Book Review: “A Fever of the Blood” by Oscar de Muriel

Title: A Fever of the Blood (Frey & McGray #2)
Author: Oscar de Muriel
Audio book narrator: Andy Secombe
Genre: historical fiction/mystery
Dates read: 14/06/18 – 22/06/18
Rating: ★★★★

Review:

This book was just as fun as the last one, and de Muriel continues to build on the characters that he introduced us to in The Strings of Murder. Andy Secombe’s narration also continues to be incredibly entertaining.

The plot is well-paced, with some great action scenes that were particularly exciting in the audio book. I thought at one point I must have reached the climax, only to realise I was only at 65%. The actual climax actually did build from there, and the situation for many of the characters was difficult to guess, which kept me hooked.

The relationship between Frey and McGrey was once again the highlight. There is plenty of the banter that came out in book one, but there is also genuine conflict which I expect will play a part in the subsequent books.

Having said that, I did have a few criticisms. I felt this installment was a bit more reactive than the previous one. There were fewer clues for the detectives to follow; instead, a lot of the plot relied on them simply ending up in certain places at the right time. I also found that the antagonists who show up at about the 70% mark bordered on the comical and cartoonish at times.

Still, that can all be forgiven in the name of fun and entertainment. I am waiting to get my hands on the third audio book, which I hope is up to the same standard.

You can read my review of the first book in the Frey and McGray series, The Strings of Murder, here.


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#WWW Wednesday – June 20, 2018

Hello, everyone. Just a quick note before we get to the crux of today’s post. I’ve revitalised my Facebook author/blogger page recently, and am talking about what I’m reading as well as my own writing projects. If that sounds like something that might interest you, head on over to Emily Wrayburn and give it a like. 🙂 I’m also cross-posting a lot on Instagram, if that is more your jam.  And now, on with the show.

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?

Nothing this week, though I am quite close to finishing some things. I did post my review of Uprooted by Naomi Novik on Friday, and you can read that here. As you may remember me saying last week, I didn’t love it in the end.

What are you currently reading?

I finally managed to make some progress with  Orphan Monster Spy by Matt Killeen over the past couple of days. Another day or two should see me finished. I haven’t really been hooked with this one. The writing style is quite detached. And there are German words peppered throughout it which I have to keep looking up on Google Translate.

Fortunately, I have whizzed through the audio of A Fever in the  Blood by Oscar de Muriel, which I am enjoying just as much as the first book in the Frey and McGray series. I have the third audio book reserved on my digital library and it tells me it will be available on July 1.

I haven’t  continued with All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque this week. I will pick it up again soon.

What do you think you will read next?

Not really sure. I need to read something rollicking and fun, I think. I’ve been thinking maybe Unearthed by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner. I went to a book talk with them when this was first released and it was a lot of fun, and I think it will be quite well-written, too, from the way they talked about their writing process. I haven’t had much patience for more trashy books of late, so I need something well done.

Does anyone have any suggestions for what I should use this month’s Audible credit on? I’m a new member so I only have two things in my wish list and neither of them are appealing to me right now.

What are you reading this week?~ EmilyP.S. If you’re  interested, head over to my writing blog, Letting the Voices Out, to read a snippet of my current WIP here.

Book Review: “The Strings of Murder” by Oscar de Muriel

Title: The Strings of Murder (Frey & McGrey #1)
Author: Oscar de Muriel
Audio book narrator: Andy Secombe
Genre: historical fiction/mystery
Dates read: 06/05/18 – 19/05/18
Rating: ★★★★

Review:

Well, this book was a whole lot of fun. It’s a cracking historical mystery, and the audio book is narrated with so much interesting variance that I often forgot I was listening to one person.

Jack The Ripper has London in a panic, and when a disemboweled body shows up in Edinburgh, Scotland Yard fears a copycat. Disgraced police officer Ian Frey is sent north to investigate, along with Scottish officer Adolphus McGrey. McGrey has his reasons for believing the case has a supernatural bent, and the two lock horns in a race against time to find the murderer.

The interactions between Frey and McGrey were definitely the highlight of this book for me. McGrey takes to calling Frey a “London lassie” and Frey is constantly sputtering in shock over the things that come out of McGrey’s mouth. McGrey’s unconventionial methods also clash with Frey’s by-the-book nature. The side characters are also well-drawn; I was able to form distinct opinions about all of them, even the characters we don’t see all that oftne.

The mystery itself was complex without being overly complicated. I felt some information did come out of the blue towards the end with very little to hint at it, but that was a small issue, really.

Andy Secombe is a masterful audio book narrator and I’m pleased to see he has also recorded the subsequent books in the series. His character voices are so varied that I did often have to remind myself there was only one person reading the story. I think this made the book even more entertaining. Reading “Och, shut up, ye London lassie” is one thing, but hearing it in a thick Scottish brogue is quite another.

I’m definitely intending to continue with this series, and recommend it to any fan of historical fiction.


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#WWW Wednesday – April 18, 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

I am back from Nepal! I had a great time, though the trek itself was quite challenging, physically and emotionally. But I had a fantastic group of people supporting me. Those 12 days went way too fast, but I am glad to be home.

What have you recently finished reading? 

I finished Ready Player One by Ernest Cline before I went away.  I… look, there’s an okay YA dystopia in there somewhere, but I couldn’t find much of it. It was my first ever one star review! (Said review is full of spoilers, read at your own risk).

I also read The Sherlockian by Graham Moore prior to that. It was fine, but nothing special. I definitely enjoyed Graham Moore’s other novel more. I reviewed it here.

Remember how I was all  “I’m going to read so many books on the plane and have a super long post for you when I get home!”? Yeah, I read two. And one of them was super-short.

The first was Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery. I had never read it before and I’m not sure if perhaps I missed the boat with it? I mean, I enjoyed it, but I think a lot of people probably have a certain amount of nostalgic love for it that comes from reading it when one is the same age as Anne Shirley.

I also picked up and read Folk Tales from Nepal by Kesar Lall at Pokhara airport. The English translation wasn’t brilliant but it was fun reading these stories while I was travelling around the locations where they took place.

What are you currently reading? 

At time of writing, I haven’t actually picked up The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon since the day before I left for Nepal. I wasn’t entirely into it. Coincidentally, one of the women in my group was reading it on the plane and she wasn’t that into it either, but we did both say we would see it through. .

What do you think you will read next?

I want to try and read something else off my March-April TBR before the end of the month. I am leaning towards Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie because I didn’t read that on my Jan-Feb TBR either… but I also have an ARC of Bookworm by Lucy Mangan, so I should probably read that soon… I don’t know. I’ll see what I’m in the mood for.

What are you reading this week?~ Emily

“On the day he would first meet Thomas Edison, Paul watched a man burn.” // Review of “The Last Days of Night” by Graham Moore

Title: The Last Days of Night
Author: Graham Moore
Audio book narrator:
Johnathan McClain
Genre:
Historical fiction
Date Read: 13/03/2018 – 18/03/2018
Rating:
 ★★★★★

Review:

I gave a book 4.5 stars back in January but this is my first 5 star book of 2018! To be honest, had I simply enjoyed this book, it probably would have only got 4, but I’m giving it the extra one because I kept running off to google historical events and figures because I found it all fascinating, and I’ve never done that before. On top of that, it actually helped me with the world-building for my own novel, so I definitely owe it for that!

The Last Days of Night tells the story of “the war of the currents” between Thomas Edison, commonly considered the inventor  of  the electric lightbulb, and George Westinghouse. The novel’s central character, Paul Cravath, was Westinhouse’s lawyer, and along with him, the reader observes events from a layperson’s perspective. Most of the characters and events in the novel really took place in one way or another, though Graham Moore does admit in his lengthy author’s note at the end that he did take some liberties with the timeline and amalgamated some figures into one character.

Paul is depicted as a likeable yet fallible character. He makes some mistakes, some with huge consequences for his client, and others which affect him more personally. Thomas Edison is arrogant and self-serving, though the book did manage to make me feel sorry even for him at the end. George Westinghouse was more sympathetic, though he was still a businessman. And Nikola Tesla, another key figure in the game… I wanted to give him all the hugs.  Though to be honest, I have always wanted to give Nikola Tesla all the hugs.

I got rather invested in the romantic subplot between Paul and his client-turned-love-interest, Agnes Huntington. Agnes was a great character, too. She was intelligent and not afraid to speak her mind, though she was also caught up in the typical pretenses of New York high society. Even though this was one of the things I googled and I knew that the real Paul Cravath did marry the real Agnes Huntington, there were a couple of points where I wasn’t completely sure their fictionalised versions were going to get it together and actually get engaged. I may have made som undignified squeaking noises as I worried about this.

do need to mention that there is one scene of particular animal cruelty that may upset some readers. There’s also a rather graphic description of the first execution by electric chair, which is not for the faint-hearted, along with some other descriptions of electricity-induced accidents.

But all in all, this was the first time I’ve really felt like I was learning something as I read a historical fiction novel This is a fascinating examination at a unique point in history, and I recommend it!


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#WWW Wednesday – March 21, 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

Due to me having no time a couple of weeks ago and still alternating Wednesday posts between this blog and my writing blog, it’s been about three weeks since I last did a WWW Wednesday. I’ve finished a number of things, and am progressing through my March-April TBR quite nicely. But it does make for a bit of a long post! Sorry!

What have you recently finished reading? 

First up, I finished Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh.  I enjoyed quite a few of the essays in here, particularly the way she explained her depression and the stories about Simple Dog and Helper Dog. I’m not going to get around to reviewing this one properly, but I would recommend picking it up if you enjoyed the HaaH blog.

Next, I finished my ARC of Deadly Sweet by Lola Dodge. This was such a cozy urban fantasy mystery and I enjoyed it a lot. Though it did make me hungry. I want to hang out in Lola Dodge’s kitchen while she’s baking. My review is here.

The next one was Deep Storm by Lincoln Child, which I listened to. This was a sci-fi thriller, I guess. I found some of the ideas quite interesting, but it is in a third person omniscient style, and I found it a bit too detached to get interested in anyone.

On the same day, I finished an ARC of Daddy Dearest by Ellery Crane. This was a compelling thriller though there was one character where I couldn’t decide whether to sympathise with her considering how messed up she was, or whether I just thought she was completely irresponsible. So that did affect my enjoyment a bit. You can read my full review here.

Next I finished Call Me Sasha by Geena Leigh. This is Geena Leigh’s memoir of her time working in prostitution in Sydney. I’ve read a few books in this vein and it wasn’t my favourite. Though I think the audio book narrator also contributed to that because it sounded like she pouting at everything. You can read my review here.

A Kiss from Mr Fitzgerald by Natasha Lester was my next read. This was a damn fine piece of historical romance, set in 1920s New York, and featuring young women bucking societal norms and also lots of Broadway. So I was sort of destined to like it. My review is here.

Last but certainly not least, I finished the audio book of The Last Days of Night by Graham Moore. This was fascinating, and I’m already pretty sure will be one of my favourite books of this year. It is another historical fiction, set during the “War of the Currents” and featuring historical figures such as Thomas Edison, George Westinghouse and Nikola Tesla. I have never googled so many real events to find out more while reading a novel. My review will be up on Friday.

Phew! That’s it. Only seven books, but I do tend to go on a bit, don’t I? (I have actually been drafting this post for at least a week and adding books as I finished them, but it still feels like it took forever to write).

What are you currently reading? 

I’ve been reading The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon, which is on my March-April TBR… I feel like the blurb promises one thing and the words between the covers go off in a completely different direction and I’m not sure how I feel about that. So I’m having a bit of a break from it.

In the meantime, I have started The Sherlockian by Graham Moore. I’m not quite as into it as I was into The Last Days of Night. I think it’s little things like small Americanisms in the chapters set in Victorian London, and a fictitious descendent of Arthur Conan Doyle (I’m never sure how to feel about liberties taken with such recent historical figures). But I only started it last night and I’m  already a third of the way through, so there’ s that.

What do you think you will read next?

