#AWW2017 #LoveOzYA “What other beautiful things had fear been hiding from her? ” // Review of “A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares” by Krystal Sutherland

Title: A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares
Author: Krystal Sutherland
Genre: contemporary YA/Magical realism
Date Read: 07/09/2017 – 11/09/2017
Rating: ★★★★

Review:

I’m beginning to think that I’m actually a YA contemporary fan, even though I always tend to preface reviews with “I don’t read a lot of contemporary, but…” Some of my favourite reads this year have been YA contemporaries, and this one is added to that list. 

Esther Solar’s family has been cursed by Death, and each family member is going to die from their worst fear. Esther doesn’t know what hers is yet, but when she is reunited with childhood friend, Jonah, they resolve to face each item on her list and see if she can’t get through to the other side.

This book has such a bitteresweet tone, but don’t let the surface fluffiness fool you. This book gets deep. And dark. It does not treat mental illness lightly, but shows how it can tear a family apart. The characters are great, but rather heartbreaking. In addition to mental illness, the book also tackles domestic violence and also pulls no punches there.

I loved the magical realism aspect for the most part. I found Sutherland’s characterisation of Death really fascinating, and the idea of Death being able to fall in love, and die, and be taken by surprise sometimes, I thought was awesome. The fact that it was never clear whether he was really there or whether it was all in Esther’s head worked for the most part, though I might have liked the ending to be a little less ambiguous. There was also a reveal towards the end about Esther’s grandfather’s interactions with Death, which was a reveal to the reader, but not to Esther. Up until that point, though, Esther had been acting as  though she hadn’t been aware of the facts that came to light here, and I felt it was cheating a bit to have her act that way for the sake of narrative convenience.

Still, I found myself getting a little teary at the end and not wanting to let these characters go. They certainly got under my skin.

Trigger warnings: self-harm, suicide, domestic abuse.


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

Find me on:
GoodReads | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Advertisements

#WWW Wednesday – September 13, 2017

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 A Semi-Definitive List of Nightmares by Krystal Sutherland, and it was adorable, bittersweet and heartbreaking. Don’t let the frothy cover and quirky title fool you; this is a really great look at mental illness and how it can affect a family. My review will go up on Friday.

What are you currently reading?

My main read at the moment is The Disappearance of Ember Crow by Ambelin Kwaymullina. I read the first book in this series, The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf, last year and hadn’t really planned on continuing as I felt the first book wrapped up really nicely, but then this and the third book were sitting on the library shelves the other day when I was in there, so I thought why not?

I am also still reading  Frogkisser! by Garth Nix.

What do you think you’ll read next?

I will follow this up with The Foretelling of Georgie Spider, also by Ambelin Kwaymullina. Apparently there were originally going to be four books in the series, but the author realised when writing this one that it was the conclusion.

After that, I really need to get back to my ARC pile.

What are you reading this week? 🙂

~ Emily

 

#WWW Wednesday – September 06, 2017

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 finally finished Miss Muriel Matters by Robert Wainwright! And got the paper written on it, though I checked the course guide again after writing it and I’m not 100% sure I followed the instructions properly. But it’s fine! It’s done! It’s not that it was a terrible book, it’s just I’m not really into biographies. 

I know this will be a bit of an unpopular opinion, but I also DNFed An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir at about 35%. I actually think the narrators of the audio book are partly to blame for this, as they seemed to bring out the characters’ negative aspects more than the positive (Laia was whiny and useless and Elias came across as sleazy) and I just didn’t want to spend another 10 hours with these characters.

What are you currently reading?

I am currently reading Frogkisser! by Garth Nix. It is a cute, somewhat self-aware middle-grade about a Princess who has to go on a Quest. She has to find the ingredients to make a lip balm that she can use to transform her older sister’s ex-boyfriend from a frog back to human. The lip balm renders the true love requirement irrelevant. The writing style is clearly emulating the style of older fairytale books and writers such as Enid Blyton. Like I said, it’s cute at the moment, but has the potential to get annoying.

What do you think you’ll read next?

I posted my prospective until-the-end-of-the-year TBR yesterday. I think my next read will be A Semi-Definitive List of Nightmares by Krystal Sutherland. I attended an author talk about this one last weekend and it sounds really adorable, so I want to get on it stat!

What are you reading this week? 🙂

~ Emily

 

#WWW Wednesday – August 30, 2017

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.

Though first, I wrote a blog post about my weekend spent at the Canberra Writer’s Festival, if anyone is interested. There was so much I didn’t get to, but the sessions I did attend were very inspiring.

wwwwednesday

What have you recently finished reading?

It’s been one of those weeks where I have neither finished nor reviewed anything. Blargh. Lots of things going on, very few of them enjoyable. I did DNF Utopia by Lincoln Child on audio… it wasn’t exactly terrible but it was published in 2002 and for something supposed to be set in the near-future, it didn’t date very well. And more interesting audio books became available.

What are you currently reading?

Still trucking along with Miss Muriel Matters by Robert Wainwright. Light at the end of the tunnel! I am within the last 80 pages. It has been fascinating reading about someone at the heart of the women’s suffrage movement in Britain though. In 1908, Muriel Matters and a fellow suffragist chained themselves to the Grille which separated the Ladies’ Gallery from the House of Commons, and in the raucous, Muriel became the first woman to speak in the House.

I have started An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir on audio. I’m about a quarter of the way through and it’s… fine? I’m not entirely sold on it yet, but I’m not disliking it.  It’s distracting that Laia sounds like “liar” so every time someone says her name, it sounds like they’re accusing her of not telling the truth. I thought it was pronounced like “layer” but apparently not.

What do you think you’ll read next?

I honestly have no idea at this point! Probably something easily digestible. Maybe some of my Writer’s Festival purchases. One of those is short stories, and that would be nice and easy to get through.

What are you reading this week? 🙂

~ Emily

 

#WWW Wednesday – August 23, 2017

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?

 finished the audio book of The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. I really loved how it ended but at the same time, I was reluctant to let go. As I said in my review, there were times throughout where I planned on rating it everything from 3 stars through to 4.5, but I finally went with 4.

I also posted my review of Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh this week. Click here to read it.

What are you currently reading?

I need to pick up my game with Miss Muriel Matters by Robert Wainwright. I just don’t read non-fiction very quickly, but my review of it is due by September 3, which will be here before we know it. And it’s a uni assignment, so I do actually have to have it written by then. There’s just so much other class reading, I’d rather be reading books for my own leisure than also for class!

I have also just started Utopia by Lincoln Child on audio. It has one of the worst covers ever but the story is intriguing. I’m about 10% into it, and so far I have noticed that the author’s ability to describe women and non-white characters leaves a bit to be desired (is “almond-eyed man” really the best you can do? Twice?) but I’m willing to give it a bit longer at this point.

What do you think you’ll read next?

I honestly have no idea at this point! Probably something easily digestible. I have some library books.

What are you reading this week? 🙂

Oooh, also, before I go! Australian readers will be familiar with Book Week, a week sponsored by the Australian Children’s Book Council.  It’s been going for years and one of the features is the annual Book Parade, where kids get to dress up as their favourite book characters. And we got to dress up at work today! I dressed a Offred from  the Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. I knew there was a reason I kept my bonnet from doing The Crucible tucked away for three years. You can see the photos on the National Library of Australia Facebook page

~ Emily

 


P.S.
If you feel so inclined, head on over to my writing blog, Letting the Voices Out, where I’ve shared an excerpt from my current WIP today.

“The entire time she’d watched him … her features had remained serene. A flame in the mist.” // Review of “Flame in the Mist” by Renee Ahdieh

Title: Flame in the Mist
Author: Renee Ahdieh
Genre: YA/Fantasy
Date Read: 06/08/2017 – 15/08/2017
Rating: ★★★

Review:

I don’t really know why this book didn’t impress me more. It ticked all my boxes for what makes a great YA fantasy. It was one of my most highly-anticipated releases this year, so there is a chance I just hyped it up too much in my head, or maybe I am actually still in my reading slump a bit. Either way, while this was enjoyable, it didn’t quite live up to expectations.

Mariko is on her way to be united with her betrothed, the son of the Emperor of Wa, when her convoy is attacked and everyone around her murdered. Certain that this is the work of the Black Clan, she infiltrates their ranks disguised as a boy, intent on finding out who sent them to kill her and why. But the more time she spends with them, the more she realises that there is more the Black Clan than their reputation would suggest, and there is also a lot that her sheltered upbringing has kept her blind to…

I did really love the Japanese-inspired world-building, even if I did have to flick to the back to find out what the Japanese words meant. I felt this was the strongest aspect of the novel. I do believe this shouldn’t have been sold as a Mulan-retelling or even as Mulan-inspired. There are plenty of stories about girls dressing up as boys. The resemblances of Flame in the Mist to Mulan were superficial at best. Why not let a story sell on its own merits rather than comparing it.

The characters were where I got stuck. For a start, I didn’t feel like there was a huge difference between Ranmaru and Okami, and even with the helpful prologue to establish a few things, I got lost trying to remember who/whose father betrayed whom.

Mariko was an interesting character in that she is far from the usual kick-ass babe who usually dominates the “strong female character” role. While I appreciated that, her coolness and rational nature actually made it a bit harder to connect to her. Yes, I realise I’m giving Renee Ahdieh a bit of a damned-if-she-does-damned-if-she-doesn’t situation here, but hey, I’m just describing the reading experience for me. I also found her repeated mantras about not being weak and striking when they least expect it quite repetitive and annoying, and I also didn’t buy a lot of the decisions she made. Maybe that’s why I didn’t connect with her.

That being said, I did really like some of her character development. Particularly towards the end, Mariko realises how sheltered she has been and that her family is not as good and honourable as she had always thought. She also realises that they Black Clan is not as evil as it has been depicted. I do like it when a character can come to those realisations.

I felt the romance was full of tell and little show. I’m actually not a fan of romances where one character falls for the other in spite of everything. As far as Mariko knew, Okami had wanted to kill her. Still wants to. She keeps telling herself that he’s her enemy, but hey, he’s sexy, and that can’t be helped or overlooked? I didn’t think there was any chemistry between them, so all their private thoughts about each other didn’t really do much for me.

I did enjoy the explorations of what it means to be a girl/woman, particularly in societies such as this one. Mariko’s experience is contrasted with that of Yumi, a young maiko (geisha), and Mariko realises that just because she aims for something more, does not mean that every woman will, but that it’s the opportunity that’s important.

This was my first experience of Renee Ahdieh’s writing; I’m yet undecided on whether to read The Wrath and the Dawn. While the writing was good, I don’t feel especially compelled to pick up the sequel when it comes out.


Find me on:
GoodReads | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

#WWW Wednesday – August 16, 2017

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  Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh last night, and have kind of weird feelings about it. I definitely enjoyed parts of it, but at the same time, I never felt really invested in it. Maybe I’m still slightly in my reading slump, or maybe I hyped it up too much to myself, but I felt it was just missing… something. My review will go up on Friday.

I also posted my review of The Space Between by Rachel Sanderson this week. Click here to read it.

What are you currently reading?

I have just started Miss Muriel Matters by Robert Wainwright today. It’s a biography and I don’t usually read a lot of non-fiction, but I have to write a critical review of a biography for a history course I’m doing this semester. I’m only about 30 pages in so far but it’s really interesting!

I am nearly 3/4 of the way through the audio book of The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. I think once I got into it and got used to the narrator, the rhythm of the descriptions started really working for me, though every now and then I get frustrated by certain aspects of it (mostly the plot, or lack thereof)

What do you think you’ll read next?

I thought I might go back to The Ship From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig and see if I can get into it enough to finish it. The love story was overpowering the time travel and I wasn’t terribly interested, but I think they were just going off to a mythical country when I put it aside, so maybe it will pick up.

What are you reading this week? 🙂~ Emily

 


P.S.
If you feel so inclined, head on over to my writing blog, Letting the Voices Out, where I’ve shared an excerpt from my current WIP today.

#AWW2017 “How could she be so close, almost here, and completely out of my reach?” // Review of “The Space Between” by Rachel Sanderson

Title: The Space Between
Author: Rachel Sanderson
Genre: YA/Contemporary/Drama
Date Read: 05/08/2017 – 06/08/2017
Rating: ★★★★

Review:

Somehow, despite being in the same writing group as Rachel Sanderson for the past five years, I’ve never really sampled much of her writing until this year. I was so excited when she announced that she had published The Space Between, and grabbed myself a copy straight away. I’m glad to say I really enjoyed reading it; it’s a fantastic YA page-turner.

What should be a regular weekend away camping turns into a nightmare when Erica’s best friend, Daina, goes missing. Coming to terms with Daina’s loss also means coming to terms with the fact that she didn’t know all there was to know about her best friend, as well as trying to navigate messy relationships with both family and friends in the wake of tragedy.

The atmosphere in this book was what struck me the most. There’s a real rawness underneath everything. When Erica ached, I ached. I really felt under her skin. She did sometimes make decisions that I raised my eyebrows at and didn’t really support, but her actions were no more outlandish than a lot of other YA characters’, so it didn’t irk me too much. And they did help to move the plot forward, so there was that.

