Book Review: “The Nowhere Emporium” by Ross McKenzie

Title: The Nowhere Emporium
Author: Ross McKenzie
Audio Book Narrator: Monty d’Inverno
Genre: Fantasy
Intended audience:
MG
Date Read: 06/07/19 – 09/07/19
Rating: ★★★★

Review:

This book reminded me a lot of The Night Circus by Erin Morgernstern and going by the reviews, I’m not the only one. Obviously, this is for much younger readers, and it has its differences. I still enjoyed the idea of a magical shop with infinite rooms containing Wonders drawn directly from imgination.

Daniel Holmes lives in present-day Glasgow, but when he comes across a mysterious  shop where the owner doesn’t expect him to remember his time inside, he is taken on as an apprentice to Mr Silver of the Nowhere Emporium. But Mr Silver has a long and sad past, and his sworn enemy is still looking for him. Daniel finds himself in the middle of this fued, and in a race to save the Emporium and the staff he’s come to love.

There are some really wonderful rooms described throughout the Emporium. Many of them were whimsical and delightful and made me feel nostalgic for childhood. And I’m all for a tragic backstory, so the fact that that was at the heart of the conflict was really enjoyable for me, too.

I did think that some of the running around to try to stop Vindictus Sharpe from destroying the Emporium did get a bit tedious, especially when it was a case of “Go to this room – no, that didn’t work at all” followed by the same again. It seemed only to serve to throw some more backstory in, because some of these rooms turned out to be no use at all.

Still, I did appreciate how the challenges that Sharpe and Daniel set each other at the end played into fears and biases that had been set up for each of the characters earlier on, and they had to face them in the only way they knew how. The ending may have been a little rush, but I still felt that it was satisfying. I got through this is only a few days and really appreciated a simply, whimsical story with a lot of heart.


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“For dreams, too, are ghosts, desires chased in sleep, gone by morning.” // Review of “Lair of Dreams” by Libba Bray

Title: Lair of Dreams (The Diviners #2)
Author: Libba Bray
Audio book narrator: January LaVoy
Genre: Historical fantasy/horror
Intended audience: YA
Date Read: 09/06/19 – 06/07/19
Rating: ★★★

Review:

This book had a lot to live up to after I enjoyed the first one so much. I’ve got to be honest, there were times when I was just plain bored, and as you can see from the dates above, it took me nigh on a full month to get through. But it did pick up in the final quarter, and that’s why it still gets the rating it does from me.

There are a number of different threads through this book. First, Henry and his new friend, Ling Chan, are both dreamwalkers, and they meet as a mysterious sleeping sickness is taking over New York. So much of this storyline was devoted to character back stories and world building. I sometimes felt these parts were very, very slow.

Evie, Sam and Jericho are still about. Evie has become a sensation with her own radio show, The Sweetheart Seer, but to be honest, I found her a bit irritating in this book. In the first book, she was superficial but you could see what she was using that superficiality to mask. But there was less of that hidden vulnerability here, and she got a bit tiresome. The fact that there is a love triangle developing between her, Sam and Jericho also made me a bit weary.

Having said that, part of this aspect of the story is the search for Sam’s mother, which is hinted at, at the end of book one. I did find this stuff intriguing, and the extra information we got about Project Buffalo. I’m still not sure where the oft-mentioned King of Crows comes into that, but I suppose that will be revealed later in the series.

I guess the main reason I struggled more with this book than the first is that the pacing is entirely different. In the first book, there is a race to find the killer before he attacks again. There is no such time pressure in this book. So many scenes are devoted to dream walking, but the dreamscape is the same each time. And the characters aren’t really doing much, just hanging out and chatting. No one actually knows how to fix the sleeping sickness, so they just sort of generally worry about it.

Libba Bray does do a very good job representing true realities of life in the 1920s, and the gap between the privileged and the marginalised. I loved that Ling is a disabled character, and that forms part of her identity but isn’t her whole story. She is also part-Chinese and the book doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to the anti-Chinese sentiments that were alive and well at that time.

There are some characters I haven’t mentioned, such as Theta, Memphis and Isaiah, and that’s because while they’re there, I didn’t really feel their scenes/chapters added much to this particular story. As I said, there’s a lot of character and background stuff, and I’m sure some of things we learned about the characters in this book will play out in the next installments but… it made it long.


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WWW Wednesday – 03 July 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?

After taking a month to get through one audio book, I finished two this week! First was Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray. I didn’t love it as much as the first book but it definitely had its moments. Haven’t decided whether to continue the series on audio or grab the paperback of Book 3.

