#LoveOzYA #AWW2020 “Inhale. Exhale. Survive.” // Review of “Peta Lyre’s Rating Normal” by Anna Whateley

Title: Peta Lyre’s Rating Normal
Author:
Anna Whateley
Genre: Contemporary/romance
Target audience: YA
Date Read: 06/04/20 – 09/04/20
Rating:
★★★★

Anna Whateley is a Twitter friend of mine and we’ve both been part of the #6amAusWriters group for about a year now, so I was excited and proud to get my hands on a copy of her debut.

This book. I kind of want to hug it. It feels like such an honest, authentic depiction of the neurodivergent experience. Even if I didn’t know it was an #ownvoices book, I would probably have been able to guess. 

Peta is such a wonderful lead character. The book is in first person, which I don’t always enjoy, but this book could not have been any other way. We needed to be in Peta’s head. Seeing her try to fit in and follow the “rules” she has learned through therapy and through observing others could be heartbreaking at times, but it was so liberating seeing her grow and find her own way in a world that is not designed to allow her to succeed. 

I think the only thing I might have liked to see a bit more of was the development of the romance between Peta and Sam. As it was, it felt like it leapt straight from “Oh, look, I am definitely attracted to her” to pushing their dorm beds together and kissing a lot. But it was fine that way, and the aftermath and fallout after that is treated really well. Even as I was wanting to yell “No! Sam! Don’t be ridiculous! It’s not like that!” I could absolutely see Sam’s point of view as well. 

Also must give a shout-out to Jeb, Peta’s best friend. I can tell just from reading he gives the best hugs. And I loved how he knew Peta’s quirks and what she needed and just responded. She never had to feel weird around him. 


Thank you to Allen and Unwin for choosing me as a winner in their recent Facebook giveaway and sending me a proof copy of this book!

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#AWW2020 Book Review: “That Night In Paris” by Sandy Barker

Title: That Night In Paris (Holiday Romance #2)
Author:
 Sandy Barker
Genre: Romance
Target audience: Adult
Date Read: 01/04/20 – 05/04/20
Rating: 
★★☆

Even though it’s not the first book in the series, this is my first book by Sandy Barker and what a fun trip it was!

After a night of bad decisions, Cat Parsons books a fortnight trip through Europe to get away from real life. On the trip she quickly bonds with three other women running away from problems of their own. And then a chance encounter makes Cat question if she can always run from love.

The descriptions of the various locations were done really well. I went on a similar bus tour of Europe myself when I was in my early 20s, and it was fun to relive some of the locations. Tour group hook-ups and other shenanigans were rife on that trip and the one in this book, too. I don’t know if some might find it unrealistic, but my reaction was “Yep, sounds about right.”

I have to admit I was much more intersted in the relationships that developed between the four women than the romance, really! Particularly between Cat and “bus bestie” Lou. It was sweet and realistic and I really enjoyed the way it developed. The other two, Jaylee and Dani, were fun though I sometimes couldn’t remember which one of them was which.

Cat is an intersting protagonist. It did take me a while to warm to her, I guess just because we are So. Different. so at first I found it hard to relate. And perhaps I was bothered by the fact that she was a bit self-involved, but as she started to recognise that about herself and change her behaviour, it became easier to get behind her… though I don’t think I ever want to hear the phrase “lady parts” again.

As to the romance, I have to say, I did love Jean-Luc. But I think just a bunch of personal preferences meant I didn’t get wholly into it. The nature of the story meant that the romance played out in a few short encounters over a two week period, where I tend to prefer a slowburn. It’s also a second-chance-at-love romance, which again, is not really my thing.

There’s nothing wrong with either of these tropes! Don’t get me wrong! They’re just not what I generally would seek out. Someone who is really into those will definitely love this book!


Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for supplying me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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

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“Without the threat of suffering, we can’t experience true joy.” // Review of “Scythe” by Neal Shusterman

Title: Scythe (Arc of a Scythe #1)
Author:
Neal Shusterman
Genre: Dystopia
Target audience: YA
Date Read: 26/03/20 – 01/04/20
Rating:
★★☆

Review:

Hmmm…. I don’t actually know where to start with this book. I liked it! Don’t get me wrong. I just… wasn’t entirely convinced by the world it was set in, which meant I struggled to believe why some of the events would take place.

Just a note that this review will probably be kind of spoilery because I’m picking apart a few things. So read on at your own risk.

One of my main qualms with the story was the idea that humanity has given its power over to an all-knowing AI called The Thunderhead, which came into being when the cloud developed self-awareness. The narration kept mentioning how Thunderhead was the sum of all human knowledge and that humanity now “knew all there was to know” and that “there was nothing left to learn” and I just… how did they know that? Did the Thunderhead tell them so and they just accepted it?

And while was acknowledged that perfect lives with no threats to existence lead to lives of complacency and drudgery, no one ever felt like they ought to do anything about it, which I found a bit frustrating.

I never really felt attached to either of the main characters. They had no chemistry and their romance felt like an afterthought… apart form an initial spark of attraction, I never felt like there was much chemistry. To be honest, I spent most of the book wishing I was reading about Scythe Faraday and Scythe Curie at the very beginning of the post-mortality age. That would have interested me a lot more. Even Goddard, who was a pretty 2D villain, would have been interesting to see in the early stages of his career as a Scythe.

Sometimes the pacing was odd and what should have been important events, such as Citra’s name being cleared of murder, happened off-screen. I’m not necessarily saying the book should have been longer; it’s already 450 pages. But the focus felt like it was sometimes on the wrong thing.

Phew. Okay. Yes, so far this reads more like a 2 star review than a 3.5… so why the higher rating? Well, I really did love Faraday and Curie, and the more I found about them, the more I liked them. Flouting the Scythe Commandments in the way they did and the ramifications got me quite invested in their story. As I said, that’s what I have would have liked to have read, more so than Citra and Rowan’s… training montage? (Also I will admit I am sucker for a good forbidden romance and I felt there was more to this one than to Citra and Rowan’s).

And regardless of how I felt about the plot, there is no doubt that Neal Shusterman can write. I found this when I read another of his YA dystopias, Unwind, in 2016. There’s a scene in that book that I can still imagine vividly, despite the years and the many books that have passed. That doesn’t happen to me very often.

And Scythe was similar. There’s a visceral quality to the descriptions. You really feel like you’re there. And I was in that strange place I sometimes end up in with books where I wasn’t that interested in the characters but I still wanted to know how everything turned out. The book has a really strong ending. I know this is a trilogy but it almost stands on its own, just as Unwind did, despite being first in a series.

Will I continue with the series? Haven’t decided yet. I have put a reserve on my library’s copy of the audio book, but it’s not available for three months. By then I might not be so worried, but it’s on my list for now. It is possible that now that the first book has set everything up and Citra and Rowan have completed their training, the second and third books will really get going and I will find them more engaging. That’s something I’ll definitely bear in mind.

P. S. Since I mentioned it so much, here’s my review of Unwind from 2016.


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Down The TBR Hole #4

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Welcome to the Down The TBR Hole meme. I stole this idea off Sofii at A Book. A Thought. a year ago, did three posts and then never got back to it. But in the interests of making this blog a little more active again, I thought it would be a good series to get back into.

My TBR isn’t as out of control as some of yours 😋but it is probably still worth trying to get it down a bit. I’d love your comments on any of my decisions.

Here’s how it works, feel free to join in!

    1. Go to your Goodreads to-read shelf.
    2. Order on ascending date added.
    3. Take the first 5 (or 10 (or even more!) if you’re feeling adventurous) books. Of course, if you do this weekly, you start where you left off the last time.
    4. Read the synopses of the books
    5. Decide: keep it or should it go?

So, without further ado!

Not My Father’s Son by Alan Cumming

I’m kind of torn about this one because on the one hand, I love Alan Cumming as a performer. On the other hand, I don’t really love memoirs… but the GoodReads listing for this makes me intrigued enough to still want to take a look at it.

~~ Decision:  KEEP

24 Hours by Claire Seeber

Man, when was the last time I read a good thriller? Feels like such a long time ago! I wish there was a bit to the blurb for this one, though… it’s hard to decide based on a couple of lines… so I think for the moment I’m going to let this one go.

~~ DECISION:  GO ~~


The Girls at the Kingfisher Club 
by Genevieve Valentine

Um, yeah, a retelling of the Twelve Dancing Princesses set in Jazz Age New York? That’s a no-brainer.

~~ DECISION: KEEP ~~

The Witch of Lime Street by David Jaher

As much as this sounds really interesting and I do love anything to do with the early twentieth century’s obsession with the occult… reading the reviews it sounds like this isn’t the most well-written book on the subject. It also sounds like it gets quite dense at times and I suspect I would love interest quickly.

~~ DECISION: GO ~~

Alice Takes Back Wonderland by David D Hammons

It’s my lifelong quest to find good Alice in Wonderland retellings/continuations/adaptations. There have been a few but most of them end up really disappointing me… and yet I continue searching. While I’m not 100% wowed by this book’s description, the fact that it contains characters from other fantasy stories is intriguing, so I will keep it on the list.

~~DECISION: KEEP ~~

TODAY: 3 keep, 2 go.

ALL TIME: 9 keep, 11 go.