I’ve got Ready Player One by Ernest Cline out from the library. To be honest, the excerpts I’ve read, along with everything I’ve heard from people with similar reading tastes to me, suggest that it is pretty terrible, so the best I’m hoping for is “so bad, it’s good.” Yes, every now and then I like to rage-read a book, it’s true.

It will probably be another three weeks before I post a WWW again, as I am flying to Nepal on April 2! Eeeek! I won’t be reading much while I’m there, but I have a number of ebooks lined up to read on the flights!

What are you reading this week?~ Emily

#AWW2018 Book Review: “A Kiss From Mr Fitzgerald” by Natasha Lester

Title: A Kiss from Mr Fitzgerald
Author: Natasha Lester
Genre:  historical fiction/romance
Dates read: 11/03/18 – 15/03/18
Rating: ★★★★

Review:

This book reminded me how good historical fiction can be. I actually went back and checked how much of it I had read in the past year, and it turned out not much. In 2017, I read four historical fiction books, and I wasn’t really into any of them. I’m glad this one reminded me how good it feels to get sucked into a different time and place.

After witnessing a woman die of childbirth in the woods while the men in her life look on and do nothing, Evie Lockhart wants is to become a obstetrician.  But it’s 1925 and so to pay her way through medical school, Evie becomes a Ziegfeld Girl, starring in the infamous Ziegfeld Follies every night. But with the man she should have married threatening her, and the man she wants to marry away in London for months at a time, how long can she maintain this double life?

The best thing about this book was how easily I got invested  in the characters. Evie was easy to like, and I was rooting for her the whole time, as well as her relationship with Thomas Whitman. Charles Whitman made me go and write angry  GoodReads updates. He was dispicable, and I couldn’t even sympathise with him from the perspective of “younger brother always in the older brother’s shadow”. I also appreciated the support that Evie got from the women in her life, particularly her best friend, Lil, and Mrs Whitman.

The 1920s is of course a very fun era and I really enjoyed the descriptions of the Follies, the speakeasies and the fashions. Lester has payed close attention to detail to ensure that the historical atmosphere of this book is as accurate as possible. It’s not all fun and games, though; the misogyny of the era is also brought to light quite thoroughly and realistically. It made me angry, but it also made Evie’s triumphs throughout the story all the more satisfying.


This review is part of my Australian Women Writers Challenge for 2018. Click here for more information.

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#AWW2017 “How far a woman could travel if she really put her mind to it. And I put my mind to it.” // Review of “See What I Have Done” by Sarah Schmidt

Title: The Natural Way of Things
Author: Charlotte Wood
Genre: Thriller
Date Read: 19/10/2017 – 24/10/2017
Rating: ★★

Review:

Well, damn. This was one of my most anticipated reads this year.  I think it failed for me for a lot of reasons. 

  1. I think I over-hyped it in my head.
  2. I think I assumed it was going to be things that it never promised it would be.
  3. It turned out to have a literary fiction vibe, which is perfectly fine, but not my thing.

See What I Have Done is a fictionalised account of the murders of Andrew and Abbie Borden in 1892. It is told from the points of view of sisters Lizzie and Emma Borden, their maid, Bridget Sullivan and an mysterious outsider, Benjamin.

I expected this book to be thrilling and tense, and for me to never quite know what was going on. I didn’t know what was going on, but that was more because no one really knows what happened that day, not because I felt Sarah Schmidt was making me ask any new questions about the case. With the exception of a bit of getting into the characters’ heads, there was very little here that I hadn’t already learned by reading the Lizzie Borden Wikipedia entry.

What Sarah Schmidt did do well was the claustrophobic, tense atmosphere of the Borden house. There were times when I had to stop reading because the descriptions of someone throwing up or the smell of the three-day-old mutton heating on the stove made me feel sick. But after a while, even that stopped having an effect on me. As I said, I think this was more in the literary fiction vein than I was expecting, and so a lot of the language use and other techniques that would impress fans of that genre, but they just don’t do it for me.


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

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#aww2017 Book Review: “A Dangerous Language” by Sulari Gentill

Title: A Dangerous Language (Rowland Sinclair Mysteries #8)
Author: Sulari Gentill
Genre: Historical fiction/mystery
Date Read: 20/09/2017 – 27/09/2017
Rating: ★★★

Review:

Leaping into the eighth book in a series without having read the others is a risk. I have to admit the main reason I picked this ARC up on NetGalley was because I had seen Sulari Gentill host a panel at the recent Canberra Writer’s Festival and was interested to sample her writing. I think I probably would have been a bit more engaged had I been familiar with the core cast of characters from books one through seven, but this book was enjoyable nonetheless.

In 1930s Australia, Rowland Sinclair finds himself caught up in intrigues between the government, and Fascist and Communist factions when he agrees to help a notorious anti-Fascist speaker get into Australia before the government can ban him. The journey takes him across Australia and nearly gets him killed on more than one occasion.

I enjoyed the characters in this far more than the mystery or the political machinations, really. The core cast are a really fun bunch, and hopeless romantic that I am, I also really enjoyed watching Rowly wrestle with romantic feelings and other related entanglements. I did enjoy the way Gentill wove actual historical events into the story, though at the same time, I am never quite sure how to feel about actual historical figures as characters in novels.

There were two murders featured in the story, though they felt like window dressing for the political machinations, which seemed to be more of the focus. For a significant portion of the book, there was no focus on either death. One of them was solved towards the end, but the other one was just concluded via a note in the epilogue, and I think was mostly there to create some tension at the beginning of the story, when Rowland and his friends thought the victim might have been their friend and colleague, Edna. Once it was established that Edna was safe, there was no real reason for the main characters to give the death any more than a passing interest.

That sort of peripheral focus on the murders is something I am not sure isn’t a feature of the series. I have no idea what form the mysteries take in the other books and so I don’t know if it is just that I wasn’t used to it, being a newbie. Ditto the excerpts from newspapers and other publications of the time at the beginning of each chapter. I have no idea if this is a stylistic feature present in all the books; if it is, I would probably bear with it a bit more, though as it was, I felt they weren’t always necessary and at times, I even skipped them.

Still, I can definitely see why this is a popular series, especially with those who are big readers of historical fiction.


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

(This review is part of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2017. Click here for more information).

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“When put that way, it sounds rather like magic, doesn’t it?” // Review of “The Night Circus” by Erin Morgenstern

Title: The Night Circus
Author: Erin Morgenstern
Audio book narrator:
Jim Hale
Genre:
Historical/magical realism
Date Read: 09/08/2016 – 18/08/2016
Rating: ★★★★

Review:

Back in 2012, I started reading The Night Circus, but I gave up, only about 100 pages in. I think listening to the audio book was the way to go, as it meant sneaking it in when driving or cleaning, all those times when I can’t sit with a physical book in my hands. At times, I thought my final rating was going to be anything from 3 starts to 4.5, but I think the solid 4 probably is the best overall indication of my enjoyment.

There is not a huge amount of plot to this novel – two magicians, Celia and Marco, are pitted against one another by their instructors in a challenge where they can only be one winner. The challenge does not only affect them, though, for the Cirque des Reves is their venue and everyone who relies upon the circus or comes to love it is touched by the challenge. The lack of plot didn’t bother me too much for reasons I’ll get into below, but I did feel the reasoning behind the challenge could have been better (basically all the reason we get is that the two instructors wanted to know whose methods were better). Celia and Marco were asking all the time and there was never any indication of if they were doing well, who was winning, etc… it got frustrating after the first few times.

The plot does jump around in time a lot, which is difficult to keep track of when listening to an audio book. If I had had the print copy, I probably would have been flipping back a few times to check what year it was last time I met these characters.

But depsite all of that, the language is absolutely beautiful. The descriptions are wonderful; I could imagine every single exhibit in the Circus in exquisite detail. At first, I felt that Jime Hale’s voice a little bit too rough and jarring for the sort of prose he was reading, but after a while I got used to it. Read aloud, the descriptions have  a really lilting, poetic quality that was just delightful to listen to.

While I wouldn’t necessarily say I was one of these people myself, I would say this novel is best suited to those whose first loves are description and setting. Many a reader would find that the plot leaves too much to be desired, but I am glad I finally found a way to enjoy this.


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