“If you were lucky in love, you sure as hell were lucky in life.” // Review of “Beau and Bett” by Kathryn Berla

Title: Beau and Bett
Author: Kathryn Berla
Genre: Contemporary
Target audience: YA
Date Read: 27/06/19 – 29/06/19
Rating:
★★☆

Review:

This was a really hard book to rate and review. I found it readable enough. I liked some of the characters. But I just couldn’t work out what the book was trying to do. I had no particular investment in any of the characters and I wasn’t particularly concerned about the outcome.

Now that I’ve lambasted the book with that opening paragraph, I should say that there were certain things I liked. I liked Beau’s part-Cajun family and their dynamics. I liked that Beau was kind of the oddball in the family. I really liked the descriptions of the Diaz ranch. That is something I haven’t really come across in a YA book before, and i liked that Bettina wasn’t afraid to get her hands dirty. She wasn’t going to leave the ranch either – she saw herself staying there and running it eventually. But all the characters ever did was build a fence. Like, every time Beau went over there. Sometimes Bettina would make them a beautiful lunch in the middle of the day, then they’d go back to the fence.

I guess part of my issue was that the links to Beauty and the Beast were pretty tenuous.. I didn’t really buy the romance at all. I think part of the reason for that is that Beau is interested in another girl for at least the first half. And the lie that Beau catches Bett in, according to the blurb… I mean, I got why it bothered him. But I was expecting something a bit bigger.

Additionally, the reasons for Bett being called Bett the Beast at school were kind of flat, and everything around that suddenly seemed resolved at the end. It felt like perhaps the author was trying to do something with the whole #metoo movement and make a comment on rape culture, but it just wasn’t explored enough.

It’s possible that without the claim that it was a retelling, I could have enjoyed this a bit more. As it was, I really looking for parallels with the fairytale, and not really finding them, so ultimately I was disappointed.


(Thank you to the publishers and NetGalley for a free copy of this book  in exchange for an honest review)

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

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

Review:

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

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

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

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

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


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#WWW Wednesday – February 07, 2018

It’s time for WWW Wednesday! This blog hop is hosted by Sam over at A World Of Words. Link up with us by commenting on Sam’s post for this week, and just answer the three questions.

wwwwednesday

What have you recently finished reading?

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

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

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

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

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

What are you currently reading?

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

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

What do you think you’ll read next?

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

What are you reading this week?~ Emily

#WWW Wednesday – January 31, 2018

It’s time for WWW Wednesday! This blog hop is hosted by Sam over at A World Of Words. Link up with us by commenting on Sam’s post for this week, and just answer the three questions.

wwwwednesday

What have you recently finished reading?

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

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

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

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

What are you currently reading?

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

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

What do you think you’ll read next?

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

What are you reading this week?~ Emily

#MirthMusicMon – A Change in Me – #mondayblogs

So today I had this moment when I discovered that there was an extra song written for the Beauty and the Beast musical in 1998, when Toni Braxton joined the cast. Somehow, despite loving this musical for somewhere between fifteen and twenty years, I have missed this until now. And it’s a really pretty song, too! Here is Susan Egan, the original Broadway Belle, singing it (only audio, unfortunately):

I’m auditioning for a production of Beauty and the Beast later this year, and now I know this song, I want to play Belle even more!

In keeping with the BatB theme, this is a SNL sketch that I found. It… does kind of devolve into ass jokes, but it starts off pretty funny, and sometimes you need to just be immature, right?

You can join us for MMM over at the linky.

#MirthMusicMon – Isabella for next Disney Princess!

I was browsing Facebook on the weekend and one of the pages I follow linked to a story about a corgi who visited Disneyland. This is one post about it, though not the one I was reading. The one I was reading linked to another very cute Disneyland video, this one of a little girl totally putting Gaston in his place when she lined up for a photo and autograph. It’s awesome. Gaston is one of my favourite Disney villains, but he certainly needs a few more sassy little girls telling him off.

When I went to look up the video, I found this one made by the same person. This guy improvised a song about the incident. I always take my hat off to people who can come up with stuff off the top of their heads. I have a friend who does it a lot and I am eternally jealous.

As a bonus, here’s the original Gaston song.

Feel free to join in on Mirth and Music Monday and join us at the linky.

~ Emily

#WIPpet Wednesday – Religion and magic

angry-young-woman-sitting-car-22073801

This was me last Sunday

I have a headache and I’m not in a great mood at the moment. As I briefly mentioned in my post on Monday, my car got rear-ended on Sunday. To my untrained eye, the damage didn’t look too bad, so I had her towed off to a smash repairs place and remained hopeful. Unfortunately, today I called them to follow up on it and it sounds like it’s going to be write-off. Apparently the damage is in the $3000-range, and the car is only worth about $2000 at most (it’s fifteen years old, my parents had it for ten of those and they live a long way from anywhere, so it has nearly 300,000 km on it). I want to clarify my options with my insurer, but I’m going to do that tomorrow when I’m hopefully less likely to cry at them. It’s not looking promising. Right now, I’m watching cat videos on YouTube so I don’t send angry text messages to the guy who hit me. Actually, mostly that’s because I’m far too nice to people and he’s been really quite cooperative and I would feel bad. But I’m still angry.

Did I mention my parents only gave me this car in mid-October?

Anyway. Let’s change the subject, shall we? I don’t want to bring down the normally delightful mood in the WIPpet Wednesday circle with my own woes.  WIPpet Wednesday is a weekly blog hop where authors share excerpts of their WIP that somehow relate to the date. You can join us here! Today is the 26th so I have added the 2 and the 6 together to give you 8 lines from my NaNoWriMo 2014 Word document. This story still doesn’t have a title, dammit. In this scene, it has come up that Josephine was religious in her previous life (five hundred years past), which piques Armand and Bianca’s interest. This is one of those bits of world-building that I didn’t plan, it just came out as I was writing and seemed to fit.

Armand tilted his head as he looked at Josephine. “Are you religious, Josephine?” he asked.

“I was… raised to believe that there is a power higher than us somewhere in the heavens.”

“Wow,” said Bianca. Josephine looked at her, confused by her incredulity. “Sorry,” she said, “once magic started manifesting amongst those people living in Esterfey in the early days all the religious systems started to fade away.”

“Yes,” Armand added, “While there were some who argued that their magical abilities were a gift from their gods, most people believed they had no need of their deities now that they could often answer their own prayers, or at least find someone who could.”

Despite the fact that I like this bit, it may not actually make it past this draft, since one of the notes in my “Notes for post-November” file is to make the magic systems a little more underground, rather than something everyone has and chooses whether or not to use. But we’ll see. December I am basically declaring a reading month and taking a break from writing, then I’ll come back to this and Unicorn Love in the new year. I can’t believe the new year is only five weeks away.

Anyway, I haven’t actually got my words down for today, so I probably ought to go work on that. Last night I wrote 2000 words in 55 minutes, but I don’t know if I can manage that two nights in a row. I’ll catch y’all later!

~ Emily