What do you think of these choices? Have you read any of these titles? Would you have chosen differently?

You can read my previous Down the TBR Hole posts here.

See you next time!

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.

February 2020 Reading Wrap-up

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So far in 2020, reading has been hard work, which is never fun! I’ve downgraded my GoodReads reading challenge from 75 to 50 because of my slow start. I’ve dropped off blog hops and am pretty much sticking to reviews and these monthly wrap-up posts. This is by no means a permanent change, but it’s all I have the energy for at the moment. I’ll come back to other things when I come back to them.

Sadly, that does mean I’m mostly missing out  on visiting your blogs as well. Just finding the time is a challenge. 

Having said that, when I sat down to write this post, I realised I did actually get through 8 books in February! It certainly didn’t feel like that. I finished two audio books that I’d been listening to for a very long time, so that felt pretty satisfying.  

I haven’t always had the energy to review them, so below some links will go to reviews here on the blog and others will go to GoodReads where I wrote some notes. And some don’t have a review at all yet. 

Past Month’s Reading:

  1. The Shadow Palace by Celine Jeanjean (The Viper and the Urchin #6) (steampunk – 3.5 stars – review)

  2. The Thornthwaite Inheritance by Gareth P. Jones (middle-grade – gothic/contemporary/mystery – 4 stars – GoodReads thoughts)
  3. Greehaelen by L. A. Webster (Chronicles of Algarth #1) (fantasy – 4 stars – review)
  4. Before the Devil Breaks You by Libba Bray (the Diviners #3) (historical fantasy – 3 stars – GoodReads thoughts)
  5. Heroines: An Anthology of Short Fiction and Poetry edited by Sarah Nicholson and Caitlin White (speculative fiction anthology – 3 stars – not intending to review)
  6. The Thornthwaite Betrayal by Gareth P. Jones (middle-grade – gothic/contemporary/mystery – 5 stars – GoodReads thoughts
  7.  Circe by Madeleine Miller (historical fantasy/retelling – 4 stars – review forthcoming)

No, that’s not a mistake in my graphics – I did read The Thornthwaite Inheritance twice. It and its sequel were my favourites this month. 

Booktube:

wrote a script for a new BookTube video but never filmed it. Maybe in March? Or maybe I’m just going to give up this whole vlogging thing…

Favourite Bookish Photo:

I was so proud of my #6amAusWriters friends for their February releases! It took me a while to get good shot of Greenhaelen by Lyn Webster in among my neighbour’s flowers, but when gardens and nature are so central to the book, it absolutely had to be that way. You can see all my bookish photos (plus some RL as well) on my Instagram.

Currently Reading:

Physical book: Three Hours by Rosamund Lupton. Apparently I’ve only been reading this for two weeks, which is slow, but not as slow as I thought! It’s about a school shooting and the subsequent operation to get the children out safely while there’s still a gunman in the building. It should be totally my cup of tea but something is holding me back. 

Ebook: That Night In Paris by Sandy Barker. Another member of the #6amAusWriters team! Everybody is publishing books this year! I need to get my butt into gear. I have only just started this but I think it will be light and fun and romantic, which is what I’m looking for. 

Audio book: The Lost Letter by Mimi Matthews. After enjoying Matthew’s Victorian Christmas romance, A Holiday by Gaslight, I decided to snap this one up when I saw it on Audible. 

Planning to read next:

I’ve had a sneaky look at There She Goes by Lynne Shelby and a romance set in “theatreland” sounds exactly my kind of thing. The opening chapter with an awkward audition was so relatable. So yes, this will be next. 

What are you reading? 🙂

 

#AWW2020 “First breakfast, and then saving the world.” // Review of “Greenhaelen” by L. A. Webster

Title: Greenhaelen (Chronicles of Algarth #1)
Author:
L. A. Webster
Genre: Fantasy
Target audience: Adult
Date Read: 04/02/20 – 10/02/20
Rating:
★★★

Review:

Quick disclaimer: L. A. Webster is a friend from the #6amAusWriters group on Twitter, and I received an ARC for free. I promise that neither of those facts have affected my review, though.

Greenhaelen has a beautiful lyrical narrative style. I want to say it feels a bit like an older style fantasy novel, even though I’m not quite sure how to explain what I mean by that. It eases you in gently, lets you get to know the characters, gives you some beautiful descriptions of gardens, and then takes you on an adventure. 

It’s the kind of story where I wanted to keep reading even when I was stuck at work because I wanted to know if my theories were correct (yes,  had theories!). 

There’s a great cast of characters, both good and bad. Sara as a main character really carries the story. My favourite, though, was Kelan, the teenage son of the woman who takes Sara in when she first arrives in Algarth. First, because he seemed to think he was cleverer than he really was (in a way that all 19-year-olds tend to) but then by the end he really came into his own and really helped the group and I was so proud, I wanted to hug him! 

