“You and your bats!” // Review of “A Murder of Crows” by Sarah Yarwood-Lovett

Title: A Murder of Crows (Nel Ward Mysteries #1)
Author: Sarah Yarwood-Lovett
Audio book narrator: Kristen Atherton
Genre: Mystery
Intended audience: Adult
Date Read: 05/05/2023 – 09/05/2023


I picked this book up because the blurb was giving me Midsomer Murders vibes and the audio version is read by one of my favourite audio book narrators. And I loved it!

The murder mystery is well laid out, with small clues peppered throughout the story for the reader to pick up on. I’m not the kind of person who can pick the ending of a mystery, but I was able to go “Hmm, that’s suspicious…” which added to the enjoyment.

I have to admit at the start that I was literally listening to the acknowledgements when I realised the play on words in the title: “Crows” is the surname of two of the murder victims. I’d spent the whole book trying to work out why that was the title when bats play a much bigger part. D’oh!

I also found myself invested in a love triangle for the first time in a long time… well, invested in one side of it. I really enjoyed some of the scenes between Nel and her colleague, Adam (later known as Rav). Their banter was fun and there were some cute, tender moments between them. In the last quarter or maybe third of the book, the miscommunication trope comes out in full force, which is a bit disappointing, but I’m hoping they will get themselves sorted out and have a grown-up conversation in book two.

It did strike me as odd that the other side of the love triangle is… the officer arresting Nel for murder?! Even if I accept that her initial attraction was when he just knocking on her door to ask a few questions, she forgave him far too easily after he arrested her on fairly flimsy evidence and brought up a past trauma in the interview to “rattle” her.

On that note, while I know that in these types of series, the police have to be a bit incompetent in order for the heroine to look good, these police just seemed… not very good at their jobs at times. It also seemed odd to me how casual the characters referenced each other: in scenes from DI James Clarke’s POV, I felt it would have made more sense for him to think of Nel as Doctor Ward, and in scenes from Nel’s perspective, it was jarring hearing her think about “James” and not DI Clarke.

Despite those quibbles, I found myself looking for more opportunities to listen to the book rather than read my physical one. I got home from work one evening and immediately cleaned the kitchen! The story was engaging and of course, Kristen Atherton’s excellent narration helped. I was listening to it through my library’s digital loans app, and it was the first time in a long time I didn’t need to extend a loan beyond the initial 14-day period.

There are already three books available in this series with three more announced. I’m hoping that I’m in for an enjoyable ride as I continue.

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#AusReads Book Review: “This Is Not A Book About Benedict Cumberbatch” by Tabitha Carvan

Title: This Is Not A Book About Benedict Cumberbatch
Author: Tabitha Carvan
Audio book narrator: Tanya Schneider
Genre: Memoir
Intended audience: Adult
Date Read: 30/04/2023 – 14/05/2023


Tabitha Carvan is a middle-aged Canberra woman who found herself in the midst of an identity crisis once she became a mother. What led her back to herself was the discover of Benedict Cumberbatch, and through him, online fandom, and the realisation that as women, we put aside our desires in favour of others, but that it doesn’t have to be that way. Why do we find it so hard to lean into our desires?

I’m saying this right at the outset: the main reason I couldn’t rate this book any higher was because so often the author mentioned Benedict Cumberbatch, I wanted to ask “You do realise he’s a real person, right?” And the author actually mentions at one point how patronising she finds this question, but I kept asking it nonetheless.

I really struggled with the first two thirds. Perhaps partially because I am somewhere around 10-15 years younger than the author and have bene involved in fandom since my family had Internet access. I was writing fanfiction before I knew that it had a name. The fact that passionate diatribes about whatever show I was currently watching were met by my parents with “uh-huh, that’s nice” or words to that effect did not deter me. When I got to uni, I met a bunch of fellow nerds, many of whom I am still friends with today. I travelled to London for the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who in 2013 and hung out with thousands of like-minded fans for a weekend.

While I am aware of the fact that fanfiction is not treated seriously, and that fandom is considered weird, I have never really been in a position where I had to grapple with that.

But the fact remains that our fandom journeys look very different, so when the author was talking about discovering explicit fanfiction, I couldn’t share in her surprise and shock. The chapters like this were the most difficult for me.

And the other thing is, my fandoms were always TV shows and books. Fixating on a real person in the same way, writing RPF (real person fic), is the line I can’t cross. It’s not to say I was never fannish about the people involved in my favourite series, but as far as I can remember, it was never to this extent. (Every time I felt a bit judgey, I’d then feel bad because feeling judged on the things we love is exactly what this book is what this book sets out to address.)

There’s a short argument in the book that women objectifying a male celebrity is different to men objectifying a female celebrity because of the patriarchy. That may be so, but this was not explored thoroughly enough for my satisfaction. The author cites one professor she interviewed, who argued that parasocial romantic relationships are okay, actually, and “all the studies I’ve read have shown this” but not one of those studies is actually cited.

And yet, despite my discomfort due to all of the above, I also found myself bothered by the fact that despite the supposed message of the book, the author still spends two thirds of it coming across as ashamed of her Benedict Cumberbatch fandom. If you’re going to write a book with the tag line “On finding your thing and loving it like your life depends on it”, at least convince me that you do love it unashamedly.

This finally changes in the last third of the book and this is where it picked up for me. This is where Carvan discusses what finding joy in Sherlock or Dr Strange fandom or Benedict Cumberbatch fandom itself has led other fans to do with their lives. Finding joy and a community of like-minded people, usually online, can give people the confidence to explore other facets of their lives that they’d tucked away, because they were too embarrassed or didn’t think they had the time. This I could get behind, especially when the author finally stopped making weird sexual innuendo about Benedict Cumberbatch and acknowledged it is not so much Benedict Cumberbatch the person (or any object of fandom) that leads to these revelations, but the sheer joy of having that “thing” and embracing that “thing” like your life depends on it. Don’t worry if other people think you’re weird. Just love it. Experience joy.

I also want to note before I wrap up that the audio book narrator didn’t help my reading experience on this occasion. I found she made the author sound even more self-conscious than she already portrayed herself, but at other times, her tone was kind of smug. I haven’t listened to Tanya Schneider before and I’m sure I wouldn’t have this issue with other books she reads, but it bothered me in this one.

Ultimately, I picked this up hoping for an interesting exploration of the correlation between the number of teenage girls loving something and how immature society deems it, and how female interests are often denigrated for not being “serious” enough, or put aside for fear of negative perception. And I got some of that. But in the end, really, this is a book about Benedict Cumberbatch.

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“Tell the truth and shame the devil.” // Review of “All These Bodies” by Kendare Blake

Title: All These Bodies
Author: Kendare Blake
Genre: Historical/horror
Intended audience: YA
Date Read: 05/05/2023 – 09/05/2023


The cover of All These Bodies by Kendare Blake. It shows a teenage girl with her back to the viewer, but her head it turned so we can see her in profile. She is a simple 1950s dress. The I in the word bodies forms one of several drips of blood running down her back.

The only word I have to describe this book is “dull”. And I feel bad about it. But it just… it promised a gruesome murder mystery and possibly some horror and a deep-dive into the nature of “truth” and what I got was… a lot of talking through the bars of a jail cell.

I actually thought the writing was quite engaging. I flew through the pages. But only because it was easy to read. Not really because I was hooked.

I think the main problem is that everything interesting has already happens when the story starts. Usually in a serial killer murder mystery, the murders keep happening as the story progresses, and the investigators are in a race against time. But there’s none of that, really.

All we have is a girl who was found at the crime scene, covered in blood, who claims she didn’t kill anyone. Who refuses to talk to anyone but our narrator, and half the time, doesn’t even answer his questions. I couldn’t get invested in their relationship at all.

By the end, Michael is willing to put himself at huge risk for her, but I had no idea why. There’s a line towards the end where Michael observes that none of the school mates he’s grown up with know him as well as Marie does, but I had no reason to believe that.

The horror elements are kept to a minimum, and honestly, that’s to the books detriment. The ending is supposed to be ambiguous, and it achieves that to a point, but some things were left completely loose-ended.

In the author’s note, Kendare Blake explains that this story was inspired by a real life killing spree that took place in a similar area of the US in the 1950s. I think trying to adapt real events while also throwing in elements of the supernatural, made for a little too much for one shortish novel and as a result, it ended up achieving very little.

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#AusReads “A Marvellous Light” by Freya Marske

Title: A Marvellous Light (The Last Binding #1)
Author: Freya Marske
Genre: Historical/fantasy/mystery
Intended audience: Adult
Date Read: 07/04/2023 – 05/05/2023


Well damn. This was a highly anticipated read and no one is more disappointed than I that it did not live up to expectations. I keep wanting to say “I think I’m in a reading slump, I don’t think it’s the book’s fault” but honestly, I don’t think that goes the whole way to explaining why I struggled with it. Some of it is personal taste, but some of it is definitely the book not delivering.

Firstly, the things I did like. The idea of magic being tied to the land and of being able to draw off the earth, and pledge yourself to it. Yessssss. Give me more of that. My favourite parts of the novel had to do with the characters drawing power from the land, or the land or home surging up to protect them.

I wanted to like the magic system, and I liked what I understood, but to be honest, parts of it went over my head. I think magic was constructed with very precise hand gestures, but the parts about contracts were still not making much sense to me by the end of the book. Which is unfortunate, because the contract aspect is rather central tothe plot.

With regards to the characters, I just… they were fine. I feel like my reading tastes have changed recently and a few years ago I would have been completely invested in Edwin and Robin. But right now, I just wasn’t. They didn’t have enough chemistry for me to be rooting for their romance and I didn’t feel anything when they were in danger.

There was very little fleshing out of the side characters, which was unfortunate, because when the “Surprise, it was XYZ all along!” twist appeared, I had to remember where I’d seen that character before. The effect was lost on me. This happened twice.

To be honest, and this goes back to the personal preference thing, I think I’m just not that into male-led stories. Especially when there are very few of women around them, and some of those are rather disappointing. The fact that the next book is sapphic fantasy, with Robin’s sister as the POV character instead, is probably the only thing making me mildly curious about it. But given the size of my TBR, I doubt I’m going to seek it out…

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#AusReads “Everyone In My Family Has Killed Someone” by Benjamin Stevenson

Title: Everyone In My Family Has Killed Someone
Author: Benjamin Stevenson
Audio book narrator: Barton Welch
Genre: Mystery
Intended audience: Adult
Date Read: 19/03/2023 – 11/04/2023


The cover of Everyone In My Family Has Killed Someone by Benjamin Stevenson. The L in family looks like a revolver and the I in Killed looks like a knife.

This is a clever take on the mystery genre, made all the more special by being Australian and having some distinctly Aussie flavour to it. And who wouldn’t be drawn in by a title like that?

The thing that makes this book unique is its self-awareness. The narrator, Ern, makes his living writing “how to write crime novels” books, and he is aware of the tropes he employs in his narrative. This was fun, though I did find him getting a bit too smug or self-defensive at times. I also felt that there would be more of a twist with regards to who he killed, but that didn’t kill the enjoyment.

Sometimes I thought Ern was going off on tangents, but it’s important to note that every little anecdote or exchange is important in some way or another. I had to remind myself of this more than once. It’s fun to keep track of the deaths in the book and tick off each family member as the story of the death they caused is recounted.

I loved the setting, and the way it threw back to the golden age of crime fiction (think Agatha Christie and co.) The characters, a large and dysfunctional family, are snowed in at a resort at the top of a mountain. Barton Welch’s audio book narration also really added to this. Hearing those Aussie vowels through so many different characters’ voices as they worked through the murder mystery really placed the story in Jindabyne and the Snowy Mountains rather than anywhere else.

Definitely recommend this one for the crime lovers. I’m going to be checking out Benjamin Stevenson’s other work.

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#AusReads “Dr Jekyll and Mr Seek” by Anthony O’Neill

Title: Dr Jekyll and Mr Seek
Author: Anthony O’Neill
Genre: Historical/mystery
Intended audience: Adult
Date Read: 15/03/2023 – 19/03/2023


I’ve had this book on my shelf for a few years now, and I picked it out at this point because it was under 250 pages and had largish print, which seemed like a dream come true after getting through a book with very tiny print and taking forever to do it. I wanted something I could read quickly, and a short thriller sounded like a good choice.

Having now read it, I wish it had been longer! I think everything needed to be fleshed out just a bit more to make it work.

Dr Jekyll and Mr Seek’s title is not just a pun, but references a line in Robert Louis Stevenson’s original novel, where the eponymous doctor’s lawyer, Gabriel Utterson, says “If he be Mr Hyde, I shall be Mr Seek.”

Utterson is the central character here. Seven years after Mr Hyde’s death and Dr Jekyll’s supposed disappearance, Utterson is due to inherit the Jekyll estate. But then an imposter shows up, claiming to be Dr Jekyll and charming all his friends. Only Utterson knows that Jekyll died with Hyde, and that this man must be an imposter, but he has no way of convincing others of the con… and then the bodies of those connected to Jekyll start piling up.

I sympathised with Utterson, but honestly, his behaviour made him look greedy. He went from zero to obsessed in moments, never stopping to think or ask relevant questions and leaping to conclusions and actions that weren’t necessary. The best parts were those where Utterson began to question his own sanity, which seems like an awful thing to say, but it left the reader questioning everything, too, and I thought that was quite well done.

There was enough good in the story that I would have given it four stars but the ending was quite abrupt and I closed the book feeling dissatisfied. If the author had extended the events a little longer and confirmed a few loose threads (namely, was Utterson ultimately right about the imposter?) I would have been a lot happier. While the conclusion we are supposed to draw is clear, I would have preferred to see the final showdown rather than read a description of it supposedly written by a colleague of Utterson’s who only witnessed the aftermath. This felt like a bit of a let down because despite my other quibbles, I’d been enjoying it.

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March 2023 Reading Wrap-up

An emoji of two books next to each other, with the text "Monthly Reading Wrap-up" in a cursive font.

March is always a difficult month for me. The mornings are dark and the days are shorter but daylight savings hasn’t finished yet. I end up being a bit of a zombie. This year that has manifested in awful nights of sleep and listless evenings. I’m looking forward to gaining an hour’s sleep on Sunday and having everything line up again properly. As a result of all of that, I’ve only read three books this month. Thank goodness I wasn’t doing any readathons.


The book covers for A Kind of Magic by Anna Spargo Ryan, Dr Jekyll and Mr Seek by Anthony O'Neill and Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia.
  • Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion (zombie/dystopia – 4 stars – review) [read February, reviewed March]
  • A Kind of Magic by Anna Spargo-Ryan (memoir – unrated – review)
  • Dr Jekyll and Mr Seek by Anthony O’Neill (historical/thriller – 3 stars – review forthcoming)
  • Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (horror/noir – 3 stars – review forthcoming)


I’ve started making booktube videos again! Here’s the latest:


The book Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia and a cup of coffee, seen from above. The book cover shows a young Latina woman with bobbed dark hair and the neck and head of a dog with luminous symbols on its skin.

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


The book cover for Fairest of All by Serna Valentino. One side of the Wicked Queen's face is visible. She has high cheek bones and an impeccable raised eyebrow. The title is in grey cursive.

Physical book: I’m reading Fairest of All by Serena Valentino, a villain origin story for Disney’s Wicked Queen. I have to be honest, it’s not agreeing with me, though it’s hard to tell whether I think it’s actually bad or whether I’m just not the target age group.

Ebook: Nothing at the moment.

Audio book: Everyone In My Family Has Killed Someone by Benjamin Stevenson. This is a modern and self-aware whodunit drawing on the style of Agatha Christie and the other Golden Age of Mystery writers. I am rather suspicious of the narrator, who insists that he is reliable a little bit too much for me to trust him.


In theory I am doing a readathon and have a planned TBR for April, but none of the books on it are calling out to me. One of the prompts involves a mood read, so I may very well be picking that one first!

What are you reading? 🙂

The name Emily in a colourful gradient. The letters are yello at the top, fading into pink, then purple, then blue at the bottom.

#AusReads Book Review: “A Kind of Magic” by Anna Spargo-Ryan

Title: A Kind of Magic
Author: Anna Spargo-Ryan
Audio book narrator: Anna Spargo-Ryan
Genre: Memoir
Intended audience: Adult
Date Read: 08/02/2023 – 22/02/2023
no rating


I always feel a bit weird rating and reviewing non-fiction, memoir in particular. Who am I to say “3 stars for baring your soul, Anna.”? Even if it’s four or five, it still feels odd to put a numerical rating on something so personal to someone. So that’s why this review is unrated and more of a chat about my reading experience. Which I guess is basically a review. Ugh.

Ahem. Anyway.

I knew I wanted to read this book because I follow the author on Twitter and she is an excellent human being. She truly does lay herself and her struggles bare in this book, but as the blurb states, throughout it all, there is an unwavering sense of optimism.

Anna goes into detail about her experience of being mentally ill, as well as that of trying to find treatments for her various diagnoses. She also talks about how a diagnosis can impact on your very identity, and what that means when a diagnoses changes over the years. There’s also some medical science talk peppered throughout, explaining a myriad of mental illnesses.

There’s something about listening to a memoir like this read by the author. I like to think you’re hearing it as she intended for it to be heard. When the tone is sarcastic, she is definitely sarcastic. When she is describing the terror of her first psychotic episode, you feel that fear.

I guess if I had any quibbles (again, “who am I to say…”) it would be the way the timeline jumped around a lot and I had to sometimes work out where I was now in Anna’s life story. I suspect this was partially by design, at least. One of the concepts the book delves into is ‘mental time travel’ and how certain mental illnesses can affect a person’s ability to mentally construct past and future times, and she talks a lot about her experiences with this, and the fallibility of human memory.

A finaly word on triggers. This isn’t a book for everyone. It gets pretty harrowing at times. Anna describes some pretty scary experiences, both in terms of mental health episodes, as well a creepy boyfriends and bad experiences with drug use to name a couple. If you’ve had similar ones, you may wish to take stock of whether you’re in the right space for it.

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“In my mind, I am eloquent… but when I open my mouth, everything collapses.” // Review of “Warm Bodies” by Isaac Marion

Title: Warm Bodies (Warm Bodies #1)
Author: Isaac Marion
Genre: Pots-apocalyptic/zombies
Intended audience: Adult
Date Read: 12/02/2022 – 19/02/2022


Not being a huge fan of zombie fiction, it’s likely I wouldn’t have picked up this book if I didn’t have hazy memories of enjoying the movie. Plus it was second-hand and $4, which helped.

The thing about Warm Bodies is that it’s a unique take on the zombie genre (she says from her very uneducated viewpoint). Yes, R, M and their Dead compatriots crave human flesh, but that’s not their sole purpose in life. They’ve created their own society, with rituals and bonds to each other. This was one of the things I found most fascinating about the book.

Warm Bodies is not just the story of a literal zombie apocalypse. There’s also a metaphorical one, and there’s a lot of examination of quality of life, and at what point (if there is one) are you or society as a whole better of just laying down and dying?

The evolution of R and his fellow Fleshies regaining their humanity while the Boneys (zombies that are literally just skeletons at this point) kick and scream as they resist any change is a perfect metaphor for a society rediscovering its soul.

R’s connection to Julie being the catalyst for these changes work well, but I have to admit, when I thought about the romance from Julie’s perspective, it was a bit ick. I mean, she’s talking about kissing him even before his heart starts beating again. Do you really want to kiss a corpse, even if he has expressed affection for you?

I hadn’t realised when I started the book that it’s part of a four-book series. While I am not opposed to continuing on, I have to be honest, this first one wraps up pretty well. I probably wouldn’t seek out the subsequent books, but I would probably check one out if I ran across it in the library. But treated as a standalone, this one holds up pretty well so I’d recommend checking it out if you’re curious.

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Where are all the reviews, Emily?

A shot of one side of a book which is laid flat, the pages fanning upwards from the cover. The background it blurry but appears to depict old style bookshelves.
Image from pexels.com

I suspect this post isn’t really that necessary.

I’m sure everyone knows that people have lives outside their book blogs and that posts may therefore come in ebbs and flows.

But I wanted to say it anyway, and hopefully discourage myself from saying “this month I started regularly reviewing again!” every few months. Because then my motivation invariably dries up again.

Sometimes reading is hard! It’s much easier to just play on my phone on the tram to work.

Sometimes it just takes me forever to get through a book, even if I’m picking it up regularly.

Sometimes I’m reading too many books at once and not finishing any of them.

Sometimes I just don’t have enough to say about a book to warrant a review. I’ve been feeling that a lot lately. Give me another five star read, please, universe!

But I think you can always rely on my coming back to this blog at various times through each year. The next few weeks are one of those times. I can confirm that there will be three or four reviews before the end of March.

After that? Who knows!