Next, I listened to The Nowhere Emporium by Ross McKenzie, which was a sort of middle-grade version of The Night Circus. I tend to enjoy anything that’s full of whimsical magic rooms, so I enjoyed this one.

No physical books finished this week but I did post my review for Beau and Bett by Kathryn Berla. Click the title to read it.

What are you currently reading?

I am about halfway through the ARC of Mother Tongue by Julie Mayhew. It’s well-written but not the easiest read so I am taking a bit of a break from it.

In the meantime, I am reading Cupid’s Match by Lauren Palphreyman, which… I mean. I can see why mythology purists are upset about it. But I’m just enjoying it for what it is. I’m not even sure I’m really seeing it as a mythological-characters-in-the-modern-day story so much as a general urban fantasy. It’s fun.

What do you think you will read next?

After promising last week that I would finally continue with The Chronicles of Narnia, I have The Horse and His Boy audio book from the library and ready to be copied onto my phone. Just need to get around to it.

What are you reading this week? 🙂

 

 

 

P. S. If you’re keen to read an excerpt of my current WIP, come on over to my writing blog to see what I’m working on.

WWW Wednesday – 03 July 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?

Better results this week than my last couple of WWW posts.

 I finished Beau and Bett by Kathryn Berla and… I don’t even know what I felt. It wasn’t a bad book. It was readable. But it was just sort of… there. I didn’t really feel like it did anything particularly interesting or different. So I have to really think about this one before I review it. Maybe I won’t give it a rating? That might help.

While I’ve been staying with my parents this week, I finally read The Lion, the WItch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis for the first time. I watched the BBC series a lot as a kid but never got into the books at that point. I intended to read the whole series ago and never got any further than the Magician’s Nephew. Maybe now I’ll finally get back to it properly.

What are you currently reading?

Iam reading an ARC of Mother Tongue by Julie Mayhew, a YA novel set around the events of the Beslan School Siege in 2004 (look it up). So far it seems it’s more about the personal effects on a family, rather than the wider political situation, which I appreciate.

I am still going with Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray on audio. I haven’t actually listened to it much at all this week because I’ve been staying with my parents and being sociable. 😉

What do you think you will read next?

All right, you lot! Hold me to The Horse and His Boy by C. S. Lewis. I will finish the Chroncles of Narnia before the end of the year!

What are you reading this week? 🙂

 

 

 

P. S. If you’re keen to read an excerpt of my current WIP, come on over to my writing blog to see what I’m working on.

WWW Wednesday – 26 June 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?

This last couple of weeks have been really slow reading weeks. I can’t believe I’ve once again only got two books finished when there have been two weeks between posts.

I finished Get The Girls Out by Lucy Bloom, which is quite an inspiring memoir. Lucy goes against the grain and she isn’t ashamed to say it. I really enjoyed this one. Here’s my review.

Next I finished A Summer Escape and Strawberry Cake at the Cosy Kettle by Liz Eeles. The book was a sweet contemporary romance set in an English village. I reviewed it here.

Click to read my review of The Diviners by Libba Bray, which also went live since my last post.

I also ended up DNFing a book I had hoped I’d really love – David Mogo, Godhunter by Suyi Davies Okungbowa. This is an #ownvoices Nigerian urban fantasy, but I just couldn’t get into it. I didn’t engage with the characters and the various magic systems were confusing me.

What are you currently reading?

I am still going with Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray on audio. This is a lot more character driven than The Diviners. There is a mystery but there isn’t a race to solve it the same way there is in the first book. While I’m not enjoying it as much as the first book, I’m still over halfway through.

I am also reading an Australian modern classic, The Women In Black by Madeleine St John, which tells the story of several women working in the women’s clothing section of a department store in 1950s Sydney. This is sweet, but kind of on hold at the moment because ARCs.

What do you think you will read next?

I am going to start Beau and Bett by Kathryn Berla. This is a contemporary retelling of Beauty and the Beast. I am not familiar with this author so I have no idea what to expect. We’ll see how it goes.

What are you reading this week? 🙂

“There is no greater power on this earth than story.” // Review of “The Diviners” by Libba Bray

Title: The Diviners (The Diviners #1)
Author: Libba Bray
Audio book narrator: January LaVoy
Genre: Historical fantasy/horror
Intended audience: YA
Date Read: 28/05/19 – 07/06/19
Rating: ★★★★

Review:

This book had everything I want in a book! 1920s New York, serial killings, the occult, ghosts. Not to mention January LaVoy is a fantastic narrator.

There is a large cast of characters, whose paths intersect in various ways, but the main ones are Evie O’Neill and co., who are assisting the police in solving a series of occult murders. In between these, we get spooky chapters detailing each killing (don’t listen to these after dark!), along with chapters introducing us to others with powers that will become known as Devining, making them Deviners.

Evie is pretty selfish and self-centred, though she has moments of vulnerability. She puts on a front to hide the grief of losing her brother in the war eight years earlier. But she and the others make a good team when it comes to solving the murders.

The rest of the ensemble cast all have really fleshed out characters, too. Even though in the cases of a lot of these  characters, the book is setting up for the sequel where they become central characters, their scenes never felt like filler. I really iked Mabel, Evie’s BFF, though I wished she would sometimes stand up for herself a bit more (though she definitely has potential to come into her own later). I had mixed feelings about Sam Lloyd and Jericho Jones, whom I am pretty sure are going to both become love interests.

I loved all the history involved in the mystery. There are fifty-year-old cults, and weird ceremonies, and prophecies and all sorts of fun things. And it’s so detailed. There are creepy murder scenes that were probably made extra creepy by the fact that I always seemed to reach them when I was walking after dark from the bus stop, or driving alone late at night. January LaVoy has a certain talent with voices, I must say. The climax is especially scary, with Evie mostly on her own against an army of ghosts.

There did seem to be about an hour at the end of the book where things were being either tied up or set up for  the next book. There are so many different characters, it really did feel like Bray was actively having to tick each one off to make sure she’d dealt with them. But I was still keen to start the second book as soon as this one was finished.


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WWW Wednesday – 12 June 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 finished The Toymakers by Robert Dinsdale. This was great, don’t get me wrong. I gave it 4 stars. But it did go in a direction I was quite sure about. Here’s my review.

I also finished The Diviners by Libba Bray on audio and really enjoyed it! Though there were a few times where I was listening to the scary stuff while driving alone late at night or walking from the bus stop in the dark, and that wasn’t so fun (though a testament to the creepiness of the book!). I will have a review up of this soon.

I also posted a review of The Red Labyrinth by Meredith Tate this week. Click the title to read it.

I’d like to think that in two weeks since my past post, I would have had far more to list under this question. But between doing a musical and then coming down with a cold, this is it!

What are you currently reading?

Since I haven’t been reading a lot lately, I’m still fairly early on in Get The Girls Out by Lucy Bloom. Lucy has such a fun style; I think she’s just blurted things onto the page. It reminds me a lot of the talk she gave that I went to a couple of years ago.

I started Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray pretty much as soon as I finished The Diviners. This is quite a bit longer than audio books I usually pick up, but knowing that I am already invested in it, I think it should be okay, even if it takes me a while to get through.

What do you think you will read next?

I need to get back to Lenny’s Book of Everything by Karen Foxlee, which I have read a couple of chapters of but not fully committed to yet. It is an Australian book but it’s set in 1960s Ohio. Pretty sure it’s going to make me cry.

What are you reading this week? 🙂

WWW Wednesday – 29 May 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 finished reading my ARC of The Red Labyrinth by Meredith Tate, which surprised me with how much I enjoyed it. The main character does some stupid stuff and I guess the world-building is a bit flimsy but I enjoyed it regardless!

Only one review posted this week: The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone by Jaclyn Moriarty.

What are you currently reading?

I am still going with The Toymakers by Robert Dinsdale but I am within the final 100 pages. I really loved the first section where the characters were young but then the First World War hit and it’s all getting a bit sad. I sort of suspected it was going to be one of those books with a bittersweet ending but it’s going to be a different bittersweet to what I was expecting.

I have also started The Diviners by Libba Bray on audio. This has everything I want in a book: ghosts, serial killers, flappers, Prohibition, New York City. Though I’m doing a production of the musical Hello, Dolly! which opens this week, so every time it mentions something like the elevated train, my brain goes “Elevated trains, Barnaby! The lights of Broadway! The stuffed whale at Barnum’s museum!” and things like that. Fun times. 🤣

What do you think you will read next?

I picked up Get The Girls Out by Lucy Bloom from the library this week. I went to a talk Lucy gave a couple of years ago and that’s what ended up inspiring me to register to go on the UN Women Trek for Rights in Nepal last year. So I’m really excited to read her memoir because she is truly inspiring.

What are you reading this week? 🙂