#AWW2019 “This is how I tell it, or else what’s a story for?” // Review of “The Hate Race” by Maxine Beneba Clarke

Title: The Hate Race
Author: Maxine Beneba Clarke
Genre: Memoir
Target audience: Adult
Date Read:
12/11/19 – 16/11/19
Rating:
★★★

Review:

It’s always hard to know exactly what to say in a review like this. I’m in a position of privilege as a white person, and this entire book is about Maxine’s experiences of racism as a black woman in Australia.

The racism she describes is mostly not overt. She really highlights the way it insideously inserts itself into a POC’s life – the little things like the tone of voice a fellow pre-schooler uses when she states “Your skin is brown” and how that statement of fact becomes a nasty comment just through the tone. Or how her first high-school boyfriend was happy to hang out with her in certain circumstances but didn’t want to visit her home and disassocated from her when he was surrounded by his private school peers.

Maxine’s experience as a poet definitely comes through in this book – there is a certain poetry throughout the prose; Maxine frames her story as something of a West Indian song or story her grandparents might have told. It’s beautiful and striking, particularly in contrast to the content of some of the stories she is telling.

Definitely recommend this book for fans of memoir and who want to support the diversity of Australian writing. This is my first book from Maxine Beneba Clarke, but I’ll definitely be following it up with some fiction books asap!


This review is part of my 2019 Australian Women Writers Challenge. Click here for more information.

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#AWW2019 // Book Review: “The Serpent and the Flower” by Madeleine D’Este

Title: The Serpent and the Flower
Author: Madeleine D’Este
Genre: Contemporary/horror
Target audience: YA
Rating: ★★

Review:

Confession: I don’t really know Macbeth that well. I don’t really like Shakespeare’s tragedies. And that probably affected by enjoyment of this book. (Someone give me a romcom set around a production of Much Ado About Nothing, please!)

Well, then, Emily, if that’s the case, why did you put your hand up for an ARC of a book about a group of teenagers staging Macbeth?

Well, because while I might have been more into musicals, I was the theatre nerd at school. And I’m honestly surprised haunted theatre stories aren’t more of a thing – that was up my alley, too. I love theatre ghost lore. Also the cover is gorgeous.

Madeleine D’Este definitely does creepy well. There’s a seance scene in her novella Evangeline and the Spiritualist that creeped me out completely and that was why that was my favourite of the Evangeline stories. And there are equivalent spooky scenes in this one, too. There are some scenes in this book where characters find themselves alone in the theatre or elsewhere in the school, hearing voices or having chairs pelted at their heads by invisible hands.

The characters certainly had their moments (one of my GoodReads updates was ‘Whoa, Ravenswood, you need to calm down!” and another was “Actors like Violet make me glad I’m only ever in the chorus – no one’s going to want to hurt me for my part”). But for the most part I never really felt like the characters leapt off the page… some of the other reviews have referred to parallels between these characters and those in Macbeth, and perhaps if I had been able to spot those parallels,  there would have been some added depth to the characters that I was missing.

My reading experience mostly depends on how invested I am in the characters, but the writing and plotting are both very good, and I think the right reader will definitely enjoy this.


Thank you to the author for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for a review.

This review is part of my 2019 Australian Women Writers Challenge. Click here for more information.

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Triwizard Tournament Readathon – First Task Wrap-up and Second Task TBR

WElcome to the Triwizard Tournament Readathon!

This readathon snuck up on me so this is my first blog on the subject and we’re at the end of the First Task. Probably stating the obvious here, but the challenges for this readathon are based on the Triwizard Tournament tasks in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. You can find more info at Chapter Charms.

Teams were decided on by date of birth, and I am on Team Durmstrang. For the first task, I had to Swedish Short-snout.

The prompt: These dragons are sought after to use their skin to make shields and gloves, re-read a favourite that makes you feel protected.

When We Were Very Young by A. A. Milne

I’ve got to be honest, part of me was freaking out about this prompt because I’ve got so many books to read for the first time right now, and I didn’t think I had time to re-read anything. However, I can always count on the Winnie-the-Pooh books to give me warm fuzzies, and they are very quick reads.

There was also the method of defeating the dragon. I used distraction.

The prompt: Distract your dragon by transfiguring a rock into an animal, read a book with an animal on the cover.

Portable Curiosities: Stories by Julie Koh

With a cat on the cover! This was a really entertaining collection of short stories. There were some I didn’t really get, but others were fantastic. They were all a bit weird in some way or another.

So now that the first task is over, there is a week until the second task begins. In the second task, Harry and the other Triwizard Champions had to rescue a loved on from the Hogwarts Lake. Durmstrang team members will be rescuing a friend.

The prompt: Read a book about friendship.

Before the Devil Breaks You by Libba Bray

I’m going to hope this works for this prompt anyway! Otherwise there’ll be a mad dash for me to find another one. But there’s such a large cast in the Diviners novels, I figure I’ll be able to make it work in one way or another.

And of course, the question is how do I rescue my friend from the lake? I’m going with transfiguration.

The Prompt: Partially transfigure yourself into a sea creature by reading a book about a sea creature.

Into the Drowning Deep by MIra Grant

I originally had this book down for the third task, under “read a book containing something you fear” because you can bet I am terrified of the ocean. I mean, I’m happy enough going to the beach, but anything more than a few feet underwater and I start getting bothered. But I didn’t really have anything else for any of the prompts for this challenge, so I’m moving it here. There’s till plenty of time to figure out my titles for the Third Task.

The second task runs from Monday November 25 to Sunday December 01, so I’ll be back with another wrap-up post sometime after that.

See you then!

#AWW2019 Book Review: “Portable Curiosities” by Julie Koh

Title: Portable Curiosities
Author: Julie Koh
Audio book narrator: Lauren Hamilton Neill
Genre: Short stories/satire
Target audience: Adult
Date Read:
10/11/19 – 25/11/19
Rating:
★★★

Review:

What an interesting collection of stories! As I’m getting into writing more short stories myself, I am finding myself drawn more to reading them. This collection from Julie Koh is clever, eyebrow-raising and sometimes laugh-out-loud funny.

The stories examine being Asian in a white world, being female in a male world, diversity, capitalism and consumerism, social media influencers, and many other aspects of the modern world. They do so in an absurdist, satirical way.

There were some that I really enjoyed, such as The Magnificent Breasts, an indictment on the male objectification of women, and they way women are gaslit into staying in abusive relationships.

I will be honest that there were others where I got to the end and wasn’t 100% sure what the story had been trying to say. But I really appreciated that these stories were speculative and funny as they satirised the world around us. I have found a lot of the short story genre tends to be very realistic, and lacking humour as it tries to be deep. Or maybe I’m just reading the wrong short stories? Either way, this was a nice break and I definitely intend to pick up Julie Koh’s other collection not too far in the future.


This review is part of my 2019 Australian Women Writers Challenge. Click here for more information.

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Cover Reveal! That Night In Paris by Sandy Barker

Hello everyone! I go years without doing a cover reveal and then I do two within a couple of weeks. This is something I really want to get back into regularly, so hit me up if you have one coming up, I’d love to help!

Today we’re revealing the cover for That Night In Paris, coming April 2020. But first, here’s the synopsis:

Note to self: don’t sleep with your flatmate after a curry and three bottles of wine… especially if he’s secretly in love with you and wants you to meet his mum.

Cat Parsons is on the run. She doesn’t do relationships. After ten years of singlehood even the hint of the ‘L’ word is enough to get Cat packing her bags and booking herself onto a two-week holiday.

A European bus tour feels like a stroke of genius to dodge awkward conversations at home. But little does Cat realise that the first stop will be Paris, the city of love itself.

Joined by new friends, Cat has got two weeks, eight countries and a hell of a lot of wine ahead of her. As they discover hidden treasures and the camaraderie of life on the road, will Cat find a new way of looking at love?

Discover the beauty of Europe’s most romantic cities in this uplifting and laugh-out-loud novel for fans of Samantha Parks, Alex Brown and Mandy Baggot.

Sounds like something I will be picking up asap! Well, next April.  (I say that, but I am The WorstTM, and still haven’t read Sandy’s first book, One Summer in Santorini, though it’s been sitting on my Kindle virtually since  it came out! It’s been getting great reviews, though, so you should also check it out!).

But regardless, you’re here for the cover and you’re going to love it.

Here we go!

Agggh, it’s so cute! And I’m sure the words inside will be amazing to match! Pre-order now on Amazon for Kindle or in paperback!

Book Review: “A Christmas Wish and a Cranberry Kiss at the Cosy Kettle” by Liz Eeles

Title: A Christmas Wish and a Cranberry Kiss at the Cosy Kettle
Author: Liz Eeles
Genre:
Contemporary romance
Intended audience: Adult
Date Read: 30/10/19 – 06/11/19
Rating: ★★

Review:

Ah man. I hate being that person. That is, the first person to give a negative review of a book. I just didn’t love this one!

Look, I probably should have checked my review of A Summer Escape and Strawberry Cake at the Cosy Kettle, the second book in this series, before I requested this one. I thought I had given that one four stars, and that this one would be much the same. But actually, it was only a 3-star read for me, and I think I had a lot of the same issues with this one.

It started out well. I found Becca really relatable at first. But her inability to see that Logan was usiing her combined with letting the book club crew walk over her and insist on helping her (“they’re being kind” she says as they push her into something she’s not entirely comfortable with for the fifth time) just made her feel more like a doormat after a while.

Most of the side characters were pretty one dimensional. I ddi mention in my review of the previous book that I thought Stanley was a bit over the top, and that feeling continued in this one. He was pushy, and inserted himself into situations he had no real right to be in. While I understood Becca’s anxieties about her twin sister and thought they were well-written, Jasmine herself was irritating. I guess she was supposed to be a little, though.

A lot of the complications in the second half of the book would be alleviated if the characters just talked to one another. I get that it’s difficult to tell someone you have feelings for them, but a quck “Are you and my sister a couple?” would have helped.

And given that Logan was booking the Cosy Kettle for one night only, it seemed odd that Becca spent a good couple of weeks leading up to his party redecorating the cafe to his requirements.

I feel like such a Grinch giving a feel-good holiday romance a bad review, but I guess at the end of the day I just had too many niggles to really enjoy.


(Thank you to Bookouture for sending a free copy my way in exchange for an honest review)

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#AWW2019 // Book Review: “The Antics of Evangeline” by Madeleine D’Este

Title: The Antics of Evangeline (Books 1-4)
Author: Madeleine D’Este
Genre: Steampunk/Fantasy
Target audience: YA
Rating: ★★★

Review:

Having read Madeleine D’Este’s newest release, “Women of Wasps and War” earlier in the year, it was nice to know that she had some lighter reading in her back catalogue that I could continue on with.

The Antics of Evangeline is made up of four novellas, but I’ve chosen to review them all together. Evangeline is the daughter of esteemed engineer and inventor, Montague Calidcott, though she’s only just discovered that fact. She’s now living with him in Melbourne, and getting up to all kinds of mischief.

Evangeline is a fun lead character. She’s clever but impulsive and doesn’t quite know how to stay out of trouble. She’s also an inspiring inventor, though her inventions don’t always work as intended. The term “inventress” did grate on me a little – I am not sure if it is period-appropriate or just the author’s stylistic decision but I didn’t love it either way. Just use “inventor”!

I know the stories are short but I would have liked to hear more of Evangeline’s backstory. There were definitely some revelations, but I feel like there’s a lot more to know! The last installment was published in 2017; I’m not sure whether further stories were/are intended where we might get to learn more. Ditto her father’s secret project that lurks beneath a sheet in his workshop and every now and then exhibits strange behaviour.

Evangeline is joined by a fun cast of characters, including her best friend Mei, who teaches her martial arts, her Uncle Edmond and his actor ‘friend’/’companion’ August, and Mrs Plockton, the God-fearing housekeeper. They all have very distinct personalities that sometimes clash.

Evangeline and the Spiritualist, episode 3, was definitely my favourite of the four. I actually included it among my Halloween reads as the seance scene was a bit unnerving.

While the books are primarily steampunk, there are small touches of fantasy, which I enjoyed. Things like the seance may be fake or might be supernatural, you’re never quite sure, but the bunyip (book 2) is definitely a monster.

These four instalments are available individually or in a combined volume. I recommend picking these up for light-hearted steampunky goodness.

Individual book ratings: 

Evangeline and the Alchemist – 4 stars

Evangeline and the Bunyip – 3 stars

Evangeline and the Spiritualist – 4 stars

Evangeline and the Mysterious Lights – 3 stars


This review is part of my 2019 Australian Women Writers Challenge. Click here for more information.

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October 2019 Reading Wrap-up

"monthly reading wrap-up" banner

At the start of October, I was speeding through a book every two days. I was hoping to keep that momentum up in the second half of the month, but alas, it didn’t happen. Still, I read a decent amount of books. I also participated in my first readathon, and I have already signed up for another one because I had so much fun!

Having said that, I’ve got other challenges to finish before the end of the year, plus a bunch of library books, so we’ll see how I actually go. Oh, and did I mention I’ll be doing NaNoWriMo at the same time?

Past Month’s Reading:

    1. Monuments by Will Kostakis (YA urban fantasy – 4 stars – review) (read September, reviewed October)
    2. Evangeline and the Spiritualist by Madelein D’Este (YA steampunk – 4 stars – review forthcoming)
    3. The Dead of Winter by Chris Priestley (MG horror – 2.5 stars – review)
    4. Songbird by Ingrid Laguna (MG contemporary – 5 stars – review)
    5. Vampire Island by Adele Griffin (MG urban fantasy – unrated – not intending to review)
    6. The Kingdom by Jess Rothenberg (YA sci-fi/thriller – 5 stars – review)
    7. Serpent and Dove by Shelbie Mahurin (YA fantasy – 4 stars – review forthcoming)
    8. The White Hornet by Celine Jeanjean (steampunk fantasy – 5 stars – review)
    9. Evangeline and the Mysterious LIghts (YA steampunk – 3 stars – review forthcoming)

Booktube:

I have a Booktube account where I talk about Australian books. I didn’t post for about six months but I said October would be the month when I got back into it and I meant it! I got two videos posted.

You can check out the channel whole here

Favourite Bookish Photo:

I always love the covers for Celine Jeanjean’s books and this one for the White Hornet is no different! You can see all my bookish photos (plus some RL as well) on my Instagram.

Currently Reading:

Physical book: Too Flash by Melissa Lucashenko. This is a YA contemporary that I’m reading as part of my Australian Women Writers Challenge. I’m not very far in, yet, but it’s got a really authentic voice that I love.

Ebook: A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas. I have to be honest, I wasn’t intending to read this series but a close friend recommended it so I’m giving it a go. So far, so good though it’s kind of on hold until I get some library books read.

Audio book: Circe by Madeline Miller. Audible kept recommending this to me so I selected it when Iw as at a loss about what to listen to. It’s not something I would normally read but I do enjoy my witches in fiction and Circe was kind of the original.

Planning to read next:

In my September wrap-up I said I was listening to the audio book of Illumination by Karen Brooks. This was way too long and I knew I wouldn’t get through it before it was due back, so I have the hard copy instead and that is next up. It is quite a hefty tome, though! Lugging it around is going to be annoying.

What are you reading? 🙂

“I was no one’s sacrifice. Not then. Not now. Not ever.”// Review of “Serpent and Dove” by Shelby Mahurin

Title: Serpent and Dove (Serpent and Dove #1)
Author: Shelby Mahurin
Genre: Fantasy
Intended audience: YA (upper range)
Date Read: 03/10/19 – 12/09/19
Rating: ★★★★

Review:

This is one of those books where certain chapters were definitely worth five stars, but there were a few overall issues that meant I couldn’t award that to the whole book.

As far as characters go, I really enjoyed Lou. I loved that she spent a significant part of the book basically trolling Reid. But then she started developing real feelings for him and there was less of the fun stuff…

I also have to admit I find it hard to believe romances where Person A would literally kill Person B if Person A knew the truth about them, and they fall in love anyway. I just… how do you overlook that?

As for Reid himself, he’s honorable and sweet and noble, but… kind of boring?

I could never quite work out where and when the book was set. The religious characters refer to themselves as Christians and carry around Bibles… but the kingdom they live in appears entirely fictional… and not just a fictional country in Europe… truly fictional. They have running water and indoor plumbing, but no electricity… but some of their speech was very modern. So I never got a good sense of place.

But the writing itself is strong and leading up to what I thought was the climax, I couldn’t put the book down. i had to actively force myself to go to bed. But then after that section, the book kept going and the tension didn’t really rise again. I feel that this book should have ended with the attack on the city and the later events should have been the beginning of the second book.

There is lots of interesting set up for the next book and I’ll definitely think about reading it, though at the moment, I’m not completely committed.


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WWW Wednesday – 31 October 2019

Announcement: On Monday I posted the cover reveal and pre-order link for an anthology I am apart of. It contains 8 Christmas stories set in Australia, where 25 December is in the middle of a summer and quite a different experience from what many of you are used to. I’d love it if you checked it out and threw a pre-order our way.

And now to your regularly scheduled WWW post.

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.

**

What have you recently finished reading?

I absolutely loved The Kingdom by Jess Rothenberg! There were parts that could have been more fleshed out but it totally hooked me so I didn’t mind. Here’s my review.

Next I read Serpent and Dove by Shelby Mahurin, which was really engaging but I had a lot of questions abuot the world-building. Namely how does literal Christianity exist in a made-up fantasy world? My review goes up on Friday.

After that, I read The White Hornet by Celine Jeanjean. This is the fifth book in the Viper and the Urchin series. Celine has been churning new books out this year but somehow always manages to maintain a high standard. Here’s my review.

And finally, I finished the Antics of Evangeline series by reading Evangeline and the Mysterious Lights by Madeline D’Este. I’ll have my reviews for the series up soon.

I’ve also posted reviews of The Dead of Winter by Chris Priestley and Songbird by Ingrid Laguna since my last WWW post. Click the titles to read them.

What are you currently reading?

I’ve started Too Flash by Melissa Lucashenko. This is a YA contemporary and will count towards my 2019 Australian Women Writers Challenge, and my challenge-within-a-challenge to read at least two books by Indigenous Australian women.

Except I forgot to take Too Flash with me t o work today, so I started my ARC of A Christmas Wish and a Cranberry Kiss at the Cosy Kettle by Liz Eeles. I enjoyed the last Cosy Kettle book and I couldn’t resist a Christmas title.

I’m also listening to Circe by Madeline Miller on audio. Audible kept reccomending this to me and I wasn’t in the mood for any audio books so I just picked this up on a whim. But it turns out I’m enjoying it quite a lot.

Last but not least I have finally started A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J Maas. To be honest, I wasn’t intending to read this series but a friend whose opinions I trust said she really enjoyed it and that it was quite different to Throne of Glass (which I DNFed and she didn’t enjoy either). I’m about 20% of the way through, and yeah, got to admit it’s pretty readable.

What do you think you will read next?

.I started the audio book of Illumination by Karen Brooks a while ago and I knew it was just too long and I wasn’t going to get through iit before it was due back, so I’ve got the hard copy now. It is a massive tome with tiny print! But I’ll get there, and it will be nice to finally finish the Curse of the Bond Riders series.

What are you reading this week? 🙂