now.

What do you think you will read next?

I have Hunting Prince Dracula by Kerri Maniscalco. Depending on how I feel by the end of Stalking Jack the Ripper, I might start that, though I read the blurb on GoodReads and it sounds like the stories just get more ridiculous?

I also have The Supernatural Enhancements by Edgar Cantero from the library and while it’s not my usual type of book, I am intrigued by it, so I’ll probably try it quite soon.

What are you reading this week?~ Emily

Book Review: “The Strings of Murder” by Oscar de Muriel

Title: The Strings of Murder (Frey & McGrey #1)
Author: Oscar de Muriel
Audio book narrator: Andy Secombe
Genre: historical fiction/mystery
Dates read: 06/05/18 – 19/05/18
Rating: ★★★★

Review:

Well, this book was a whole lot of fun. It’s a cracking historical mystery, and the audio book is narrated with so much interesting variance that I often forgot I was listening to one person.

Jack The Ripper has London in a panic, and when a disemboweled body shows up in Edinburgh, Scotland Yard fears a copycat. Disgraced police officer Ian Frey is sent north to investigate, along with Scottish officer Adolphus McGrey. McGrey has his reasons for believing the case has a supernatural bent, and the two lock horns in a race against time to find the murderer.

The interactions between Frey and McGrey were definitely the highlight of this book for me. McGrey takes to calling Frey a “London lassie” and Frey is constantly sputtering in shock over the things that come out of McGrey’s mouth. McGrey’s unconventionial methods also clash with Frey’s by-the-book nature. The side characters are also well-drawn; I was able to form distinct opinions about all of them, even the characters we don’t see all that oftne.

The mystery itself was complex without being overly complicated. I felt some information did come out of the blue towards the end with very little to hint at it, but that was a small issue, really.

Andy Secombe is a masterful audio book narrator and I’m pleased to see he has also recorded the subsequent books in the series. His character voices are so varied that I did often have to remind myself there was only one person reading the story. I think this made the book even more entertaining. Reading “Och, shut up, ye London lassie” is one thing, but hearing it in a thick Scottish brogue is quite another.

I’m definitely intending to continue with this series, and recommend it to any fan of historical fiction.


Find me on:
GoodReads | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Save

(Slightly Belated) May 2018 Reading Wrap-up

readingwrapupbanner

Between having a helluva lot going on this month, and also hitting a reading slump, May wasn’t much better than April in terms of reading (and at least in April I had the excuse of travelling and parental visits). It took me three weeks to read one YA fantasy! Whaaat! I got there in the end, but I did it by reading books I felt like, not necessarily those that I had in my plans. Oh well! These things happen sometimes.

Past Month’s Reading:

Here’s my May-June TBR:

So… yeah, that’s it.

The  things I read and reviewed were:

  • Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery (classics – 3 stars – review) (read April, reviewed May)
  • Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie (crime – 4.5 stars – review) (read April, reviewed May)
  • Galax-Arena by Gillian Rubinstein (SFF/children’s fiction – 2 stars – review) (read April, reviewed May)
  • Lessons in Letting Go: Confessions of a Hoarder by Corinne Grant (memoir – 4 stars – review)
  • Hero at the Fall by Alwyn Hamilton (YA/SFF – 2.5 stars – review at GoodReads)
  • The Strings of Murder by Oscar de Muriel (historical mystery – 4 stars – review forthcoming)
  • The Owl Service by Alan Garner (children’s fiction/fantasy – 2 stars – not planning to review).

Currently reading:

Physical book: Purple Threads by Jeanine Leane. This is an Australian Women Writers Challenge book and while I haven’t read much so far, I am enjoying the strong women characters.

Ebook: Bookworm – A Memoir of Childhood Reading by Lucy Mangan. I am enjoying this when I am familiar with the books she talks about, but for every one I know, there are two or three I don’t. Having someone talk at length about children’s books you have no connection to is not that enjoyable for me. So this is a bit of a mixed bag so far.

Audio book: Uprooted by Naomi Novik. I am really enjoying this. I just wish The Dragon didn’t call Agnieszka an idiot quite so much. It ruins the chemistry for me a bit. 

Planning to read next:

As much as I would like to concentrate on crossing some more of the above TBR, I just want a good old YA book right now, and I have Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalo out from the library, along with its sequel, Hunting  Prince Dracula, which will fit the bill perfectly.

How is your reading going?

#WWW Wednesday – May 30, 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’ve finished  The Owl Service  by Alan Garner… I have to be honest, I didn’t really get it. I had no idea what was going on for most of it, and only finished it because I wanted to be able to discuss it with the people at work who recommended it.

No reviews this week because I am behind schedule.

What are you currently reading? 

I am about 40% of the way through Uprooted by Naomi Novik now. I am really loving it, though I do wish the Dragon would stop calling Agnieszka an idiot and an imbecile quite so much. They have really good chemistry otherwise, but that is quite off-putting.

I have started Purple Threads by Jeanine Leane. I am not very far through it yet, but I can tell it’s going to have a really strong narrative voice and some great women characters.

