#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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WWW Wednesday – 31 October 2019

Announcement: On Monday I posted the cover reveal and pre-order link for an anthology I am apart of. It contains 8 Christmas stories set in Australia, where 25 December is in the middle of a summer and quite a different experience from what many of you are used to. I’d love it if you checked it out and threw a pre-order our way.

And now to your regularly scheduled WWW post.

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.

**

What have you recently finished reading?

I absolutely loved The Kingdom by Jess Rothenberg! There were parts that could have been more fleshed out but it totally hooked me so I didn’t mind. Here’s my review.

Next I read Serpent and Dove by Shelby Mahurin, which was really engaging but I had a lot of questions abuot the world-building. Namely how does literal Christianity exist in a made-up fantasy world? My review goes up on Friday.

After that, I read The White Hornet by Celine Jeanjean. This is the fifth book in the Viper and the Urchin series. Celine has been churning new books out this year but somehow always manages to maintain a high standard. Here’s my review.

And finally, I finished the Antics of Evangeline series by reading Evangeline and the Mysterious Lights by Madeline D’Este. I’ll have my reviews for the series up soon.

I’ve also posted reviews of The Dead of Winter by Chris Priestley and Songbird by Ingrid Laguna since my last WWW post. Click the titles to read them.

What are you currently reading?

I’ve started Too Flash by Melissa Lucashenko. This is a YA contemporary and will count towards my 2019 Australian Women Writers Challenge, and my challenge-within-a-challenge to read at least two books by Indigenous Australian women.

Except I forgot to take Too Flash with me t o work today, so I started my ARC of A Christmas Wish and a Cranberry Kiss at the Cosy Kettle by Liz Eeles. I enjoyed the last Cosy Kettle book and I couldn’t resist a Christmas title.

I’m also listening to Circe by Madeline Miller on audio. Audible kept reccomending this to me and I wasn’t in the mood for any audio books so I just picked this up on a whim. But it turns out I’m enjoying it quite a lot.

Last but not least I have finally started A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J Maas. To be honest, I wasn’t intending to read this series but a friend whose opinions I trust said she really enjoyed it and that it was quite different to Throne of Glass (which I DNFed and she didn’t enjoy either). I’m about 20% of the way through, and yeah, got to admit it’s pretty readable.

What do you think you will read next?

.I started the audio book of Illumination by Karen Brooks a while ago and I knew it was just too long and I wasn’t going to get through iit before it was due back, so I’ve got the hard copy now. It is a massive tome with tiny print! But I’ll get there, and it will be nice to finally finish the Curse of the Bond Riders series.

What are you reading this week? 🙂

 

 

 

Cover Reveal! Christmas Australis: A Frighteningly Festive Anthology of Spine-Jingling Tales

Hello everyone! It’s been ages since I did a cover reveal on this blog, and this one is especially exciting because I’m one of the authors!

Christmas Australis: A Frighteningly Festive Anthology of Spine-Jingling Tales brings together eight stories that reflect the Australian experience of Christmas: it’s summer here in December and we spend December 25 at the beach or under the air conditioner, gorging on seafood and lemonade.

Over the past few months, I’ve got to know some fantastic other Australian writers via our hashtag #6amAusWriters, and I’m super-proud to be included!

There’s something for everyone in Christmas Australis, whether you are a fan of contemporary stories, sci-fi, fantasy, or even steampunk!

And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for! Here it is!

The fabulous cover was designed by Cassi Strachan at Creative Girl Tuesday. Thank you so much, Cassi!

The contributors are V. E. Patton, Darren Kasenkow, Emily Wrayburn (that’s me!), Lyn Webster, Andrew Roff, Natasha O’Connor, Madeleine D’Este and Belinda Grant.

My story is called Operation: Sugarplum, and it’s a modern-day retelling of The Nutcracker.  Here’s a bit about it.

