“One look will steal your heart, but her touch will steal your soul…” // Review of “Votive” by Karen Brooks #aww2016

Title: Votive (Curse of the Bond Riders #2)
Author: Karen Brooks
Genre: YA/Historical fantasy
Audio book narrator: Eloise Oxer
Date Read: 17/08/2016 – 27/08/2016
Rating: ★★★

Review:

This book was good when it focused on the characters I cared about. Unfortunately, it spent significant portions of time with characters I wasn’t interested in at all, which made for a very long book.

Adopted by the Maleovelis, Tallow is now in training to become the city’s most celebrated courtesan. Believing Dante to be dead and everyone else she loved lost, Tallow hardens her heart and does as they  dictate. But various political factions are moving against one another, and all are on the hunt for an Estrattore, putting Tallow in more danger. Can she really continue to do what is asked of her?

A lot happens to Tallow in this book, and her character development followed a very good trajectory. There were a couple of events that took me by surprise at first, but actually made a lot of sense when I thought about it, and contributed to Tallow’s arc. I did feel that there wasn’t quite as much from Tallow’s first person POV as there might have been (Tallow often narrates the story, while the other POVs are in third person), and I was always glad when it finally did turn to this narration.

We also get to learn more about other characters such as Katina, and the politics of the Bond Riders’ community. Two other Bond Riders, Santo and Stephano, play a major role in this book, though unfortunately, they were two of the characters I really wasn’t interested in. Ditto Queen Zaralena and her emissary, Lord Waterford, who are plotting against Seranissima from afar.  The Queen actually made me quite uncomfortable in a couple of scenes, which didn’t help.

The plot becomes a lot darker in this book, and there is also a lot more political intrigue. This may once again be a case of the print book being better to read than the audio book, as I would have been able to flip back and remind myself who was invading whom and how they were betraying each other if I was reading the book. I’m really not good at keeping track of these sorts of intrigues, and to be honest, at some point I started skipping through the scenes with Queen Zaralena or Lord Waterford, as I just wasn’t interested anymore. However, wanting to know what happened to Tallow, Katina and a few others is what kept me going, and why I didn’t give a lower rating.


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

Find me on:
GoodReads | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Book Review: “Tallow” by Karen Brooks #aww2016

Title: Tallow (Curse of the Bond Riders #1)
Author: Karen Brooks
Genre: YA/Historical fantasy
Audio book narrator: Eloise Oxer
Date Read: 07/08/2016 – 16/08/2016
Rating: ★★★

Review:

tallowcoverWhile this book definitely felt like a series opener, and a set-up for bigger things to come later, the setting and characterisation were both fresh and original and drew me in completely.

Tallow has grown up as a candle maker’s apprentice in Serenissima, a place we now know as Venice. Her strange eyes have always bothered people, but it’s not until a stranger shows up at their door that she learns she is one of the last Estrattore, a race able to extract and distill the feelings of those around them, and who were exiled and killed by the Church hundreds of years before. Under  Katina’s tutelage, she begins to learn how to control her power, but she soon also learns that even using her powers for what she perceives to be good can have dire consequences.

The world-building is definitely the highlight of this book, and the books that follow. It is rich and sensual and makes the reader feel like they are really there, too. The descriptions of the various regions of Serenissima, the canals, Carnivale, etc, were all vivid. Italian language is peppered throughout the story, which also served to remind us where we were.

Tallow is a well-constructed character. She is eager to please, eager to help and horrified by the attention she begins receiving when people start attributing certain things to her (“his” – she is disguised as a boy for the majority of the book) candles. Her guardians, Pillar, the candle-maker, and his mother, Quinn, are also very thoroughly characterised, though I never especially warmed to any of them. Katina is really the only Bond Rider we meet in this book, and she makes a very good mentor for Tallow, and her world-weariness comes across well, too.

There is a bit of romance in the novel, and I actually enjoyed it a lot more than I usually do in YA books. I think this is because it is actually realistic – Tallow and Dante meet by chance, and there is no “I laid eyes on him and immediately knew he was the One/special/whatever else”. Instead, they continue to spend time together and slowly fall in love, though neither acts on it until right at the end, because Tallow is worried about revealing her powers to Dante, and Dante thinks Tallow is a boy.

There are also several subplots, including one with some Venetian nobles who go on to play a larger part later on in the series, and also with a queen of Farrow Fair (somewhere in Albion; on the audio book, she’s read with a French accent so I’m not exactly sure where she’s supposed to be from), who is also on the lookout for an Estrattore. The problem was, these characters were visited so infrequently that I tended to forget their side plots even existed when I wasn’t following them. They also made the book a lot more drawn out than it needed to be, especially as they were both being set up to play larger parts in the later books, rather than actively having much of an effect on the events of this book.

In spite of all that, the world and main characters did win me over and I had the next book downloaded before I had even reached the ending of this one.


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

Find me on:
GoodReads | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

#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?

626F6F78747265616D=7474747474727576707<7473

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


Find me on:
GoodReads | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

#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


Find me on:
GoodReads | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram