#AWW2020 Book Review: “Holiday Brew” by Tansy Rayner Roberts

Title: Holiday Brew (Belladonna U #2)
Author: Tara Moss
Genre: Paranormal/urban fantasy
Intended audience: New Adult
Date Read: 29/09/2020– 30/09/2020
Rating: 
★★★★

Review: 

I have really enjoyed the Belladonna U novellas I have read in the past, so I was pretty excited when I saw there were more up for grabs.

This is such a fun series, set in an alternate version of Australia where magical ability is commonplace, and where universities are divided into the College of the Real, where magic is studied, and the College of the Unreal, for non-magical disciplines. There’s all the usual content you’d expect in a series about uni students: relationships, share houses, drinking, concerns for the future… all with added magical shenanigans.

It’s also got a distinctly Australian feel, which I love about all of Tansy Rayner Roberts’ books.

There are many POV characters, some written in first person, some written in third. I have to admit I sometimes I forgot whose perspective I was reading, and got a bit confused. This was probably not helped by the fact that it had been quite a while since I read Fake Geek Girl and The Bromancers, so it took me a while to remember who was who.

I didn’t find that these issues detracted too much. The plots are fun! I particularly liked Halloween is Not a Verb. They stories and tone are very light-hearted, even as they deal with some big issues, and I really like that. I’m definitely hoping to read more of these characters and this world!


This review is part of my 2020 Australian Women Writers Challenge. Click here for more information.

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I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

#LoveOzYA #AWW2020 Book Review: “The Blood Countess” by Tara Moss

Title: The Blood Countess (Pandora English #1)
Author: Tara Moss
Genre: Paranormal/urban fantasy
Intended audience: YA
Date Read: 15/09/2020– 22/09/2020
Rating: 
★★★

Review:

You know when you really wish you enjoyed a book more than you did? Yeah, this was one of those.

There’s a lot in this book – ghosts, vampires, and zombies to name a few – and I can’t help but think it would have been better to introduce some of them later on. As it was, I didn’t really feel that all the supernatural elements got the introduction they deserved.

I enjoyed the glimpses into the NYC fashion scene, something I know Tara Moss writes of with experience. And I really enjoyed seeing Pandora research the BloodofYouth beauty cream and expose it. Maybe that’s because I’m a nerd like that and would do the same kind of digging.

I was excited when a sexy Civil War-era ghost showed up in Pandora’s new home. I’m a sucker for a ghost romance… but that all happened very quickly and didn’t really have any build-up, which was a bit disappointing. And speaking of lack of build-up, the main antagonist was introduced quite late in the piece and was then defeated really easily.

This is a series opener, and I have a feeling that now this book has done a lot of the setup, I could enjoy the subsequent books more. While I didn’t find this to be the most gripping YA paranormal, I haven’t entirely written off Pandora English just yet.


This review is part of my 2020 Australian Women Writers Challenge. Click here for more information.

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“Books. Moonlight. Melodrama.” // Review of “Mexican Gothic” by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Title: Mexican Gothic
Author: Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Genre: Gothic horror
Intended audience: Adult
Date Read: 09/08/2020– 12/08/2020
Rating: 
★★★

Review:

Hoo boy. This was one of my most anticipated 2020 reads, but I have to put the disclaimer that I maybe didn’t know what I was getting into? I loved Moreno-Garcia’s Gods of Jade and Shadow enough that I wanted to check out her haunted house book. This is despite only managing to get through 30 pages of the last haunted house book I tried because I am a wuss.

It may be that my lack of experience with the horror genre, and with gothic horror in particular, meant I didn’t know what to expect. Some of it was expected, like the creepy, barely accessible house with a lot of death in its history, the awful people living there, and strange dreams and glowing apparitions. But I have to admit the final twist lost me! Without saying anything too spoilery, is that sort of thing common in gothic horror?

Still, the historical world-building and the characterisations were spot on. There’s also a lot of exploration of themes such as racism and misogyny, and colonialism is also an important aspect of this story. I had real visceral reactions, both good and bad, to some of these characters and the things they said and their ways of thinking. This was the reason I wanted to see it through to the end, even when things got a bit too strange for me…


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#LoveOzYA #AWW2020 “A large male orderly stands sentry, securing her passage to the place beyond sanity, and Emma steps inside…” // Review of “None Shall Sleep” by Ellie Marney

Title: None Shall Sleep
Author: Ellie Marney
Genre: Thriller/historical fiction
Intended audience: YA
Date Read: 17/08/2020– 20/08/2020
Rating: 
★★★★

Review:

People who know me tend to view me as the boppy, cheery, showtune-belting one, so it always comes as a surprise to them when I announce how much I love books about serial killers (only fictional ones; I can’t do the real ones).

