#AWW2019 // Book Review: “The Serpent and the Flower” by Madeleine D’Este

Title: The Serpent and the Flower
Author: Madeleine D’Este
Genre: Contemporary/horror
Target audience: YA
Rating: ★★

Review:

Confession: I don’t really know Macbeth that well. I don’t really like Shakespeare’s tragedies. And that probably affected by enjoyment of this book. (Someone give me a romcom set around a production of Much Ado About Nothing, please!)

Well, then, Emily, if that’s the case, why did you put your hand up for an ARC of a book about a group of teenagers staging Macbeth?

Well, because while I might have been more into musicals, I was the theatre nerd at school. And I’m honestly surprised haunted theatre stories aren’t more of a thing – that was up my alley, too. I love theatre ghost lore. Also the cover is gorgeous.

Madeleine D’Este definitely does creepy well. There’s a seance scene in her novella Evangeline and the Spiritualist that creeped me out completely and that was why that was my favourite of the Evangeline stories. And there are equivalent spooky scenes in this one, too. There are some scenes in this book where characters find themselves alone in the theatre or elsewhere in the school, hearing voices or having chairs pelted at their heads by invisible hands.

The characters certainly had their moments (one of my GoodReads updates was ‘Whoa, Ravenswood, you need to calm down!” and another was “Actors like Violet make me glad I’m only ever in the chorus – no one’s going to want to hurt me for my part”). But for the most part I never really felt like the characters leapt off the page… some of the other reviews have referred to parallels between these characters and those in Macbeth, and perhaps if I had been able to spot those parallels,  there would have been some added depth to the characters that I was missing.

My reading experience mostly depends on how invested I am in the characters, but the writing and plotting are both very good, and I think the right reader will definitely enjoy this.


Thank you to the author for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for a review.

This review is part of my 2019 Australian Women Writers Challenge. Click here for more information.

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#AWW2019 // Book Review: “The Antics of Evangeline” by Madeleine D’Este

Title: The Antics of Evangeline (Books 1-4)
Author: Madeleine D’Este
Genre: Steampunk/Fantasy
Target audience: YA
Rating: ★★★

Review:

Having read Madeleine D’Este’s newest release, “Women of Wasps and War” earlier in the year, it was nice to know that she had some lighter reading in her back catalogue that I could continue on with.

The Antics of Evangeline is made up of four novellas, but I’ve chosen to review them all together. Evangeline is the daughter of esteemed engineer and inventor, Montague Calidcott, though she’s only just discovered that fact. She’s now living with him in Melbourne, and getting up to all kinds of mischief.

Evangeline is a fun lead character. She’s clever but impulsive and doesn’t quite know how to stay out of trouble. She’s also an inspiring inventor, though her inventions don’t always work as intended. The term “inventress” did grate on me a little – I am not sure if it is period-appropriate or just the author’s stylistic decision but I didn’t love it either way. Just use “inventor”!

I know the stories are short but I would have liked to hear more of Evangeline’s backstory. There were definitely some revelations, but I feel like there’s a lot more to know! The last installment was published in 2017; I’m not sure whether further stories were/are intended where we might get to learn more. Ditto her father’s secret project that lurks beneath a sheet in his workshop and every now and then exhibits strange behaviour.

Evangeline is joined by a fun cast of characters, including her best friend Mei, who teaches her martial arts, her Uncle Edmond and his actor ‘friend’/’companion’ August, and Mrs Plockton, the God-fearing housekeeper. They all have very distinct personalities that sometimes clash.

Evangeline and the Spiritualist, episode 3, was definitely my favourite of the four. I actually included it among my Halloween reads as the seance scene was a bit unnerving.

While the books are primarily steampunk, there are small touches of fantasy, which I enjoyed. Things like the seance may be fake or might be supernatural, you’re never quite sure, but the bunyip (book 2) is definitely a monster.

These four instalments are available individually or in a combined volume. I recommend picking these up for light-hearted steampunky goodness.

Individual book ratings: 

Evangeline and the Alchemist – 4 stars

Evangeline and the Bunyip – 3 stars

Evangeline and the Spiritualist – 4 stars

Evangeline and the Mysterious Lights – 3 stars


This review is part of my 2019 Australian Women Writers Challenge. Click here for more information.

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“There is a spectrum to assholery. I’m pretty low on scale.” // Review of “Zombie Playlist” by K. J. Chapman

Title: Zombie Playlist
Author: K. J. Chapman
Genre: Dystopia (zombie apocalypse)/humour
Target age group:
YA/NA
Date Read:
23/06/18
Rating: ★★

Review:

I will say out the outset of this review that most of my feelings towards this book are on me. This was a fun story and most of my reasons for not liking it more are  a matter of preference. Zombies aren’t usually my thing but I had been following Chapman on Instagram for a while and wanted to support a fellow indie author, so knowing this was quite short, I took a chance.

The two main characters, Dagger and King, were on opposite ends of the badass spectrum, and on reflection, I think I like my characters somewhere in the middle. While they did both grow over the course of the story, and thus come a little way off the end and into the middle, it took until then for them to really grow on me, so I wasn’t feeling too connected to them to start  off with, and we therefore all got off on the wrong foot.

I also didn’t even realise until a few chapters in that the book wasn’t set in America, rather than England. There were turns of phrase as well as the use of “asshole” rather than “arsehole”, which is how I would expect it to be spelled in a British or Australian book. So I kept forgetting where they were and it was odd whenever they mentioned going to Cornwall, it pulled me up a bit, too.

I did really like the last couple of chapters; I thought it lead to a good conclusion for the story. I did feel that there was probably enough material in the book that it could have been fleshed out into a full-length novel, but I got to the end and felt satisfied with the journey i had taken with the characters. Most of the character development for Dagger particularly happened towards the end so that was when she was most able to grow on me.


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Cover Reveal: A More Complicated Fairytale by… Me!

Over three years after I started writing it, it’s nearly time to unleash my baby on the world. My first novel, A More Complicated Fairytale, will hopefully be launched on April 02. I’m in the midst of setting up a pre-order. I will, of course, share the link when it’s available.

Those of you who have been reading my blog for a long time will have read plenty of snippets from AMCF over the last couple of years. For those who haven’t, you can acquaint yourselves with Cait and Prince Felipe here.

For those who just need a quick refresher, here’s the blurb:

Most of the young women in Nardowyn swoon over Crown Prince Felipe, but Caitlin has never seen the appeal. When she catches his eye during a royal festival, she has little choice but to begrudgingly go along with his attempts to form a friendship between them, and soon learns that there is more to him than meets the eye.

When Felipe goes to war to avenge the death of his brother, Cait enlists as a nurse to be nearer to him. Here, Cait’s connection to the prince will put her in more danger than she can imagine. But Cait’s never been one to take the easy way out, so if her life is going to turn into some sort of fairy tale, with a prince and a happily ever after, it’s no surprise it will be a more complicated one.

And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for, here is the cover in all its glory:

AMCFTsmall

This thing of beauty was designed by the wonderful K. L. Schwengel and I am forever in her debt..

Stay tuned over the next couple of weeks for giveaways, interviews, and more!

~ Emily

Book Review: Unmasking: Lemon’s Thesis

Title: Unmasking: Lemon’s Thesis
Author: Gloria Weber
Genre: Urban fantasy (superheroes)
Date Read:
11/02/2016
Rating: ★★★★

unmasked1coverIt’s been a good while since I read anything with superheroes in it, and the last one wasn’t that great. Thankfully, Gloria Weber has set up both an interesting setting and well-developed characters, which meant my Friday evening spent reading this was time well spent.

Lemon “Em” Law is a super-genius living in Trowbridge City, a city heavily populated with superheroes and villains. As the daughter of one of the city’s most infamous supervillains, Em is pretty used to being vilified by everyone around her, She tries to ignore the negative treatment and instead work on her thesis. Unfortunately, the connections she makes during her research mean that her identity puts even more people in danger…

Trowbridge City is really well developed, and the world-building is nicely woven into the plot. I didn’t notice any info-dumps, but little details like a news program specifically designed to follow super news gave us the information we needed when we needed it. The fact that Em is also attending college throughout the book allows for professors to throw in tid-bits of information, and flashbacks from other characters’ POVs filled in the gaps where necessary.

Em is a really well-drawn character; I really felt for her as time after time, people sneered at her or whispered behind her back. Other characters, from the university’s Dean Chambers, to Yellow Fellow himself, and other heroes and villains who made appearances, all felt distinct and unique. The bonus chapter at the end also drew a really good picture of Em’s mother, and how a person could get to the point where they would end up in a relationship with someone like Yellow Fellow.

The book is quite short, and I did feel a bit “What? Is that all?!” when I got to the end, but I am definitely keen to see where the series continues to go, and to spend more time with Em in Trowbridge City.

(Thanks to Gloria Weber for a free copy of this book)

Cover Reveal: First Choice, Second Chance by Fallon Brown

I’m really excited today to be taking part in Fallon Brown‘s cover reveal for her upcoming release, First Choice, Second Chance. The book is coming out on August 18, but you can pre-order it on Amazon if you like the sound of it. Or, if you don’t have Kindle, you can mark it as to read on GoodReads.

Here’s a quick synopsis:

One wrong choice doesn’t have to lead to another.

Seven years ago, he watched her drive away.

Lila Corelli was the love of Mason Akeley’s life, but she chose a music career and another man over him. He thought it would destroy him, but he’s been scraping by; on the family farm and in life. Now, she’s back in town, and he feels like he’s barely hanging on.

She made a wrong choice.

Lila knows she made a mistake. She thought she had been on the right path; to her career, love, her life. Instead, she never saw the disaster one wrong choice could cause. Now, with everything gone, she returns to her hometown, hoping to find her way to a new path.

Mason’s love for Lila has never died, but he’s afraid to open himself to be hurt again. Lila chose the wrong future once, and she worries she’ll be making another bad choice that will only lead to more destruction. But, if they can untangle their past from their present, they just might be able to find their future together.

Now, the bit you’ve all been waiting for, the cover, designed by Marianne Nowicki.

FirstChoiceSecondChanceSmallerWebUseIsn’t that gorgeous?

Just as an extra teaser, here’s an excerpt as well:

He held up a hand to stop her. “Give me a shot of Jack.” He caught Lila at the edge of his vision. “Actually make it a double.”

Jess hesitated then poured the drink and passed it over to him. He took the first sip and winced at the burn. He wasn’t sure if he would ever get used to it. The whiskey warmed the parts of him that had gone cold with Lila’s arrival. He kept his eyes focused on the wall across the bar as he took the second sip. He still knew the moment she stepped up beside him. He didn’t know if her scent still lived in his memory and he recognized it, or if it went deeper. He didn’t even have to hear her voice. It was in his head, in his dreams, every day and every night. When she ordered a drink, it twisted around his heart again.

His fingers tightened around the glass. He was almost afraid it would shatter right there in his fist. He dragged in some air through his nose, but it only came back out sounded strangled. He started to turn away. He needed to put some space between them. He couldn’t handle having her so close. As soon as he took a step, her hand was on his arm, the muscles in it cording tighter. “Mason.”

He was going to explode, shatter into tiny pieces no one would ever be able to put back together again. He had to get away. He didn’t even respond to her saying his name. He set the glass on the top of the bar. It must have been harder than he planned because a crack sounded when he did it. He didn’t even look back.

“Put it on my tab, Jess. All of it.”

His head pounded. He didn’t think it was the alcohol or the music. It was Lila. It had always been Lila. He pushed out through the door. Then braced his hand against the side of the building and squeezed his eyes shut. The door opened again, and he didn’t even look behind him. Instead he strode across the small parking lot to his truck. She called his name again, but he didn’t stop. He checked his mirror to make sure she wasn’t right behind him, he certainly didn’t hate her that much. She still stood close to the building. She had her arms wrapped around her, and stared after him. His eyes started to burn. Then, he backed out of his parking spot and pulled out of the lot. The gravel spun under his tires, but he didn’t care. He wanted to put distance between them. Before he lost the grip he barely kept on his sanity.

About the author:

Fallon Brown was born and raised in a tiny town in the northwestern corner of Pennsylvania. At one time, she dreamed of having a cabin in the woods or mountains where she could be left alone to write. Instead she spent three years studying psychology before realizing that wasn’t for her. She now lives outside of a slightly larger small town in the same corner of her home state with her husband, two children, dog, and cat. She spends her days interfering in the lives of fictional characters while trying to keep a semblance of a clean house. Often the clean house bit fails.

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Cover Reveal: Bound by Kate Sparkes

Fellow WIPpeteer Kate Sparkes is releasing her debut novel, Bound, on June 26, and I’m incredibly excited to be part of the cover reveal today. We’ve been reading excerpts from this novel on Wednesdays for a while, so we’re all pretty psyched about finally getting to read it in its entirety!

