#WWW Wednesday – 31 May 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 Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder and enjoyed it quite a lot. I posted my review here. It’s a bit of a different take on usual high fantasy and I enjoyed that a lot.

I also posted my review of Stephen King’s On Writing. Click the title to read it. As I said last week, I wasn’t the biggest fan, and I went into a bit more detail why in the review.

What are you currently reading?

Dracula by Bram Stoker and Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice on audio  are still ongoing. Haven’t really made much progress on either of those this week. Not sure when I’ll have time for more Dracula, but South Pacific opens this Friday and I have a few occasions where my car pool buddy won’t be with me, so I’ll be driving to and from the theatre on my own. I should be able to knock off a few hours then (though driving home at midnight, I often blast show tunes to keep myself awake, so taht might eat into it a bit).

I have also started Magic Study by Maria V. Snyder, and I’m far enough through it I’m ticking if off for May on my April – June TBR. I’m enjoying it so far but the general consensus on this series seems to be that the follow-ups weren’t as good as the first book. So I’m approaching with caution. I think the fact that I wasn’t a fan of the romance aspect of Poison Study, and Valek and Yelena are separated in this one, is helping.

Finally (I know, I have way too  many books on the go at the moment), I am also reading The Dalai Lama’s Cat by David Michie and it is ADORABLE! I worried that the perspective of the cat would be annoying or just plain weird to read, but it’s not at all. And the aspects of Buddhist teachings are woven in so well that you barely even realise you’re learning about a tenet of Buddhism as you go.

What do you think you’ll read next?

I will hopefully want to read Fire Study next, though I did find that I didn’t want to start Magic Study immediately after Poison Study, and that a couple of days’ break between them was good. I might try to find a standalone to go inbetween. There are a few things on my current TBR that would work.

What are you reading this week? 🙂

~ Emily

P.S. If you’ve come here looking for WIPpet Wednesday, head on over to my new writing blog, Letting the Voices Out. Today’s WIPpet is up! 🙂

“To Yelena, our newest food taster. May you last longer than your predecessor.” // Review of “Poison Study” by Maria V. Snyder

Title: Poison Study (Study #1)
Author: Maria V. Snyder
Genre: YA/Fantasy
Date Read: 23/05/2017 – 26/03/2017
Rating: ★★★☆

Review:

A 3.5 rating belies how quickly I read this book and how much I wanted to return to it whenever I wasn’t reading. It does sum up my overall impression when I reached the end of the book, though.

On the eve of her execution for murder, Yelena is presented with a choice: face the noose or become the Commander’s new food taster. She chooses the latter, but testing food for poison is only one of several challenges she has to face: there’s the father of the man she murdered, burgeoning feelings for her captor and mentor, not to mention the latent magical power she seems to possess in a country where magic is outlawed.

Yelena is a really strong character; she has a horrible past that we learn of bit by bit, but she also learns fast and is a quick thinker. The other characters are all well-constructed. Valek, Yelena’s trainer and eventual ally, is an interesting study in contradictions. Commander Ambrose provides several surprises to both Yelena and the reader in the way he runs the country he overtook. Other side characters such as Ari and Janco, soldiers who agree to train Yelena in self-defence after she unwittingly gets them  promoted; Irys, a master-magician from  the south, and the various Generals and other members of the Commander’s staff provide a really great ensemble.

The romance felt a bit rushed towards the end. While I knew it was coming, I think the fact that the book is in first person from Yelena’s point of view meant that Valek’s feelings were never really clear until he declared them outright (a couple of characters did say things like “I think he m ight be sweet on you” but Yelena firmly denied it). And an outpouring of feelings didn’t really feel right for Valek’s character, so it felt a bit weird.

I did love the world-building. The history of the Commander’s takeover of Ixia was nicely woven through the narrative, and it was nice to read a fantasy not set in a kingdom. The national traditions were also really fun to read.

While I have heard that the next two books in the series don’t live up to this one,  I am keen to hear more about these characters, so I will be checking them out. (also I own them, so I might as well). WIsh me luck!


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“Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open.” // Review of “On Writing: a Memoir of the Craft” by Stephen King

Title: On Writing: a Memoir of the Craft
Author: Stephen King
Genre: Non-fiction
Date Read: 16/05/2017 – 23/05/2017
Rating: ★★

Review:

Okay, here’s the thing: I was probably destined not to like this book very much. I’ve not especially liked the books by King that I’ve tried to read (neither of them were well-known ones and I’ll probably change my mind when I get around to reading Carrie or something) nor do I especially like craft books. But literally everyone talks about how inspirational this one is, so I thought I would give it a look.

It‘s not that I didn’t find parts of this book inspirational, but these were mostly in the more memoir-centric parts of the book, rather than the actual advice on writing. I loved that as a teenager, King kept his rejection slips on a spike in his room to spur him on. I loved the story about the editor of a magazine he submitted to when he was only eleven showing up at a book signing decades later asking for that piece of history to be signed. I even didn’t mind the post-script of sorts talking about the incident in 1999 that resulted in several surgeries and confined him to a wheel chair for a period.

One of the things that bothers me about craft books, and this one is no exception, is the conflation of “the way I do it” with “the way you should be doing it”. There are so many books on writing out there and they each contradict a dozen others, but they all claim that theirs is the only method for successful writing (or the tone that is always used seems to suggest that). But then, I think what bugged me even more than that was King then turning around and essentially saying down the track, “But whatever. Do what works for you.” I guess he was meaning that he is providing the framework and we have to do the hard yards, but it still left me thinking, “So… why have I just bothered with the last 150+ pages?”

I think there was also the issue that this book is nearly 20 years old, and it felt dated. When the book was written, the Kindle hadn’t been invented, self-publishing wasn’t worth a person’s time, and blogging was only just taking off as a platform. Most of the useful advice that was presented in the book was stuff that I had read on a dozen blogs before. If I had read it when it was published, when this sort of information was a lot harder to come by, then I may have put more stock in it.


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#WWW Wednesday – 24 May 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 On Writing by Stephen King, though I wasn’t really that into it, to be honest. Long story short, I’m not really a King fan or a craft book fan and so I was destined to never really like this one. My review will go up on Friday with more detail.

I have posted two reviews this week, Heart of Brass by Felicity Banks, and The Devil’s Prayer by Luke Gracias. Both were 3* reads for me.

What are you currently reading?

“I don’t like vampires,” she says, then proceeds to read Dracula by Bram Stoker (which continues to be enjoyable, unlike most classics I try to read) and listen to Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice on audio concurrently. The guy who narrates this has the most soothing voice! It’s kind of long but I’m at about 20% going to have a few solitary car trips over the next couple of weeks so I should get through it then.

I have just today started Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder. I’ve been really looking forward to starting this series, but as often happens with books I own, I kept putting it aside for library books, ARCs, etc. If nothing else, the covers on these editions are really stunning, but I’ve flown through the first quarter with no trouble today and plan on reading more before bed.

What do you think you’ll read next?

I still have The Dalai Lama’s Cat by David Michie from the library, so I should probably pick that up before too long. But at the same time, if I want to continue the Study series straight away, I’ll do that.

What are you reading this week? 🙂

~ Emily

P.S. If you’ve come here looking for WIPpet Wednesday, head on over to my new writing blog, Letting the Voices Out. Today’s WIPpet isn’t up yet, but you can pass some time reading my other posts for the Story a Day in May challenge.

Book Review: “The Devil’s Prayer” by Luke Gracias

Title: The Devil’s Prayer
Author: Luke Gracias
Genre: Thriller/horror
Date Read: 11/05/2016 – 13/05/2017
Rating: ★★★

Review:

I was instantly grabbed when I started this book, though unfortunately, the pacing and structure resulted in a story I was much less engaged with than I had hoped.

When a nun commits suicide in Spain and is identified as the missing mother of Australian Siobhan Russo, Siobhan travels to Europe to try to find out what happened to her mother. As she reads the confession written by her mother in the last months of her life, she is pursued by monks in red robes, who are after vital information that Siobhan’s mother was determined to take to her grave.

This book really tells four stories: Siobhan’s, her mother Denise’s, the story of a priest in the 1970s, and the story of a medieval priest. I felt that the scenes from Siobhan’s POV were the strongest; however, these scenes were actually in the minority.

The majority of the book is in the form of Siobhan’s mother’s confessional, in which she details the deal she made with the Devil and its aftermath. Perhaps this is due to it being in diary format, but I felt that there was far more telling than showing, which affected how easily I connected to the characters. The two stories set in the 1970s and further back in medieval times are only introduced in the last 20% of the story, and for the most part, consisted of rather a lot of historical info-dumping that slowed the story right down at the point where it was supposed to reaching the climax.

Having said that, even though I didn’t find the story engaging all the time, the writing style was easy to read and I got through it much faster than I expected.

To finish, I just want to give a content warning for some rather gruesome murder scenes. They certainly aren’t for the faint of heart.


(Thank you to the author and NetGalley for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for a review. I apologise for taking so long about it!)

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#AWW2017 Book Review: “Heart of Brass” by Felicity Banks

Title: Heart of Brass
Author: Felicity Banks
Genre:
historical/urban fantasy/steampunk
Date Read: 07/05/2017 – 11/05/2017
Rating: ★★★

Review: 

I have a rather hit-or-miss relationship with steampunk, which I think is my main reason for not engaging with this book very much. It did pick up for me in the last quarter, but up until then, I unfortunately didn’t really feel connected to the story.

When Miss Emmeline Muchamore’s brass heart malfunctions and she is forced to steal the materials she requires to survive, she refuses to reveal her secret and destroy her family’s respectability. As a result, she is transported to van Dieman’s land, subsequently escapes and makes for the Victorian gold fields. But there is unrest amongst the miners. Can Emmeline find the gold to send back to her family and restore their fortune, or will she and her newfound friends be caught?

I think one of my main problems was that I never really warmed up to Emmeline. She was a bit too snobby, and kept talking about how she was the only civilised one around and would have to teach her companions how to behave. It felt out of place given they were on the run and she had already stolen from several people. Her companions, Lizzie (for a whille), then later Matilda and Patrick, were more relatable to me. A conflict with a fellow convict, Dunne, was also well-written.

I did enjoy the idea of different metals having different magical properties, though I felt that not a  huge amount was done with this idea. Every now and then I would forget exactly what magical properties  a particular metal had because it didn’t really come up all that much. Still, the hot air balloon partially levitated by sheets of aluminium was good fun.

I also enjoyed the way the historical events of the Eureka Rebellion were incorporated into the story. I did go away and read the Wikipedia entry on what really happened, and then it was fun to see how Felicity Bank’s version compared. I felt that this was where the story picked up; there was a really engaging climax with lots of action, and a lot of bad things happening that the characters had to  deal with.

As I said, a lot of my lack of enjoyment probably came from the fact that I can’t always get into steampunkish stories. I would recommend this if you are a fan, as you may well enjoy it more than I did.


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

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#WWW Wednesday – 17 May 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 finally finished Heart of Brass by Felicity Banks. It picked up a bit in the last quarter, and I actually enjoyed the tie-ins with actualy historical events. My review goes up on Friday.

I then whizzed through The Devil’s Prayer by Luke Gracias. It started strong and remained readable throughout, despite some pacing issues. My review is scheduled for next Monday.

My review of How the Aliens from Alpha Centauri Invaded My Maths Class and Turned Me Into a Writer… and How You Can Be One, Too went up on Monday (and hopefully, I will never have to type that title again! Haha!). I feel like I’m finally back on top of reviews, after falling  off the wagon a bit lately. That review is here.

What are you currently reading?

I’ve  been concentrating on  Dracula by Bram Stoker this week. I’m aiming to read two or three chapters each week, and then it won’t take me forever to read it.  Most of the chapters are under 15 pages, so it shouldn’t be that hard. So far my main takeaway is that I want to give Dr Seward a hug. He’s all sad but stoic after Lucy rejected his proposal.

I also managed to pick up On Writing by Stephen King, since all the cool kids are reading it right now. 😛 Off the top of my head, I think I’m only about 50 pages in, so he’s still mostly talking about his childhood, but I am enjoying it so far.

What do you think you’ll read next?

My mother recently recommended The Dalai Lama’s Cat by David Michie to me, so I have got it from the library. The author is a Buddhist and uses the cat’s perspective to inform the reader about Buddhist teachings. It sounds cute but I’m not entirely sure I will enjoy the perspective. We’ll have to see.

What are you reading this week? 🙂

~ Emily

P.S. If you’ve come here looking for WIPpet Wednesday, head on over to my new writing blog, Letting the Voices Out. Today’s WIPpet isn’t up yet, but you can pass some time reading my other posts for the Story a Day in May challenge.

