Book Review: “A Summer Escape and Strawberry Cake at the Cosy Kettle” by Liz Eeles

Title: A Summer Escape and Strawberry Cake at the Cosy Kettle
Author: Liz Eeles
Genre: Contemporary romance
Target audience: Adult
Date Read: 14/06/19 – 16/06/19
Rating:
★★☆

Review:

This book was sweet and cosy, just like the title suggests. This was exactly what

When Flora discovers her restauranteur husband in a passionate embrace with one of his waitresses, her world starts to fall apart. She turns to the bookshop and cafe she manages in the village of Honeyford, including a New Age eccentric called Luna, and Luna’s son Daniel and grandson, Caleb. At first, things seem to be getting off on the wrong foot, but soon Flora finds that she is discovering sides to herself that she never knew existed.

This did take a little while to get going. For the first third of the book, the conflict was all a bit superficial. Malcolm, Flora’s husband, showed up a few times and made things awkward or difficult, and quite a lot of the conflict in the book was “Oh, I don’t know whether to leave Malcolm for good or not!” which became a bit repetitive after a while.

There is a bookish mystery going on through a lot of the book as well (again, this got a little repetitive, particularly as I had predicted the outcome pretty early on). I have to say I did find this whole plotline a little unlikely – the idea that a self-published book that seemingly was just thrown onto the Internet in its first draft form could be so perfect and universally adored by every woman in town… hmm.

Some of the characters did seem a bit over-the-top, such as Stanely, who at 80 has decided to live life to the fullest, and embrace extreme sports. But I did like some of the other characters, such as Luna. Yes, she aws a bit of a hippy, but she meant well and really looked after Flora.

I enjoyed how Flora came to care for Caleb, despite not being a kids person. I thought the misunderstandings between her and Daniel, particularly when it came to Caleb, were quite well done. She didn’t know what she was doing and made some mistakes, but Daniel was able to see that Caleb did care for Flora as well. I have to admit I didn’t really feel like there were ever sparks flying between Flora and Daniel. Obviously, I could see the direction the book was going to take, but their feelings developed maybe a little too slowly/subtly.

Still, this story of finding love and finding yourself in a small town community was a fun read, and sometimes that’s just what you need.


(Thank you to the publishers and NetGalley for a free copy of this book  in exchange for an honest review)

Find me on:
GoodReads | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

“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.


Find me on:
GoodReads | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

#AWW2019 “YES is a fine life policy to consider. Just tell a friend where you’re headed, and be choosy.” // Review of “Get the Girls Out” by Lucy Bloom

Title: Get the Girls Out
Author: Lucy Bloom
Genre: Memoir
Target audience: Adult
Date Read:
03/06/19 – 14/06/19
Rating:
★★★

Review:

I want to preface this review with a quick story about Lucy Bloom. A couple of years ao, she gave a talk at my workplace. I can’t even remember the topic. Maybe it was Women in Leadership or something? Anyway, it was very inspiring and I wrote down a lot of quotes like “Fear should never stop you having an adventurous life”.

It also actually gave me the last push I needed to request the info pack, and eventually register, for the UN Women Trek for Rights in Nepal, and thus I found myself hiking through the Annapurna region in the pouring rain and the mud in April 2018. Thanks, Lucy. 😛

I happened to email Lucy later that day about something else she had said in her talk, and mentioned the Nepal trip. Her response was so enthusiastic, with a capslock “WHOOO YOU’RE GOING TO NEPAL” (I had  only requested the info pack at this point but she was sure already) followed by “Drag me into your fundraising!” Me, the random person she had never met before who had sent her a single email. I never did drag her into my fundraising (though I raised $5500 regardless) but I have no doubt that if I had approached her, she would have thrown herself behind it because she is that kind of person.

Okay, so maybe that story wasn’t so quick but I wanted to give you an idea of why I was so keen to read this memoir when I saw a staff recommendation on my local library’s Facebook page.

A lot of this memoir is about the last four or five years of Lucy’s life. In 2015, she was fired from her job as the CEO of a high-profile charity, and soon after, her husband of twenty years asked hehr for  a divorce. While this tore her apart, it also gve her the opportunity to pursue opportunities and a side of herself that she may never have otherwise, instead always bowing to obligation.

Lucy is incredibly gutsy and that really comes through in this book. She writes in a really conversational way; you feel a bit like you’ve been friends with her for years and you’re sitting around a table on her back porch with a drink while she tells you these stories from her life.

The only problem I found with this was sometimes we’d be in the middle of one story and the narrative would go off onto something else entirely… only to come back around to the original point at the end of the section. It is definitely a memoir in terms of organisation, with chapters based around themes of attributes that Lucy aspires to, rather than an autobiography with a linear story.

Much like Lucy’s talk which I went to a few years ago, picking up this book may inspire you to the next adventure in your life. I encourage you to check it out!


This review is part of my 2019 Australian Women Writers Challenge. Click here for more information.

Find me on:
GoodReads | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

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? 🙂

May 2019 Reading Wrap-up

Does anyone else feel like May dragged on forever or was that just me? With everything I had going on, you’d think it would have sped past, but I feel like that actually made it slower.

Past Month’s Reading:

That being said, I managed another 8 books this month! At this rate, I am slightly behind my goal of 100 books in 2019, but I will come pretty darn close!

    1. P is for Pearl by Eliza Henry Jones (YA contemporary – 4 stars – review) (read April, reviewed May)
    2. The Things That Will Not Stand by Michael Gerard Bauer (YA contemporary – 3.5 stars – review)
    3. Lucid by Kristy Fairlamb (YA paranornal – 3 stars – review)
    4. Enchantee by Gita Trelease (YA historical fantasy – 3 stars – review)
    5. His Name Was Walter by Emily Rodda (YA fantasy – 4 stars – review)
    6. Emily the Strange: The Lost Days by Rob Reger (YA fantasy – 3 stars – not planning to review)
    7. The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone by Jaclyn Moriarty (MG fantasy – 3 stars – review)
    8. The Red Labyrinth by Meredith Tate (YA dystopia/fantasy – 4 stars – review)
    9. The Toymakers by Robert Dinsdale (magical realism – 4 stars – review forthcoming)

 

Booktube:

I have a BookTube Channel where I talk about Australian books. I only got one video posted this month, though I intend to get a bit more on top of it in the coming weeks. 

Favourite Bookish Photo:

Hey look, I used a prop! This was a beautiful, bittersweet book. I’ve read a few dud historical fantasies this year so I was really glad to find one that worked for me.

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

Currently Reading:

Physical book: I have just started Lenny’s Book of Everything by Karen Foxlee. I am prepared to have a lot of feels over this one.

Ebook: Nothing at the moment, though I have a few upcoming ARCs that I’ll be starting soon. 

Audio book: I am about a third of the way through The Diviners by Libba Bray, which involves the paranormal and an string of occult/ritual murders, and it’s set in 1920s New York City. It’s great!

Planning to read next:

I’m going to pick up Get The Girls Out by Lucy Bloom. I’ve been to one of Lucy Bloom’s talks and she is very inspiring, so I’m looking forward to reading her memoir.

What are you reading? 🙂

“I am brave. I am strong. And I am not afraid.” // Review of “The Red Labyrinth” by Meredith Tate

Title: The Red Labyrinth
Author: Meredith tate
Genre:  Dystopian/fantasy
Intended audience: YA
Date Read: 25/05/19 – 28/05/19
Rating: ★★★★

Review:

I really enjoyed this! I wasn’t sure if I’d be in the mood for it, since I’d been reading a lot of MG and YA, and I felt like maybe I needed to go and read some adult fiction for a while. But this was really engaging… and that ending! Can only hope there will be a book two!

I really felt for the main character, Zadie. She’s had a lot of trauma, and while it was hard to read, it never felt gratuitous. It made a lot of sense within the world that Tate has set up. There were a few occasions where she made (or almost made) some stupid decisions – I could forgive it the first couple of times, but once she knew the labyrinth was out to get her, I expected her to be a bit more sensible. And a lot of the time, she was rather reactionary, and someone else needed to save her. At times this was frustrating, but it was actually part of her character development as well. As she grew into herself and realised there were parts of her that no one could take away, she took charge of her destiny.

I suspected that the there would be more to the character of Dex than initially met the eye and I was right. I really liked learning more about him as the book went on.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect with Landon… it seemed that he was going to be a rather tropey YA love interest but… then he wasn’t. I don’t want to give much away but just know that Part Three was something I didn’t see coming, but it was really there all along. I came to a dozen realisations along with Zadie (and seeing her character growth in this section was really satisfying).

It does end on a cliffhanger so I will definitely be looking out for book two! The developments in the final act of this book leave room for so much to go down and I really want to see it play out!


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

Find me on:
GoodReads | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

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? 🙂

#AWW2019 “I was ten years old when my parents were killed by pirates.” // Review of “The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone” by Jaclyn Moriarty

Title: The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone
Author: Jaclyn Moriarty
Genre: Fantasy
Target audience: MG
Date Read: 13/05/19 – 21/05/19
Rating:
★★☆

Review:

I read this book at the end of a long streak of MG and YA reads, thanks to a self-imposted challenge, and I suspect that might be why I didn’t love it quite as much as I’d hoped. I was needing a change of pace and not quite ready to give it to myself.

But here we are.

Actually, when I started out, I was completely in love with the style of this book. It has vibes of Nevermoor by fellow Aussie writer Jessica Townsend. It’s whimsical and charming without being silly. Unfortunately, for me personally, the novelty wore thin after a while.

I did really love the world of the Kingdoms and Empires. It is some kind of fantastical early twentieth century mishmash. Some people seem to live in a world closer to that of our 1900, while otherse have contraptions closer to those of the 1950s (like refrigerators). It’s actually kind of hard to explain.

There are a lot of characters, which made it hard to keep track of sometimes. The plot relies on Bronte travelling to her ten aunts delivering them gifts from her dead parents, and after a while, I had trouble keeping the aunts and their families straight.  As an adult reader, I know I am not this book’s target audience, so when I say I thought things were solved a bit too easily, that is something that may well not apply to younger readers. Ditto the fact that I saw some of the twists coming. It is a charming adventure story that I think that younger age group will really enjoy .


This review is part of my 2019 Australian Women Writers Challenge. Click here for more information.

Find me on:
GoodReads | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

WWW Wednesday – 22 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 listening to Emily the Strange: the Lost Days by Rob Reger not long after Wednesday’s WWW. It was amusing, but very bizarre. I’m still not sure what it was actually about. Due to my confusion, I’m not planning to write a proper review of this one.

I finished The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone by Jaclyn Moriarty about an hour ago. It was sweet but sort of wore thin after a while… the cutesy, whimsical style didn’t really work when there were nearly 500 pages. I’ll  have a review up soon.

Two reviews this week: His Name Was Walter by Emily Rodda and Enchantee by Gita Trelease.

What are you currently reading?

I started The Toymakers by Robert Dinsdale because That. Cover. Some of the reviews are comparing it to The Night Circus and I can see why. I actually started the audio book first but the narrator’s voice was annoying me so I switched to the ebook. But I really like the magical descriptions of Papa Jack’s Emporium so far.

What do you think you will read next?

I don’t really know what I’m in the mood for at the moment, but I just realised that The Red Labyrinth by Meredith Tate comes out on June 4, so I probably need to pick up the ARC pretty soon. Particularly considering I don’t know how much reading time I’m going to have over the next week or so.

What are you reading this week? 🙂

#CBCA2019 #aww2019 Book Review: “His Name Was Walter” by Emily Rodda

Title: His Name Was Walter
Author:
Emily Rodda
Genre: Fantasy/contemporary
Target audience: MG
Date Read: 05/05/19 – 12/05/19
Rating:
★★★

Review:

I was equal parts excited and nervous to read this book. Excited because Emily Rodda’s books were such a staple of my childhood and teen years and I hoped reading her again would live up to my expectations. And nervous because… well, because Emily Rodda’s books were such a staple of my childhood and teen years and I hoped reading her again would live up to my expectations. 

I have to admit that I wasn’t entirely into the story-within-a-story format of the book. Even though I ultimately enjoyed it, I thought there might have been better ways to integrate Walter’s  story with that of the modern-day school children. Walter’s story was often cut off right in the middle of something so we could see how Colin and Tara were faring; it all felt a bit disjointed. I also found that the story felt a bit superficial – I felt I was told how characters were feeling a lot of the time, rather than it being shown.

But at the end, when it was revealed exactly how Walter was connected to the modern-day characters… I’d already figured out some of it, or at least suspected. But I actually really loved this part, and that’s why the book still gets four stars from me. The final lines of the book made me tear up a little.

And look, I know I’m not the book’s target demographic. I think kid readers would make fewer connections between the real world and the fairytale story earlier on. I think they would find the ghostly bits creepy or even terrifying. I’m a grown-up now and I do have to recognise that Emily Rodda is still writing for kids. But the fact that the story moved me at the end is enough to make me feel her writing stands the test of time.


This review is part of my 2019 Australian Women Writers Challenge. Click here for more information.

I am trying to read as many of the books as possible on the 2019 Children’s Book Council of Australia Notables List. Click here to see the titles.

Find me on:
GoodReads | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram