#WWW Wednesday – February 14, 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?

Only one finish this week: Keep Her Safe by Richard Parker. I know many people really loved it but I wasn’t a fan. I just couldn’t make sense of a lot of it. You can read my review here. Sorry it’s a bit ranty.

I actually DNFed Hellhole by Gina Damico, as the humour wore off after a while and I wasn’t really into the story. And given that I had completely forgotten about it until I looked at last week’s post to start this one, I guess that shows how much I was into it.

I also posted my review of Hunted by Meagan Spooner this week. You can find that one here.

What are you currently reading?

I am finally reading The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. For those unaware, this book came out of the Black Lives Matter movement and is about a black teenager whose best friend is shot by a white police officer while unarmed. I have put it off for a long time because I was worried about how I would find it. And it isn’t an easy read and is making me frustrated and angry a lot of the time, but in a good, this-book-is-challenging-me way.

On audio, I am still listening to Magonia by Maria Dahvana Headley, though I’ll probably finish it today or tomorrow. I like many of the ideas, but I’m not so sold on the plot itself. The MC is surrounded by characters who refuse to explain what is going on, mostly for the sake of padding out the plot, which is annoying. And I don’t care about her best friend who is trying to find her back on earth. I’ll finish this but unless the ending is really impressive, I don’t think I’ll read the sequel.

What do you think you’ll read next?

I’m going to try to knock a couple more books off my February TBR. Possibly Dollhouse by Anya Allyn will be next. Or The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon if I feel like a physical book instead of an ebook.

What are you reading this week?~ Emily

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Book Review: “Keep Her Safe” by Richard Jay Parker

Title: Keep Her Safe
Author: Richard Jay Parker
Genre:
Psychological thriller
Date Read: 09/02/2018 – 10/02/2019
Rating:
 ★★

Review:

I’ve been having a bit of a bad run with thrillers. After listening to a disappointing one that opens with a stranger in the protagonist’s house, I had hoped that this one would be better. Unfortunately, I found the writing in this one quite lacking, and while it did improve for a while, it never really impressed me.

Since I am about to go on to say a lot of negative things, I will start with something positive. As you can see from the dates above, I did read this quite quickly. Even as I was questioning some of the things that happened or why characters were doing certain things, the writing was overall quite readable. There was a chunk in the middle (from about 20% through to 65%) that I read in one sitting. The tension was good, and I did admittedly want to see how everything panned out.

The theme of this book was “How far would you go for your child?” but I feel like the author had very little experience of parenthood, and mothers of young children in particular. Some of the dialogue between the two mothers felt strange; I think they were explaining things for the benefit of the reader that one mother would not need to explain to another. There was also a reference to Maggie being an “older mother” at age 34 (32 is hardly an unusual age to be giving birth anymore).

I had other issues with the writing as well, like the fact that the mastermind behind everything has an actual villain monologue… not only that, said monologue goes on for a chapter and a half. There are other ways to explain a character’s motivations, rather than just a huge info-dump. Speaking of the villain, I couldn’t quite work out why he decided to send the two women on a wild goose chase when the initial murder he’d intended didn’t work out. I don’t know why he would have decided to reveal himself (eventually) and then the way everything wrapped up seemed a bit too easy.

I have to agree with the other reviews of this that say that the almost constant action scenes were at the expense of character development. Apart from “I’d do anything for my child”, there was really nothing else I knew about either of the main characters for most of the book. Some information was dropped in the last third which I think was meant to make me sympathise more with them, but I just didn’t have enough interest by that stage. When a bombshell was dropped about one of them, it had very little effect on me.

This was my first read by this author and while I can see his books are very popular, I don’t think I will be revisiting.


Thank you to NetGalley and the Publishers for a free copy of this book in exchange for a review.

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“It feels like music, like a heartbeat, like magic… Like Beauty.” // Review of “Hunted” by Meagan Spooner

Title: Hunted
Author:  Meagan Spooner
Audio book narrator: Will Damron, Saskia Maarleveld
Genre:
  historical fantasy/fairytale retelling
Dates read: 28/01/18 – 03/02/18
Rating: ★★★★

Review:

Anyone who has followed this blog for a while knows that I am a fan of fairytale retellings. This book has been on my TBR ever since it was released, so when I saw the audio book available through my library’s digital borrowing app, I snapped it up.

With her father’s fortune in ruin, Yeva and her family return to the forest where her father used to hunt. When her father claims a beast is tracking him through the wood and then goes missing, Yeva sets out to find him. When she discovers he is dead, she tries to kill the beast she believes is responsible, but ends up a prisoner in his castle instead, told only that he needs a hunter to kill a quarry for him and break his curse.

The thing I loved about this book was the writing, and I think it was enhanced by two narrators with very soothing voices to carry the rhythm. For a while it bothered me that I wasn’t excited or invested about the characters, but after a while, I sunk into the story itself despite that. The characters are well-written, but not in such a way to get really invested in.

will admit I’m not an expert on Medieval Russia but the historical setting seemed very well formed to me. I loved the wintery atmosphere – all that snow! The descriptions are beautiful. I also really enjoyed the way this was not only a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, but also drew on the Russian story The Firebird. I spotted a few indications of the ties between the two stories early on in the book and was rewarded with the pay-off at the end.

If you like fairytale retellings, or atmospheric, character-driven fantasies, I definitely recommend checking this one out.


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#WWW Wednesday – February 07, 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 finished two more audio books this week! All my training for my Nepal trek in April is paying off. I was driving for about five hours on Saturday, with a two-and-a-half hour hike in the middle. Good for audio books but my bum was rather sore by the end of the day.

First off, I finished Hunted by Meagan Spooner. The style of writing in this is a bit like The Night Circus in that half the time, I wasn’t sure I was into the story much. Then I sort of got used to its rhythms and the fact that it was more character-driven than anything else, and I really loved the descriptions of the setting. So if you like your Beauty and the Beast retellings and those things mentioned above, I recommend this one overall.

Next I finished You Sent Me Letter by Lucy Dawson. The problem with this was that it wasn’t very thrilling for a thriller. Though I wanted to know how it ended, I felt a bit unsatisfied by the time I actually got to the end. Oh well.

I also finished the ARC of Your One and Only, a sci-fi YA romance by Adrianne Finlay. I had been putting this off for ages, but I ended up really enjoying it.

This week I reviewed Lion by Saroo Brierley and Your One and Only as well.

What are you currently reading?

I started Hellhole by Gina Damico which is about a squeaky-clean teenager who ends up accidentally summoning a demon, who moves into his basement. It started off quite funny, though it’s worn a little thin. I’m still waiting to see if it picks up again.

On audio, I am listening to Magonia by Maria Dahvana Headley. This is not what I expected at all; from the descriptions, I expected it to be a lot closer to literary fiction, but it’s actually far more standard YA than that (by which I mean, accessible language, snarky teenage MC, etc). But it is interesting to see a totally different mythology being drawn on to most fantasy books.

What do you think you’ll read next?

Since I didn’t get around to it this week, I will stick with saying Keep Her Safe by Richard Parker. I’m hoping this will be a better “wake up to find a stranger in your home” thriller than You Sent Me A Letter turned out to be.

What are you reading this week?~ Emily

“We may have created them, but like all children, they grow up and make their own lives.” // Review of “Your One and Only” by Adrianne Finlay

Title: Your One and Only
Author: Adrianne Finlay
Genre:
YA/sci-fi/romance
Date Read: 29/01/2018 – 02/01/2018
Rating: ★★★

Review:

I was approved for this on NetGalley months and months ago, and for some reason kept putting it off. With the publication date looming, I thought I’d better get onto it, and when I did, it turned out to be a compelling read.

Jack is a human in a world of clones. The clones are suspicious of him because his behaviour doesn’t fall in line with theirs, and he doesn’t understand their ceremonies. Althea-310 can’t help feeling different from her sisters and drawn to Jack. As their world starts to fall apart, they find hope in each other.

This is definite soft sci-fi, and while some of the “science” did make me raise my eyebrows a little, I found the story was engaging enough that I was willing to handwave the world-building that didn’t seem exactly right. It did take me a few chapters to get my head around exactly how the communities of clones had come to be and how they lived and reproduced, but I did get there in the end.

I felt for Jack, who was raised in virtual isolation and disliked by the closest things he had to peers. But I was more interested in Althea. I liked seeing her progression from one of the clones to individual and how she questioned what was happening to her.

It did bother me that the clones isolated Jack in part because he had a tendency towards violence, but they couldn’t recognise that many of their own also had these same tendencies. The clones were supposed to be perfect, and Jack was different. I couldn’t work out whether that was supposed to be their cognitive dissonance, or a case of the world-building/story not quite working the way the author wanted it to.

I wouldn’t say the romance is gradual, but it did feel like it unfolded at a good pace. In terms of content, apart from some kissing, there is the clones’ monthly Pairing Ceremony. Though Pairings are never really described explicitly, the clones do discuss how they are taught what each of the other clones likes, and how to pleasure them. I did like this exploration of a completely new culture’s attitude towards sex.

There were a few occasions where the pacing felt a bit off, including at the end (during and after the climax). There were also a couple of scenes where dialogue went around in circles a bit.

I can’t say sci-fi romance is a sub-genre I’ve read much of, but if this is an example of it, then I feel like I should broaden my horizons.


Thank you to NetGalley and the Publishers for a free copy of this book in exchange for a review.

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“I feel strongly that from my being a little lost boy with no family to becoming a man with two, everything was meant to happen just the way it happened.” // Review of “Lion” by Saroo Brierley

Title: Lion (previously published as “A Long Way Home”)
Author: Saroo Brierley with Larry Buttrose
Audio book narrator: Vikas Adam
Genre:
  non-fiction/autobiography
Dates read: 26/01/18 – 28/01/18
Rating: ★★★★

Review:

The story of Saroo Brierley’s journey from living on the streets in Kolkata, to being adopted by an Australian couple in 1987 and then finding the village where he was born on Google Earth twenty-five years later is a fascinating one.

Brierley describes in great detail what it was like as a six-year-old in a poverty-stricken family in a tiny Indian village, and I felt his fear when he described realising he was trapped on a train speeding away from his home town. I also loved his insights into life as an adoptee and how even as a six-year-old, there were cultural differences that he had to get used to. It was interesting how his parents coped with some of these difference as well.

I listened to this straight off the back of another memoir, The Hospital by the River by Catherine Hamlin, and the writing in this one is far less disjointed. I did Vikas Adams’ narration of the audio version a bit distracting, though mostly because I couldn’t place his accent. My best guess was that he was English and lived in Australia for a while before settling in America. Turns out he’s Canadian, so I don’t know if that has any bearing on the fact that he sounded a bit English and a bit Australian as well.

Still, that won’t even be an issue if you are reading the physical book. This is a fascinating story and I definitely recommend it.


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January 2018 Reading Wrap-up

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Past Month’s Reading:

I made my bi-monthly TBR a little less ambitious this year, and I think that is working. I am exactly halfway through! I also read a few library books and listened to a couple of audio books and am sat at 6 books read so far in 2018. Pretty much on par with previous  years, so I’m happy with that!

The  things I read and reviewed were:

  • Vicious by V. E. Schwab (superheroes – 2.5 stars – review) (read 12/2017, reviewed 01/2018)
  • Beautiful Mess by Claire Christian (YA contemporary – 4 stars – review) (read 12/2017, reviewied 01/2018)
  • False Awakening (Lucid Dreaming #2) by Cassandra Page (urban fantasy – 3 stars – review)
  • Everless by Sara Holland (YA fantasy – 4.5 stars – review)
  • The Empty Grave (Lockwood & Co.  #5) by Jonathan Stroud (YA urban fantasy – 4 stars – review)
  • Mr Stink by David Walliams (children’s fiction – 3 stars – review)
  • The Hospital by the River by Dr Catherine Hamlin (autobiography – 4 stars – review)
  • Lion by Saroo Brierley (autobiography – 4 stars – review forthcoming)

Currently reading:

Physical book: Your One and Only by Adrianne Finlay. This has been a surprisingly compelling read. I’m about 50 pages from the end, and should have a review up next Monday.

Audio book: Hunted by Meaghan Spooner.  This is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast set in medieval Russia  and also drawing on Russian fairytales like the Firebird. I am enjoying it so far and with the amount of walking I’m doing lately, I am having a fair bit of time for audio books, I’m getting through it fairly quickly. That said, I wouldn’t say I’m overly invested though. We’ll see if it picks up, though.

Planning to read next:

I have some library books that I want to get to in the next few days. I think they are mostly YA contemporaries. I’ve found over the past year, that particular genre has really grown on me, and some of my favourite reads are now falling under that category.

How is your reading going?

#WWW Wednesday – January 31, 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?

My goodness, two autobiography/memoirs finished this week? And they were both audio books? That is most unlike me. I reached the end of The Hospital by the River by Catherine Hamlin on Friday. I have to admit that there were times when I disagreed with things she said, but that just went to show that someone can have different values to you and still be a wonderful person overall. I actually went and donated to the Catherine Hamlin Fistula Foundation as soon as I had finished.

Over the weekend, I started and finished Lion, previously published as A Long Way Home, by Saroo Brierley. This was made into a movie last year starring Dev Patel and Nicole Kidman. Saroo was separated from his family at age 5 with only scant knowledge of his name or hometown, and lived on the streets of Kolkata before being placed in an orphanage and eventually adopted by an Australian couple. Twenty-five years later, the advent of Google Earth meant he was able to trawl through satellite images of India looking for familiar landmarks until he identified his home town and was reunited with his birth mother. It’s a fascinating story. My review will be up on Friday.

Unfortunately, I decided to DNF Every Breath by Ellie Marney. I had hoped to enjoy this one as I have seen Ellie Marney speak and she is a great person, and I also admire her for kick-starting the #LoveOzYA movement. But I think maybe her books aren’t for me? I was just bored.

Two reviews this week: Mr Stink by David Walliams and The Hospital by the River. Click the titles to read them.

What are you currently reading?

In print, I am reading and ARC of  Your One And Only by Adrianne Finlay. This is a YA sci-fi romance that will be released next week. I haven’t read any proper sci-fi in a while and I am liking this one, though I do have some questions about the science the premise is based on. But the story is engaging enough that I’m willing to let that slide, so that’s a good sign.

On audio, I am listening to Hunted by Meagan Spooner. This is a Beauty and the Beast retelling set in medieval Russia and drawing on other Russian fairytales as well. So far I’m really enjoying it.  I am also really enamored with the cover. I’m finding my groove with audio books again. For a while, I was distracted by some new musical discoveries, but the novelty of those has worn of a bit now.

What do you think you’ll read next?

I think I might go with Keep Her Safe by Richard Parker, which I  requested after seeing such good reviews from other bloggers. I have been reading a fair bit of YA lately, so an adult thriller is probably a good option.

What are you reading this week?~ Emily

#aww2018 “Catherine has one son and 35000 daughters.” // Review of “The Hospital by the River” by Doctor Catherine Hamlin

Title: The Hospital  by the River
Author: Dr Catherine Hamlin
Audio book narrator:
Kate Hood
Genre:
  non-fiction/autobiography
Dates read: 09/01/18 – 26/01/18
Rating: ★★★★

Review:

The quote at the top of this review is not one from the book, as I usually do with reviews. Actually, I forgot to bookmark any. The quote is something Dr Hamlin’s son, Richard, said at her 90th birthday party, and it is absolutely true.

In 1959, Reg and Catherine Hamlin arrived in Ethiopia with the six-year-old son to being an OB/GYN and midwifery school in Addis Ababa. After realising the sheer numbers of women in Ethiopia who suffer from a traumatic childbirth-related injury, obstetric fistula, the Hamlins made it their life’s work to cure as many women as possible.  This led to the opening of the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital, which has now been operating for nearly 50 years.

I have to admit that there were times when this book challenged me a bit. In terms of personal values, Catherine and I are quite different. What I perceive as the great social movements of the 60s, Catherine viewed as degeneracy and worried for her son, whom she expected would finish his schooling in England. Catherine, a staunch Christian, does not believe in abortion; I do (and I’m rather of the opinion that religious beliefs shouldn’t get in the way of your medical profession). And yet, the great work that the Hamlins have done in Ethiopia tends to outweight all of that, proving that someone can have different values to you and still be a wonderful person.

It was quite fascinating to also learn about medical history, particularly the evolution of the fistula repair surgery, as wel as the history of Ethiopia. I had no idea that Sylvia Pankhurst, daughter of famed suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst, had spent  much of her life campaigning for women in Ethiopia.

Some of the writing of the book seemed a bit choppy. It felt as though all the chapters had been written in isolation to one another,  and that no one had tidied them up later. A medical procedure would be described in detail in one chapter, and then described again almost verbatim later. There were other smaller statements that would also feel a tad repetitive throughout the book. It also bothered me that there wasn’t any consistency regarding the plural of fistula: both fistulas and fistulae got used. I’m not sure if there was a reason for that; if so, it wasn’t explained and it felt a bit choppy.

Still, if you can put up with that, and are interested in any of the subject matter, then there’s a very good chance you will enjoy this book.


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

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“Mr Stink stank. He also stunk. And if it was correct English to say he stinked, then he stinked as well…” // Review of “Mr Stink” by David Walliams

Title: Mr Stink
Author: David Walliams
Genre: Children’s fiction
Date Read: 11/01/2018 – 12/01/2018
Rating: ★★★

Review:

After seeing the TV adaptation of Mr Stink over Christmas, I thought I would like to check out the book it was based on. While it was a sweet story with an ultimately good message, a lot of the time, I couldn’t work out exactly what Walliams was trying to say.

Chloe is having a hard time at school and at home, but when she befriends the local homeless man, known as Mr Stink for obvious reasons, and hides him in the familyi garage, she begins to learn that she can control more aspects of her life than she realises.

The throughline of this book is that anyone can become homeless, and that you shouldn’t write someone off just because they smell or look mangy. All good messages. But at the same time, I felt that the book also made a lot of fun of Mr Stink, and turned him into a bit of a caricature, which clashed with that message.

The same could be said for a lot of the other characters in the book, too. While the issues facing Chloe were often presented realistically, someone else would barge into the scene in a completely over-the-top way. I think it was trying to be funny, and definitely going for a Roald Dahl vibe (complete with illustrations by Quentin Blake), but it just never gelled into a consistent style for me.

Still, all of this possibly comes down to me being a more critical reader than most. As I was reading, I couldn’t help thinking that my 11-year-old niece would probably love it. While it’s not something I’d recommend reading as an adult on your own, reading it to your kids would probably have a whole different effect.


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