Book Review: “Beneath the Apple Blossom” by Kate Frost

Title: Beneath the Apple Blossom (The Hopeful Years #1)
Author: Kate Frost
Genre: Adult contemporary fiction
Date Read: 23/06/2017 – 24/06/2017
Rating: ★★★★

Review:

The experiences depicted in this book are worlds away from  any experience I have had, and worlds away from what I usually read, and yet I found myself unable to put it down (I’m starting this review at 12:54am after staying up to finish it, because I’m still thinking about it, and wide awake).

Beneath the Apple Blossom depicts the lives of four women with four very different experiences of motherhood and the journey towards it. Pippa and Connie meet online through a forum for women undergoing IVF and bond through the ups and downs of treatment. Georgie feels she had her first child too young, and isn’t ready for the second one her husband clearly wants. And Sienna has her heart set on never having kids, when her life is thrown into turmoil…

Frost presents these four women and their stories without any judgement, leaving the reader to form their own opinions. I think this is an advantage of the novel, as seeing the way things panned out and the way the characters reacted to events and to each other was what made me want to keep reading. I didn’t always agree with the choices the characters made, but I couldn’t really fault any of them for making them (well, maybe sometimes, but only a bit).

The only real qualm I had with the novel was that sometimes the characters’ thoughts got a bit repetitive. While I can appreciate that women going through the sorts of things that these characters are would have quite cyclical thoughts, as a reader, I sometimes found that returning to the same “Why did it have to happen this way? What am I going to do now?” trains of thought chapter after chapter became a bit stale.

I definitely recommend this book, even if motherhood and constant talk of babies isn’t really your thing (it’s not mine). This gives insight into the struggles all sorts of women go through, as well as identifying those “what not to do” moments for the rest of us (I already knew this, but for anyone else, don’t say “You can always adopt”, no matter how good your intentions are by it). After giving five stars to Kate’s debut novel, The Butterfly Storm, a few years ago, I was fairly confident I would enjoy this one, and she does not disappoint.


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Sunday Summary – June 25, 2017

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After a bit of an absence, Sundary Summary makes its return.  I think I should be able to keep this up now. Though to be honest, the past week hasn’t been the greatest to report on!

This week in writing

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I’ve gone through the first part of Memories and Magic and made some fairly in depth revisions, though I’m sure there’s still more improvement to be made. Part 2 is the part that needs complete rewriting, as I’ve completely altered the concept for it.  It’s going to be slow-going but now that I’m not sick anymore (I had four days off work last week with a virus), I should have the stamina to work on  a decent chunk each night.

This week in readingreadingthumb

This week I  finished reading Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice, Mystery at Maplemead Castle by Kitty French and Beneath the Apple Blossom by Kate Frost. All very good books in very different ways. I have four books left on my April-June TBR, but I will be happy if I finish another two.

This week in blogging

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I managed to visit other  participants in both of my Wednesday blog hops, though I haven’t replied to  comments on my own blogs, so I should probably get onto that.  I did post reviews for The Betrayal of Bindy MacKenzie by Jaclyn Moriarty and Ensnared by Rita Stradling. Both were unfortunately 2 star reads for me.

I’ve posted a new instalment in my Sunday Sessions series over on my writing blog .  This one ponders how many POV characters is too many in one novel.

 

This week in health and fitness

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I think the reason I got sick last week was because I had run myself down. Yes, I was keeping somewhat active by doing South Pacific, but I was also having a lot of late nights and I went back to work during the second week of performances. I think it must have been the combination of show and uni work that led to me feeling so knocked out at the end of it.

I am pleased to say that I am finally back on track, having started back with the Blogilates June calendar yesterday. I knwo that in just a couple of weeks of doing these work outs, I can look a whole lot different, so I’m hoping this is a start. After over two years of bouncing around te same weight range, it’d be nice to get down to where I want to be.

That’s my week. How are you going?  ~ Emily

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Book Review: “Ensnared” by Rita Stradling

Title: Ensnared
Author: Rita Stradling
Genre:
fairytale retelling/sci-fi
Date Read: 14/06/2017 – 19/06/2017
Rating: ★★

Review: 

I was really excited to read a futuristic retelling of Beauty and the Beast. Unfortunately, this one had a few too many elements that made me feel a bit iffy, so I ended up not enjoying it much in the end.