Clara gets more than she bargained for when she plays a new virtual reality platform with boy-genius developer, Max Drosselmeier.

Suddenly virtual characters are coming after her in reality and the only way to stop them is to play the game to the end…

It’s a bit of this:

Combined with a bit of this:

To great effect if I do say so myself. 😉

You can find out more about the other stories on the Amazon Page.

You can pre-order now by clicking the button below for the special pre-order price of $3 US, before it bumps up to $3.99 US on release day, November 11.

And
don’t forget to add it to your GoodReads TBR shelf! 

WWW Wednesday – 09 October 2019

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.

**

What have you recently finished reading?

I didn’t post last week but this has been a good couple of reading weeks! I can’t believe I’ve already read 5 books in October!

FirstI finished Dead Blondes and Bad Mothers: Monstrosity, Patriarchy, and the Fear of Female Power by Sady Doyle, which examines depictions of women in such things as horror movies and true crime fandom. I thought some of the analysis was reaching a bit to draw the conclusions she wanted to, but overall it was interesting. Haven’t quite worked out if I’ll do a full review of this one yet.

Next, I read Monuments by Will Kostakis, which is a fun YA fantasy. It managed to retain a light-hearted tone even as it deals with some pretty heavy issues… I went to the Canberra launch event on Friday night and have to say, I think it’s one of the best book launches I’ve been to. I then finished the book over the next couple of days. I really enjoyed this one. Here’s my full review.

Next was the audio of Scratchman by Tom Baker and James Goss. I am still a bit confused by some parts of it, and the structure is a bit terrible… but it was fine. I gave it 3 stars.

In the last week I have been participating in The Hocus Pocus Readathon and my first book for this challenge was Evangeline and the Spiritualist by Madeleine D’Este, which filled the prompt “read something with a paranormal or supernatural element”. This is my favourite Evangeline book so far. I only have one more to go.

The next prompt was “read a spooky, atmospheric book”. I figured I couldn’t go wrong with a Gothic-style haunted house story like The Dead of Winter by Chris Priestley. In the end, it was actually neither spooky nor atmospheric but I think that might be because I was too old for it (it was a MG after all, and sometimes I find they just don’t transcend their target age bracket).

After that, I completed the “read a random book on your TBR” prompt by reading Songbird by Ingrid Laguna. This was a totally sweet story about a refugee girl from Iraq trying to fit in at her new school in Sydney. She finally finds a place when she joins a school choir.

Last but not least, I finished the audio book of Vampire Island by Adele Griffin and I have to admit this was weird? I didn’t even know what to rate it because I couldn’t work out what it was trying to do.  Was it making an environmental statement? Was it just trying to be funny? I have no idea, and so I don’t know how I felt about it.

What are you currently reading?

was really excited to start The Kingdom by Jess Rothenberg and so far it is living up to expectations! It’s kind of Westworld meets Disneyland. I was reading on my lunch break today and really didn’t want to go back to my desk.

I am also reading Serpent and Dove by Shelby Mahurin, though it’s on hold while The Kingdom takes priority. I hadn’t heard of it until I signed up for the Hocus Pocus Readathon and this was one of the two group reads to choose from. I am 15% in so far and it is quite well-written so I think I’ll enjoy it.

The readathon ends on Saturday and I’m a bit worried I’m not going to quite finish these last two but I’ll do my darnedest!

What do you think you will read next?

Gosh, I don’t even know! Possibly I will read Evangeline and the Mysterious Lights by Madeleine D’Este and thereby finish the Evangeline series. I have actually written myself a list of things to read to finish my Australian Women Writers Challenge for the year, so those will also be at the top of my list.

What are you reading this week? 🙂

 

 

 

#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.

WWW Wednesday – 25 September 2019

First of all a quick welcome to everyone who has followed my blog over the last day or so as a result of that Twitter group chat. Hope you enjoy your stay here 🙂 I also have a writing blog where I talk about my own writing if you’re interested in checking that out.