When Ellie Marney announced earlier this year that she was writing a serial killer thriller, I couldn’t have been happier! (I’m sure there’s a showtune I could find to express the excitement.)

I did find that I took a little while to really get into this one, but by the time I got to the end, I was thinking it was my favourite Ellie Marney book (second only to White Night). There are lots of twists and turns, including a character death I totally wasn’t expecting. There are lots of references to blood, and the climax gets violent and bit gory, so I would caution against it if you are faint of heart.

I was surprised there was no romance, given this is an Ellie Marney book. But it works just fine without it, and to be honest, given the things the characters have already gone through and what they continue to go through, it would probably be a bit squiffy to have it in there as well. I really liked the friendship that formed between Emma and Travis instead, that they could recognise each other’s trauma and be there for each other, but also knew how much the other could take and when they needed to step in.

The book is set in 1982 but to be honest, I sometimes forgot! Until the characters are trying to get somewhere without a map, or need to go and find a nearby phone to contact someone. This was fairly early days in the behavioural science field, and it was interesting hearing learning about that.


This review is part of my 2020 Australian Women Writers Challenge. Click here for more information.

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(I received a free copy of this book from Ellie Marney in a Twitter giveaway)

August 2020 Reading Wrap-up

I’m a little bit disappointed as I sit down to write this post. I swear I read more than this post suggests. I guess it’s because I started two 500+ page books, neither of which I have managed to finish yet.

PAST MONTH’S READING:

  1. Euphoria Kids (YA fantasy – 4 stars – review) (read July, reviewed August)
  2. Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant (sci-fi/horror – 4 stars – review) (read July, reviewed August)
  3. Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi (YA fantasy – 4 stars – review)
  4. Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (gothic horror – 3 stars – review forthcoming)

  5. None Shall Sleep by Ellie Marney (YA thriller – 4 stars – review forthcoming)

  6. Ring of Bright Water by Gavin Maxwell (memoir – 4 stars – not intending to review)

BOOKTUBE:

I’m really enjoying vlogging again! I’m hoping to stick with it! Even if I didn’t do so great with the readathon!

I didn’t put anything up this month (I’ve got a couple of things lined up and ready to go, though), but here are the videos I posted in July again, in case you’re interested:

  1. 2020 Trope-ical Readathon TBR
  2. Trope-ical TBR Blooper Reel

FAVOURITE BOOKISH PHOTO:

The cover of Catching Teller Crow by Ambelin Kwaymullina and Ezekiel Kwaymullina

I think my re-read of Catching Teller Crow by Ambelin Kwaymullina and Ezekiel Kwaymullina marks the first time I have re-read in print a book that I first read in audio form.

The difference was amazing! I didn’t find the audio book engaging at all, and only gave the book 2 stars as a result. But reading it in print, seeing the way the characters stories and the overall storytelling and the formatting all interact. It was brilliant!

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

CURRENTLY READING:

Physical book: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. I’m re-reading this for one of my book clubs, having initially listened to the audio book in 2016. It’s such beautiful writing!

I’m also reading The Toll by Neal Shusterman, the third and final book in the Arc of Scythe series. Yay for actually finishing series that I start!

Ebook: Scone and Spells by Rosie Pease. I started this a few weeks ago but I got distracted. This is a fairly light read though so once I get back to it, it shouldn’t take too long to get through.

Audio book: Axiom’s End by Lindasy Ellis. This is absolutely my jam. I love books that explore the political ramifications of first contact. And this one sounds like it has linguistic stuff, too! Agggh. I’m less than an hour into it at the moment but I think I’m going to really enjoy it!

PLANNING TO READ NEXT:

Apart from the books hanging over from August, I’m only reading Australian books this month! Or attempting to. I think I’ll read Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta next. I’ve had this one on my shelf for a while and I’ll still be in a fantasy mood after The Night Circus, most likely!

What are you reading? 🙂

“They need to know we can hit them back. If they burn our homes, we burn theirs, too.” // Review of “Children of Blood and Bone” by Tomi Adeyemi

Title: Children of Blood and Bone (Legacy of Orisha #1)
Author: Tomi Adeyemi
Genre: Fantasy
Intended audience: YA
Date Read: 01/08/2020– 09/08/2020
Rating: 
★★★★

Review:

I haven’t read a really strong YA high fantasy in a long time. This one definitely fit the bill. It took me a little while to get into, but that was partly because I was feeling reading slumpy and only getting through maybe 10 or 20 pages a day. Once I was able to sit down and give it my undivided attention, I became much more invested.

I loved that this wasn’t a fantasy with obvious good guys and obvious bad guys. There’s lots of politics, and you can see what drives the characters you don’t agree with.

Sometimes the pacing was a little off – seemingly insignificant things went on for ages while significant things were covered in half a page. And sometimes the world-building seemed inconsistent – why does Zelie have to perform this amazing ritual to bring magic back when it seems everybody can just get their magic by touching this special artefact? I also wasn’t sold on the romance – it happened so quickly and it was Twu Wuv right from the get-go.

As to characters, I really loved Tzain and Amari, but both Zelie and Inan wore on me. There are a couple of instances of characters you are just getting to know and love being killed, which is a deliberate choice of this author; the story is her response to police brutality and the Black Lives Matter movement.

I read this for book club and it was definitely interesting hearing our different reading experiences with this book. In particular, one member listened to the audio book, which is narrated by a Black woman in an accent reminiscent of the cultures by which the book is inspired.

The book ends on a little bit of a cliffhanger, and I’m definitely interested in seeing where the second book goes. There’s a lot of setup for future events and things are going to get messy.

“It was beautiful, in its own terrible way. So many monsters are.” // Review of “Into the Drowning Deep” by Mira Grant

Title: Into the Drowning Deep
Author: Mira Grant
Genre: Sci-fi/horror
Intended audience: Adult
Date Read: 28/11/19 – 06/07/20
Rating: 
★★★★

Review:

This book made me geek out so much. It’s horror in many ways, but everything is backed up with so much science. I love it.

This is a slow-burn if ever there was one. The characters don’t leave port until the 25% mark, even though the whole thing is supposedly about the search for mermaids. We spend a lot of time with the characters. It’s an ensemble cast and yet each character is unique. I really appreciated that. While I cannot speak to the representation myself, characters with various disabilities and/or mental illnesses seemed to be treated with nuance and sensitivity, which was wonderful to see.

Some of the science stuff did seem to be stretching into the realms of unbelievability. There was a whole thing with some dolphins and a scientist who was convinced they could communicate complex concepts to said cetaceans in their own language. This was a big part of tracking down the sirens but it just seemed really far-fetched to me.

There were so many different characters involved in various aspects of the climax, given the setting, it felt almost like watching the ending of Titanic. Some people were dying, others were almost making it to safety, and others still were in precarious positions where you didn’t know if they would live or die. Even the climax builds slowly, like the rest of the book, but I still found myself unable to put it down.

This is the kind of book that is probably not for everyone. I had some specific bookish friends in mind that I have recommended this to since finishing it, but I don’t think it will be for everyone. Still, I recommend giving it a go.

#LoveOzYA Book Review: “Euphoria Kids” by Alison Evans

Title: Euphoria Kids
Author: Alison Evans
Genre: Urban fantasy
Intended audience: YA
Date Read: 28/06/20 – 02/07/20
Rating: 
★★★★

Review:

This is such a delightful little book. It’s no secret that I love earthy, witchy magic, nor that I love the Fey. And this book has both in spades.

At its heart, this is a book about queer kids getting to be themselves. The three main characters are a trans girl, a trans boy, and a non-binary character. Their gender identities are important and inform their characters, but they aren’t the whole plot. This is about trans kids getting to be the main characters in the stories told about them that cis kids have been getting for decades.

I found the plot itself started off strong but then kind of fizzled towards the end. There’s a lot of fuss about the witch that cursed Babs coming back, and how dangerous she might be… but she turns out to be really nice, and the curse was accidental. A strong part of The Boy’s arc is that he hasn’t found his name yet, but when he does, it happens off-page.

But despite that, the writing style and the descriptions are so lovely. I felt totally immersed in Iris’ descriptions of their birth from a plant, and their descriptions of their two mums romance. I felt transported into the other Realm each time the MCs went through the National Park. I loved the way the journey into the Realm was slightly different each time and could never quite be predicted.

This is definitely a mood read, and I recommend for when you need something gentle and feel good.

July 2020 Reading Wrap-up

July was a bit of a weird reading month. It started strong but then I got stuck on an ARC I wasn’t enjoying and ended up in a bit of a slump. I came through in the end though, with a total of four books read in the month.

When lockdown hit and I only read one book for the entire month of March, I lowered my Goodreads Reading Challenge goal from my usual 75 down to 50. I’ve hit 41 now and I am hoping to read at least 9 books in August (I’m doing another readathon!) So I’ll definitely surpass my goal and it’ll be interesting to see by how much.

PAST MONTH’S READING:

  1. Euphoria Kids by Alison Evans (YA fantasy – 3.5 stars – review forthcoming)

  2. Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant (sci-fi/horror – 4 stars – review forthcoming)

  3. The Opium Smuggler (The Viper and the Urching #7, Origins #1) by Celine Jeanjean (fantasy/steampunk – 4 stars – review)

  4. Catching Teller Crow by Ambellin Kwaymullina and Ezekiel Kwaymullina (YA magical realism – 4 stars – reread, no review)

BOOKTUBE:

I resurrected my Booktube account! I posted two thing!. I decided I’m going to do readathons via YouTube, and keep this here blog for reviews and monthly wrap-ups. And the occasional tags like Down the TBR Hole (which I haven’t done in a while – time to get back to that one!)

Here’s what I posted:

  1. 2020 Trope-ical Readathon TBR
  2. Trope-ical TBR Blooper Reel

    FAVOURITE BOOKISH PHOTO:

    Damsel by Elana K. Arnold and Incendiary by Zoraida Cordova

    I almost thought I didn’t post anything bookish this month, until I remembered my birthday photos!

    It was my birthday last weekend and while I was not expecting gifts from anyone, several people gave me book vouchers! So I was not complaining! One of the vouchers went towards Damsel by Elana K. ARnold and Incendiary by Zoraida Cordova, both books I have on my TBR.

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

    CURRENTLY READING:

    Physical book: Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte. This is a library book I I had to put on hold while I was reading ARCs, and it got to the point I had to renew it, but I’m enjoying diving into it now.

    Ebook: Scone and Spells by Rosie Pease. I started this a few weeks ago and again got distracted. This is a fairly light read though so once I get back to it, it shouldn’t take too long to get through.

    Audio book: All Systems Red by Martha Wells… to be honest, I’m not entirely sure I am going to continue with this. The book has come highly recommended but the audio book is not read in a very engaging way. So I might switch to the ebook.

    PLANNING TO READ NEXT:

    Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi. This was, um, my book club’s July read, but I’m not sure any of us managed to finish it in July. Our meet-up is not until August 09 for this reason!

    What are you reading? 🙂

Book Review: “The Opium Smuggler” by Celine Jeanjean

Title: The Opium Smuggler (The Viper and the Urchin #7)
Author: Celine Jeanjean
Genre: Steampunk/fantasy
Intended audience: Adult
Date Read: 19/07/20 – 25/07/20
Rating:
★★★★

Review:

Please note: this review may contain minor spoilers for the previous books in this series.

When Celine first offered me an ARC of The Opium Smuggler, warning me that it was not a continuation of the Viper and the Urchin series but in fact an origin story for our favourite smuggler, Adelma, I was still keen to read it. I thought it was be a rollicking, fun romp. I did not expect to get quite so invested!

As usual, the world building is brilliant, from Adelma’s father’s clever method of ensuring lobster pots remained underwater and away from thieving hands, to the quarantine systems in the docks of the various countries. Once again we get to visit a new country, this time Terraverre, run by a benevolent dictator, and seemingly almost perfect. But as usual, there is something darker beneath the surface. 

I loved Adelma’s plans to be the first person to successfully smuggle opium into Terraverre, and I loved how in character some of her terrible decisions were.   

I also absolutely adored her burgeoning relationship with Radish! She was so in denial about any feelings she had. Radish had to put up with a lot, but he wasn’t perfect either. And knowing how deeply they came to care for each other just made it extra enjoyable.

While I’m definitely looking forward to getting back to the usual cast of characters with the next book in the series, I very much enjoyed this diversion! Thanks again Celine for such consistently great books!


(Thank you to Celine Jeanjean for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for a review. This did not affect my opinions in any way)

You can read my reviews of The Bloodless Assassin (book 1),  The Black Orchid (book 2), The Slave City (book 3), The Doll Maker (book 4), The White Hornet (book 5) and The Shadow Palace (book 6) by clicking their titles.

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