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!


“I had been a fool to trust in a hero.” // Review of Ariadne by Jennifer Saint

Title: Ariadne
Author: Jennifer Saint
Genre: Mythology retelling
Intended audience: YA/Adult
Date Read: 27/06/2021 – 19/06/2021

It took me two weeks to get through the first third of this book, then five days to get through the rest. I’m not sure why, I didn’t really feel more investment in the later parts than the first. I guess I had a bit more time to dedicate to it in that five days, and thus was able to move through a bit quicker?

The writing style made it feel like all the events had already happened, and that someone was telling me about them afterwards. I was not there as the events were happening. That combined with the fact that Ariadne is passive as all get out, I didn’t feel compelled to pick up the book again whenever I wasn’t reading.

This changed a little when Phaedra was introduced as a second POV character in Part Two, but it still didn’t entirely save the story for me.

Perhaps it’s because I was already familiar with a fair amount of the mythology, and as far as I can tell, the book didn’t really bring anything new to the table. I liked the exploration of the themes about patriarchy and women’s places in society, namely that women are often punished for the misdeeds of men. But again, it sort of made this point and then… just kept making it, without any real change. I know, I know, it’s ancient Greece, and it’s the Ancient Greek gods, what was I expecting? But still.

Some of the writing is really good, and there were parts I enjoyed. Mostly chapters from Phaedra’s perspective, though I also enjoyed the relationship between Ariadne and Dionysus.

But overall, compared to other recent Greek mythology retellings such as Madeleine Miller’s Circe, I felt this didn’t live up to the hype at all

#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


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)

#AWW2020 #LoveOzYA Book Review: “Oasis” by Katya de Becerra

Title: Oasis
Katya de Becerra
Genre: Fantasy/Sci-fi
Target audience: YA
Date Read: 18/05/20 – 22/05/20


Okay, so this was… weird. I honestly am not sure whether it’s a 2.5 or maybe a 3 star rating but this is definitely a case of not living up to the hype. I was expecting to give this 5 stars when I read it. You know those times when you think “Did I read the same book my friends did? I don’t get it.” Yeeaaaah.

The writing was engaging, I will give it that. There are some great descriptions, though I think the author did better when describing abstract things like the heat or the weird dreams Alif, the MC, has, than when describing more physical things like the sand dunes.

I never believed in the characters, which I think was my main issue. I’m supposed to believe this group have been friends for years, when all they seem to do is quibble. There are multiple times when Alif has the realisation that despite Luke having been part of their group for a long time, she “never really knew him”. Like, surely you have to be really good friends with someone to go on an overseas trip with them. And if you’re that close, and you’re not interested in archaeology, surely you can tell your friend that visiting her dad’s dig site isn’t really for you. You know, rather than getting there and being a jerk about it.

Also Luke and Tommy facing off and getting all macho at each over over Alif… ugh.

The world-building was limited and there was minimal explanation of anything… and then there was the open-ended conclusion that just left me feeling unsatisfied. I genuinely don’t actually understand what happened, and what it meant for the events of the previous 100 pages. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy an open ending, but this was just… a nothing ending.

I’m really disappointed because I’d been really looking forward to it, and I knew a few people who’d really enjoyed it. I guess it was just not to be.

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

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Where did you go, Emily?

So who else is ready for 2020 to be cancelled?

From starting the year covered in bushfire smoke, to massive hailstorms, to job insecurity only exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, is it any wonder I have only finished one book in the past month, or that my last post here was March 03?

Any wonder that I was spending more time playing pointless time-wasting games on my phone rather than actually reading?

But! I am in a fortunate position, compared to many others. I will probably start working from home 3-4 days a week this week (there are parts of my job I simply can’t do remotely, but at least this way I’ll be able to afford the parking fees and won’t have to take public transport).

I have a wonderful group of friends with whom I’m voice chatting/Zooming a lot, and we’ve been checking in on each other daily.

And since a lot of us were in a musical together, and now can’t meet for rehearsals, we’ve started a book club!

Knowing that there are others reading the same book I am and really enjoying it has been so motivating over the last few days. We’ve set up a Facebook group and while official discussion doesn’t start until April, there have already been a few posts about our first read, Scythe by Neal Schusterman. I’m about halfway through it already and enjoying it. There will definitely be lots to discuss.

I’m hoping that this means I’m out of my reading slump, and that I’ll be seeing you around the blogosphere again soon. I’m even thinking that with more time at home, I might manage to revive my YouTube channel (I had announced on Twitter that I was letting it die).

In the meantime, take care, everyone, and I’ll see you soonish.

Emily’s Top 12 Books of 2019

This year I hit on a better way to do my top books of the year post. In past years, I’ve always looked at my GoodReads yearly challenge page in December and tried to narrow down a top ten for the year. Often the books at the end of the year were fresh in my mind but memories of the ones from earlier were starting to fade. It always felt weird having mostly books from the last few months in such a wrap-up post.

That’s why during 2019, I’ve kept a list of my favourite book each month as the year went along, so I can safely say these were my favourite books of the year, even if I sometimes can’t remember why. (Except for really mind-blowing favourites, the details tend to fade for me).

So without further ado, here are Emily’s Top 12 Books of 2019:


Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor. The prose in this book is spectacular all the way through, but nothing beats the chapters where Lazlo and Sarai fell in love over the course of a shared dream. *swoon*


Famous Last Words by Katie Alender. This was such a fun, ghostly book! It reminded me that I enjoy ghost stories (as long as they’re not too scary). It was also a fun thriller, which is what I needed after all the SFF.


A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray. Mostly, I loved this book because of its forbidden romance element in the Russia-verse, but the whole book was so entertaining! And the audio book is so well performed by Tavia Gilbert.


I have to say it’s a tie between Ten Thousand Skies Above You and A Million Worlds With You by Claudia Gray because I couldn’t get enough of this series, even when it was a bit predictable. Honourable mention to Romanov by Nadine Brandes because even though I didn’t love it as much as I’d hoped, it made me think a lot about the real Romanovs and got under my skin.


The Red Labyrinth by Meredith Tate. This was a fun, twisty dystopian, with an ending that left me wanting more. I’m not sure if there will actually be a second book but I sure hope so, because that ending was quite something!


The Diviners by Libba Bray. This had so many things I like – old-timey New York City (it’s set during Prohibition), ghosts, serial killings and occult mischief. And it was just the right amount of scary. Not to mention January LaVoy does such a great job on the audio version, really bringing this whole world to life.


The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis– maybe this is because of nostalgia? Even though I never read the books as a child, I did watch the BBC adaptation an awful lot. I really need to get back to my plan to read the rest of the Narnia books.


Women of Wasps and War by Madeleine D’Este. I read this nearly all in one sitting. It was so powerful and made me feel a lot of things. It explored societal privilege in detail and I particularly liked how D’Este examined the way you can love an individual and still recognise they are part of the oppressive system.


Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. I’d been looking forward to this book for a while by the time it was released. It took me a little while to get into it but I eventually realised that was because I was reading it in small doses. It needs your full and undivided attention. I loved learning about Mexican mythology, and the writing is poetry!



The Kingdom by Jess Rothenberg. Almost-human robots in a dystopian Disneyland. What’s not to love? This was fast-paced and incredibly fun! I was worried I had hyped it up to myself too much, but it lived up to my expectations! Now I want a sequel where the robots stage a revolution!


Portable Curiosities by Julie Koh. I’ve become more interested in short story collections in the past few months and this was definitely a quirky, enjoyable one. Sometimes I had to think about the stories before I figured out what they were really saying, and there were a few that I didn’t get at all, but the satire was really entertaining.


A Holiday by Gaslight by  Mimi  Mathews. I was in such a readinig slump and this delightful little Victorian romance was exactly what I needed to pull me out. It had everything I wanted in a romance and loved the characters.

You  can see the full list of books I read this year at my GoodReads 2019 Challenge page.

Here’s to more amazing books in 2020! Can’t wait to hang out with you all some more!


Announcing a brief hiatus!

Hello, everyone.

This is just to let you know that A Keyboard and an Open Mind might be a wee bit quiet over the next few weeks.

I’m going to America to celebrate both my 30th birthday and the completion of my Masters degree in style.

We are spending a week in New York City, and then two weeks on the West Coast, culminating in three days at Disneyland!

Depending on how fiercely I read on the plane, I may manage to schedule some reviews while I’m away, but it’s just as likely that I will get onto that when I get back, as well as WWW Wednesdays and other blog hops that I’ve fallen off the wagon with.

In the meantime, you can follow along on my Instagram if you so desire.

See you on the other side!

#WWW Wednesday – 27 February 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 Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor and can safely say that I was going through a weird bunch of chapters last week when I rambled about it for three paragraphs. XD I would love if Laini Taylor wrote more stories set in this universe – Lazlo and Sarai’s story is definitely completed but there’s lots of stuff in the epilogue that could be expanded upon… it even finished with “The end… or is it?” which makes me wonder if she’s seriously considering it.

also read Famous Last Words over the weekend. This was a random pick at the library which turned out to be really addictive and enjoyable! I enjoy contemporary ghost stories! I forgot. It was a bit predictable (I had the serial killer picked nearly from the get go) but it was also really addictive.

I have finally found my review groove again and am actually caught up! Everything I’ve read this year has a review either posted or scheduled. You can read my reviews of The  Zigzag Effect by Lili Wilkinson and Second Star by JM Sullivan by clicking their titles.

What are you currently reading?

I started the audio book of Bird Box by Josh Malerman today. I don’t have Netflix so since everybody was watching the movie, my obvious reaction was “I should read the book”. I have some questions about how they manage certain things with blindfolds, but so far, it has explained the things that have occurred to me. Can someone tell me if it’s ever explained why the children have no names? That part is bugging me.

I am also reading Jigsaw of Fire and Stars by Yaba Badoe, which was another library book. The voice is really interesting and quite distinctive. It has a magical realism vibe… With that cover and the description on the back, I actually didn’t realise it is set in the present day, so that was a bit jarring. But I’m still interested to see where it goes.

I am still going on The Dying Flame by R. L. Sanderson, but it’s on a bit of a hold while I read my library books!

There are a couple of other things I have just started, but I’m not quite committed enough to them to mention them here just yet. Maybe next week.

What do you think you will read next?

I’m thinking it’s time to read Romanov by Nadine Brandes. I could totally go some historical fantasy about the Russian royal family right now. I also maybe added a whole bunch of books about the Romanovs, both fiction  and non, to my TBR the other day so it’s highly possible I might proceed to fall down that rabbit hole.

What are you reading this week? 🙂

“Time travel isn’t a wonder; it’s an abomination.” // Review of “All Our Yesterdays” by Cristin Terrill

Title: All Our Yesterdays
Author: Cristin Terrill
Audio book narrator: Jessica Almasy
Genre: Sci-fi
Target audience: YA
Date Read: 30/10/18 – 11/11/18
Rating: ★★★★


Time travel books can be really tricky, but I think this book pulled it off quite well. It stuck to its own rules and never made things too complicated. But it told a good story, which is the main thing. I did predict a few things before they happened, but that doesn’t necessarily make a book bad.

It was really interesting reading a book where you saw both the past and future selves of various characters. Terrill was very  successful in showing the progression from one version to the other, particularly in light  of a “the road to hell is paved with good intentions” scenario.

The book does throw you in at the deep end a bit, and it doesn’t always explain things up-front. In particular, the identity of “documents” that the main characters are imprisoned over doesn’t get explained until right towards the end. Even the characters’ connections  to one another are obscured for a while, though I was abe to figure some of them out before they were explained.

I thought Jessica Almasay did quite a good job of subtly  differentiating between the narrations from Em’s perspective and those from Marina’s. I wonder if the two voices would feel as different if one was reading the print book.

This is another one of those books where I only  realised how attached I’d become to the characters when I found myself getting teary at the end. While I had predicted some of the broader parts of the climax and resolution, the little things got me. This is a tightly written debut novel, and I’m going to check out what the author has published since this one.

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Book Review: “‘Twas the Knife Before Christmas” by Jacqueline Frost

Title: ‘Twas the Knife Before Christmas (A Christmas Tree Farm Mystery #2)
Jacqueline Frost
Genre: Cozy mystery
Target audience: Adult
Date Read: 14/11/18 – 17/11/18


Okay, I have to be honest, I went into this book not expecting too much. I thought the story would be a bit OTT, and that I wouldn’t be abe to take it too seriously, but that I wouldn’t mind, because it’s a Christmas story and you can get away with that in Christmas stories.I didn’t expect to get really invested!

When Holly’s best friend, Caroline, is accused of the murder of Derek Waggoner, whose body is found in a giant bowl of mints at the town’s annual Christmas Lights ceremony, Holly sets out to prove her innocence. But doing so attracts the attention of the killer, putting Holly in danger for the second Christmas in a row.

While this is the second in a series, it stood alone well enough. The book filled me in on the details I needed to know from the previous book, and most of the focus was on the events of this one.

As i said, I got quite invested in Holly and her friends. I wanted Caroline to get out of jail. I wanted to know why Sherriff Gray seemed to have pushed Holly away after kissing her quite publicly and dramatically last Christmas (I actually really loved Sherriff Gray a lot just in general). Even the minor characters had really distinct personalites and I really enjoyed getting to know them.

I was a bit annoyed that when the murderer is finally revealed, they have a big villain monologue while they train a gun on Holly. I did raise my eyebrows a little bit at the suggestion that the real Santa did have something to do with  Holly getting out alive, as well as a few other Christmas miracles. But hey, didn’t I say you can get away with a lot in a Christmas book?

I do have the first book  in this series on my Kindle and I intend to read it closer to Christmas (when I am hopefully through my ARCs and have finished my 2018 challenges). I’m definitely looking forward to revisiting Mistletoe, Maine, even if I am doing it in the wrong order.

(Thank you to the Publishers and NetGalley for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for a review)

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