To save her father from prison, Alainn Murphy takes the place of a robot that looks just like her, in the home of Lorccan Garbhan, a disfigured billionaire who has never been outside the tower he grew up in What she expects is a life of servitude, but that’s not what she ends up getting…

There were some things I did like, so let’s talk about those first. I liked most aspects of the near-future world, including the variety of different robots and AI. I also liked the villain of the piece (I won’t give too much away). I thought the character’s motivations were quite well done,  but I did feel that the climax was a bit too drawn out.

The thing that bothered me the most about this story was that as the romance developed between the two main character, Lorcann still thought Alainn was a robot. Even when they start having sex. Even when he starts proposing to her. There was a point where Alainn’s brother says something about Lorcann’s subconscious knowing she was human even if he hadn’t consciously figured it out yet, but that wasn’t enough for me. This could have been explored really well, but instead, it was barely looked at, other than Alainn feeling guilty for continually finding reasons not to tell Lorcann the truth.

As I said before, I felt the climax was a bit too drawn out, and the same could be said for several sections. The book felt too long and there were sections were I was bored enough to consider not finishing. I think this book could have worked really well with a bit of tightening up and a deep exploration of the issues it brought up (and hey, I read an ARC, so for all I know, this did come out more in the final version), but as it was, this was definitely not what I hoped for.


Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for providing me with a free copy of this book for review.

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#WWW Wednesday – 21 June 2017

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.

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What have you recently finished reading?

I realised that I totally missed a book last week that I actually read during my WWW Wednesday hiatus. That book was Starting Out as an Indie Author: A Beginner’s Guide to Preparing, Publishing and Marketing Your EBooks by Ruth Nestvold. I will definitely be coming back  to this book when I’m preparing to self-publish again. It has heaps of valuable information and links to other resources that will definitely be a help.

This week I also read Ensnared by Rita Stradling and it… was not great, in my opinion. The romance was a little too weird and unhealthy for me to really get behind it. My review will be up on Friday.

I also switched from audio to paperback and finished Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice today. I enjoyed it enough to give it three stars, but I’m not 100% sure what I’ll be saying in my review yet. Some of it was a bit squiffy.

What are you currently reading?

Dracula by Bram Stoker continues to be ongoing. I’m focusing on getting as much of my April-June TBR ticked off before the end of the month, but in July I wil try to go back to my two-or-three-chapters-a-week plan with this book.

On audio, I started The Prestige by Christopher Priest today. I’ve seen the movie a couple of times and really loved it, so I was intrigued when I saw it available on Overdrive. I knocked off about three hours while I was cooking and then driving later on, and I’m really enjoying it so far. Nineteenth century illusionists are always a fun topic to explore.

What do you think you’ll read next?

My next print read will be The Mystery and Maplemead Castle by Kitty French. I’ve been looking forward to this one for a while and revisiting Melody Bittersweet and Co. and their ghosthunting shenanigans.  It’s time for something a little more lighthearted.

What are you reading this week? 🙂

~ Emily

 

 

P.S. If you’ve come here looking for WIPpet Wednesday, head on over to my writing blog, Letting the Voices Out.

#AWW2017 Book Review: “the Betrayal of Bindy MacKenzie” by Jaclyn Moriarty

Title: The Betrayal of Bindy MacKenzie
Author: Jaclyn Moriarty
Genre: YA contemporary
Date Read: 08/06/2017 – 13/06/2017
Rating: ★★

Review:

This is the fourth Jaclyn Moriarty book I’ve read this year, and it was definitely the strangest. While the writing was up to her usual standard, I am still not quite sure what to make of the convoluted plot and… interesting stylistic choices.

Bindy MacKenzie is the top of her class. She has been employee of the month at Kmart seventeen months running, she offers study groups for her fellow students, but she resents having to show up for a new class, Friendship and Development, which she feels takes away from valuable study time. But lately, she’s been feeling lethargic and sick, and doesn’t even care when other students are receiving higher marks than she. What could be causing this sudden change?

The first thing is, Bindy is not an easy character to warm to. She thinks herself far superior to her fellow students, and talks like the heroine of a Jane Austen novel (which is fine in a Jane Austen novel, but weird in a YA contemporary). Of course, getting over herself is a major part of her character arc, but it meant that I spent a good deal of the book being annoyed at her.

The second thing is the format. The novel is epistolary in nature, taking the form of Bindy’s diary entries, transcripts she makes of others’ conversations, memos and emails, amongst other things. It sometimes made it hard to get a real hand on the other characters as well, since we were seeing them all from Bindy’s judgey perspective and couldn’t really get a sense of them as themselves until towards the end.

The titular “betrayal” seemed quite far-fetched, though there were clues throughout the book. Still, it seemed unlikely that people would go to that much effort. Overall, when I reached the end of the book, I was left feeling non-plussed, and not quite sure what I had just witnessed, which isn’t a great sign.


(This review is part of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2017. Click here for more information).

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Sunday Summary – June 18, 2017

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After a bit of an absence, Sundary Summary makes its return.  I think I should be able to keep this up now. Though to be honest, the past week hasn’t been the greatest to report on!

This week in writing

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I’ve been trying to revise a chapter every day of Memories and Magic, though that hasn’t gone as smoothly as I’d hoped. A number of reasons have factored into that, including fatigue and illness, but I’m hoping these will clear up soon and I’ll be able to get back into a proper routine with it.

 

This week in readingreadingthumb

I’m still reading Dracula by Bram Stoker very slowly, and I have just switched to the paperback format for Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice (from audio). I have accepted I’m probably not quite going to completemy April-June TBR, but I’m going to come pretty damn close!

This week in blogging

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For first time in several weeks, I have managed to return blog comments and visit fellow blog hoppers. I also posted two reviews this week, again the first time I have managed this in a while: Magic Study by Maria V. Snyder and The Dalai Lama’s Cat by David Michie. Not only that, but I have two reviews already scheduled for the coming week as well!

I’ve also started a new series on my writing blog, titled Sunday Sessions. Each week, I’ll reflect on some aspect of writing, whether my own writing or just in general.

THIS WEEK IN STUDY

I handed in my last piece of assessment for the semester on Tueday June 6, and it felt like a huge weight off my shoulders. And you probably don’t remember the assignment I was working on at the start of May, that I was quite convinced I’d fail… but I got a78 for it! Which may not sound like much depending on where you study, but at my university 80 is a high distinction.

This week in health and fitness

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Fitness has taken a back seat the last few weeks, and I know I need to pick it up again. I always feel so much better when I’m exercising regularly and eating well. My restart was going to be this week, but then I got sick. I’m hoping that I’ll be back on my feet soon enough and able to continue with this journey. 

That’s my week. How are you going?  ~ Emily

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“Many have tried to kill us. All have failed.” // Review of “Magic Study” by Maria V. Snyder

Title: Magic Study (Study #2)
Author: Maria V. Snyder
Genre: YA/Fantasy
Date Read: 28/03/2017 – 06/06/2017
Rating: ★★★

Review:

Like the first book in the series, this one was easy to read and offered an intriguing plot. However, once again, I wasn’t invested in the romance and some parts went on a bit long. 

Magic Study is set in Sitia, the country neighbouring Ixia, where Yelena grew up. She is reunited with the family she hasn’t seen in 14 years, and begins to study magic and learn to control her powers, but a rogue magician and a brother who doesn’t know how to deal with the return of his lost sister are causing havoc.

I really enjoyed the expansion of this world. The set-up in Book 1, with the Commander’s takeover of Ixia was interesting, but now we see it from the POV of the Sitians, who can’t understand the Commander’s methods, and who see him and Valek as little more than power-hungry murderers. Yelena finds it hard to reconcile the people she knows and loves with the Sitian attitudes towards them. I really enjoyed that this was so messy and complicated, and that there was no black and white about these circumstances.

I still wasn’t especially invested in Valek and Yelena’s relationship, and I actually enjoyed the story a lot more before Valek turned up again. I also thought the climax and resolution were a little too dragged out; the action was good, but went on a bit long. Overall, though, I felt this book was on a par with this first one in terms of readability and enjoyment value, and at the moment, I’m still keen to continue with the series.


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#WWW Wednesday – 14 June 2017

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.

Sorry I wasn’t around last week! Life was too crazy for blogging, and I had barely been reading anyway. Life is back to normal now, though, so I should be around regularly for a while.