The writing style is fantastic, and very readable. The pacing is good throughout and I found the book hard to put down.  The set-ups for later revelations about Daina, Erica and their families were done well so when those revelations came about, they made a lot of sense without the story feeling predictable. There were a few moments towards the end where I felt myself tearing up a little; as I said, I felt really close to Erica and really had a sense of her loss.

While I don’t read a huge amount of contemporary YA, this is one I would definitely recommend (and not just because I know the author either 😉 )


This review forms part of the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge for 2017. Click here for more information.

Find me on:
GoodReads | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

#WWW Wednesday – August 9, 2017

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 got myself out of my reading slump and finished two books this week! Yay! I pushed through Daughter of the  Burning City by Amanda Foody, despite wanting to DNF if a couple of times. My reading slump suddenly disappeared about 3/4 of the way through it and I was able to review it properly. I reviewed it here.

After that, I finished The Space Between by my friend and writing buddy Rachel Sanderson in two days. This was a really great contemporary YA drama that I found hard to put down. It was shortlisted for the 2016 Ampersand Prize, which is a big Australian YA/MG prize, but after a year of submissions and some (albeit very nice) rejections, Rachel recently decided to publish it herself. My review will go up on Friday, but if you like this sort of thing, I recommend checking it out!

What are you currently reading?

I’ve started Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh, which is one of my most anticipated reads this year. I’ve only about a quarter of the way through it at this point, but it’s a solid read and I’m enjoying it. The only thing that’s mildly annoying me so far is the fairly frequent use of Japanese words, which helps with the world-building a bit, but also requires constant flipping to the glossary.

I also recently started the audio book of The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, though I am not entirely sold on it yet. I’m not sure the narrator really fits the story and I’m also not sure the story really lends itself to an audio book with so much jumping around in time… so I will see how I go. I did actually DNF this back in 2012, so it could just be a case of it not being for me.

What do you think you’ll read next?

I’m only reading Flame in the Mist already because when there’s a queue for a book at my local library, you can’t renew it, so I only have it for two weeks. Once I’ve finished it, I have to put the rest of my recent library haul aside and read Miss Muriel Matters by Robert Wainwright. This is a biography of an Australian actress who became a prominent figure in the women’s suffrage movement in the UK, then faded into obscurity and is now basically forgotten. I’m doing a uni course on biography this semester and have to read one and write a critical review. That’s due on September 3, so I need to start reading soon to give myself plenty of time.

What are you reading this week? 🙂~ Emily

 


P.S.
If you feel so inclined, head on over to my writing blog, Letting the Voices Out, where I’ve shared an excerpt from my current WIP today.

“But you’re an illusion. I created you.” “That doesn’t mean I’m not real.” // Review of “Daughter of the Burning City” by Amanda Foody

Title: Daughter of the Burning City
Author: Amanda Foody
Genre: YA/Fantasy
Date Read: 28/03/2017 – 06/06/2017
Rating: ★★

Review:

So it’s not this book’s fault that I was in a reading slump at the time I was reading it and that probably contributed to my rating. There were some genuinely good parts once the plot got going, but I did feel it spent quite a bit of time wandering without much happening.

Daughter of the Burning City tells the story of Sorina, an illusion-worker whose only real family are the illusions she creates. She knows that they’re not real, though… at least, so she thought, until one of them is murdered. But how do you kill something that never really existed in the first place?

For a while, the investigations seemed to be taking forever and nothing was happening. I’ve read a few reviews that claimed the romance never got in the way of the plot, but I would have to disagree. Quite a bit of focus was given to Sorina’s burgeoning crush on Luca, a boy who it is impossible to kill. I did find it interesting that Amanda Foody sought to include elements of demisexuality, though I didn’t really think that Sorina and Luca had known each other long enough when their romance took off for this to be an accurate representation (though I am pretty uninformed on this topic, so take my words with a grain of salt).

I also felt that the style of language clashed with the setting and tone of the book a bit. The book is written in first person and Sorina read more like the heroine of an punchy urban fantasy, rather than something closer to high fantasy.

The world-building was really interesting, though I felt there was a lot of potential that wasn’t fleshed out properly. A lot of the time, I couldn’t quite get my head around exactly how the city-sized carnival of Gomorrah managed to continue existing, how it moved, and how the different magic systems within it managed to operate.

The plot did pick up in the last third and I found myself on the edge of my seat waiting for the killer’s identity to be revealed. It was just a shame that it took a little while to get to that point.


(Thank you to the publishers and NetGalley for supplying me with a free copy of this book in exchange for a review)

Find me on:
GoodReads | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram