Book Review: Jackaby by William Ritter

Title: Jackaby (Jackaby #1)
Author: William Ritter
Genre:
historical/paranormal mystery
Date Read: 15/04/2015 – 21/04/2015
Rating: ★★★

Review:

jackabycoverWhen I first started reading this book, I was thinking it would get four stars for sure. However, while I still greatly enjoyed it, there were enough little things that bothered me enough to bring it down to three.

Jackaby is narrated by Abigail Rook, fresh off a boat in New England after taking off with the money her parents had allowed her to pay for her university education. In her search for employment, she meets R. F. Jackaby, an investigator with unconventional methods. The police force of New Fiddleham tolerates him because he assists on some of their less explainable cases (i.e. the supernatural ones). However, along with some relation between the Jackaby character and Matt Smith’s Doctor, I really felt that was where the similarities ended.

The mystery itself was actually very well-crafted, and I appreciated William Ritter’s use of magical creatures we don’t usually see in books being written today. There are redcaps and banshees present, and Jackaby also refers to some Eastern European magical creatures that have made their home in Abigail’s hat.

The two lead characters, though, I felt were a bit bland. Jackaby’s switches between sweet and terse left me with a bit of whiplash (sometimes he’d be cranky because people are so stupid but then he’d be half-smiling at Abigail with a tinge of pride showing through a moment later). Abigail herself was fairly plucky, but never really got much development. Maybe that’s coming in future books.

The thing that bothered me the most were the little things, like an English narrator saying “mommy” instead of “mummy” in her narration. I know the author is American, but that made it feel a little less authentic. There was other language as well that felt a bit out of place in 1892. As I said, only little things, but enough to pull me out of the story.

There is a lot of humour in the book, both in the form of the banter between characters, and some running jokes, like one of Jackaby’s former assistants now being in the form of a duck and refusing to use the magic which would turn him back. While it was overall a fun, light read, I don’t think I’ll be rushing out for the second one when it’s released later this year.

#WIPpet Wednesday – “We were just…!”

I almost decided not to post a WIPpet this week, since I’ve done very little writing, but I changed my mind. I might have got more done if the write-in I showed up to with a couple of writing friends last night had actually turned out to be a write-in, and not just a “let’s moan about how we’ve done no writing and we’re so uninspired” session. I had turned up with some ideas in my head that I wanted to get down on paper, so I was kinda cranky when that didn’t happen. And tonight I’ve had a few other things on my mind, plus a really inconvenient cut on the top of my right index finger which is making both writing and typing painful, so it still hasn’t happened. But I did find a bit that I had written during April that I can share today.

You may remember this scene from a few weeks ago where I started setting up some sexual tension between Grace (then known as Rosa) and Frederick Merrow… at the time, I neglected to mention that Frederick really ought not be doing that because he’s married to another woman. In the original plan, Frederick tried ending the affair and Grace freaked out, causing some magical havoc, but in the new version, it’s the other way around. Anyway, this bit still works either way and will probably stay very similar. Five paragraphs for the fifth month.

“So it’s you, is it?” she hissed. “I knew there was someone.”

“Mrs Merrow, I…”

“Did you think I was blind? That you could sneak around with my husband behind my back and I wouldn’t notice?”

“You don’t understand, we were –”

“Don’t lie to me!” Mrs Merrow shook her. “I saw you just now!”

The fun starts when Grace and Laura Merrow have to work together to stop Frederick from wreaking more havoc than usual. You can probably see why this idea might be met with little enthusiasm from either of them.

I gave myself a week off uni work this past week, but I do now have two weeks in which to research, draft and polish a 3000 word final paper. So some quick goals for the week:

  • Decide on an essay topic
  • Email lecturer with initial choice of essay question and plans of approach
  • Find five books and five journal articles relevant to the topic
  • Write something resembling an essay plan
  • Reach at least 1500 words
  • Read for half an hour a day (on average)
  • Write for half an hour a day (on average)
  • Visit at least 50% of WIPpeteers

Please feel free to join in on WIPpet Wednesday at the linky. All you need to do is post an excerpt from your WIP that somehow relates to the date. I’m going to rush off now because I’m rather sleepy, but I’ll see you all soon!

~ Emily

#MirthMusicMon – Easiest Post Ever! – #mondayblogs

You know how my two go-tos for Mirth and Music Monday, when I’m lacking any other inspiration, are Josh Groban and the Muppets? Well, now they’ve made my life incredibly easy by coming together to film a clip for Pure Imagination, one of the songs on Josh’s new album, Stages. Which I have not yet had the money to buy, but maybe next payday! Anyway, I am thankful to all these guys for making my job easy this week; it’s already past 10 and I still have to email some uni people, but I couldn’t bare the thought of missing any more MMM posts. It’s been a month or something! So anyway, Pure Imagination.

There is also the official film clip for this song, if that’s more your thing. Now I’m going to go before I end up listening to the entire album on YouTube. (I’ve heard his All I Ask Of You duet with Kelly Clarkson is amazing).

More MMM can be found here. Once again, I apologise for the drive-by nature of this post, but at least I posted something, right?!

~ Emily

Book Review: A Wicked Thing by Rhiannon Thomas

Title: A Wicked Thing (A Wicked Thing #1)
Author: Rhiannon Thomas
Genre:
YA/fairytale retelling
Date Read: 01/04/2015 – 03/04/2015
Rating: ★★★☆

Review: 

wickedthingcoverRhiannon Thomas is clearly a woman after my own heart, as A Wicked Thing asks many of the questions I often tend to ask about fairytales (love them though I do). If we believe Disney, sleeping for 100 years has no effect on Princess Aurora, her family, or her kingdom, but don’t you think that seems just a little unlikely? (Don’t get me wrong, I love Disney, but I ask the questions anyway).

A Wicked Thing opens as Aurora/Sleeping Beauty is awoken from her 100 year slumber by a kiss from Prince Rodric, a shy, awkward young man who never really expected this would work. During the time she’s been asleep, she’s become a legend, expected to make right everything that has fallen apart in the kingdom and live happily ever after with the prince who woke her. But the prince is a stranger, his father is bordering on evil (not that many people can see it) and various other political factions all want her to help their causes. All the while, no one actually asks Aurora how she feels about any of this.

I really loved this book as an exploration of the actual implications of the events depicted in the fairytale. Not only that, but it also addresses the all-too-real pressures real women face to be seen and not heard, to not make a fuss, to always look beautiful and be on their best behaviour. It is a little slow-going, but a lot of that is due to the internal, character-driven nature of so much of the story. Judging by how this installment ends, I think future books in the series will have a lot more room for action.

One thing I had hoped to see more of in this book was Aurora’s emerging magic. While for most of the book, Aurora is convinced that the legend is wrong and that she is not meant to bring back magic, her own power does start developing later on. While we know it exists, and that uncontrolled, it seems to set fire to things, we know little else. There was one reference to her as a “little dragon”, but I think that was metaphorical, though there are dragons in one of the neighbouring kingdoms, so who knows… Book Two is due out in 2016; I guess much more will be revealed then!

#ROW80 Check-in and #WIPpet Wednesday – May 6, 2015

So, um. You know how my main goal for this week was to finish that history essay I had due? Well. I kind of maybe withdrew from the course because everything was getting a bit too hard. Here is the thought process:

  • I was honestly not sure I was going to finish this essay to a satisfactory standard.
  • I would have to be doing an assignment on my way to Sydney next weekend.
  • The final assignment (another essay) is due on June 9. My Fair Lady opens June 5 and between May 31 and June 7, I am in the theatre every night (and during the days on the weekend). Yes, I’m taking three days off work during this period, but I’m going to be really tired.
  • This course was simply an elective as far as my degree goes, it has nothing to do with my specialisation or anything.
  • I’m enrolled in a winter course in the middle of the year, and while it would have been nice for that to mean one less subject at the end of degree, it will at least mean dropping this subject won’t make the degree any longer. I’ll still have done four courses by December.
  • It was still at the point where I incur no academic penalty (my “grade” is “withdrawn without fail”). Even though I still have to pay for the course, in the Australian system, the government pays for your tertiary education, and we pay it back through our tax. Sure, it means I’ll get paid less for a bit longer, but you don’t miss money you never actually see in your bank account. It’ll be a nice surprise when I finally have it all paid off and start getting paid a little more. That’s not going to be for some time, though.

So, yes. I’ve now only got one course to concentrate on, and I’ll have handed in the final paper for that one two full weeks before My Fair Lady opens. I do feel like all the hours I spent working on this silly essay have now been in vain, but they’re in the past, and I had to consider my sanity in the near future.

It also means that I’ve had some time to write, and that means that I will only have had to avoid WIPpet Wednesday for one week rather than the seven or eight I was expecting. Camp NaNoWriMo is now over, so I’m making sense of all the brainstorming I did. The story took a couple of unexpected turns throughout the month, so I’m working out where to go with that. I’m also developing the structure for the story a bit more. It’s fun to explore. So now I can actually start sharing from the story, rather than the back story scenes. This one is from… well, I hesitate to say “prologue” but that’s essentially what it is. In this scene, Grace (formerly known as Rosa; I have another MC named Laura and two characters with names ending in A was bugging me) has gone to visit a Seer she trusts before she heads back to her home country. Six paragraphs for the sixth of May. Grace has stated that she doesn’t intend to return to Merrowford, her home town.

Densey held out her hand and Grace took it in one of her own. The old woman closed her eyes and bent her head, stroking Grace’s hand with her thumb. Grace waited.

When Densey opened her eyes again, there was a sparkle in the corner of one. “I think Merrowford might be in your sights. An old lover of yours will return. You’re going to have a run in with him.”

“I think you’re mistaken. I’ve never had a lover in Merrowford. I’ve kept clear of any more emotional attachment to that town.”

“‘Any more’. Where did it start?”

“Do you mean…” Densey raised an eyebrow. Grace shook her head. “That’s impossible, Densey, that man is long dead.”

“And you’re one hundred and twenty-nine years old. Also impossible, wouldn’t you say, my dear?”

I feel like she has a good point. With that, I have only left to say that you should join WIPpet Wednesday over here (just post an excerpt of your WIP that somehow relates to the date), and ROW80 over here. I am going to see out this game of Words With Friends that I’m playing with my partner (he is thrashing me) and then head to bed. It’s been a long day. ~ Emily

#ROW80 Check-in, April 29, 2015

First up, would anyone be interested in reading Unicorn Love in full (about 3000 words)? I realised this morning that it’s nearly May and that means nearly the cut-off for the competition I wanted to enter it in. But no one has read over it yet, so it might be awful (I’m reasonably confident it’s not awful, but would like a second opinion).

I wanted that at the top to get people’s attention (my posts often get long and I’m sure not everyone sticks around to read them right through), how did I go with my goals this week?

  • Complete essay by Sunday night – I actually wrote a draft for an essay due next week, and have been granted an extension on this one. So not completed, but I didn’t waste my time.
  • Polish essay on the following couple of days – n/a
  • Write a review of Jackaby and schedule the post – done! I have both my May reviews scheduled now. And I’m really enjoying the book I’m reading at the moment, so that should be my first June one. I was getting a bit sad because I’d read a whole heap of 3-star books in a row, and they were fine, but nothing incredible, so it’s good to read another one I’m really into.
  • Decide on item for significance report. Email course convener and also have chat to people at work about it. – This is what I wrote the draft of. So I’m ahead on this one.
  • Visit 50% of WIPpet Wednesday posts – done!
  • Visit 5 ROW80 blogs – done!
  • Reply to comments on this last week’s post – done!

I’m glad I didn’t make “keep on track with Camp NaNoWriMo” a goal this week, because it sadly would have been a fail. I just about made it to 7500 words for the month, which had been my original target, but then I decided to up it to 10k. So part of me wishes I’d left it. However, winning/losing a NaNo event is not the be all and end all, and the brainstorming that I did do over April will help greatly with post-semester-and-musical-all-at-once writing projects, and that’s what’s important.

For now, new writing projects are going on the backburner. I simply don’t have the time to commit. I know they say you have to make the time to write, but it takes me an hour to get ready for work as it is (I already get up at 6, and I get to work early so I can finish early) and then after work, it’s either rehearsal or study time. At work, I’ve just taken to reading in my spare time, though I am carrying my notebook with me each day in case of any sudden inspiration. I’ll probably write a bit, but it’s not my main focus. As such, I’ll also be taking an indefinite hiatus from WIPpet Wednesdays until I have something to share again.

So, goals for the next week:

  • Have essay ready to hand in on Tuesday 5/5.

… Actually, that’s about it, really.

Okay, I’ll add some more.

  • Read for half an hour a day
  • Write review of Grounded: The Adventures of Rapunzel if I finish it.
  • Comment on at least 5 ROW80 blogs.

But really, this history essay is my focus for the week. I’ve got rehearsal tomorrow night, Sunday afternoon, and Monday night, so tonight, Friday and Saturday really need to be head-down-bottom-up. I’ll finish this off here, and catch you all later!

~ Emily

 

Book Review: Cress by Marissa Meyer

Title: Cress (Lunar Chronicles #3)
Author: Marissa Meyer
Genre:
YA/sci-fi/fairytale retelling
Date Read: 25/03/2015 – 31/03/2015
Rating: ★★★★

Review: 

cresscoverI’m going to just come out and say it: this is by far the best book of the Lunar Chronicles so far. It is a retelling of Rapunzel, focusing on the character of Cress (short for Crescent Moon), a Lunar shell who was imprisoned on a satellite at the age of ten, and has since then been the resident hacker for Queen Levana and her thaumaturges. When a rescue attempt from Cinder and co. goes wrong, Cress and Carswell Thorne find themselves plummeting towards Earth in a powerless satellite. They survive, but this is not the end of their adventures, and tension is ramping up for the rest of the main characters as well.

In book two, Thorne was incredibly annoying. I couldn’t stand him. I already knew that a) he was the love interest in book 3 and b) that people were saying this was the best book so far, so I was sincerely hoping that he improved. Fortunately, this was the case. I was far more invested in his and Cress’ romance than I had been in either Cinder and Kai or Scarlet and Wolf’s. One of my colleagues even caught me grinning stupidly to myself because I’d been reading on my lunch break and it had left me in a really good mood.

While I continue to be impressed with how well Marissa Meyer has woven the different fairytales together, and the hints for future books in the earlier ones and all that sort of thing, the problem that is starting to emerge with this series is that it is developing quite an ensemble cast. This is not necessarily a problem, but with so many characters in so many places, it made for a fairly long book, and book four is supposedly another 250 pages longer again (going by GoodReads’ estimate). There were times when the plot did start to drag a bit, where it seemed that we just cutting to another character for the sake of checking in with them, rather than anything really relevant. When there are so many characters, it’s hard to have equal investment in all of them, and I was sometimes just waiting to get back to the characters I really cared about.

The next installment in this series isn’t out until November, so unless I want to read Fairest (Queen Levana’s backstory)or some of the short stories, this will be it for a while. While I have been enjoying it, I think I am happy to wait until then, though. I’ve been discovering lots of other fairytale retellings to tide me over.