“It used to be simply noises. The noises were dreadful enough. But now sometimes I think I see it in the shadows.” // Review of “The Dead of Winter” by Chris Priestley

Title: The Dead of Winter
Author: Chris Priestley
Genre:
Horror
Intended audience: Middle-grade
Date Read:
01/10/19 – 03/10/19
Rating: ★★

Review:

Ah man. I was really looking forward to a spooky haunted house story here, and while I knew it was middle-grade, I didn’t think that would affect my enjoyment. How can you go wrong with orphan boy dealing with a haunted house at Christmas?

I want to say that I absolutely think that I would have found this a lot spookier if I had read it when I was ten or eleven, and that I feel this  is one of those books that doesn’t quite transcend its target age group (some MG books don’t, and that’s fine).

As it was, I felt that it was a bit of a checklist of haunted house tropes. We had the ghost of a pale woman in a shift out on the moors, we had banging from within the walls, we had footsteps in the corridor, we had shadowy figures in mirrors… It was all there and yet apart from a couple of scenes, I never really felt like any one haunting was gone into in any depth, nor did it feel like anything particularly new was being done.

The other thing that was while this is ostensibly about a young boy, it is written from the perspective of an older man looking back on something that happened when he was small. I couldn’t help thinking that emulating a Gothic style narration was probably not the way to interest young readers. The last chapter and the epilogue are set years later after Michael has grown up, and I don’t know that MG readers will consider that a satisfactory ending.

But at the end of the day, while this book wasn’t for me, I can’t say what the target audience would think. It’s highly possible that they would find it a lot more enjoyable.


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#HocusPocusReadathon – Wrap-up Post

Hey Team Undead! The Hocus Pocus Readathon has come to an end! And I made it to the end! I’m pretty chuffed, honestly!

This readathon is hosted by Tiffy and Alyssa. I have chosen to participate as part of Team Undead, since those are the prompts that worked best for me. Our team leaders are Nox and Fyrekatz.

I have clearly got over my reading slump as I’ve been flying through books this week. With travel and moving house, I was feeling really down about how little reading I’d done, so it’s making me really happy to see these totals building up.

You can read my halfway point check-in here. And now, here are the rest of my titles for the readathon.

  1. Zombies, Graveyards and Cats. Oh my! Read a book with a non-human main character. (5pts)
    Vampire Islandby Adele Griffin was a random digital library find and a short read. I listened to the audio book while I was cooking. The phrase “vegan vampires” caught my eye and sounded amusing, but I couldn’t work out what the book was trying to do… partially it seemed to be making an environmental statement, but other parts of it seemed to go against that, and I wondered if it was just trying to be funny.
  2. The Sanderson Sisters have risen. Read a book with a female protagonist. (5pts)*Ahhh!

    I loved The Kingdom by Jess Rothenberg so much! I was on the edge of my seat the whole time and when I got to the twists at the end, I realised all the clues had been there all along! I want to read a sequel with a Fantasist uprising, but this one does end kind of perfectly, so if there is no sequel, I will still feel satisfied.

    * The Team Undead strength gives us the ability to swap out one of our prompts for one from another team, so this prompt replaces Winifred Sanderson raises you from the dead. Read a book that can bring someone back from the grave (5 pts). I was initially going to use the “Read a fantasy novel” prompt from Team Sanderson but I rejigged my TBR and this one worked better.

  3. Help your team stand up to Winifred Sanderson. Read the Group Read. (10pts)


    I chose Serpent and Dove by Shelby Mahurin for my group read. So this was unexpected! For a while it felt like a 3 or 3.5 star read, then somewhere along the  way, I got totally sucked in and had to actively force myself to put it down and go to bed on Friday night so I could get up for work on Saturday.If I were rating it purely on how it gripped me while I was reading it, it would be a five star read… but I only gave it four because there were things that bothered me when I wasn’t reading it but when I was thinking about it… some of the language was anachronistic, and I also had no idea where or when it was set… is it a fictional kingdom in this world? Somewhere else? And they have indoor plumbing but no cars or electricity or anything…

    And as much as I enjoyed reading the romance, I could never *quite* believe in it… even if he is the first person to ever treat you well, and he’s pretty sexy, how do you develop feelings for someone who is honour-bound to kill you if he learns who you really are? How do you get past that?

The only thing left to do now is watch the movie to celebrate! I am writing this post on Saturday but by the time it goes live on Sunday I will have done that.

I’ve had a really good time doing this readathon. I’ve met lots of new bloggers and added a whole bunch of books to my TBR. I’ve definitely got the readathon bug now, so I’ve signed up for the Triwizard Tournament Readathon, which starts on October 31! Maybe I’ll see you there!

#Aww2019 #LoveOzMG Book Review: “Songbird” by Ingrid Laguna

Title: Songbird
Author:
Ingrid Laguna
Genre: Contemporary
Target audience: MG
Date Read: 05/10/19
Rating:
★★★★

Review:

This was such a sweet, uplifting book! It’s only short and I read it all in one sitting, and afterwards had a huge smile on my face. It was kind of easy to see where the story was going, but that didn’t take away from it at all.

Jamila, her mother and younger brother are refugees newly arrived in Melbourne from Iraq. Jamila is struggling to balance her new school life where she is the odd one out with her mother’s needs as they all try to adapt. But when Jamila joins the school choir and begins to make friends, she starts to fit in there… if only her father could make it to Australia, too…

I really felt for Jamila. I could feel her distress and not being able to talk to her classmates and being nervous due to her less-than-perfect English. I felt her frustration when her mother called her home from school to help with things like groceries. i have not had the same life experiences as Jamila but music got me through some bad times, too, so I completely related when she found that the school choir rehearsals were one of the only times at school that enjoyed, and how she could lose herself in writing a song.

The book deals with refugee issues, racism, death and terrorism in a way that I think would be accessible to readers in the target age group. I think it would be a great introduction to the topic, with room for discussion afterwards, and without feeling too overwhelming.


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

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WWW Wednesday – 09 October 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 didn’t post last week but this has been a good couple of reading weeks! I can’t believe I’ve already read 5 books in October!

FirstI finished Dead Blondes and Bad Mothers: Monstrosity, Patriarchy, and the Fear of Female Power by Sady Doyle, which examines depictions of women in such things as horror movies and true crime fandom. I thought some of the analysis was reaching a bit to draw the conclusions she wanted to, but overall it was interesting. Haven’t quite worked out if I’ll do a full review of this one yet.

Next, I read Monuments by Will Kostakis, which is a fun YA fantasy. It managed to retain a light-hearted tone even as it deals with some pretty heavy issues… I went to the Canberra launch event on Friday night and have to say, I think it’s one of the best book launches I’ve been to. I then finished the book over the next couple of days. I really enjoyed this one. Here’s my full review.

Next was the audio of Scratchman by Tom Baker and James Goss. I am still a bit confused by some parts of it, and the structure is a bit terrible… but it was fine. I gave it 3 stars.

In the last week I have been participating in The Hocus Pocus Readathon and my first book for this challenge was Evangeline and the Spiritualist by Madeleine D’Este, which filled the prompt “read something with a paranormal or supernatural element”. This is my favourite Evangeline book so far. I only have one more to go.

The next prompt was “read a spooky, atmospheric book”. I figured I couldn’t go wrong with a Gothic-style haunted house story like The Dead of Winter by Chris Priestley. In the end, it was actually neither spooky nor atmospheric but I think that might be because I was too old for it (it was a MG after all, and sometimes I find they just don’t transcend their target age bracket).

After that, I completed the “read a random book on your TBR” prompt by reading Songbird by Ingrid Laguna. This was a totally sweet story about a refugee girl from Iraq trying to fit in at her new school in Sydney. She finally finds a place when she joins a school choir.

Last but not least, I finished the audio book of Vampire Island by Adele Griffin and I have to admit this was weird? I didn’t even know what to rate it because I couldn’t work out what it was trying to do.  Was it making an environmental statement? Was it just trying to be funny? I have no idea, and so I don’t know how I felt about it.

What are you currently reading?

was really excited to start The Kingdom by Jess Rothenberg and so far it is living up to expectations! It’s kind of Westworld meets Disneyland. I was reading on my lunch break today and really didn’t want to go back to my desk.

I am also reading Serpent and Dove by Shelby Mahurin, though it’s on hold while The Kingdom takes priority. I hadn’t heard of it until I signed up for the Hocus Pocus Readathon and this was one of the two group reads to choose from. I am 15% in so far and it is quite well-written so I think I’ll enjoy it.

The readathon ends on Saturday and I’m a bit worried I’m not going to quite finish these last two but I’ll do my darnedest!

What do you think you will read next?

Gosh, I don’t even know! Possibly I will read Evangeline and the Mysterious Lights by Madeleine D’Este and thereby finish the Evangeline series. I have actually written myself a list of things to read to finish my Australian Women Writers Challenge for the year, so those will also be at the top of my list.

What are you reading this week? 🙂

 

 

 

#LoveOzYA Book Review: “Monuments” by Will Kostakis

Title: Monuments (Monument #1)
Author:
Will Kostakis
Genre: Urban fantasy
Target audience: YA
Date Read: 27/09/19 – 30/09/19
Rating:
★★★

Review:

I had been seeing a lot about Monuments in the lead-up to its release so by the time I got my hands on a copy at the Canberra launch last week, I was really looking forward to it.

This is such a fun book! The protagonist, Connor, is a sweetheart. I was on his side immediatley. And he brings all the sass. He and Locky made such a cute pair. Sally was an interesting character with a few surprises up her sleeve – there is a lot we don’t know about her until towards the end.

I did have a few questions about how a bunch of ancient gods ended up in Australia but thankfully those were answered, and in a way that made a lot of sense.

The first two thirds of the story are a fairly straightforward adventure story but then the time travel starts and things do get a bit confusing. There’s a lot of hopping between lots of different times and for a while I lost track of what was what. But that calmed down after a few chapters and I was able to sink back into the story again.

Some of the scenes I liked best weren’t really about the adventuring but about Connor more personally. Connor feels guilty for not visiting his grandfather a lot after dementia took over and his grandfather was put in a home. I don’t want to spoil things but I will say that the way Connor makes amends is pretty epic.

Enough is wrapped up in this book to not feel like you’re left hanging, but the story isn’t over. I am definitely looking forward to book two!


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#HocusPocusReadathon – Halfway Point Update

Hey Team Undead! We’re halfway through the Hocus Pocus Readathon so it’s time for a check-in.

This readathon is hosted by Tiffy and Alyssa. I have chosen to participate as part of Team Undead, since those are the prompts that worked best for me. Our team leaders are Nox and Fyrekatz.

It’s not quite halfway through going by the dates, but I am halfway through the prompts! So here I am!

I have clearly got over my reading slump as I’ve been flying through books this week. With travel and moving house, I was feeling really down about how little reading I’d done, so it’s making me really happy to see these totals building up.

The prompts I’ve managed so far are:

  1. Not all Undead are monsters. Read a book with paranormal or supernatural elements. (5pts)
    Evangeline and the Spiritualist by Madeleine D’Este. The spiritualist was a fake but there was obviously a real ghost in the room, and she knew a lot about Evangeline. This is the third book in the Antics of Evangeline series of novellas, and my favourite so far!
    .
    I was actually going to read a different book for this prompt, but I realised pretty early on that Dreaming Anastasia wasn’t for me. I haven’t returned it to the library yet, and I may still read it after the readathon, but I didn’t want to waste precious time.
    .
  2. The Graveyard is especially spooky on Halloween night. Read a spooky atmospheric book. (5pts)
    .
    .
    I’ve got to admit I was a bit disappointed in  The Dead of Winter by Chris Priestley. I think maybe I was too old for it? I think I would have found it a lot spookier if I read it when I was ten. As it was, it felt more like the author was checking off various haunted house tropes without really giving them much depth. And the skull on the cover has nothing to do with the story at all. :\
    .
    Since it was short, I used this book to cover the Team Undead weakness, which required us  to read a book all in one spot. I read it only when I was travelling on the bus this week.
  3. Catch those kids, but don’t lose your head! Read a random book from your TBR. (5pts)
    .

    I was going to read Briar Rose by Jana Oliver for this prompt, but I only got to page 47 before it irritated me too much to keep going. I hadn’t even really got the Sleeping Beauty aspects yet. As I said on GoodReads, maybe at another time I might have perservered, but I didn’t have the patience for it this week.
    .
    Instead, I read Songbird by Ingrid Laguna, about  a young refugee girl from Iraq who is struggling to fit in at her new school in Melbourne and worries about her father, who is still in Iraq. She finds a place for herself when she joins the school choir. This was such a sweet book! It’s really short and I read it all in one sitting and I loved it! This books kills two birds with one stone as it will also count towards my Australian Women Writers Challenge.
    .
  4. Currently reading:
    .

    For the group read, I’m reading Serpent and Dove by Shelby Mahurin. I’m at about 15% at the moment and enjoying it so far. It feels a bit like what I hoped The Gilded Wolves would be (I didn’t manage to finish that one). I’m not the biggest fan of having multiple first-person narrators, but these ones are distinct enough for it to be okay.

Well, that’s it from me for now, but I’ll be back next Saturday with a wrap-up post.

September 2019 Reading Wrap-up

"monthly reading wrap-up" banner

After a slow start, I feel like I found my readin groove again in September. I got through 9 titles, and even though some of them were only short, it all counts!

Some of the books I read this month are not ones I’m intending to review on this blog, but where I’ve left more than a sentence on GoodReads, I’ve linked there instead.

Past Month’s Reading:

    1. Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds: The Musical Drama (audio drama – 5 stars – no formal review – GoodReads thoughts)
    2. Evangeline and the Alchemist by Madeleine D’Este (steampunk fantasy – 4 stars – review forthcoming)
    3. Evangeline and the Bunyip by Madeleine D’Este (steampunk fantasy – 3 stars – review forthcoming)
    4. Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (historical fantasy – 5 stars – review)
    5. Suicide Club by Rachel Heng (SF dystopia – 3.5 stars – review)
    6. The Modern Girl’s Guide to Safe Sex by Kaz Cooke (non-fiction/humour – 3 stars – no formal review – GoodReads thoughts)
    7. Dead Blondes and Bad Mothers: Monstrosity, Patriarchy, and the Fear of Female Powerby Sady Doyle (feminist/non-fiction – 3.5 stars – not intending to review)
    8. Doctor Who: Scratchman by Tom Baker and James Goss (sci-fi – 3 stars – no formal review – GoodReads thoughts)
    9. Monuments by Will Kostakis (YA urban fantasy – 4 stars – review forthcoming)

Booktube:

Moving house meant I didn’t get anything posted to Booktube this month. I feel like I’ve been saying this several months in a row, but really, October will be the month where I get back into it!

You can check out the channel here

Favourite Bookish Photo:

Gods and Jade and Shadow was a beautiful Mexican historical fantasy, and the cover was also gorgeous. You can see all my bookish photos (plus some RL as well) on my Instagram.

Currently Reading:

Physical book: No physical book on the go at the moment.

Ebook: Evangeline and the Spiritualist by Madeleine D’Este. These novellas are very short, which is why I’m waiting to review them all at once, rather than one at a time. But they are sweet and entertaining.

Audio book: I have started Illumination by Karen Brooks, the third book in the Curse of the Bond Riders trilogy. I read the first two a couple of years ago and I’m not sure why I didn’t get around to this one. It’s 28 hours long! So will probably take me a little bit of time to get through. Fortunately, there’s a summary of the first two books at the start so I was able to refresh my memory.

Planning to read next:

I am kicking off the spooky season with a Christmas-y spooky read, The Dead of Winter by Chris Priestley. I get scared so easily but it’s a kids book so how bad can it be, right? (Famous last words, I know!). I am participating in the Hocus Pocus Readathon, my first ever! Check out my TBR here.

What are you reading? 🙂

“Something has to change. In being robbed of our deaths, we are robbed of our lives.”// Review of “Suicide Club” by Rachel Heng

Title: Suicide Club
Author: Rachel Heng
Genre:
Sci-fi (dystopia)
Intended audience: Adult
Date Read: 17/09/19 – 20/09/19
Rating: ★★★

Review:

This book got me out of my reading slump! Yay! It’s not a perfect book but it was entertaining and sometimes (a lot of the time) that is the most important thing.

Suicide Club is set in a future USA where bodily enhancements have advanced to a point where humanity is on the verge of immortality… but not for everybody. Only the best people deserve it. And now a terrorist organisation calling itself The Suicide Club is sending out viral videos, suggesting that endless life isn’t all its cracked up to be.

There are two central characters in this story: Lea and Anja. I’m sure if I check GoodReads there will be plenty of reviews bemoaning the fact that Lea is The WorstTM and not a bit likeable. And she is both of those things, but I found her incredibly compelling anyway. I wanted to see her crack.

It’s a lot easier to sympathise with Anja, though I did find some of her story didn’t really go anywhere. I did like the way she lived her life subversively, though.

Sometimes I felt that the future world didn’t really feel futuristic enough… they still have cars n the future and pay for things with cash when electronic payments aren’t convenient… the New York subway still exists, seemingly in its current form. If you do the maths, it has to be set at least two hundred years into the future and I wasn’t entirely convinced of that.

The plot is slight; a lot of this is about the characters’ journeys. But I found it entertaining, and that was the main thing.


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#HocusPocusReadathon – TBR List

I’ve signed up for my first readathon! I hope I’m doing this right! I generally don’t do these because I’ve got too much going on or I find them a bit too confusing or they’re 24 or 48-hour ones and I am a boring grown-up who has to do things like work and sleep.

But the Hocus Pocus Readathon goes for 13 days and only requires us to read six books (plus watch the movie) and I can do that! I’ve just emerged from a reading slump so I’m feeling energised, and besides, who doesn’t love Hocus Pocus?

This readathon is hosted by Tiffy and Alyssa. I have chosen to participate as part of Team Undead, since those are the prompts that worked best for me. Our team leaders are Nox and Fyrekatz. If you’re interested in signing up last minute, here is the official Twitter with links to the prompts and the sign-up spreadsheet.

Here are the Team Undead prompts and the books I intend to read for them.

  1. Zombies, Graveyards and Cats. Oh my! Read a book with a non-human main character. (5pts)
    I just heard about The Kingdom by Jess Rothenberg yesterday and I love it already! (Don’t develop unrealistic expectations, she tells herself, already hyping this to beyond in her head). It’ a bit of a cross between Westworld and Disneyland, with courtroom drama thrown in.I’m pretty certain that the main character is a robot, given the references to her programming and the fact that she has never experienced love before.
  2. The Graveyard is especially spooky on Halloween night. Read a spooky atmospheric book. (5pts)
    I don’t actually know that The Dead of Winter by Chris Priestley will be spooky and atmospheric, but considering it’s about a child alone in a haunted house at Christmas, it definitely sounds like it! I was looking through the library shelves this morning with this readathon in mind and thought this sounded perfect.
  3. Winifred Sanderson raises you from the dead. Read a book that brings someone back from the dead. (5pts)I’m going to swap this one out with one of the prompts from the other teams. See below.
  4. Catch those kids, but don’t lose your head! Read a random book from your TBR. (5pts) 


    Briar Rose by Jana Oliver has been on my TBR for a little while now and I spotted it at the library today. Love a good fairytale retelling.

  5. Not all Undead are monsters. Read a book with paranormal or supernatural elements. (5pts)
    I have a feeling that I have avoided Dreaming Anastasia by Joy Preble before due to the  mixed reviews, but I couldn’t resist an Anastasia Romanov-inspired story when I walked past it at the library.  In this book, Anastasia and another character are linked through their dreams. There might be other magic stuff going on, too. Not sure.
  6. Help your team stand up to Winifred Sanderson. Read the Group Read. (10pts)


    There are two group reads to choose from for this challenge and I’ve decided to read Serpent and Dove by Shelby Mahurin. I know nothing about this one so I’ll be going in blind. Sounds good from the synopsis, though!
  7. Celebrate by watching the movie. (15pts)
    Well, okay! That’s easy enough. 😀

Team Strengths: You can switch your prompt with another team’s prompt.

I’m going to swap out the “book that brings someone back from the grave” prompt with “Don’t get caught by the Sanderson Sisters. Study magical foes by reading a fantasy novel” from Team Trick or Treaters.

For this prompt I’m going to read Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta, which I picked up at a second-hand book fair a couple of weeks ago. I’ve heard really good things about it so I have high hopes!

Team Weakness: you are trapped in the cemetery. Read one book all in the same spot.

The Dead of Winter is under 250 pages so I’m pretty sure a couple of sessions on my couch of an evening should see this one done!

Team Goal: Help defeat the Sanderson Sisters and enjoy your eternal rest (50pts)

And that’s it! I’ll post an update at the halfway point and a conclusion post at the end. See you on the other side!

“Dreams are for mortals.” “Why?” “Because they must die.”// Review of “Gods of Jade and Shadow” by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Title: Gods of Jade and Shadow
Author: Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Genre: Historical fantasy
Intended audience: Adult
Date Read: 22/08/19 – 16/09/19
Rating: ★★★★★

Review:

This is one of those books that I completely loved in spite of having a few quibbles with it. It has a beautiful, poetic style that deserves to be absorbed all in one sitting, rather than the dribs and drabs I read it in. I loved it anyway, but I did read it at the wrong time.

Moreno-Garcia really captures the atmosphere of 1920s Mexico. I felt like I was there. The haircuts and the architecture and the dances they did, it was all there.

I really loved both Casiopea and Hun-Kamé and I enjoyed watching their relationship develop. I wasn’t really sure which direction it was going to take at the end – a happy ending seemed unlikely but I was maybe secretly hoping a bit. In the end, I think their story ends the only way it can, and I can assure you, I definitely smiled as I read the final pages.

did feel sometimes that the battles were won quite easily. The main characters got the upper-hand and immediately their foes just handed over the prizes… but in a way, I felt that added to the mythological feel, and the way the prose is written to make you feel like you’re listening to a story being told to you by someone who had it told to them… So after it’s been passed down a few times it’s just “look, this thing happened, don’t question it. that’s the way the story goes.”

I have no idea if I’m making any sense…

Anyway, read this book for atmospheric, slow-burn romantic, poetic historical fantasy. It won’t disappoint.


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