#AWW2017 Book Review: “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

Title: How the Aliens from Alpha Centauri Invaded My Maths Class and Turned Me Into a Writer… and How You Can Be One, Too
Author: Jackie French
Genre: Non-fiction/middle-grade
Date Read: 06/05/2017 – 07/05/2017
Rating: ★★★★

Review:
I read this book years ago,  when I was probably still a member of the target age-group, and there were things in it that I still remember and apply to my writing. When I came across it in my local library while looking for Stephen King’s On Writing, I thought it was time for a re-read.

Jackie French breaks down the writing process into easy-to-understand chunks. There isn’t any jargon; instead, French uses terminology like “make your story fat and then make it skinny again” – meaning, in this case, “write all the words you think your story needs, then go through and cut out all the unnecessary stuff”. It’s all advice that we hear in chunkier writing craft books, just delivered in a perhaps more digestible way.

The fact that it is written for younger writers shouldn’t put you off. Most of the chapters end with writing exercises which I think would be just as beneficial to any adult writer as they would be to a twelve-year-old. We are always learning, and this is a great back to basics book for anyone.


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

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#WWW Wednesday – 10 May, 2017

Hello friends. I hope you don’t mind me start this post with a non-book-related topic, but as this is the most visited blog post of my week, it makes sense to add it here. If you’ve followed my last few Sunday Summary posts, you would know that I recently registered to take part in the UN  Women Trek for Rights 2018. Money raised for this event will go towards helping women survivors of the 2015 Nepal earthquakes.

I am aiming to raise $3500 AU over the next twelve months and I’m hoping you can help me. If you are willing and able, please click the banner below to go to my fundraising page and make a donation. Any donation, no matter how small, is appreciated!


And now we return to your regularly schduled WWW Wednesday post. 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?

The only thing finished this week was a re-read: 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. I actually read this when I was around the target age (it’s more MG/very YA). I honestly still remember some of the advice given, so I thought it was time for a refresher when I found it on the library shelves. I was actually looking for Stephen King’s On Writing, which wasn’t there, though the catalogue claimed it should have been. Another day, then.

What are you currently reading?

haven’t made much progress with  Dracula by Bram Stoker over the last week. I think this will be one where I read a bit here and there in amongst other reads.

I have finally returned to Heart of Brass by Felicity Banks, which has been sitting on my on-hold shelf for the last three months. I’m not finding it that engaging (partly why it got put aside in the first place), but it’s only short, so I’m going to finish it this week.

What do you think you’ll read next?

Not sure at the moment, though since I’m trying to finish things on my on-hold shelf, The Devil’s Prayer by Luke Gracias might be next. I read about 5% of it on my phone when I didn’t have whatever physical book I was reading on me at the time, but again, it’s been weeks since then.

I do have a bunch of things on my Kindle that I want to read despite them not even being on my immediate TBR list. But I’m trying to ignore them.

What are you reading this week? 🙂

~ Emily

Cover Reveal: False Awakening by Cassandra Page #aww2017

Hey everyone! It’s been a bit of a while since I last did a cover reveal! I read Lucid Dreaming by Cassandra Page about twelve months or so ago (review here) so I was excited to read that there’s a follow-up due out in August this year, and I’m also pleased to be taking part in the cover reveal today! Read on to find out more.

False Awakening
Cassandra Page
(Lucid Dreaming #2)
Publication date: August 2017
Genres: New Adult, Urban Fantasy

Melaina, half-human dream therapist, just wants her life to return to normal. Yes, her Oneiroi father is in prison and, yes, the place she worked burned down, but she has a cute boyfriend and a new house. She beat the bad guy. She’s earned a break. Right?

Unfortunately for Melaina, people are still getting possessed by nightmare spirits; the police are investigating her past; and the bad guy’s brother, the Morpheus himself, is coming to town to demand answers. When a deranged ex-nurse checks himself out of hospital on the same day her cousin runs away from home, Melaina is dragged into a fight not just for her life but for her soul.

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Sequel to:

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Request a review copy of book 1 – Lucid Dreaming – here!

Author Bio:

Cassandra Page is a mother, author, editor and geek. She lives in Canberra, Australia’s bush capital, with her son and two Cairn Terriers. She has a serious coffee addiction and a tattoo of a cat — despite being allergic to cats. She has loved to read since primary school, when the library was her refuge, and loves many genres — although urban fantasy is her favourite. When she’s not reading or writing, she engages in geekery, from Doctor Who to AD&D. Because who said you need to grow up?

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