#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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#aww2017 “Rack off, ya fishface moll!” // Review of “Puberty Blues” by Kathy Lette and Gabrielle Carey

Title: Puberty Blues
Author: Kathy Lette and Gabrielle Carey
Genre: Contemporary YA
Audio book narrator: Rebecca McCauley
Date Read: 04/04/2017
Rating: ★★

Review:

I think I can see how this book ended up a cult classic. First published in 1979, it encapsulates the youth culture of 1970s Sydney. But. While the language is completely authentic, it lost me on the content.

Puberty Blues tells the story of of Debbie and Sue, two thirteen-year-olds desperate to make into one of the surfie gangs that hang around Cronulla Beach. As they try to make it to the top of the social heirarchy, they learn about sex, drugs, boys, and ultimately, themselves.

First things first, Rebecca McCauley narrated the book perfectly. She had the Western suburbs accent down pat and this added to the authenticity of the book. There were times when I felt like I was listening to a three-hour Kylie Mole sketch, but this book is exactly the type of suburban Sydney life that Kylie Mole was parodying.

When Puberty Blues was made into a TV show a few years ago, they upped the ages of the main characters to sixteen, and I can see why they did, even if it did cop criticism. There’s something very uncomfortable about listening to a thirteen-year-old character describe a seventeen-year-old boy trying to have sex with her, or casually describing the gang rape of other girls from her school (obviously, the ages don’t matter at all there), or the fact that they would all spend their weekend dealing weed.

There was also the issue that while the characters were very well drawn, there was very little plot. I do wonder if it’s because I didn’t read this as a teenager that I didn’t connect with it. While I wasn’t the sort of teenager depicted in the book, there were certain things that would have still resonated. As it was, I had little to identify with.


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

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#WWW and #WIPpet Wednesday – 17 August, 2016

It’s time for WWW Wednesday! This is a blog hop 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 did you recently finish reading?

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My partner ended up buying Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and so I ended up reading it a lot sooner than I expected. It wasn’t perfect, but I actually really enjoyed it! It probably helps that I haven’t really been involved in Harry Potter fandom since 2008, so I was able to shrug off the more dubious parts more easily. And being a theatre person used to reading scripts also helped as well, I guess. I wish I could see the play now, I think it must be amazing! My review for this will go up on Friday.

tallowcover  I finished the audio of Tallow by Karen Brooks this morning. This was a good series opener, though it really was setting up for things to come. I do like the alternate-Venice setting though. It’s really fresh and original. And I got quite invested in the romance, which is unusual for me in a YA series!

Reviews of Eve and Adam by Katherine Applegate and Michael Grant, and Am I Black Enough For You? by Anita Heiss went up this week. Anita Heiss retweeted the link to my review, and it subsequently got retweeted by 24 other people, which then translated two days where my blog stats were off-the-charts (at least compared to my usual traffic). So that made me happy.

  • What are you currently reading?

therookcoverI am still going on The Rook by Daniel O’Malley. I’ve really only been squeezing in reading time on my lunch break this past week so this one is going slowly. Fortunately, it’s borrowed from a friend rather than the library, so I don’t need to worry about impending due dates (though it does make me paranoid about breaking the spine or doing it other such damage that has usually already happened to the library book).

votivecoverVotive by Karen Brooks is my new audio book, as I finished Tallow this morning. From the reviews, it sounds like this one gets a lot darker than the first book.  At 23 hours long, it is the longest audio book I’ve committed to by about 7 hours, but I’m trying not to pick anything else up at the library at the moment, so I’m rolling with it. (I know, I know, some of you are able to get through 40 hour ones quite easily, but if it’s faster to read the book than listen to it, I usually try to go with that option).

  • What do you think you’ll read next?

thissavagesongcoverI know I just said above that I was avoiding getting anything from the library, but This Savage Song by V. E. Schwab has come in for me after several weeks on hold, so I’ll be picking it up tomorrow. I’ll probably put The Rook on hold to read this as it is likely to be a popular title and therefore only have a two week loan period rather than four.

And now for WIPpet Wednesday. This is another blog hop in which writers share excerpts from their current WIP that somehow relate to the date. Clicking the blue guy on the right will take you to the linkup for this one.

I decided to share from Operation Sugarplum this week, since that is where my interest is at the moment. For those newer to these parts, this is my modern-day retelling of the Nutcracker. In  this scene, Max is battling an Evil Creature, and for context, the sword he has just produced is magic and can only be used in defence. That isn’t explained here, but does come up later when Clara tries to use it to attack someone. I have complicated maths this week! ((1+7)/16) x 8 = 4 paragraphs.

“Ah,” it said. “It has to be this way, then?”

“I guess it does,” Max replied.

“What if I don’t touch you? What then?”

“Well, then, you might as well turn around now because I won’t come with you willingly. If you’re going to make your King happy, there’s going to have to be some sort of confrontation here, and that means I’ll be able to use it. And then I’ll beat you.”

Max is awfully confident for someone whose magical abilities have been an abstract concept/training exercise up until now. Let’s just say it’s a good thing Clara is spectating.

I think this is the first time I’ve shared from this story this year. You can read more excerpts by clicking here. Bear in mind, I’m working on the second draft now, so things are liable to change a bit.

All right, better finish this up! See you all later!

~ Emily


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#WWW and #WIPpet Wednesday – 10 August, 2016

It’s time for WWW Wednesday! This is a blog hop 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 are you currently reading?

therookcoverI have just started The Rook by local author Daniel O’Malley. The tag line is “On her majesty’s supernatural secret service” and it sounds quite fun, and comes highly recommended. IIt’s been described as “supernatural public service” among my public service colleagues and even in the first 30 pages, there have already been a couple of moments where I’ve laughed out loud because the bureaucracy element is too real.

On audio, I’m listening to Tallow by Karen Brooks. This is a fantasy inspired by Italian culture – the main city is basically a fictional, magical version of Renaissance-era Venice. Enjoying it so far!

  • What did you recently finish reading?

amibalckenoughcoverI finished Am I Black Enough for You? by Anita Heiss. I really appreciated the renewed understanding of racial identity that this book gave me.

Reviews of The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf by Ambelin Kwaymullina and Paper Daisies by Kim Kelly went up this week.

  • What do you think you’ll read next?

bigbanggenerationProbably Doctor Who: Big Bang Generation by Gary Russell. This is a challenge item – “A book you intended to read last year but didn’t”. It is set on Christmas Day 2015 and I had grand intentions of reading it that day, except then I didn’t manage to get a copy in time. I’m actually pretty excited that there’s a DW novel set in Australia. 😀

So I made a list of all the books I own in various forms that I have to read before I’m allowed to buy any more or go to the library again… there are ten on it, and that’s not counting the books that have been on my Kindle for years, for example, just my most recent purchases. Sigh. What’s that quote about dying next to a pile of books I intended to read?

And now for WIPpet Wednesday. This is another blog hop in which writers share excerpts from their current WIP that somehow relate to the date. Clicking the blue guy on the right will take you to the linkup for this one. I’m going a bit backwards from last week’s excerpt, this is when Grace first returns home after leaving her job in Frederick Merrow’s household (which was a maid in this draft, but will be governess in subsequent versions). Claire is one of her younger sisters, aged about elevent. Ten paragraphs for the 10th day of the month.

“I’ve come home, Claire.”

“You lose your job or something?”

“Well, yes. Is mother home?”

“Yeah, she’s here. Mum! Grace’s home! She’s been fired!”

Grace cringed. She would have preferred to deliver a gentler blow to her mother. She heard her mother’s footsteps approaching the door a few moments later, and found herself looking down at the ground under her mother’s hard stare.

“Hello, mother,” she said quietly.

“Is that true? Fired?”

“Yes.” Grace’s voice was nearly a whisper.

“What the bloody hell did you do?”

Grace cringed again, this time at her mother’s language. It shouldn’t have been a surprise, she grew up with it, but after six months living among people who spoke properly, it grated on her ears.

Even though I’m still sharing from Lessons Learned, I’ve actually been revising Operation: Sugarplum over the last couple of weeks. Most of the stuff I’ve bene working on is really similar to stuff I’ve shared before, though, so for the moment, I think I’ll continue with Lessons Learned. I might switch it up when you least expect it, though! Who knows! 😛

All right, better finish this up! See you all later!

~ Emily


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“I am clearing out my heart” // Review of “Paper Daisies” by Kim Kelly #aww2016

Title: Paper Daisies
Author: Kim Kelly
Genre: Historical fiction
Audio book narrator: Rebecca McCauley, Johnny Carr
Date Read: 24/07/2016 – 29/07/2016
Rating: ★★★

Review:

paperdaisiescoverThis was an enjoyable book, set in the Australian bush at a time when Australia was just becoming a nation, but I felt it could have been  half the length. There was a lot of meandering and repetition, but it did (eventually) work its way towards a satisfying conclusion.

It’s 1901 and Berylda Jones is finishing up her first year at Sydney University, and dreading travelling back to Bathurst, to where she and her sister live with their abusive uncle. Meanwhile, botanist Ben Willberry’s mother has just died, and to honour her final request, he is travelling to western New South Wales to track down a flower she remembered from her youth. They meet by chance and form a strong connection, but can Ben stop Berylda from crossing a point of no return?

The story unfolds in chapters that alternate between Ben and Berylda’s points-of-view. Berylda is not the most likable of characters, but she has reason to be hardened the way she is, and to be reluctant to let anyone into her confidence. There were times when I rolled my eyes a bit because she didn’t entirely think through her actions, but I did sympathise with her and her plight the majority of the time. Ben was my favourite, he was so derpy and awkward, but a total sweetheart all the while. It is love at first sight when he meets Berylda, and from then on he knows he will do whatever he has to, to get her out of her awful life situation.

As I said earlier, the story meanders on quite a bit. The majority of the story only takes place over about three or four days, but the book is quite long, and a lot of time is spent in the characters’ heads over this time. I don’t know how many times I listened to Berylda think about what she was going to do to her uncle for everything he had done to her and her sister, Greta, or how many times Ben waxed lyrical about Berylda’s lovely eyes. I would say it probably picked up in the final third, as this is when most of the action takes place.

I don’t know that I would recommend the audio book, but I have a feeling this would be a quicker read in print form. As I said, I did ultimately enjoy the story, but I think the writing might be more effective when one is reading than listening.


(This review is part of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2016. Click here for more information).

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#WWW and #WIPpet Wednesday – 03 August, 2016

It’s time for WWW Wednesday! This is a blog hop 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 are you currently reading?

amibalckenoughcoverI have started Am I Black Enough For You? by Anita Heiss, and so far I really like the writing style. I think it will be a bit of a challenging book for me as a white person, but that’s why I picked it up.

On audio, I’m listening to Disruption by Jessica Shirvington. This has really good reviews so I have high hopes, but I’m  not very far in yet.

  • What did you recently finish reading?

paperdaisiescoverFinally reached the end of the audio of Paper Daisies by Kim Kelly. I actually did like the story itself, but the book could have been about half the length. Maybe two thirds. Definitely not as long as it was.

After that, I listened to Eve & Adam by Katherine Applegate and Michael Grant. It was another one of those books where it was absolutely fine but nothing special.

ashalawolfcoverThe only print book I finished this week was The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf by Ambelin Kwaymullin. This is one of those books where it’s really hard to explain my feelings, because on one hand, it avoids some really tired YA tropes and I really wanted to love it for that, but it also just wasn’t that exciting?

Reviews of Isla’s Inheritance by Cassandra Page and Melody Bittersweet and the Girls’ Ghostbusting Agency by Kitty French went up this week.

  • What do you think you’ll read next?

All I know is I’m not allowed to get anything else out from the library! I have two books on my Netgalley shelf, along with all my other unread ebooks, and I received two shiny new paperbacks for my birthday, again on top of all the ones I already had. I’ll think of something, though!

And now for WIPpet Wednesday. This is another blog hop in which writers share excerpts from their current WIP that somehow relate to the date. Clicking the blue guy on the right will take you to the linkup for this one. In this scene, Frederick has gone searching for Grace, who ended their affair by disappearing from his house without a trace. He has finallytracked down her family home. Eight lines for the eighth month.

“Er, Mrs Kent?” he asked.

“Who’s asking?”

“My name is Frederick Merrow, and I believe your daughter was in my employ for a time. Your daughter, Grace?”

Mrs Kent’s eyes narrowed. “You’re the one who was teaching her the magic, then, are you?”

Frederick couldn’t believe Grace would have been so open about her abilities, but he nodded. “Yes. That was me.”

Mrs Kent took a step back from the door, and held a hand up to keep Frederick at a distance. “I don’t want you coming any closer.”

“Please,” he said, “I just want to see Grace. I don’t even need to come into your house at all, just send her down, please?”

“Grace is dead.”

Ouch.

Given that I had today off work, this post is ridiculously late, so I shall go now and try to visit some of your blogs before bed. Apologies for being so awful with doing the rounds last week. It’s been a busy time and I’ve been feeling a bit overwhelmed. I hope to do better this week!

~ Emily


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#WWW and #WIPpet Wednesday – 27 July, 2016

It’s time for WWW Wednesday! This is a blog hop 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 are you currently reading?

ashalawolfcoverStill going with the audio of Paper Daisies by Kim Kelly. It’s going on a bit, but I’m kind of at that “Well, I’ve committed now” point.

In print, I have started The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf by Ambelin Kwaymullina. This is one of my Indigneous Australian author reads for the Australian Women Writers Challenge. I only started it today, but I like it so far and I’m hoping it might be the book that ends my long slew of 3-star reads and gets a four or a five.

  • What have you recently finished reading?

islasinheritanceAs expected, I finished Wonder Women by Sam Maggs, and my review went up on Monday. I do want to go back through it and note down some of the books written by the featured women and bios written about them, because I would love to find out more.

I then proceeded to finish Isla’s Inheritance by Cassandra Page very quickly (less than 24 hours). It was enjoyable enough, but I didn’t feel compelled to continue the series.

melodybittersweetgirlsghostbustingagencycoerAfter that, I finished off Melody Bittersweet and the Girls’ Ghostbusting Agency by Kitty French, which I saw on someone else’s WWW posts in the last couple of weeks. It was cute, though I did not like the love interests at all, which did put a damper on the “romantic comedy” aspect. I did really like the mystery, though.

Last night, I read the preview excerpt of Vicarious by Paula Stokes, which is available on NetGalley in the lead-up to the release next month. If I had actually read the listing properly and realised it was a preview, I probably wouldn’t have requested it, but it was interesting.

I also posted my review of Blood of My Blood, the third in the Jasper Dent series by Barry Lyga, on Friday.

  • What do you think you’ll read next?

I also Am I Black Enough For You? by Anita Heiss out from the library for the AWW Challenge, so it may well be next. I also have a few books of my own that I’m going to try to read soon.

wednesdaybannerAnd now for WIPpet Wednesday. This is another blog hop in which writers share excerpts from their current WIP that somehow relate to the date. Clicking the blue guy on the right will take you to the linkup for this one.

In this scene, Frederick has just told Grace that he shouldn’t teach her any magic, and should instead tell her to go back to her room and never think about it ever again. Seven sentences for the seventh month.

Grace looked at him with a wry expression. “You think you can just tell someone to forget about this sort of thing?”

“No,” he replied. “I know you can’t. No one can. That’s what makes it so powerful. The second you get a taste for it, it has a hold over you.”

Frederick does have his reasons for showing Grace the magic in the first place. I’m not saying they’re good reasons (in fact, they’re pretty weak), but they are reasons nonetheless.

This week I’ve been writing from Frederick’s POV, and that’s been interesting. He’s very private but I’ve managed to needle out a lot of his past, which has been good. I also had an epiphany the other day (after writing the first 16k, of course!) that the whole thing would work a lot better if Grace were the governess to Frederick’s children, rather than a maid in his household. So I’ll have to a whole lot of revision there, but that’s okay.

That’s it from me, as I have a few things I need to get done tonight. I also need to consume the rest of this delicious lemon meringue pie sitting next to me. See you on your blogs!

~ Emily

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