#AWW2017 Book Review: “The Year of Freaking Out” by Sarah Walker

Title: The Year of Freaking Out
Author: Sarah Walker
Genre: YA Contemporary
Date Read: 12/07/2017 – 14/07/2017
Rating: ★★★

Review:

Part of my challenge-within-a-challenge for the 2017 Australian Women Writers Challenge was to read at least two books by LGBTI* authors. This is my first one. 

Kim knows deep down that she is attracted to girls, and it’s only confirmed when she meets Rachel, who has recently transferred to her school. She doesn’t know how to confess any of this to her friends, though, and liking girls isn’t even the worst of the secrets she keeps from them…

I don’t normally enjoy first person narration, but Kim’s voice was very genuine so in this case it worked. I really enjoyed her friendship group as well. They honestly all sounded like individuals, and like teenagers, a tricky feat to manage. There’s the messiness of relationships, fights with parents, the general trying-to-figure-out-your-place-in-the-world struggles.

Along with sexual identity themes, the book also examines sexual assault and the impact that has on young people. It did feel a little at odds with the lighter tone of the narration of the book and most of its other events. However, I felt that it was handled well, especially the revelation that leads to Kim opening up about her own experiences towards the end of the book.

And now, since I have your attention, a rant about how non-heterosexual content is marketed in books. The back of this one describes Kim having to make the biggest decision of her life, between her “passionate friendship” with Rachel and her “feelings for her friend, Matthew”. That’s not the choice at all! I know this book is twenty years old, but Rachel is the one she has feelings for; she tries to convince herself she has feelings for Matthew, but she knows that it’s just an attempt to make herself “normal”. But we couldn’t have that on the back cover of a book! Someone think of the children! Or something.

I wouldn’t say this book had a profound impact on me, but I can totally understand the reviews that say they wish they had had this book when they were trying to figure out their own identities like Kim. It was a sweet, fun read though; definitely recommended if you enjoy coming-of-age YA stories.


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

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#WWW Wednesday – July 12, 2017

t’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 couple of weeks since my last WWW post, and in that time, I’ve finished several books.

I finished listening to The Prestige by Christopher Priest. It was really hard to not compare it to the movie, which I think tells the same story in a much tighter way. I posted my review here on Monday.

I then began July by returning to Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events. I read The Ersatz Elevator, The Vile Village, The Hostile Hospital, The Carnivorous Carnival and The Slippery Slope (books 6-10) in quick succession. I thought for a while that The Vile Village was the last one I had read as a child, but I definitely read this far. I have a memory of Sunny cooking with wasabi, which I haven’t come across yet, so I guess I read far more of the series back in the day than I thought.

Other reviews posted since my last WWW post are The Mystery at Maplemead Castle by Kitty French and Interview With the Vampire by Anne Rice.

What are you currently reading?

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. I only finished the 10th ASOUE book this afternoon, so I will probably return to one of these tomorrow. I need a break from Snicket before I finish the series.

What do you think you’ll read next?

I got The Year of Freaking Out by Sarah Walker out from the library today. I think this is a YA Contempory, and I’ve got it on my TBR for the Australian Women Writers Challenge. I also posted my July – September TBR, which you can read here. It’s a mix of ARCs and challenge books. e

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.

“You don’t really want to know. You want to be fooled.” // Review of “The Prestige” by Christopher Priest

Title: The Prestige
Author: Christopher Priest
Audio book narrator: Simon Vance
Genre: Thriller/historical fiction
Date Read: 20/06/2016 – 29/06/2017
Rating: ★★★

Review:

I hate to say it, but I think this is one of those rare cases where I thought the movie is better than the book. Having said that, it was intriguing to see where this story began, and it may be just that because I saw the movie first, it is the version I ultimately prefer.

The action centres on the feud between two stage magicians at the end of the nineteenth century and early twentieth, the way their rivalry consumed so much of them, and how it still affects their descendants nearly a century on.

I really enjoyed the atmosphere of turn-of-the-century London, and how the book used the popularity of illusionists and magicians of the time to also examine how easily we are fooled because we don’t really want to know the secrets. This applies to both magic tricks and real life.

The structure of the book was its main downfall. It is in five parts from four different points-of-view. Two are the diaries of Alfred Borden and Rupert Angier, the stage magicians, and the other two are their descendants, who meet in the 1990s. Having one part follow on from another, rather than switch points-of-view when the plot most accommodated it, meant that there was a lot of dancing around the plot twists that I knew were coming. There was a lot of plot that could have been considerably condensed, I felt, if the point-of-view had alternated throughout the book (and I say that as someone not a fan of alternating points-of-view as a rule).

On top of that, apart from offering some intrigue, I honestly thought the modern-day aspect of the book was pretty unnecessary. There would have been ways to reveal the twist without it, and the continuation of the feud through the generations didn’t make a lot of sense to me. The ending was also unclear. I think Priest was probably going for mysterious and ambiguous, but it just confused me.

Simon Vance’s narration of the audio book was commendable – he had distinct voices for each of the narrators and the characters within their stories. I listened to the entire audio book, but I do think that having 12 hours of audio to listen to rather than reading a few hundred pages did highlight the structure issues mentioned above.


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July – September TBR

Back in March, I decided instead of doing a monthly TBR, I would write a three-monthly one. I had 20 books on my last one and managed to read 17 of them (along with a whole bunch of stuff that wasn’t on it). This time around, I have 19, so if I can make similar progress, I’ll be pretty happy. Instead of one big graphic, this time, I’ve divided my reading into sections. So without further ado:

ARCS:

Three of these are publishing within  the next three months, and in the case of the only one that is publishing later than that, the publisher doesn’t have any kind of policy about when reviews should be posted, so I figure I can get them all knocked off sooner rather than later. Yes, these are the only ARCs I have pending at the moment. I can’t fathom you people with 20 or 30 pending at once! 😛

Challenges

Beat the Backlist Challenge 2017

Books that I own:

Books that were added to my TBR prior to 2016:

Probably not surprising that 3/5 of these have been on my TBR so long that I had no idea what they even were until I drew them out of my TBR jar and looked them up for this post. And even Station Eleven and We Were Liars, I know very little about.

Australian Women Writers Challenge


*Part of my challenge-within-a-challenge was to read at least two books by LGBTI authors. I failed in this part of my challenge last year, but hopefully these two will grab me this year, and maybe I’ll even end up reading more!

At the moment, I’m actually powering my way through a few more Series of Unfortunate Events books by Lemony Snicket, which I abandoned for a while while trying to get more on my TBR read. But I’ll be getting onto this list soon enough. Stay tuned!

April-June TBR Final Wrap-Up


After a few months of unweildly monthly TBRs, at the end of June, I decided to set myself a three-month TBR with roughly two-months’  worth of books. The end has now come, and even with it being a bit more realistic, I still didn’t quite get there. Still, I don’t think I did too badly, considering all the other books that distracted me along the way. Here’s the final result:

I am about a quarter of the way through The Ship Beyond Time but that’s not far enough for me to count it towards June’s total. To be perfectly honest, while I enjoyed the first two Study books, I’m not even entirely sure I’m  that interested in continuing the series. I won’t get rid of my copies of Fire Study and Shadow Study just yet, but I’m not really feeling the need to dive into them right now. The same can be said of The Bloodshade Encounters. I’m not going to put any of these on my next TBR.

REVIEWS

Here are the reviews I posted during June:

CHALLENGES

  • Australian Women Writer’s Challenge:

I have technically completed my goal to read 12 books by Australian women this year, however, I have not completed my sub-challenge of reading at least two by Indigenous women and two by LGBTI* authors. You can see my challenge page with progress and links to all my reviews here.

  • Beat the Backlist Challenge:

While I’m reading a lot of books that were published prior to 2017, I’m not doing so well on my goals. I’m going to have to really start concentrating on books I own in this second half of the year. My challenge page is here.

I was going to include my new TBR for the coming months in this post, but as I won’t be participating in my usual blog hops this week (no time to commit fully over the coming days), I’ll do a separate post with a shiny new graphic and everything. See you then!

Book Review: “Mystery at Maplemead Castle” by Kitty French

Title: Mystery at Maplemead Castle (Chapelwick Mysteries #2)
Author: Kitty French
Genre: NA/urban fantasy
Date Read: 21/06/2017 – 22/06/2017
Rating: ★★★

Review:

As with the first book in this series, this installment was a lot of fun, though a bit long, and I could have used a bit more focus on the ghosts.

Melody Bittersweet’s second gig with the Girls’ Ghostbusting Agency is to clear Maplemead Castle of ghosts before a film crew shows up the following week. The new owners of the Castle love media attention, so she has to work with her ex, Leo Dark, around again,  as well as put up with the presence of Fletcher Gunn, who is doing a story on her for the local newspaper. Fletcher continues to to seek to discredit Melody’s ghost-seeing abilities, but at the same time, the attraction between them can’t be denied.

If I’m honest, the mystery itself was fairly basic, and could have been solved a lot earlier if some of the characters had just communicated a bit better. However, the way in which the ghosts ended up finally able to move on required the characters to spend time together first, so I guess it is fair that the story was strung out a bit longer. I did still really enjoy the ghost characters, even though their story ended up quite sad.

A lot more of the book was spent on the tricky love-hate relationship between Melody and Fletch. For the most part, the lustful banter was fun and there was a pretty great phone sex scene in there as well. I still felt a little ambivalent about Fletcher, though, and the tragic backstory we learned about in this book felt a little forced and at odds with the snark and innuendo he was throwing around so often.

The other side characters, from Melody’s colleagues Marina and Arthur, to her mother and grandmother, and the owners of Maplemead Castle, were all well drawn and fun. They all have their own distinct personalities which makes for an entertaining ensemble cast. While I don’t feel these books are any kind of literary masterpiece, they are definitely the perfect book for when you need something light and frothy and I will definitely be continuing with the series.


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“I was a newborn vampire, weeping at the beauty of the night.” // Review of “Interview with the Vampire” by Anne Rice

Title: Interview with the Vampire (The Vampire Chronicles #1)
Author: Anne Rice
Audio book narrator: Simon Vance
Genre: Historical fantasy
Date Read: 19/05/2017 – 21/06/2017
Rating: ★★★

Review:

Interview With the Vampire had been on my radar for a long time, initially started listening to it on audio when I saw it available on Overdrive. The writing is beautiful and sensuous, but very little happens and some of the content is a little bit uncomfortable, leaving me not entirely sure how I felt about it.

In a darkened room, a two-hundred-year-old vampire named Louis de Pointe du Lac tells the story of how he came to be what he is, the life he built afterwards, and how that life was threatened when he went searching for his own kind.

This is one of my partner’s favourite books, and when I was about halfway through, I did say to him, “So… does anything actually happen?” He replied, “No, not really” and that is something to be aware of. The book is big on its themes, exploring humanity and human nature from the perspective of the two main characters, one who lacks it and one who is desperate to cling on to it. The addition of Claudia, a girl transformed into a vampire at age 5 and eternally trapped in the little girl’s body, also adds to this, as she develops her own ethics and moralities over the years; coming to vampirism at such a young age means that she never really had a chance to grow up with any other form of morality except what Louis and Lestat teach her.

Given the book’s quite philosophical nature, I did find it a bit long. I actually abandoned the audio book about two-thirds of the way through and picked up the paperback instead to speed my way to the end. The last quarter does have more action; no sooner do they find other vampires in Paris, but they discover they are considered criminals for their supposed murder of Lestat, and as they figure out how to deal with this, the pace picks up.

I mentioned earlier that some aspects of this made me uncomfortable. This was mostly to do with the way some of the characters, particularly Louis, engaged with Claudia. While I did remind myself that after a while, Claudia was technically decades old, the sexualised way that the characters often referred to her or engaged with her,  with phrases like “my passion for her” (that was Louis, and I could never work out whether he meant that paternally or not) being used… yeah, the fact that she was still in a five-year-old’s body made me a bit squirmy.

Apart from that, though, it was interesting to visit such a popular vampire narrative and see where it all began.


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#WWW Wednesday – 28 June 2017

t’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 had a good week this week, polishing off two books from my April-June TBR. I’m not quite going to get everything ticked off but I’ll come close! The books I read were  The Mystery and Maplemead Castle by Kitty French, which was just plain fun, and Beneath the Apple Blossom by Kate Frost, which was a lot heavier, but I couldn’t put it down.

I also posted reviews of Ensnared by Rita Stradling and Beneath the Apple Blossom. Click the titles to read them.

What are you currently reading?

No movement on Dracula by Bram Stoker this week. I’ll get back to it in July.

I have listened to the majority of The Prestige by Christopher Priest now. I was a bit worried that the second half was going to drag (I thought it was heading towards the climax then realised that I was only at 45%) but it is still interesting and I’m about two-thirds of the way through now.

And I have finally started reading The Ship Beyond Time by Heidi Heilig, the sequel to The Girl From Everywhere, which I read about 18 months ago and reviewed here. I haven’t had much time to read so I’m still only at about 15%, but it’s starting to get going. I am worried it might be focusing more on the romance than the time travel, but some of the reviews assure me this is not really the case, so fingers crossed.

What do you think you’ll read next?

I’m going to try reading The Bloodshade Encounters/The Songspinner by K. C. Finn. This is two novellas in one volume, they are prequels, I guess? to The Book of Shade, the first part of the Shadeborn series. I’ve read about 10% and I have a bad feeling this is going to suffer a bit from it’s-been-too-long-since-I-read-the-first-one syndrome; I can’t really remember who the characters are so reading their backstories isn’t meaning much. But I did buy it so I’m going to give it a bit more of a go.

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.

Book Review: “Beneath the Apple Blossom” by Kate Frost

Title: Beneath the Apple Blossom (The Hopeful Years #1)
Author: Kate Frost
Genre: Adult contemporary fiction
Date Read: 23/06/2017 – 24/06/2017
Rating: ★★★★

Review:

The experiences depicted in this book are worlds away from  any experience I have had, and worlds away from what I usually read, and yet I found myself unable to put it down (I’m starting this review at 12:54am after staying up to finish it, because I’m still thinking about it, and wide awake).

Beneath the Apple Blossom depicts the lives of four women with four very different experiences of motherhood and the journey towards it. Pippa and Connie meet online through a forum for women undergoing IVF and bond through the ups and downs of treatment. Georgie feels she had her first child too young, and isn’t ready for the second one her husband clearly wants. And Sienna has her heart set on never having kids, when her life is thrown into turmoil…

Frost presents these four women and their stories without any judgement, leaving the reader to form their own opinions. I think this is an advantage of the novel, as seeing the way things panned out and the way the characters reacted to events and to each other was what made me want to keep reading. I didn’t always agree with the choices the characters made, but I couldn’t really fault any of them for making them (well, maybe sometimes, but only a bit).

The only real qualm I had with the novel was that sometimes the characters’ thoughts got a bit repetitive. While I can appreciate that women going through the sorts of things that these characters are would have quite cyclical thoughts, as a reader, I sometimes found that returning to the same “Why did it have to happen this way? What am I going to do now?” trains of thought chapter after chapter became a bit stale.

I definitely recommend this book, even if motherhood and constant talk of babies isn’t really your thing (it’s not mine). This gives insight into the struggles all sorts of women go through, as well as identifying those “what not to do” moments for the rest of us (I already knew this, but for anyone else, don’t say “You can always adopt”, no matter how good your intentions are by it). After giving five stars to Kate’s debut novel, The Butterfly Storm, a few years ago, I was fairly confident I would enjoy this one, and she does not disappoint.


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Sunday Summary – June 25, 2017

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After a bit of an absence, Sundary Summary makes its return.  I think I should be able to keep this up now. Though to be honest, the past week hasn’t been the greatest to report on!

This week in writing

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I’ve gone through the first part of Memories and Magic and made some fairly in depth revisions, though I’m sure there’s still more improvement to be made. Part 2 is the part that needs complete rewriting, as I’ve completely altered the concept for it.  It’s going to be slow-going but now that I’m not sick anymore (I had four days off work last week with a virus), I should have the stamina to work on  a decent chunk each night.

This week in readingreadingthumb

This week I  finished reading Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice, Mystery at Maplemead Castle by Kitty French and Beneath the Apple Blossom by Kate Frost. All very good books in very different ways. I have four books left on my April-June TBR, but I will be happy if I finish another two.

This week in blogging

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I managed to visit other  participants in both of my Wednesday blog hops, though I haven’t replied to  comments on my own blogs, so I should probably get onto that.  I did post reviews for The Betrayal of Bindy MacKenzie by Jaclyn Moriarty and Ensnared by Rita Stradling. Both were unfortunately 2 star reads for me.

I’ve posted a new instalment in my Sunday Sessions series over on my writing blog .  This one ponders how many POV characters is too many in one novel.

 

This week in health and fitness

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I think the reason I got sick last week was because I had run myself down. Yes, I was keeping somewhat active by doing South Pacific, but I was also having a lot of late nights and I went back to work during the second week of performances. I think it must have been the combination of show and uni work that led to me feeling so knocked out at the end of it.

I am pleased to say that I am finally back on track, having started back with the Blogilates June calendar yesterday. I knwo that in just a couple of weeks of doing these work outs, I can look a whole lot different, so I’m hoping this is a start. After over two years of bouncing around te same weight range, it’d be nice to get down to where I want to be.

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

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