#HocusPocusReadathon – Halfway Point Update

Hey Team Undead! We’re halfway through the Hocus Pocus Readathon so it’s time for a check-in.

This readathon is hosted by Tiffy and Alyssa. I have chosen to participate as part of Team Undead, since those are the prompts that worked best for me. Our team leaders are Nox and Fyrekatz.

It’s not quite halfway through going by the dates, but I am halfway through the prompts! So here I am!

I have clearly got over my reading slump as I’ve been flying through books this week. With travel and moving house, I was feeling really down about how little reading I’d done, so it’s making me really happy to see these totals building up.

The prompts I’ve managed so far are:

  1. Not all Undead are monsters. Read a book with paranormal or supernatural elements. (5pts)
    Evangeline and the Spiritualist by Madeleine D’Este. The spiritualist was a fake but there was obviously a real ghost in the room, and she knew a lot about Evangeline. This is the third book in the Antics of Evangeline series of novellas, and my favourite so far!
    .
    I was actually going to read a different book for this prompt, but I realised pretty early on that Dreaming Anastasia wasn’t for me. I haven’t returned it to the library yet, and I may still read it after the readathon, but I didn’t want to waste precious time.
    .
  2. The Graveyard is especially spooky on Halloween night. Read a spooky atmospheric book. (5pts)
    .
    .
    I’ve got to admit I was a bit disappointed in  The Dead of Winter by Chris Priestley. I think maybe I was too old for it? I think I would have found it a lot spookier if I read it when I was ten. As it was, it felt more like the author was checking off various haunted house tropes without really giving them much depth. And the skull on the cover has nothing to do with the story at all. :\
    .
    Since it was short, I used this book to cover the Team Undead weakness, which required us  to read a book all in one spot. I read it only when I was travelling on the bus this week.
  3. Catch those kids, but don’t lose your head! Read a random book from your TBR. (5pts)
    .

    I was going to read Briar Rose by Jana Oliver for this prompt, but I only got to page 47 before it irritated me too much to keep going. I hadn’t even really got the Sleeping Beauty aspects yet. As I said on GoodReads, maybe at another time I might have perservered, but I didn’t have the patience for it this week.
    .
    Instead, I read Songbird by Ingrid Laguna, about  a young refugee girl from Iraq who is struggling to fit in at her new school in Melbourne and worries about her father, who is still in Iraq. She finds a place for herself when she joins the school choir. This was such a sweet book! It’s really short and I read it all in one sitting and I loved it! This books kills two birds with one stone as it will also count towards my Australian Women Writers Challenge.
    .
  4. Currently reading:
    .

    For the group read, I’m reading Serpent and Dove by Shelby Mahurin. I’m at about 15% at the moment and enjoying it so far. It feels a bit like what I hoped The Gilded Wolves would be (I didn’t manage to finish that one). I’m not the biggest fan of having multiple first-person narrators, but these ones are distinct enough for it to be okay.

Well, that’s it from me for now, but I’ll be back next Saturday with a wrap-up post.

#HocusPocusReadathon – TBR List

I’ve signed up for my first readathon! I hope I’m doing this right! I generally don’t do these because I’ve got too much going on or I find them a bit too confusing or they’re 24 or 48-hour ones and I am a boring grown-up who has to do things like work and sleep.

But the Hocus Pocus Readathon goes for 13 days and only requires us to read six books (plus watch the movie) and I can do that! I’ve just emerged from a reading slump so I’m feeling energised, and besides, who doesn’t love Hocus Pocus?

This readathon is hosted by Tiffy and Alyssa. I have chosen to participate as part of Team Undead, since those are the prompts that worked best for me. Our team leaders are Nox and Fyrekatz. If you’re interested in signing up last minute, here is the official Twitter with links to the prompts and the sign-up spreadsheet.

Here are the Team Undead prompts and the books I intend to read for them.

  1. Zombies, Graveyards and Cats. Oh my! Read a book with a non-human main character. (5pts)
    I just heard about The Kingdom by Jess Rothenberg yesterday and I love it already! (Don’t develop unrealistic expectations, she tells herself, already hyping this to beyond in her head). It’ a bit of a cross between Westworld and Disneyland, with courtroom drama thrown in.I’m pretty certain that the main character is a robot, given the references to her programming and the fact that she has never experienced love before.
  2. The Graveyard is especially spooky on Halloween night. Read a spooky atmospheric book. (5pts)
    I don’t actually know that The Dead of Winter by Chris Priestley will be spooky and atmospheric, but considering it’s about a child alone in a haunted house at Christmas, it definitely sounds like it! I was looking through the library shelves this morning with this readathon in mind and thought this sounded perfect.
  3. Winifred Sanderson raises you from the dead. Read a book that brings someone back from the dead. (5pts)I’m going to swap this one out with one of the prompts from the other teams. See below.
  4. Catch those kids, but don’t lose your head! Read a random book from your TBR. (5pts) 


    Briar Rose by Jana Oliver has been on my TBR for a little while now and I spotted it at the library today. Love a good fairytale retelling.

  5. Not all Undead are monsters. Read a book with paranormal or supernatural elements. (5pts)
    I have a feeling that I have avoided Dreaming Anastasia by Joy Preble before due to the  mixed reviews, but I couldn’t resist an Anastasia Romanov-inspired story when I walked past it at the library.  In this book, Anastasia and another character are linked through their dreams. There might be other magic stuff going on, too. Not sure.
  6. Help your team stand up to Winifred Sanderson. Read the Group Read. (10pts)


    There are two group reads to choose from for this challenge and I’ve decided to read Serpent and Dove by Shelby Mahurin. I know nothing about this one so I’ll be going in blind. Sounds good from the synopsis, though!
  7. Celebrate by watching the movie. (15pts)
    Well, okay! That’s easy enough. 😀

Team Strengths: You can switch your prompt with another team’s prompt.

I’m going to swap out the “book that brings someone back from the grave” prompt with “Don’t get caught by the Sanderson Sisters. Study magical foes by reading a fantasy novel” from Team Trick or Treaters.

For this prompt I’m going to read Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta, which I picked up at a second-hand book fair a couple of weeks ago. I’ve heard really good things about it so I have high hopes!

Team Weakness: you are trapped in the cemetery. Read one book all in the same spot.

The Dead of Winter is under 250 pages so I’m pretty sure a couple of sessions on my couch of an evening should see this one done!

Team Goal: Help defeat the Sanderson Sisters and enjoy your eternal rest (50pts)

And that’s it! I’ll post an update at the halfway point and a conclusion post at the end. See you on the other side!

“The melody conjured the taste of caramel sugar; laughter on a spring day; ice skates scraping on a frozen pond.” // Review of “The Enchanted Sonata” by Heather Dixon Wallwork

Title: The Enchanted Sonata
Author: Heather Dixon Walllwork
Genre:
Fantasy
Intended audience: Middle-grade/lower YA
Date Read: 14/12/2018 – 28/12/2018
Rating: ★★★★

Review:

This is the kind of book I may not have loved as much as I did if I had read it in another time and place. However, I was reading it around Christmas, and I got swept up in the descriptions of gingerbread and snow and music and it was lovely.

This is a retelling of The Nutcracker, with a bit of  The Pied Piper and The Phantom of the Opera thrown in. The writing has  a fairy-tale feel about it. Even when the stakes are high, there’s a feeling of whimsy to it and the language is beautifully crafted. Music is the form of magic used in this story and you feel a bit like you’re listening to music as you read.

It took me a little while to get interested in the romance between Clara and the Nutcracker because… well, it’s a bit weird because he’s a nutcracker the whole time she knows him, and also they’ve known each other for a day or maybe two, but their banter was sweet, and by the end I was totally squeeing over them.  Also the Nutcracker (aka Prince Nikolai) is super-awkward and insecure but also really comes into his own and proves himself when given a chance and I like that in a leading man. Also, there’s no toxic masculinity to be seen.

Clara’s character growth took a bit longer. For a long time she was in denial about any feelings for Nutcracker, or her growing fondness for the kingdom or the other friends she is making there. However, once she got the proverbial knock on the upside of the head and realised a few things about herself, I was able to get behind her a bit more.

I mentioned Phantom of the Opera earlier and I want to talk about that because it seems I was the only one who noticed this? The villian a musical genius called Erik who has a tragic backstory and lives at least part of his life underneath the city’s enormous music hall. People hear him playing and don’t know where the music is coming from and assume he’s a ghost. If that’s not Phantom of the Opera, I don’t know what is!

Definitely recommend this one if you are in the mood for a whimsical, magical fairytale. It will make you smile.


Thank you to NetGalley and the Publishers for a free copy of this book in exchange for a 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

#AWW2017 “I was the midwife at Rapunzel’s rebirth, and my own.” // Review of “The Rebirth of Rapunzel” by Kate Forsyth

Title: The Rebirth of Rapunzel: a Mythic Biography of the Maiden in the Tower
Author: Kate Forsyth
Genre:
non-fiction/academic
Date Read: 09/01/2017 – 11/01/2017
Rating: ★★★

Review: 

Ever since reading Kate Forsyth’s Rapunzel retelling, Bitter Greens, back in 2015, I had been interested in reading more about her doctoral research into Rapunzel. However, I only recently discovered that her exegesis was published last year and that I would be able to get my hands on a copy.

The book is divided into three sections. The first is Forsyth’s “mythic biography” where she describes her research and creative process for writing Bitter Greens. The second section is a translation of Charlotte-Rose de la Force’s Rapunzel fairytale. And the third is a series of articles written by Forsyth for various publications.

The first section was the one I found the most interesting. Forsyth delves into the origin of the “maiden in the tower” motif and looks at different iterations of the story throughout history, from Greek mythology right through to Disney’s Tangled. I did enjoy also hearing about Forsyth’s personal connection to the fairytale and how she eventually came up with the framework for her novel.

The second section was good for context, though the articles in the third section were all somewhat similar and I found myself starting to skim as similar stories got repeated (this wouldn’t have been an issue when they appeared in different publications, but all grouped together like that, the similarities were obvious). It did feel a little bit like these were included to add some extra length to the book.

Having said all that, I  would still definitely recommend this for those interested in fairytale re-tellings, as I haven’t come across too many publications on the history of these stories such as this, and this is written in nice accessible language that isn’t too academic and dry.


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

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#WWW and #WIPpet Wednesday – 11 January, 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 today, and just answer the three questions.

wwwwednesday

What have you recently finished reading?

I finished reading The Nnaturalwayofthingscoveratural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood, and I liked it, but it was a bit too open-ended for me to really love it. My review is here.

I then finished The Diary of a Young Girl (the Definitive Edition) by Anne Frank. It’s funny, you see all the really profound quotes everywhere that it annefrankcovertook me by surprise at first to realise she really was just like any other teenager in a lot of ways. This edition was printed in such a way that her final entry finished on the last line of a page, and when I turned it, all that was written on the next page was “Anne’s diary ends here”. I knew I was close to finishing, but that felt like a bit of a punch in the gut.

I also posted my review of Stars Above by Marissa Meyer this week. You can find it here.

What are you currently reading?

rebirthofrapunzelcoverCurrently reading The Rebirth of Rapunzel: A Mythic Biography of the Maiden in the Tower by Kate Forsyth. This is the academic component of Forsyth’s doctoral research; her novel Bitter Greens, which I reviewed a bit over a year ago, was the fiction component. I had known about this research, but didn’t realise until now that it had been published in full last year. I’ve now got a couple of other Rapunzel retellings on my TBR that I really want to read!

What do you think you’ll read next?

I probably should read The Devil’s Prayer by Luke Gracias, since I received a copy of it from NetGalley. I think I will actually enjoy it once I start it, but I’m really enjoying reading physical books at the moment, and don’t really feel like an ebook?

What are you reading this week? 🙂

wednesdaybanner
The
other blog hop for this week is WIPpet Wednesday. If you’re a writer, you are very welcome to join us in this one by posting an excerpt from your WIP that somehow relates to the date. You can click the blue guy on the right of this blog to be taken to the link up.

This scene takes place not long after last week’s. Clara ended up losing her job over the incident where it seemed she had thrown a box of Christmas lights at a customer, so she has gone home early, forgetting that she was supposed to meet Max after work. He’s now home and asking her what happened today. They’ve been discussing her developing powers and she’s starting to put two and two together about him and his aunt. 17 lines for 2017.

“I hurt someone today. He upset me and I hit him in the head with a box of Christmas lights.” She smiled weakly. “It sounds so stupid. But he thought I threw them at him, and he could sue the shop if he wanted to. Max?”

Max had been listening while watching the water in the kettle start to boil, but when Clara turned her attention on him so fully, he looked up and returned the favour.

“Yes?”

“What’s wrong with me?”

“Nothing’s wrong with you.”

Clara scoffed. “No one else I know is able to move objects with her mind, or make the lights come on and off, or hear the thoughts of everyone around them. You seem to know what’s going on.” She held up a finger as he started to object. “You’ve been way too calm about all these things I can do, and you never seem surprised when I talk about it. It’s like you knew this stuff was all going to happen. Is this why you and Aunt Jana invited me to live with you?”

Indeed it is, Clara. Sort of. It’s kind of complicated. You’ve kind of always lived with them, there was never an invitation but you don’t remember that.

So this thing keeps happening where every now and then I’ll write a moment between Max and Clara that’s totally adorable and I’ll think, “Yep, totally shipping these two”. Except a lot of the time they come across more as friends than anything romantic and I JUST WISH THEY’D DECIDE. I mean, I can work with “Long lost Princess falls for protector while unaware that she’s a Princess and then its awkward later” but I NEED TO KNOW.

Ahem. 

In other news, I found a really awesome plot prompt on the NaNoWriMo forums. It’s a contemporary Wizard of Oz retelling and I really want to write it, but I’m nervous about it. Throw me random encouragement!

I should probably leave this here! I’ll catch you all soon! 🙂

~ Emily

Book Review: Winter by Marissa Meyer

Title: Winter (Lunar Chonicles #4)
Author: Marissa Meyer
Genre: YA/sci-fi/fairytale retelling
Date Read: 10/11/2015 – 14/11/2015
Rating: ★★★★

Review:

wintercoverWhen I first read Cinder, the first of the Lunar Chronicles, I wrote on my LiveJournal that it was pretty enjoyable but I wasn’t 100% sure that I was actually interested in continuing. Except then Scarlet, the second book, arrived for me at the library before I had time to cancel the hold, so I figured I might as well read it. And then I read a couple of things that I didn’t enjoy at all, and I figured the Lunar Chronicles were fun if nothing else, so I bought the e-book of Cress, and fell in love with Cress and Thorne. Kai and Cinder also grew on me a lot in that one, so I was actually very keen to see where their revolution led them in book four. While my GoodReads review is littered with snarky updates, I actually did really enjoy Winter and it was a great conclusion to the series.

While this book is long (it comes in at over 800 pages), there are nine or ten point-of-view characters, so it is hardly surprising. I had to slog through some of it, but I would be hard pressed to actually name any parts I would cut. While I was obviously interested in some characters more than others, all the storylines are woven together so well that you really need all that length for the story to conclude properly.

The characters undergo a huge amount of growth in this book, as they gear towards a revolution to depose the evil Queen Levana. They are all put a long way out of their comfort zones, and seeing them deal with this was exciting and at times, even shocking. We really saw how evil the Lunar regime was. The series wraps up really well, and I actually got a bit teary at the end, seeing how everything worked out for the characters. Apparently I got more attached to them than I ever intended to. While Marissa Meyer has other fairytale-inspired books in the works, it is always a bittersweet feeling saying goodbye to an enjoyable series. Highly recommended!

Read my reviews for Cinder, Scarlet and Cress.