I’m also reading Bookworm: a Memoir of Childhood Reading by Lucy Mangan. I don’t feel like I’m loving it quite as much as everyone else, but she did quote a line from Where the Wild Things Are and I suddenly felt myself getting teary, so there are certainly bits that appeal to me. But it does seem for every book I’ve heard of, she talks about three others I haven’t, which makes it less of a nostalgia trip and more of a literary history lesson.

What do you think you will read next?

I have three books out from one library, two books out from another library, and the majority of my May-June TBR still to read. So who knows?

What are you reading this week?~ Emily

#WWW Wednesday – May 23, 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.

wwwwednesdayWhat have you recently finished reading? 

I‘ve had so much going on the last couple of weeks and I also fell into a bit of a reading slump. With that combination, it took me a full three weeks to finish Hero at the Fall by Alwyn Hamilton. It was… fine, and I was interested enough in the outcome that I wanted to stick it out, but I can’t say I was terribly invested in the characters. I can’t be bothered writing a full review but you can read my thoughts on GoodReads here.

I finished The Strings of Murder by Oscar de Muriel on audio and this one was a lot more enjoyable. I have recently signed up for an Audible subscription, and while I didn’t pick up the second book immediately, I think it might be next month’s choice. I’ll have my review of this one up this week.

I posted by review of Lessons in Letting Go: Confessions of a Hoarder by Corinne Grant this week. You can read it here.

What are you currently reading? 

I have started the audio book of Uprooted by Naomi Novik at the recommendation of a friend. I am really enjoying this so far. The prose has a really fairytale-like quality, and the narrator’s voice is really suited to that. I’m not entirely sold on the Dragon, but I am hoping he’ll improve.

I’m also reading The Owl Service by Alan Garner. A few people at work read it and I wanted to get in on the action. I’m not quite sold on it yet, but I think I know where it’s going and it sounds like it could get interesting. Opinion at work is divided, so it’ll be interesting to see where I fall.

What do you think you will read next?

I have Purple Threads by Jeanine Leane and After the Party by Jesse Blackadder out from the library. Neither of these is what I would normally read but they are for my Australian Women Writers Challenge, in particular, my own diversity challenge-within-a-challenge.

What are you reading this week?~ Emily

#AWW2018 “Nothing meant anything if I kept everything.” // Review of “Lessons in Letting Go” by Corinne Grant

Title: Lessons in Letting Go: Confessions of a Hoarder
Author: Corinne Grant
Genre:  memoir
Dates read: 30/04/18 – 07/04/18
Rating: ★★★★

Review:

I am the opposite of a hoarder. I am so up for clearing out and donating or otherwise getting rid of “stuff”. So I did have a bit of a morbid curiosity regarding how one becomes a hoarder. I’ve seen some of those TV shows where someone comes in and just starts throwing things out, but they never really seemed to  deal with the whys and wherefores.

Corinne Grant does go into this aspect. She talks about the psychological barriers that  prevented her from throwing out anything, and how hard it was to ever face the fact that she had too much stuff. I have to admit, this first section of the book was quite sad, bordering on depressing.

I did become more engaged once Corinne began discussing the catalyst for the change in her mindset, which led to her beginning to clear out her stuff.  This included a trip to Jordan, where she interviewed refugees, and realised that the problems she had paled in comparison to these people. Having just travelled to Nepal last month to witness the work being done by UN Women post-2015 earthquakes, I engaged with this section on a personal level.

I was rooting for Corinne as she faced her demons and changed her life, and I had some feelings of second-hand pride at the end. This is definitely an uplifting story, and I recommend if you are into reading memoirs, or if you have an interest in the subject matter.


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

Find me on:
GoodReads | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Save

#AWW2018 Book Review: “Galax-Arena” by Gillian Rubinstein

Title: Galax-Aren
Author: Gillian Rubinstein
Genre:  Children’s/sci-fi
Dates read: 26/03/18 – 30/04/18
Rating: ★★

Review:

This… was a weird book. I think there were some interesting ideas in there, but to be honest, I found it both slow and not very-well fleshed out. Now that I write that, the two things seem a bit contradictory, but somehow that was my experience.

The plot was intriguing, but I think it could have done with a bit more fleshing out. I guess one could argue that the focus was more on the characters, I don’t think the characters were quite strong enough to carry the book on their own.The character dynamics were interesting, and realistic, but not enough to adequately make for a character-driven story. Some of the character development was there but some actions felt a bit forced – “SEE WHAT THIS CHARACTER WAS DRIVEN TO DO?” kind of thing.

There was also the dialogue. The young characters all learn Patwa, or Jamaican Creole, in order to communicate with each other. It took me out of the story every time I had to say a line out loud to work out what it was, or consult the glossary at the front of the book. With so much of the dialogue written this way, it was distracting.

The twist towards the end made sense in some ways but not in others. The bigger reveal made sense, in fact I had suspected, but the intricacies of it seemed like an awful lot of effort to go to for perhaps not much reward.

This is the second book by Gillian Rubinstein that I’ve read this year (the first was Across the Nightingale Floor, published under the penname Lian Hearn), and I’m beginning to think that her writing maybe just isn’t for me.


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

Find me on:
GoodReads | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Save