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.

**

What have you recently finished reading?

Suicide Club by Rachel Heng was the only thing I finished this week. I really enjoyed this! Though I did have a few quibbles about how much a world that is set at least 200 years in the future resembled our current time in a lot of ways. But it was still a good read!

I have no reviews to share because I’m a bit behind on my review writing, but there are some scheduled for the coming week!

What are you currently reading?

I am still reading Dead Blondes and Bad Mothers: Monstrosity, Patriarchy, and the Fear of Female Power by Sady Doyle, which examines depictions of women in such things as horror movies and true crime fandom. I am finding that maybe some of her claims are bit sweeping, but for the most part, I am still enjoying this.

I am still listening to Scratchman by Tom Baker and James Goss. I saw some reviews that said the pacing is strange and now I’m halfway through it, I definitely agree with that. But I still can’t go past it being narrated by Tom Baker himself.

What do you think you will read next?

I will probably return to Madeleine D’Este’s books and read Evangeline and the Spiritualist next.

What are you reading this week? 🙂

 

 

 

WWW Wednesday – 18 September 2019

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.

I’m trying to get back into blogging this week! We came back from overseas and immediately had to organise moving house, which was an event. We now everything in the new place, though we’re yet to unpack most of it. Everything is in piles in the living room!

All this is to say is that I feel like I haven’t had a lot of time for reading and even when I’ve had time, I’ve felt too tired. But when I sat down to write this post, I realised I’ve finished four books so ffar this month, and that’s pretty much on par with my usual reading pace.  And I feel that this week I have pulled out of my reading slump, so hopefully I’ll be speeding through some great books from here on out.

What have you recently finished reading?

The first thing I finished since my last post was The Women in Black by Madeleine St. John, a book that is considered something of an Australian classic. I really enjoyed this slice-of-life, peering into the lives of several different women in late 1950s Sydney. Here’s my review.

After that I listened to Jeff Wayne’s The War of the Worlds: The Musical Drama, which… isn’t really an audio book, more of a musical full cast dramatisation, but it has a listing on GoodReads, so I’ll take it. I’m a fan of Jeff Wayne’s original 100 minute War of the Worlds album from the 70s, so at first I wasn’t sure about this, but I ended up loving it, even without the songs.

Next up, I’ve read Evangeline and the Alchemist and Evangeline and the Bunyip, the first two novellas in the Antics of Evangeline series by Madeleine D’Este. These are entertaining, though I wish there was some more fleshing out of Evangeline’s back story. No reviews yet because I’m going to review the series as a whole when I’ve finished it.

And then there was my favourite book so far this month, Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. It’s a hard book to describe, but it is a book that deserves to be read all in one sitting, rather than the dribs and drabs over a month that I read it in. It’s folklore-y and fairytale-y and that’s the only way I know how to describe it.

Other reviews I’ve posted since my last WWW:

What are you currently reading?

I started Dead Blondes and Bad Mothers: Monstrosity, Patriarchy, and the Fear of Female Power by Sady Doyle, which examines depictions of women in such things as horror movies and true crime fandom. At first, I wasn’t sure I would make it through the first chapter, since apparently even descriptions of The Exorcist  are enough to creep me out and have me walking around my own house with my back to the wall. But I’m a few chapters in now and I think I can cope with most of the horror content.

left Dead Blondes… at work yesterday and needed something to read at home last night so I started my other library book, Suicide Club by Rachel Heng. I guess you’d call this a dystopia, but it’s set in a recognisable not-too-distant future America where bodily enhancements mean immortality is within humanity’s reach… but at what cost?

Last but not least, I am listening to Scratchman by Tom Baker and James Goss. It’s also narrated by Tom Baker, which is perfect. I haven’t read any DW books in a while, and most of the ones I have read recently have been 10th or 11th Doctor-era. So this has been fun.

What do you think you will read next?

I will probably return to Madeleine D’Este’s books and read Evangeline and the Spiritualist next.

What are you reading this week? 🙂

 

 

 

#AWW2019 // Book Review: “Women of Wasps and War” by Madeleine D’Este

Title: Women of Wasps and War
Author: Madeleine D’Este
Genre: Fantasy
Target audience: Adult
Date Read: 11/08/19 – 12/08/19
Rating:
★★★☆

Review:

Oof. This was a powerful book. I read about 20% of it one night and then the rest of it the following day because I couldn’t put it down. A lot of my reactions were simply “Argh!” or “Mmngnng” and could probably be summed up better in reaction gifs than a proper review, but I’ll try my best. Here goes.

D’este has crafted a believable patriarchal fantasy world where men do not question their authority and women know their place. This arrangement has been interrupted by war, and many of the women who ran Ambrovna in the men’s absence are not so keen to see it go back to the way it was before.

I was constantly frustrated by the men’s inability to see the women’s point of view, and I appreciated the way D’Este explored the fact that you can love an individual dearly while still not recognising your privilege overall, or conoversely while knowing that your loved one is the oppressor.

Some of the women did terrible things in the hopes of earning their place back as head of the household, and I have to admit that it generally felt completely justified. Of course, these things come at a price and a foreboding feeling I had about one incident turned out to be correct.

I have to admit I did feel the epilogue took away from the power of the final chapter, but that it really the only complaint I had. This book is addicitve.

Trigger warnings for graphic physical and emotional abuse.


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

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WWW Wednesday – 21 August 2019

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.

Due to illness, other commitments and then a three-week overseas holiday, it’s been over a month since I last did a WWW post. July wasn’t much of a reading month but I’ve been making up for that in August so here is everything I’ve read since mid-July.

What have you recently finished reading?

Cupid’s Match by Lauren Palphreyman, which did take some rather large liberties with Greek and Roman mythology (what has Pandora got to do with the Seven Deadly Sins, a Christian construct, for example?) but it was kind of fun regardless.I gave it three stars and reviewed it here.

Mother Tongue by Julie Mayhew took me a while to get through. It’s written in a very disconnected style and it didn’t really go anywhere? Here’s my review.

I stood in a second-hand shop in New York City and read The Book With No Pictures by B. J. Novak. My partner had told me about it before so I was interested to finally see it. It was quite funny. I can imagine kids loving it.

Small Spaces by Katherine Arden was next. It took me a while to get through. It’s a MG and I guess I wasn’t the target audience really. I was hoping I would find it creepier than I did. I did find the narrator’s voice a bit grating, which didn’t help.

I finished Cleaning House by Jeanne G’fellers the following day. I loved the basis in Appalachian folklore but I found the narrative itself a little too repetitive. But if you like quiet, character-driven folklore-y/witchy stories, then this is definitely for you. Here’s my review.

Next I read Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman and… wasn’t that impressed? I mean, I gave it three stars. But the way everyone talks about it, I was expecting to give it five. And I honestly thought at the start that I would, because the start is great. But then it got to dragging. Anyway, I have a full review scheduled, so keep an eye out for that.

For something completely different, I followed that with Women of Wasps and War by Madeleine D’Este, which was un-put-down-able gritty feminist fantasy and my favourite book so far this month.

Finally, I finished A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L’Engle, which was okay, but I was definitely skimming by the end. I know a lot of people love it but I think a lot of those same people read this as children, which I think would make the difference.

I also posted reviews of Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray and The Nowhere Emporium by Ross McKenzie since my last post.

What are you currently reading?

I only just finished A Wrinkle In Time this evening, so I haven’t started a new book yet.

What do you think you will read next?

I have The Horse and His Boy by C. S. Lewis audio book  to put on my phone. And I really want to start Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Morena-Garcia. I’m getting behind on my Australian Women Writers Challenge, though, so that also needs to be a priority.

What are you reading this week? 🙂