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What have you recently finished reading?

I finished Magic Study by Maria V. Snyder, which I felt was about on par with the first book in the series. My review will go up on Friday.

Before that, I finished reading The Dalai Lama’s Cat by David Michie and reviewed it here. It was very cute and I recommend it.

Last but not least, I read The Betrayal of Bindy MacKenzie by Jaclyn Moriarty. This is the 4th book by her that I have read this year and it was a strange one… Bindy Mackenzie read like a Jane Austen heroine, but the book is a YA Contemporary… so it took some getting used to but in the end, I was hooked enough to see it through. It was still weird, though.

What are you currently reading?

Dracula by Bram Stoker and Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice on audio  are still ongoing. I have knocked off another couple of hours of Interview, but haven’t had an opportunity to continue with Dracula.

While I was sure that I had until December to read it, it turns out that Ensnared by Rita Stradling was published at the end of May, so I have started my ARC today. It’s a futuristic Beauty and the Beast retelling so I have high hopes, though the reviews are mixed.

 

What do you think you’ll read next?

I will probably start Fire Study, the third book in the Study series by Maria V. Snyder. General consensus seems to be that the quality goes down as the series goes on, so we’ll see how it goes.

What are you reading this week? 🙂

~ Emily

 

 

P.S. If you’ve come here looking for WIPpet Wednesday, head on over to my writing blog, Letting the Voices Out.

‘Your life is the most important thing in the world to you. Same for this kitten.” // Review of “The Dalai Lama’s Cat” by David Michie

Title: The Dalai Lama’s Cat
Author: David Michie
Genre: Humour/spiritual
Date Read:
27/05/2017 – 01/06/2017
Rating: ★★★★

Review:

This book came highly recommended from my mother. When I first got it, I thought reading a novel  from the perspective of a cat would be weird, as would the inclusion of the Dalai Lama as a character in the fictional account. I needn’t have worried, though, as it was completely adorable.

The Dalai Lama’s Cat sneakily teaches the reader about the main tenents of Buddhism via the perspective of HHC (His Holiness’ Cat), a Himalayan kitten adopted by the Dalai Lama and his household. HHC struggles with the same insecurities we all do: pride, insecurities, jealousy, over-eating and challenges to being a good meditator. Michie cleverly uses some basic stories to incorporate the Buddhist attitudes and solutions to all these foibles in a way that doesn’t even feel like teaching. I found myself trying to incorporate some of the lessons from the book into my daily life.

The writing is quite adorable, and I found myself getting quite invested in HHC’s personal journey. A lot of the characters are archetypes that serve a particular purpose within the story, but that didn’t really bother me for this type of book. I definitely recommend this as a primer for those interested in learning a bit more about Buddhism. I myself will be looking into David Michie’s other books on Buddhism, meditation and mindfulness.


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April – June TBR: May Wrap-up


At the end of March, instead of writing an unrealistic TBR for just the month of April, I decided to write a maybe-semi-realistic TBR for the next three months. In April, I ticked off five of the books on the list, as well as getting distracted by a few not on the list. There were similar distractions in May, but I still managed to tick off 4 (actually, I’m still reading Magic Study, but I’m hoping to finish it by the end of the week).

Here are the links to my reviews for the month of May. I did fall off the wagon a little as life got in the way, but there’s still a few.

The Edge of the Abyss by Emily Skrutskie (YA dystopia/LGBTI)

How the Aliens from Alpha Centauri Invaded My Maths Class and Turned Me Into a Writer… and How You Can Be One, Too by Jackie French (children’s/non-fiction)

Heart of Brass by Felicity Banks (steampunk/historical fantasy)

The Devil’s Prayer by Luke Gracias (thriller/horror)

On Writing: a Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King (memoir)

Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder (YA fantasy)

I also read the majority (bar the last 20 pages or so) of The Dalai Lama’s Cat by David Mitchie. My review isn’t up yet, but I’ll count it for May.

So what’s next?

At the moment I am continuing with Maria V. Snyder’s Study series. I own two more books in the series after Magic Study. I also wouldn’t mind reading The Betrayal of Bindy MacKenzie if for no other reason, to nicely tick off the entire bottom row of my banner. I did find that I needed a standalone between the first two Study books, so that may well happen again.

What are you reading this month?