Bound (Bound Trilogy #1) – Release June 26, 2014
Welcome to Darmid, where magic is a sin, fairy tales are contraband, and the people live in fear of the Sorcerers on the other side of the mountains.
 
Rowan Greenwood has everything she’s supposed to want from life— a good family, a bright future, and a proposal from a handsome and wealthy magic hunter. She knows she should be content with what she has. If only she could banish the idea that there’s more to life than marriage and children, or let go of the fascination with magic she’s been forced to suppress since childhood.
 
When Rowan unknowingly saves the life of one of her people’s most feared enemies, a simple act of compassion rips her from her sheltered life and throws her into a world of magic that’s more beautiful, more seductive, and more dangerous than she ever could have imagined.
 
Now Rowan might just get everything she ever dreamed of— that is, if the one thing she’s always wanted doesn’t kill her, first.
bound_promo
^^ Doesn’t that look awesome?! The cover design is by Ravven
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sparkes profile

A Bit About Kate:

Kate Sparkes was born in Hamilton, Ontario, but now resides in Newfoundland, where she tries not to talk too much about the dragons she sees in the fog. She lives with a Mountie, two kids who take turns playing Jeckyll and Hyde, three cats with more personality than most people she meets, and the saddest-looking dog on the planet. Her first novel, Bound, will be released in June 2014, assuming the dragons don’t eat her, first.

You can find Kate in various places around the Internet, including her blog, Disregard the Prologue, Twitter and her Facebook page.

Book Review: Emergence by K. L. Schwengel

Title: Emergence
Author: K. L. Schwengel
Genre: Fantasy
Format: E-book, also available as paperback (Amazon)
Date Read: 18/03/2014 – 28/03/2014
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

coverrevealEmergence is the second installment in the Darkness and Light series by K. L. Schwengel, who is also known in these parts as the fearless leader of the Wippeteers and wrangler of the flying monkeys. I read First of Her Kind, the first in the series, back last May, so I was a bit worried about how much I’d remember. My concern was unwarranted, however, as I very quickly found myself settling back into the world of Ciara and Bolin and their adventures and struggles.

This novel is a bit road-trippy; Bolin is ordered fairly early on to take Ciara to the Emperor in the city of Nisair and I would estimate the middle 40% or so of the novel is them getting there. This does run the risk of letting the plot drag, but while there were a couple of points where it did seem to slow down a bit, for the most part there was plenty of action to keep the plot moving in spite of this.

We have a host of new characters in the form of the escort sent to make sure Bolin and Ciara arrive in Nisair. Most notable of these is Berk, who not only gets some awesome action scenes, but also acts as a second love interest to Ciara and makes Bolin grumble. Also, he’s super-adorable, and I never add “super” to things to make them sound even better, so that says a lot.

In First of her Kind, the big bad was Donovan, Ciara’s father from whom she inherited Andrakaos, one of her two forms of magic. Donovan is still around, but he is no longer the only adversary our heroes have to face. Donovan has teamed up with Teeva, a Dominion priestess in possession of some of the darkest magic there is. There are also Marauders to contend with, and they get nasty (actually there are some pretty dark things going on in the marauder camp, so if that’s not your thing, maybe give this one a miss). Oh, and let’s not forget that some of the Imperial Mages aren’t exactly acting under the direction of the Emperor anymore.

The multiple magic systems that K. L. Schwengel has created weave around each other seamlessly, and one of my favourite parts of the novel was the development of Ciara’s control over Andrakaos, which culminated in a very dramatic scene during the novel’s climax (vagueness deliberate). Bolin is also dealing with the effects of Teeva’s magic, and by the end of novel, there is something else looking on the horizon: the Darkness. The action scenes are also very vivid. I can see everything play out in my mind’s eye exactly as described.

My only real criticism of Emergence is that I thought we could have seen a bit more of Ciara. There was definitely some important stuff going on that we got to witness from her point of view, but I felt this was more Bolin’s story overall. Not necessarily a bad thing, he is a main character after all, but personally I would have liked a bit more of our heroine.

The ending has left us set up for an exciting and intense final installment in which many opposing powers are going to clash (there was also a Ciara/Bolin scene that left me with a huge, stupid grin on my face). I know I’ll be first in line on the day it goes on sale! 😀

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