#AWW2021 Book Review: “Where Shadows Rise” by Amy Laurens

Title: Where Shadows Rise (Sanctuary #1)
Author: Amy Laurens
Genre: Fantasy
Intended audience: YA
Date Read: 09/08/2021 – 1508/2021
Rating: 
★★★

Review: 

This is a good series opener, though I have to admit I was expecting a bit more. I’ll be up front and say that my main issue was I felt the world was a bit under-developed.

Sanctuary is supposed to be a literal fairyland, with fairies and unicorns, but I never really got a good sense of its depth or any mythos behind it.

I did feel the descriptions of the Valley, the dark opposite of Sanctuary, were more powerful, particularly towards the end as main character Edge begrudgingly fought to save someone she didn’t care for.

Edge, Gemma and Scott also read a lot older than thirteen, which also threw me a bit. I really doubt there are many thirteen-year-olds who know the word “incorrigible”, let alone use it. The only reason I learned it at fifteen was because it was in one of my lines in play!

Still, I have the second book on hand and I plan to continue with the series. I have a feeling that this is the type of series that will build and develop as it goes, and I’m looking forward to book two being a stronger read.


This review is part of my 2021 Australian Women Writers Challenge. Click here for more information.

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“I cannot expect people to do for me what I cannot.” // Review of “A Whole New World” by Liz Braswell

Title: A Whole New World (Twisted Tales #1)
Author: Janella Angeles
Genre: Fantasy/Retelling
Intended audience: YA
Date Read: 22/12/2020– 26/12/2020
Rating: 
★★★

Review: 

Ahh, I hate it when a book has so much potential it doesn’t live up to. To be fair, for the most part it was engaging and I did enjoy it. But I had so many little niggles that kept pulling me out of the story.

For those unfamiliar with Disney’s Twisted Tales series, each book takes a well known Disney property and asks “What if?” about a certain aspect of it – in this case, what if Jafar had got to the Genie’s lamp instead of Aladdin?

I wasn’t quite sure what this book was trying to be. The writing felt middle-grade, but the characters were aged up (Princess Jasmine refers to being nearly twenty at one point). The writing style was very unsophisticated, too, and never gave a sense of place. It was really modern, with phrases like “you guys” peppering it (what modern Princess would use “you guys”, let alone one from a so-called “ancient” city?). These are things that don’t bother me in a cartoon movie but a book requires something more.

It also bothered me that every time the characters referred to Princess Jasmine, they called her “the royal princess”. Every. Time. Let’s not use tautology, okay? The royalty is implied in the word “princess”.

Having said that, I enjoyed the overall ideas and the way the story was twisted. The last third was pretty engaging, as Aladdin and Jasmine’s army started to find its feet and the action started ramping up. I did find Jafar’s defeat a little rushed, and a bit too easy, but I did tear through to the end, so that’s something.

I’m still interested to try the other Twisted Tales. This was the first one written, and it’s also the one with the lowest rating on GoodReads. There are also a few different authors writing them so that might also make a difference.


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“They need to know we can hit them back. If they burn our homes, we burn theirs, too.” // Review of “Children of Blood and Bone” by Tomi Adeyemi

Title: Children of Blood and Bone (Legacy of Orisha #1)
Author: Tomi Adeyemi
Genre: Fantasy
Intended audience: YA
Date Read: 01/08/2020– 09/08/2020
Rating: 
★★★★

Review:

I haven’t read a really strong YA high fantasy in a long time. This one definitely fit the bill. It took me a little while to get into, but that was partly because I was feeling reading slumpy and only getting through maybe 10 or 20 pages a day. Once I was able to sit down and give it my undivided attention, I became much more invested.

I loved that this wasn’t a fantasy with obvious good guys and obvious bad guys. There’s lots of politics, and you can see what drives the characters you don’t agree with.

Sometimes the pacing was a little off – seemingly insignificant things went on for ages while significant things were covered in half a page. And sometimes the world-building seemed inconsistent – why does Zelie have to perform this amazing ritual to bring magic back when it seems everybody can just get their magic by touching this special artefact? I also wasn’t sold on the romance – it happened so quickly and it was Twu Wuv right from the get-go.

As to characters, I really loved Tzain and Amari, but both Zelie and Inan wore on me. There are a couple of instances of characters you are just getting to know and love being killed, which is a deliberate choice of this author; the story is her response to police brutality and the Black Lives Matter movement.

I read this for book club and it was definitely interesting hearing our different reading experiences with this book. In particular, one member listened to the audio book, which is narrated by a Black woman in an accent reminiscent of the cultures by which the book is inspired.

The book ends on a little bit of a cliffhanger, and I’m definitely interested in seeing where the second book goes. There’s a lot of setup for future events and things are going to get messy.

“How does the world end? It ends in fire.” // Review of “Burn” by Patrick Ness

Title: Burn
Author:
 Patrick Ness
Genre: Fantasy
Target audience: YA
Date Read: 30/05/20 – 03/06/20
Rating: 
★★★★

Review:

the cover of the Patrick Ness novel Burn. It has a black background and the shape of a dragon emerges from flames at the bottom.

It’s not going to be easy to review this book in a way that does it justice. I do feel that it’s a story that only Patrick Ness could write. It has so many different components and could have been a huge mess but somehow he pulls it off.

I’m not going to go into the plot too much. Suffice to say this book is about a girl called Sarah, whose father has hired a dragon to work their farm in late 1957. The Cold War is going on, Sputnik is about to be launched, and an assassin is headed to their small town…

This isn’t some fast-paced action adventure like the Chaos Walking trilogy. If you want to compare to Ness’ other books, I think it’s much closer to A Monster Call. There’s lots of introspection and it’s very philosophical and it builds slowly to a climax rather than racing there.

It’s beautifully written because of course it is, it’s by Patrick Ness. I didn’t really feel any connection to the characters but I was drawn into this world and I didn’t mind that too much because the prose was engaging.

If you like dragons in your fantasy, I would definitely recommend this one. It won’t be to everyone’s liking, but it’s definitely worth giving a chance.

#AWW2020 #LoveOzYA Book Review: “Oasis” by Katya de Becerra

Title: Oasis
Author:
Katya de Becerra
Genre: Fantasy/Sci-fi
Target audience: YA
Date Read: 18/05/20 – 22/05/20
Rating: 
★★☆

Review: 

Okay, so this was… weird. I honestly am not sure whether it’s a 2.5 or maybe a 3 star rating but this is definitely a case of not living up to the hype. I was expecting to give this 5 stars when I read it. You know those times when you think “Did I read the same book my friends did? I don’t get it.” Yeeaaaah.

The writing was engaging, I will give it that. There are some great descriptions, though I think the author did better when describing abstract things like the heat or the weird dreams Alif, the MC, has, than when describing more physical things like the sand dunes.

I never believed in the characters, which I think was my main issue. I’m supposed to believe this group have been friends for years, when all they seem to do is quibble. There are multiple times when Alif has the realisation that despite Luke having been part of their group for a long time, she “never really knew him”. Like, surely you have to be really good friends with someone to go on an overseas trip with them. And if you’re that close, and you’re not interested in archaeology, surely you can tell your friend that visiting her dad’s dig site isn’t really for you. You know, rather than getting there and being a jerk about it.

Also Luke and Tommy facing off and getting all macho at each over over Alif… ugh.

The world-building was limited and there was minimal explanation of anything… and then there was the open-ended conclusion that just left me feeling unsatisfied. I genuinely don’t actually understand what happened, and what it meant for the events of the previous 100 pages. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy an open ending, but this was just… a nothing ending.

I’m really disappointed because I’d been really looking forward to it, and I knew a few people who’d really enjoyed it. I guess it was just not to be.


This review forms part of my 2020 Australian Women Writers Challenge. Click here for more information.

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Cover Reveal! Blackbirch: The Beginning by K. M. Allan

Hello everyone! I’m really proud to be helping out with this cover reveal today.

The #6amAusWriters group over on Twitter are very special to me and K. M. Allan is one of our members. I’m so excited that you’ll all get to read Blackbirch: The Beginning, when it comes out on February 17.

I’ve been hearing great things about it from the ARC readers who are ahead of me with reading it, and I’ve dived into the first chapter myself today.

And of course, it doesn’t hurt when a book has a cover as gorgeous as this one:


Argh, it’ so shiny! Can’t wait until I have a copy on my shelf!

Here’s the blurb:

Welcome to Blackbirch. It’s a place no one forgets. Except for Josh Taylor.

The fatal car crash took more than 17-year-old Josh’s parents. It stole his memories and returned him to his birthplace, Blackbirch, a tourist town steeped in a history of witchcraft.

Amongst friends he’s forgotten and a life he doesn’t want, Josh is haunted by nightmares so believable he swears the girl in his dreams is real. Kallie is so captivating he ignores her blood-stained hands, but he can’t overlook the blue glow summoned to her skin.

Kallie says it’s an ancient magic they share and a secret worth hiding, because as Josh discovers, they aren’t the only gifted ones.

To restore his memories and find the true cause of the car accident, he must learn what’s real. And what secrets Blackbirch has buried in its woods.

IF that sounds like your cup of tea, you can add it to Goodreads here. Pre-order links will be available soon.

Watch out for my review in the next week or two!

“The ability to feel is a strength, not a weakness.” // Review of “An Enchantment of Ravens” by Margaret Rogerson

Title: An Enchantment of Ravens
Author: Margaret Rogerson
Genre: Fantasy
Intended audience: YA
Date Read: 04/03/19 – 06/03/19
Rating: ★★★

Review:

This is one of those books that was totally enjoyable to read but was totally unmemorable  after I finished it. It was fun but ultimately a bit flimsy.

Isobel is an expert portrait artist who is popular with the fair folk due to her extraordinary talent. But when she paints human sorrow into the eyes of the Autumn Prince, he whisks her away to the fairy court to  stand trial for humiliating him.

That is essentially the story that is on the back cover of the  book, but it’s not exactly the direction the story takes. For one thing, the Autumn Prince, Rook, and Isobel, never actually get as far as a trial. I think the fact that it never quite goes in the direction it promised kind of threw me and left me feeling a little bit unsatifised.

I could also never quite pin Isobel down… was she a Mary Sue? She was certainly ridiculously talented. Surely there were more older, experienced painters than this seventeen-year-old, even if she has been painting “ever since she could hold a brush”.  Or was she one of those clever, capable female characters who turns to mush over a handsome man the second they meet? Actually, she certainly was the latter, even if she wasn’t the former.

And yet, at times, there was something about Rook that I really enjoyed. I think it might have been that he subverted a lot of my expectations. In so many books about the other folk, the Fey love interest is cruel and cold and the romance is a pile of problematic trash. Rook was actually vulnerable and awkward at times, and I enjoyed the way his privilege was often addressed. So I guess while he wasn’t the greastest love interest ever, he was better than I was expecting from this type of story, so it gets points for that.

I really enjoyed  the world-building of the fairy realm and I enjoyed the exploration of a life of immortality devoid of feeling. However,  I thought that Isobel’s world of Whimsy was a bit flimsy. I wasn’t quite sure whether it was part of our world, somewhere in between our world and the fairy one, or what was going on. There were references to something called The World Beyond but I wasn’t quite sure if this was our world, an afterlife or something else all together.

Still, despite all of that (and a bit of a deux-ex-machina-y ending that was supposedly being masterminded by another character all along), the writing was quite lyrical and lovely and that was what kept me reading.  Overall, I enjoyed the book, even though it will not go down as a favourite.


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“Every story has four parts – the beginning, the middle, the almost ending, and the true ending.” // Review of “Legendary” by Stephanie Garber

Title: Legendary (Caraval #2)
Author: Stephanie Garber
Genre: 
Fantasy
Target audience: YA
Date Read: 22/10/18 – 2910/18
Rating: 
★★

Review: 

I honestly thought this would be a 4 star read at least, and for the most part it was. It was really only the last few chapters that disappointed me but they left me feeling unsatisfied enough that it brought me overall rating down.

This book picks up pretty much exactly where Caraval leaves off, and follows Tella, who is drawn into a second round of Caraval in order to uphold her end of a deal to find her missing mother. 

I really enjoyed the expansion of this world. We got to see the capital of the country the story takes place in, and I could really picture it. There was also an expansion of the mythology and history, and I really loved how this was woven into the plot, and some of the characters we got to meet as a result. 

Like in the first book, I actually found the game itself a bit dull. The suggestion is that Caraval is usually much more general and it is only the two games described in the book that are tailored to individuals (Scarlett and Tella respectively). Still, it feels a bit of a stretch that so many people would play when there can really only be one winner, since the clues won’t make sense to anyone else. 

I don’t want to give anything away so I’m going to be rather vague about what happened in the end that left me disappointed. It was mostly the revelation of Legend’s identity. It just… didn’t seem epic enough after all the build-up. Some readers will probably find the whole scenario quite romantic, but I just rolled my eyes. 

The very ending was still compelling enough that I want to see the series through, but I can’t say that it is an all-time favourite. 

“I love you, Tella.” “I know. I wouldn’t be here if you didn’t.” // Review of “Caraval” by Stephanie Garber

Title: Caraval (Caraval #1)
Author: Stephanie Garber
Genre: Fantasy
Target audience: Young adult
Date Read: 17/09/18 – 21/09/18
Rating: 
★★

Review:

I decided to pick up this book because I was in a circus mood for quite a while and this seemed an obvious choice. It wasn’t terrible, and I liked a lot of the ideas, but I ultimately felt everything was just a bit underdeveloped.

I’m going to start with the romance because that was probably the thing that stood out the most to me and not in a great way. Mostly because it only took place over five days, and I’m sorry, it’s not true love after a week. I’m not saying you can’t be attracted to someone in that time, but from Julien’s perspective, particularly, it wasn’t enugh time for such strong feelings to develop. And from Scarlett’s perspective, I didn’t buy that he was as important to her as her beloved sister after only a few nights.

Speaking of the characters in more general terms, I didn’t feel like they had a whole lot of personality. I will say I did like Scarlett’s development from doormat to… well, I won’t say she became badass, but she definitely became less doormat-y and grew into her own.

The plot and world-building had similar issues. I just wished everything was a bit… more. A bit more magic, a bit more exploration of the island, a bit more explanation of who Legend was and how and why Caraval was the way it was… There was a line in the last third that said something along the lines of “Scarlett had been collecting buttons since she’d been here” and my first response was “… had she?” Because nothing was memorable.

I also had some issues with the reveals in the final chapter. I know we were supposed to think the character orchestrating everything was terribly clever, but… it seemed far-fetched, and honestly made this character seem like a bit of a psycopath to put Scarlett through it all?

Having said all of that! I actually am still intrigued enough by this world that I am interested in reading the sequel. So make of that what you will.


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#WWW Wednesday – May 02, 2018

 

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.

wwwwednesday

What have you recently finished reading? 

I finished Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie in two days and really loved it… I was a little weirded out by the very last page or two and what goes down then… but I won’t say too much here  because I don’t want to spoil things.

Galax-Arena by Gillian Rubinstein. This was… quite strange. One of those books that seemed to have some interesting ideas but didn’t do enough with them. Also it was really obvious it was written in  the early 90s.

I didn’t review at all in April but I have some reviews scheduled to  go up in the coming days, and I should be back to my usual schedule of Monday and Friday review posts.

What are you currently reading? 

I am listening to the audio bookk Earthly Delights by Kerry Greenwood. This is a cozy mystery set in Melbourne and the main character owns a bakery… I like it enough so far, though the baker is a bit judgey and like Galax-Arena, I can kind of sense this book’s age from some of the language used.

My reading at home book is Lessons in Letting Go: Confessions of a Hoarder by Corinne Grant. Corinne is a well-known Australian comedian and while I haven’t read much of this yet, I already really like her writing style. It’s interesting hearing about a more vulnerable side to her, too.

And my reading at work book is Hero at the Fall by Alwyn Hamilton, which is the final book in the Rebel of the Sands trilogy. I only started it today, and I’m only up to about page 10. I appreciated the cast of characters list at the beginning, since it’s been over a year since I read the last book. That really helped to jog my memory.

What do you think you will read next?

Despite avoiding it for ages because I’m about 90% sure it’s not going to be my thing, I picked up Nevernight by Jay Kristoff when I saw it on display at the library the other day. So I might try that. Or I might pick up either Greythorne or The Iron Line by L. M. Merrington. I went along to her book talk the other day and bought both and they are both currently sitting on a table near my TV tempting me.

What are you reading this week?~ Emily