#AusReads “You will not recognise me, she thinks, when I find you…” // Review of “The Mother Fault” by Kate Mildenhall

Title: The Mother Fault
Author: Kate Mildenhall
Audio book narrator: Claudia Karvan
Genre: Dystopian/literary fiction
Intended audience: Adult
Date Read: 25/09/22 – 05/11/22
Rating: 
★★

Review: 

Oh man. This book frustrated me to no end. I ended up switching from audio book to physical about halfway through because I was finding it slow-going and I needed to move things along.

I know there’s that whole conversation about how female characters are held to impossible standards and we should all get behind unlikeable female characters because sometimes that’s how the world is (or something… I’m not very eloquent I know). But I just couldn’t stand Mim at all.

I understood that this was supposed to be an examination of the way women can lose parts of their pre-motherhood identities once they have kids. I don’t know if this would hit differently if I was a parent and had shared some of these experiences. As it was, Mim was just awful.

She puts not only herself, but her kids, her wider family and pretty much everyone else she comes into contact with in danger. She gets pissy at people when things go wrong, even though it’s mostly down to her poor judgement that they are in the bad situations to begin with. She feels guilty a lot of the time, but that never quite equates with taking any responsibility.

And the ending? I don’t want to say anything too spoilery, but I felt it basically cancelled out the entire story that came before it. Why did the characters even bother?

So why two stars rather than one, given how cranky I sound in all the above? Well, it was easy to read and despite my issues, I did fly through the pages once I had moved on to the phsyical book. (Was I rage-reading? Maybe I was rage-reading.) I suspect that I might actually enjoy Kate Mildenhall’s first book, which is historical fiction, a lot more.


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#AusReads Book Review: “The Eighth Wonder” by Tania Farrelly

Title: The Eighth Wonder
Author: Tania Farrelly
Audio book narrator: Annabelle Stephenson, Leinad Walker
Genre: Historical fiction
Intended audience: Adult
Date Read: 07/10/22 – 03/11/22
Rating: 
★★★

Review: 

This is one of those books that leaves me wringing my hands a bit as I try to review it. It’s fine. The writing is good. The characters are interesting. The setting is immersive. And yet, for whatever reason, the best I can do is damn it with faint praise and say I guess I enjoyed it.

I think my main problem here was that for so long I couldn’t really tell where the story was going. Things happened to the characters, but there seemed to be little set-up and little payoff later. Things just happened.

The two main character don’t even really meet until more than halfway through (though there had been a couple of encounters prior to that). For a while, I wasn’t sure whether an entirely different character was supposed to be the love interest! (Though he seemed unlikely).

While things did come together somewhat at the end, this wasn’t quite as satisfying as I had hoped.

Like I said, the writing in and of itself is very good, especially for a debut. Farrelly has clearly done her research into Golden Age New York City. I could picture the different parts of the city clearly as the characters travelled around.

I do have to warn for scenes of animal cruelty – one of the main characters adopts animals that have been abused by the entertainment industry, and some scenes of that cruelty are depicted.

I know a lot of my feelings about this book ultimately come down to personal preference. And I know many others have really enjoyed it. If you’re a fan of historical fiction, I would say it’s one to check out.


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October 2022 Reading Wrap-up

An emoji of two books next to each other, with the text "Monthly Reading Wrap-up"

The eagle-eyed among you will have seen that I started reviewing again this month! Some of the busy-ness I’ve had going on for the past few months has finally settled down, letting me get back to fun things I’ve had to ignore for a while.

PAST MONTHS’ READING HIGHLIGHTS:

Five book covers in a row - the Coming of the Fairies by Arthur Conan Doyle, The House in the Woods by Yvette Fielding, Witchnapped in Westerham by Dionne Lester, The Man in the Brown Suit by Agatha Christie and Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas.

  1. A Remarkable Woman by Jules van Mil (historical fiction – 3 stars – review) (read June, reviewed October)
  2. Malice by Pintup Dunn (YA sci-fi/romance – 3.5 stars – review) (read September, reviewed October)
  3. The Coming of the Fairies by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (non-fiction – unrated)
  4. The House in the Woods by Yvette Fielding (MG horror – 2 stars)
  5. Witchnapped in Westerham by Dionne Lester (urban fantasy/cozy mystery – 2 stars – review)
  6. The Man in the Brown Suit by Agatha Christie (mystery/adventure – 3 stars)
  7. Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas (YA fantasy/romance – 3.5 stars – review)

I’m skipping the usual Booktube and Bookstagram sections on this post. To be honest, I haven’t been terribly active on either, especially Booktube. That’s something I don’t think I’ll get back to until 2023, and I’m okay with that!

CURRENTLY READING:

The cover of The Untold Story by Genevieve Cogman. The background is made to look like dark blue suede, with the title and decorations in the corners like silver filigree.

Physical book: Nothing at the moment.

Ebook: The Untold Story by Genevieve Cogman. This is the eighth and final book in the Invisible Library series. I’ve enjoyed this series enough to want to see it through, though I have to admit the first three books were the strongest. Still, it’s good to complete a series (within a year, no less!) and tick it off the list!

Audio book: The Eighth Wonder by Tania Farrelly. This is a historical fiction that I am enjoying, though now that I am not driving for an hour every day due a commitment wrapping up, I have to admit that my inclination to listen to the last few hours has been low. I’ll endeavour to finish it soon, though, before it returned itself on the library app!

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PLANNING TO READ NEXT:

The cover of The Mother Fault by Kate Mildenhall. The title is laid over an abstract patch of colours, possibly a scarf crumpled up in a pile. It is hard to tell exactly what the image is.

I’ll be finishing The Mother Fault by Kate Mildenhall. I started this as an audio book but I have now got the paperback out from the library to finish it, as I was getting a bit bored with the audio version.

Hopefully, I’ll manage that before I head off travelling in mid-November. For the next little while, it’ll be e-books only. It’ll be good to clear my Kindle backlog a bit!

What are you reading? 🙂

“You don’t need anyone’s permission to be you, Yads.” // Review of “Cemetery Boys” by Aiden Thomas

Title: Cemetery Boys
Author: Aiden Thomas
Genre: Fantasy/romance
Intended audience: YA
Date Read: 19/10/2022 – 26/10/2022
Rating: 
★★★☆

Review: 

This book has been on my TBR ever since it came out and I actually bought it last year in my pile of “buy books during lockdown to support the bookshops!” spree. And then it’s taken me this long to get around to it, as per usual.

The plot of Cemetery Boys sadly underwhelmed me. It was quite slow-moving, and really only became gripping in the last 50 pages.

Having said that, the characters were charming and really drove it. I really enjoyed how Yadriel and Julian’s relationship developed, and the stark contrast between introverted good boy Yadriel and the more outgoing Jules.

It was delightful seeing Yadriel’s family as they prepared for Dia de Muertes, and painful to see the way they unintentionally hurt Yadriel when they misgendered him or otherwise didn’t recognise his true identity.

I got a bit teary at the end when the ghosts of Brujx past visited for Dia de Muertes and we saw just how unconditionally his mother accepted him. That was beautiful.

And on the other side of things, we had Julian’s older brother and friends, with their disparate origins but their fierce loyalty to one another.

Where it fell down for me was the plot. We have at least one dead body from the end of Chapter One, and more to come, but they mystery of how these people died seemed almost secondary. The last fifty pages or so were action-packed, but it felt a little off-balance with the rest of the book. Before that, things moved so slowly, even though the story actually only takes place over a few days. 150 pages in, I felt like very little had happened.

There’s nothing wrong with character-driven stories, of course, but this promised a bit more than that, and then didn’t deliver as well as it might have. Still, this was a debut, and I’m keen to check out Aiden Thomas’ second novel, Lost in the Never Woods, which was another of my lockdown purchases!


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#AusReads Book Review: “Witchnapped in Westerham” by Dionne Lister

Title: Witchnapped in Westerham (Paranormal Investigation Bureau #1)
Author: Dionne Lister
Genre: Urban fantasy/cosy mystery
Intended audience: Adult
Date Read: 10/10/2022 – 16/10/2022
Rating: 
★★

Review: 

Honestly? If I hadn’t been reading this for a readathon I’m already behind on, I don’t know that I would have finished it.

I will say one thing – I liked the concept of Lily being able to see the past or the future through her photography. That was cool and I liked that it was tied in with her passion.

The characters were annoying and for so long it felt like little was happening. Some character motivations seemed non-existent – such as Angelica making really snooty, snide comments one moment and then swearing that Lily can trust her the next?

Also I had to go back to the book and look up Angelica’s name because I had entirely forgotten, despite the fact that I finished reading half an hour ago. Oops.

Lily is also pretty self-absorbed. I get that her brother’s missing and she’s worried – but literally risking getting shot because she wants a cup of coffee and instant isn’t good enough? I appreciated she got dressed down for that and then I was kind of annoyed when one of the other characters went and got her a coffee anyway.

The villain was so over the top and so cartoonish – not to mention obvious. It wasn’t even that it was obvious to the reader and not to the characters – Lily had accurately figured it out by the halfway mark – she just needed proof, and apart from a couple of setbacks, gets it pretty easily.

Oof. I didn’t intend to get so ranty in this review. I will say that I didn’t realise how established this series was and I only downloaded the book because it was free. I didn’t enjoy it enough to continue with the rest of the books.


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Book Review – “Malice” by Pintip Dunn

Title: Malice
Author: Pintip Dunn
Genre: Sci-fi/romance
Intended audience: YA
Date Read: 25/09/2022 – 27/09/2022
Rating: 
★★★☆

Review: 

This was a random library pick based entirely on the cover, and I have to say, I enjoyed it!

I really liked the way the time travel was conceptualised. A consciousness being able to travel back to its past self was a really nifty idea!

Having said that, it did seem a bit silly that so much information was withheld from Alice on the basis of “Even the smallest amount of foreknowledge can change the future” when she was literally being asked to kill someone to prevent a world-ending catastrophe before it happened.

As for the characters, I was conflicted by how quickly Alice accepted the time travel – on the one hand, it was super-fast! But on the other hand, it would have slowed down the story to have her come around at a more realistic pace.

The love interest is Thai, like the author, and it was cool to get a little bit of his cultural background peppered into the story. The romance developed maybe a bit quickly for my tastes but I liked the way it was handled at the end. Damn that time travel messing things up for the characters!

The villain’s motivations felt a little cartoonish in the future compared to how we see them in the present-day setting. It was a little hard to reconcile the two versions, but I liked that the time travel didn’t create an insta-fix, and that the characters would all still have to work together going forward to make sure the world didn’t end.

The writing was engaging and I found myself looking forward to picking the book up when I wasn’t reading it. This is my first read by Pintip Dunn and I’m intrigued to check out more of her writing.


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#AusReads Book Review: “A Remarkable Woman” by Jules van Mil

Title: A Remarkable Woman
Author: Jules van Mil
Genre: Historical fiction
Intended audience: Adult
Date Read: 20/06/22 – 27/06/22
Rating: 
★★★

Review: 

A Remarkable Woman takes us from war-torn Paris to the trendy streets of 1950s Melbourne and the rolling paddocks of far-north Queensland cattle country. We follow aspiring designer Avril Montdidier as she struggles to choose between her dreams of independence and a man she can’t let go of.

If I am honest, I felt that the writing could have been developed further to give the reader a closer connection to the characters. It started strong – I was actually tearing up in the prologue! But as the book went on, I sometimes felt that I was observing from a distance rather than being in the action. Having said that, van Mil has created a memorable cast of characters, from the stoic stockman to the loveable larrikin.

I will admit that the romance was not as interesting to me as the plotline of Avril developing her own clothing line and opening her stores for business, first in Melbourne, then Sydney and Brisbane. I was much more swept up in the excitement of seeing all her plans come to fruition than I was in the relationship between her and Tim Monaghan.

That’s not to say that there was anything wrong with the romance. I think my issue was that because Avril and Tim ultimately spent so much time apart, I didn’t really feel the spark.

I know a lot of my feelings about the book came down to personal preference, and I think those who are fans of the sweeping saga style of historical fiction will really love it.  


Thank you Macmillan Australia and the Australian Book Lovers Podcast for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for a review.

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July-September 2022 Reading Wrap-up

An emoji of two books next to each other, with the text "Monthly Reading Wrap-up"

I’ve got to be honest, when I opened up A Keyboard and an Open Mind to check how long it had been since my last post, I was surprised it had only been three months. In those three months, I’ve been in rehearsals for a production of HMS Pinafore, had COVID, had another non-COVID bad cold thing, finished booking a trip to Europe, and managed to continue at my day job despite our team being rather depleted at the moment (long story).

Often it’s felt like I haven’t been reading much, but in those three months, I’ve read another nineteen books, bringing my total for the year to forty-one. These nineteen books have all been three or four star reads – nothing terrible but also nothing really stand-out. I’m hoping for a five-star read soon!

I’ll just post the highlights below, but you can see the full list on my GoodReads 2022 Challenge Page.

PAST MONTHS’ READING HIGHLIGHTS:

  1. The Ghosts of Paris by Tara Moss (historical fiction – 4 stars)
  2. The Kingdom of Back by Marie Lu (historical fantasy – 4 stars)
  3. All Systems Red by Martha Wells (sci-fi – 4 stars)
  4. This Is Not a Ghost Story by Andrea Portes (YA horror – 3.5 stars)
  5. Malice by Pintip Dunn (YA sci-fi – 3.5 stars)

In the interests of not fiddling around with this post forever, I’m skipping the usual Booktube and Bookstagram sections! To be honest, I haven’t been terribly active on either, especially Booktube. That’s something I don’t think I’ll get back to until 2023, and I’m okay with that!

CURRENTLY READING:

Physical book: Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. Moreno-Garcia is an insta-buy author for me. Her books are all very different and I don’t always enjoy them but I love reading her takes on the horror genre mixed with aspects of her Mexican heritage.

Ebook: Nothing at the moment.

Audio book: The Mother Fault by Kate Mildenhall. This is an Australian near-future thriller and it’s quite slow, but I’m interested to see where it goes.

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PLANNING TO READ NEXT:

It will likely be Incendiary by Zoraida Cordova. I’ve had this on my shelf for a long time, and it fit one of the prompts for October’s Whodunitathon perfectly!

What are you reading? 🙂

June 2022 Reading Wrap-up

An emoji of two books next to each other, with the text "Monthly Reading Wrap-up"

Ooof, it is nice to feel like I’m back into regular reading patterns again. It’s only taken… six months. Even with it taking me a week to get through one novel in June, I still had a total of seven. While I am still trying not to treat reading as a numbers game, it’s still nice to feel like I’m back to my old self.

PAST MONTH’S READING:

The covers of Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero, The ABC Murders by Agatha Christie, A Spindle Splintered by Alix E. Harrow and Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo.

  1. Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero (horror – 2.5 stars)
  2. The ABC Murders by Agatha Christie (mystery – 4 stars)
  3. A Spindle Splintered by Alix E. Harrow (fantasy/retelling – 3 stars)
  4. Crooked Kingdom (Six of Crows #2) by Leigh Bardugo (fantasy – 4 stars)
  5. The Eleventh Doctor Tales by various authors (sci-fi/media tie-in – 4 stars)
  6. House of Salt and Sorrow by Erin A. Craig (YA fantasy – 4 stars)
  7. A Remarkable Woman by Jules van Mil (historical fiction – 3 stars)
The covers of The Eleventh Doctor Tales by various authors, A House of Salt and Sorrow by Erin A. Craig and A Remarkable Woman by Jules van Mil.

BOOKTUBE:

I have a YouTube channel where I promote Australian books using the hashtag #AusReads, and also indulge my compulsion for signing up to readathons. Here are the latest videos:

  1. Jurassic Journey Readathon TBR

BOOKSTAGRAM:

That heading has always said “favourite bookish photo” in the past, but recently I’ve been branching out into Reels rather than photos. So now this section can be for either and I’ll post whatever type of content I’ve enjoyed most during the month.

A stack of books, from bottom to top:
Goblin by Josh Malerman
the Gulp by Alan Baxter
A Spindle Splintered by Alix E. Harrow
In the Skin of a Monster by Kathryn Barker
The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell

You can see all my bookish content (plus some RL as well) on my Instagram.

CURRENTLY READING:

The cover of The Ghosts of Paris by Tara Moss.  A white woman in a red coat with the collar turned up looks over at a river. the Eiffel Tower is visible in the background.

Physical book: By the time I’m writing this, we’re already a week into July and I’ve finished two more books. However, I’m planning to start The Ghosts of Paris by Tara Moss today. I really enjoyed the first Billie Walker book and I’m keen to dive into this one.

Ebook: Nothing at the moment.

Audio book: Nothing at the moment.

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PLANNING TO READ NEXT:

The cover of The Ruby's Curse by Alex Kingston. It has a Doctor Who logo at the top, and the title is laid over an image of the character River Song in profile, with a coat collar pulled up around her chin.

I only went to the library the other afternoon to use the bathroom, but when I walked past The Ruby’s Curse by Alex Kingston and Jane Raynor on one of the display shelves, I simply couldn’t resist. I’ve been feeling very nostalgic for Doctor Who lately and reading quite a lot of the books. This is such a beautiful hardcover. I keep just picking it up. I hope the content lives up to expectations!

What are you reading? 🙂

April and May 2022 Reading Wrap-up

An emoji of two books next to each other, with the text "Monthly Reading Wrap-up"

Where’d you go, Emily?” I hear you ask. “I thought you had plans to enliven this blog again!”

Okay, maybe no one is asking that, but I’ll answer anyway. My stated plans to enliven this blog were rather dashed just after Easter when we noticed wet carpet in our living room. Long story short, while the issue could have been fixed (in our humble opinions), we ended up in the very stressful situation of having to find a new rental property instead, in a very short space of time. Let’s just say I don’t have much time for property management after this experience.

Fortunately, we have had very good luck and we are now somewhat settled in a new place, though the living room is still virtually uninhabitable due to being populated by full moving boxes.

I don’t want to jinx it, but I think coming into June, I have finally blasted the reading slump I was in, and I’ll be reading a lot more going forward. In the meantime, here’s what I’ve been up to over the past couple of months.

PAST MONTH’S READING:

  1. Doctor Who: Twelve Angels Weeping by Dave Rudden (sci-fi/short stories – 4 stars)
  2. Waking Romeo by Kathryn Barker YA sci-fi/romance – 5 stars)
  3. The Mortal Word (the Invisible Library #5) by Genevieve Cogman (fantasy – 3 stars)
  4. The Secret Chapter (the Invisible Library #6) by Genevieve Cogman (fantasy – 3 stars)
  5. The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch (fantasy – 4 stars)

BOOKTUBE:

I have a YouTube channel where I promote Australian books using the hashtag #AusReads, and also indulge my compulsion for signing up to readathons. Here are the latest videos:

  1. Jurassic Journey Readathon TBR

BOOKSTAGRAM:

That heading has always said “favourite bookish photo” in the past, but recently I’ve been branching out into Reels rather than photos. So now this section can be for either and I’ll post whatever type of content I’ve enjoyed most during the month.

You can see all my bookish content (plus some RL as well) on my Instagram.

CURRENTLY READING:

Physical book: Nothing right now.

Ebook: The ABC Murders by Agatha Christie. My book club has chosen this as our next read and I am enjoying it thoroughly, though I’m only about 50 pages in so far.

Audio book: I am finally reading Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo, and I wish I had listened to Six of Crows as well, as I think I would have enjoyed it more that way. Each POV character has their own voice actor and it really adds to the experience. Having said that, I’m almost at the 70% mark and feeling rather confused about Kaz’s big plan.

PLANNING TO READ NEXT:

After Waking Romeo became my first five star read of the year, I immediately grabbed In the Skin of a Monster by Kathryn Barker from the library. I’m planning to read this one over the weekend and I hope it’s as good as its successor!

What are you reading? 🙂