“When put that way, it sounds rather like magic, doesn’t it?” // Review of “The Night Circus” by Erin Morgenstern

Title: The Night Circus
Author: Erin Morgenstern
Audio book narrator:
Jim Hale
Genre:
Historical/magical realism
Date Read: 09/08/2016 – 18/08/2016
Rating: ★★★★

Review:

Back in 2012, I started reading The Night Circus, but I gave up, only about 100 pages in. I think listening to the audio book was the way to go, as it meant sneaking it in when driving or cleaning, all those times when I can’t sit with a physical book in my hands. At times, I thought my final rating was going to be anything from 3 starts to 4.5, but I think the solid 4 probably is the best overall indication of my enjoyment.

There is not a huge amount of plot to this novel – two magicians, Celia and Marco, are pitted against one another by their instructors in a challenge where they can only be one winner. The challenge does not only affect them, though, for the Cirque des Reves is their venue and everyone who relies upon the circus or comes to love it is touched by the challenge. The lack of plot didn’t bother me too much for reasons I’ll get into below, but I did feel the reasoning behind the challenge could have been better (basically all the reason we get is that the two instructors wanted to know whose methods were better). Celia and Marco were asking all the time and there was never any indication of if they were doing well, who was winning, etc… it got frustrating after the first few times.

The plot does jump around in time a lot, which is difficult to keep track of when listening to an audio book. If I had had the print copy, I probably would have been flipping back a few times to check what year it was last time I met these characters.

But depsite all of that, the language is absolutely beautiful. The descriptions are wonderful; I could imagine every single exhibit in the Circus in exquisite detail. At first, I felt that Jime Hale’s voice a little bit too rough and jarring for the sort of prose he was reading, but after a while I got used to it. Read aloud, the descriptions have  a really lilting, poetic quality that was just delightful to listen to.

While I wouldn’t necessarily say I was one of these people myself, I would say this novel is best suited to those whose first loves are description and setting. Many a reader would find that the plot leaves too much to be desired, but I am glad I finally found a way to enjoy this.


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“The entire time she’d watched him … her features had remained serene. A flame in the mist.” // Review of “Flame in the Mist” by Renee Ahdieh

Title: Flame in the Mist
Author: Renee Ahdieh
Genre: YA/Fantasy
Date Read: 06/08/2017 – 15/08/2017
Rating: ★★★

Review:

I don’t really know why this book didn’t impress me more. It ticked all my boxes for what makes a great YA fantasy. It was one of my most highly-anticipated releases this year, so there is a chance I just hyped it up too much in my head, or maybe I am actually still in my reading slump a bit. Either way, while this was enjoyable, it didn’t quite live up to expectations.

Mariko is on her way to be united with her betrothed, the son of the Emperor of Wa, when her convoy is attacked and everyone around her murdered. Certain that this is the work of the Black Clan, she infiltrates their ranks disguised as a boy, intent on finding out who sent them to kill her and why. But the more time she spends with them, the more she realises that there is more the Black Clan than their reputation would suggest, and there is also a lot that her sheltered upbringing has kept her blind to…

I did really love the Japanese-inspired world-building, even if I did have to flick to the back to find out what the Japanese words meant. I felt this was the strongest aspect of the novel. I do believe this shouldn’t have been sold as a Mulan-retelling or even as Mulan-inspired. There are plenty of stories about girls dressing up as boys. The resemblances of Flame in the Mist to Mulan were superficial at best. Why not let a story sell on its own merits rather than comparing it.

The characters were where I got stuck. For a start, I didn’t feel like there was a huge difference between Ranmaru and Okami, and even with the helpful prologue to establish a few things, I got lost trying to remember who/whose father betrayed whom.

Mariko was an interesting character in that she is far from the usual kick-ass babe who usually dominates the “strong female character” role. While I appreciated that, her coolness and rational nature actually made it a bit harder to connect to her. Yes, I realise I’m giving Renee Ahdieh a bit of a damned-if-she-does-damned-if-she-doesn’t situation here, but hey, I’m just describing the reading experience for me. I also found her repeated mantras about not being weak and striking when they least expect it quite repetitive and annoying, and I also didn’t buy a lot of the decisions she made. Maybe that’s why I didn’t connect with her.

That being said, I did really like some of her character development. Particularly towards the end, Mariko realises how sheltered she has been and that her family is not as good and honourable as she had always thought. She also realises that they Black Clan is not as evil as it has been depicted. I do like it when a character can come to those realisations.

I felt the romance was full of tell and little show. I’m actually not a fan of romances where one character falls for the other in spite of everything. As far as Mariko knew, Okami had wanted to kill her. Still wants to. She keeps telling herself that he’s her enemy, but hey, he’s sexy, and that can’t be helped or overlooked? I didn’t think there was any chemistry between them, so all their private thoughts about each other didn’t really do much for me.

I did enjoy the explorations of what it means to be a girl/woman, particularly in societies such as this one. Mariko’s experience is contrasted with that of Yumi, a young maiko (geisha), and Mariko realises that just because she aims for something more, does not mean that every woman will, but that it’s the opportunity that’s important.

This was my first experience of Renee Ahdieh’s writing; I’m yet undecided on whether to read The Wrath and the Dawn. While the writing was good, I don’t feel especially compelled to pick up the sequel when it comes out.


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#WWW Wednesday – August 16, 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.

wwwwednesday

What have you recently finished reading?

I finished  Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh last night, and have kind of weird feelings about it. I definitely enjoyed parts of it, but at the same time, I never felt really invested in it. Maybe I’m still slightly in my reading slump, or maybe I hyped it up too much to myself, but I felt it was just missing… something. My review will go up on Friday.

I also posted my review of The Space Between by Rachel Sanderson this week. Click here to read it.

What are you currently reading?

I have just started Miss Muriel Matters by Robert Wainwright today. It’s a biography and I don’t usually read a lot of non-fiction, but I have to write a critical review of a biography for a history course I’m doing this semester. I’m only about 30 pages in so far but it’s really interesting!

I am nearly 3/4 of the way through the audio book of The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. I think once I got into it and got used to the narrator, the rhythm of the descriptions started really working for me, though every now and then I get frustrated by certain aspects of it (mostly the plot, or lack thereof)

What do you think you’ll read next?

I thought I might go back to The Ship From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig and see if I can get into it enough to finish it. The love story was overpowering the time travel and I wasn’t terribly interested, but I think they were just going off to a mythical country when I put it aside, so maybe it will pick up.

What are you reading this week? 🙂~ Emily

 


P.S.
If you feel so inclined, head on over to my writing blog, Letting the Voices Out, where I’ve shared an excerpt from my current WIP today.

#AWW2017 “How could she be so close, almost here, and completely out of my reach?” // Review of “The Space Between” by Rachel Sanderson

Title: The Space Between
Author: Rachel Sanderson
Genre: YA/Contemporary/Drama
Date Read: 05/08/2017 – 06/08/2017
Rating: ★★★★

Review:

Somehow, despite being in the same writing group as Rachel Sanderson for the past five years, I’ve never really sampled much of her writing until this year. I was so excited when she announced that she had published The Space Between, and grabbed myself a copy straight away. I’m glad to say I really enjoyed reading it; it’s a fantastic YA page-turner.

What should be a regular weekend away camping turns into a nightmare when Erica’s best friend, Daina, goes missing. Coming to terms with Daina’s loss also means coming to terms with the fact that she didn’t know all there was to know about her best friend, as well as trying to navigate messy relationships with both family and friends in the wake of tragedy.

The atmosphere in this book was what struck me the most. There’s a real rawness underneath everything. When Erica ached, I ached. I really felt under her skin. She did sometimes make decisions that I raised my eyebrows at and didn’t really support, but her actions were no more outlandish than a lot of other YA characters’, so it didn’t irk me too much. And they did help to move the plot forward, so there was that.

The writing style is fantastic, and very readable. The pacing is good throughout and I found the book hard to put down.  The set-ups for later revelations about Daina, Erica and their families were done well so when those revelations came about, they made a lot of sense without the story feeling predictable. There were a few moments towards the end where I felt myself tearing up a little; as I said, I felt really close to Erica and really had a sense of her loss.

While I don’t read a huge amount of contemporary YA, this is one I would definitely recommend (and not just because I know the author either 😉 )


This review forms part of the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge for 2017. Click here for more information.

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#WWW Wednesday – August 9, 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.

wwwwednesday

What have you recently finished reading?

I got myself out of my reading slump and finished two books this week! Yay! I pushed through Daughter of the  Burning City by Amanda Foody, despite wanting to DNF if a couple of times. My reading slump suddenly disappeared about 3/4 of the way through it and I was able to review it properly. I reviewed it here.

After that, I finished The Space Between by my friend and writing buddy Rachel Sanderson in two days. This was a really great contemporary YA drama that I found hard to put down. It was shortlisted for the 2016 Ampersand Prize, which is a big Australian YA/MG prize, but after a year of submissions and some (albeit very nice) rejections, Rachel recently decided to publish it herself. My review will go up on Friday, but if you like this sort of thing, I recommend checking it out!

What are you currently reading?

I’ve started Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh, which is one of my most anticipated reads this year. I’ve only about a quarter of the way through it at this point, but it’s a solid read and I’m enjoying it. The only thing that’s mildly annoying me so far is the fairly frequent use of Japanese words, which helps with the world-building a bit, but also requires constant flipping to the glossary.

I also recently started the audio book of The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, though I am not entirely sold on it yet. I’m not sure the narrator really fits the story and I’m also not sure the story really lends itself to an audio book with so much jumping around in time… so I will see how I go. I did actually DNF this back in 2012, so it could just be a case of it not being for me.

What do you think you’ll read next?

I’m only reading Flame in the Mist already because when there’s a queue for a book at my local library, you can’t renew it, so I only have it for two weeks. Once I’ve finished it, I have to put the rest of my recent library haul aside and read Miss Muriel Matters by Robert Wainwright. This is a biography of an Australian actress who became a prominent figure in the women’s suffrage movement in the UK, then faded into obscurity and is now basically forgotten. I’m doing a uni course on biography this semester and have to read one and write a critical review. That’s due on September 3, so I need to start reading soon to give myself plenty of time.

What are you reading this week? 🙂~ Emily

 


P.S.
If you feel so inclined, head on over to my writing blog, Letting the Voices Out, where I’ve shared an excerpt from my current WIP today.

“But you’re an illusion. I created you.” “That doesn’t mean I’m not real.” // Review of “Daughter of the Burning City” by Amanda Foody

Title: Daughter of the Burning City
Author: Amanda Foody
Genre: YA/Fantasy
Date Read: 28/03/2017 – 06/06/2017
Rating: ★★

Review:

So it’s not this book’s fault that I was in a reading slump at the time I was reading it and that probably contributed to my rating. There were some genuinely good parts once the plot got going, but I did feel it spent quite a bit of time wandering without much happening.

Daughter of the Burning City tells the story of Sorina, an illusion-worker whose only real family are the illusions she creates. She knows that they’re not real, though… at least, so she thought, until one of them is murdered. But how do you kill something that never really existed in the first place?

For a while, the investigations seemed to be taking forever and nothing was happening. I’ve read a few reviews that claimed the romance never got in the way of the plot, but I would have to disagree. Quite a bit of focus was given to Sorina’s burgeoning crush on Luca, a boy who it is impossible to kill. I did find it interesting that Amanda Foody sought to include elements of demisexuality, though I didn’t really think that Sorina and Luca had known each other long enough when their romance took off for this to be an accurate representation (though I am pretty uninformed on this topic, so take my words with a grain of salt).

I also felt that the style of language clashed with the setting and tone of the book a bit. The book is written in first person and Sorina read more like the heroine of an punchy urban fantasy, rather than something closer to high fantasy.

The world-building was really interesting, though I felt there was a lot of potential that wasn’t fleshed out properly. A lot of the time, I couldn’t quite get my head around exactly how the city-sized carnival of Gomorrah managed to continue existing, how it moved, and how the different magic systems within it managed to operate.

The plot did pick up in the last third and I found myself on the edge of my seat waiting for the killer’s identity to be revealed. It was just a shame that it took a little while to get to that point.


(Thank you to the publishers and NetGalley for supplying me with a free copy of this book in exchange for a review)

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July Wrap-Up and August Goals

Yikes. July was not a good reading month. Well, it was, kind of. Just not officially. I read eight books, though only one of them was from my July-September TBR, meaning I’m way behind on that. Another five were Books 6-10 of Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events, which really don’t need much time nor investment to get through, so I feel like they don’t really count. Then life got in the way and I hit a readings lump, so it took two weeks to complete another book.

But enough moaning, let’s actually take stock:

Series of Unfortunate Events: 

  • The Ersatz Elevator – 4/5
  • The Vile Village – 3/5
  • The Hostile Hospital  – 4/5
  • The Carnivorous Carnival – 3/5
  • The Slippery Slope – 3/5

didn’t actually review any of those, hence just the list.

The one book that I did read and review was The Year of Freaking Out by Sarah Walker. My review is here. This counts towards my Australian Women Writers Challenge. This was a cute book, though it felt a bit dated.

I also read The Art of Purring by David Michie and 1984 by George Orwell. Reviews for both of those are still forthcoming.

So, what’s on the agenda for August? Well, uni has started back and I’m a week behind because I thought semester began July 31, when it really started July 24. Oops! The joys of being an online student and never being on campus to get proper reminders. Hopefully this weekend I will get mostly caught up.

am participating in the #ReadWriteRepeat August tag over on Instagram, and the first day was goals, so here they are:

One thing I did forget to include on there was to colour at least 45 pages from my adult colouring desk calendar. I still haven’t coloured most of July, so I’m hoping to catch up. I don’t think I did anywhere near enough mindfulness last month, so that’s a priority this month. I have a spreadsheet that includes all these goals, so fingers crossed that helps me really stick with it.

And August 2 was TBR. I accidentally got myself a library haul, so progress on the “official” TBR is likely to stall even further. Oh well. When one is in a reading slump, one picks up anything that sounds like it might be the book to get them out of it! At least some of them are audio books, right?

In case those are difficult to read, in order they are:

I didn’t actually realise until I got home that both The Silkworm and All the Little Liars are sequels (in fact All the Little Liars is #9 in the series!) but I figured I’d see how I go with them anyway.

#WWW Wednesday – August 2, 2017

Hi everyone! Sorry this blog kind of died over the last couple of weeks! Apart from things like it being my birthday last Wednesday and being out rather than at home writing WWW posts, the main reason for my absence is:

I AM IN THE DREADED READING SLUMP

In the two weeks since I last posted a WWW post, I have finished one book! ONE! And it’s taken me 4 days to read 22% of a YA fantasy that I received as an ARC. At the moment, reading feels like a bit of a chore but I’m trying to find my groove again. Getting back onto the blog regularly is part of that.

So with that in mind, 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 my reread of 1984 by George Orwell, though not before I saw the stage play. I think I would have benefited more either having reread the whole book or not at all. The play was still good, though, and I think I appreciated it more as I completed the book. The first time I read the book was prior to me reviewing on a regular basis, so I’ll have a review up soon.

I didn’t post a single review since my last WWW, either! Stupid reading slump.

What are you currently reading?

I started Daughter of the  Burning City by Amanda Foody; it’s the one I mentioned has taken me four days to get through the first quarter of. I don’t mind it, but the characters seem a bit bland and I’m having trouble getting my head around some of the world-building. I’m hoping that it’ll pick up, though, as I had quite high hopes for this one.

What do you think you’ll read next?

I got a text from my library today to say that Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh has come in for me. I’ve had really high hopes for this one, too, so hopefully the reading slump won’t affect it too much.

What are you reading this week? 🙂

~ Emily

 


P.S.
If you feel so inclined, head on over to my writing blog, Letting the Voices Out, where I’ve shared an excerpt from my current WIP today.

#WWW Wednesday – July 19, 2017

Hello everyone! I’m wondering if you could do me a favour? Next year I’m going to be trekking through the Himalayas to raise money for the UN Women National Committee and their work in Nepal assisting women and girls who were displaced after the 2015 earthquake. I’m only $40 away from my first milestone of $1000 raised. Could you donate and help me reach that first target? Any amount would be very much appreciated!

I also have a Facebook page set up where you can see updates of my preparation and fundraising journey. I’d love to see you there!

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?

It’s been a bit of a slow reading week this week. I’ve finished one print book and one audio. The print book was The Year of Freaking Out by Sarah Walker. It was sweet but a bit dated. I reviewed it here.

I also finished The Art of Purring by David Michie. This is the second book in the series The Dalai Lama’s Cat which teaches Buddhist methods of mindfulness and paths to happiness through the perspective of HHC, His Holiness’ Cat. It was cute but not quite as good as the first one, I thought. Though this could be because David Michie was also the narrator and he wasn’t as good a narrator/performer as he is a writer.

What are you currently reading?

 My main read at the moment is 1984 by George Orwell. This is a re-read for me; I’m going to see the critically-acclaimed stage show next week and I wanted to refresh my memory.

am still reading  Dracula by Bram Stoker and The Ship Beyond Time by Heidi Heilig, though there has been little movevment on any of them recently.

What do you think you’ll read next?

I really should get back to the two books I just said I’ve had little movement on, but I’m really tempted to start some of my ARCs. Particularly Daughter of the  Burning City by Amanda Foody, which looks awesome! Check out that cover.  (Actually, my ARC has a way less pretty cover, but I’m  just ignoring that).

What are you reading this week? 🙂

~ Emily

 


P.S.
If you feel so inclined, head on over to my writing blog, Letting the Voices Out, where I’ve shared an excerpt from my current WIP today.

Sunday Summary – July 16, 2017

sundaybanner

 

 

Usually, I try to take stock in the first week or so of July, evaluating where I am and where I would like to be by the end of the year. The first two weeks of this July have been so busy I haven’t been able to do that yet, so I thought I might do it now, along with weekly reflections.

This week in writing

writingthumb

The last two weeks I have sadly not been able to work on Memories and Magic, and I’m starting to get twitchy about it. After this weekend, I should be able to get back into my regular routines, but I am a bit behind where I hoped to be by now.

Goals:

  • Finish re-writing Part 2 of Memories and Magic by  the end of August
  • Finish re-writing Part 3 by the end of October
  • Finish revisions by the end of the year

This is possibly ambitious. There’s quite a bit to rewrite and expand upon. And I’ll once again be doing two uni subjects. But I would love to have this ready for readers by the end of the year.

This week in readingreadingthumb

After speeding through five of the Series of Unfortunate Events books by Lemony Snicket, I am back to The Ship Beyond Time by Heidi Heilig. I’m also listening to The Art of Purring by David Michie. This is the sequel to The Dalai Lama’s Cat, which I read some weeks ago and really enjoyed.

I’m well on track to reach my goal of 75 books for this year (and surpass it) and I don’t really have any other reading-related goals.

This week in blogging

blogginthumbThis keeps trucking along. I’d really like to have a bit more time to commit to blog hops, or memes on other places like Twitter, but I always seem to commit and then fall off the wagon after a week or so. So at the moment, my aim is just to keep posting regular reviews along with WWW Wednesday posts and the occasional tag on this blog, and WIPpet Wednesday and Sunday Sessions posts on Letting the Voices Out.

THIS WEEK IN STUDY

I’m still enjoying free time at the moment; next semester starts at the end of July. I’m going to be doing one core subject and one elective this semester. I proved to myself last semester that I can do two courses at once and still maintain my good results. I’ve only got 18 months left of this degree now. I’ve been enjoying it, but I also look forward to not studying any more.

This week in health and fitness

fitnessthumb

I’m really not sure where I am on this at the moment, for a couple of reasons. When I weighed in last week, I appeared to have lost 5.4kg, which seemed unlikely, but I was willing to take it. This week, I appeared to have gained all that back.  I am also experimenting with not counting calories and just trying to be sensible about what I eat. So I may have really gained 5kg (unlikely) or there was an anomoly. Either way, it will take a couple of weeks to sort it out.

Goal: reach 74kg by the end of July. This might also be ambitious, but I’m aiming high.

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

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