The story is tightly-plotted, though there were a couple of times where characters needed to get from A to B so a couple of chapters would be devoted to travelling and not much else. This wasn’t too bad, though. It mostly sticks to the POVs of Sara and a few others, but gives us enough from other characters perspectives when necessary for us to know what’s going on. There’s magic and adventure and politics and intrigue, and I love how it all culminated at the end. 

There are parallels between The Blight, an ecological disaster destroying farms and lives in Algarth, and our own struggles with climate change, and I really enjoyed the way this was dealt with without being heavy-handed. 

This is the first in a series, and I am very much looking forward to book two and exploring Algarth further!


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

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Book Review: “The Shadow Palace” by Celine Jeanjean

Title: The Shadow Palace (The Viper and the Urchin #6)
Author: Celine Jeanjean
Genre: Steampunk/fantasy
Intended audience: Upper YA/Adult
Date Read: 28/01/20 – 01/02/20
Rating:
★★★

Review:

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

It took me a little while to get into this next Viper and the Urchin book, but I think that is because I was feeling a bit reading slumpy. Having said that, I think the story itself did pick up in the second half and that did help me to become more engaged.

This instalment picks up where the previous one left off, with Rory and Rafe trying to snag a meeting with the Minister Voynia in order to aid their mission for the Old Girl back in Damsport.

One thing I really enjoy about this series, especially the books not set in Damsport, is trying to spot the real-life cultures that inspired the ones in the books. I was imagining the Airnian Court much like Versailles – ridiculously wide dresses, wigs, powedered faces, vacuous courtiers… Celine Jeanjean’s descriptions are once again strong and vibrant and I had a really clear picture in my head.

I don’t want to give too much of the plot away, but there was a particular aspect of Longinus’ arc that had me genuinely wondering how he would get himself out of the tight spot he was in. It was very touch and go for a while. He also had some really great character development as a result of what happens to him in Airnia. I love seeing a favourite character evolve.

We also learned a few things about Rafe that we didn’t know before and I think that’s going to play a bigger part in the upcoming books – he’s going to have to learn to be honest with Rory or she’s going to ditch him.

There’s big political stuff going on, too, and now that the team have found some answers in AIrnia, it’s going to be interesting to see how things play out in Damsport.

Even though this book wasn’t my favourite in the series, it was still highly readable and as always, I’ll be eagerly awaiting the follow-up!


(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) and The White Hornet (book 5) by clicking their titles.

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Cover Reveal! Greenhaelen by L. A. Webster

Hello everyone! I’m really proud to be helping out with this cover reveal today.

The #6amAusWriters group over on Twitter are very special to me and L. A. Webster is one of our members. I’m so excited that you’ll all get to read Greenhaelen, when it comes out on February 17.

I’ve been hearing great things about it from the ARC readers who are ahead of me with reading it, and I’ll be diving in soon.

And of course, it doesn’t hurt when a book has a cover as gorgeous as this one:


Argh, it’ so shiny! Can’t wait until I have a copy on my shelf!

Here’s the blurb:

Self-employed gardener Sara Martin has known from childhood that gardens are enchanted places. But she never expected the magic to be literal.

Miraculously swept away to a landscape dying in the grip of an ecological disaster , Sara discovers that the enchantment is as real as the danger. And when a forbidden healing power manifests in her , she is forced to question everything she has built her life on.

Uncertain how far she can trust her outlaw companions, pursued by an enemy intent on her destruction, Sara must decide how much she is willing to risk for a place and a people that are not her own.

And she will be forced to face the question: what is the price for choosing a safe, little life?

Greenhaelan is Book One of the Chronicles of Algarth.

IF that sounds like your cup of tea, you can add it to Goodreads here. Pre-order links will be available soon.

Watch out for my review in the next week or two!

January 2020 Reading Wrap-up

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January was definitely a slow month. With bushfires and smoke haze and heat waves (oh my!), it was hard to really relax. I only read four books, and usually January is a month where I speed through seven or eight.

Past Month’s Reading:

  1. It Sounded Better In My Head by NIna Kenwood (YA contemporary – 3.5 stars – review)

  2. Don’t Read The Comments by Eric Smith (YA contemporary – 5 stars – review)
  3. Bitter Falls by Rachel Caine (thriller – 2.5 stars – review)
  4. The Beginning (Blackbirch #1) by K. M> Allan (YA urban fantasy – 4 stars – review

Booktube:

The same listlessness that has affected my reading has also affected my desire to make videos. I do have a script mostly written, though, talking about It Sounded Better In My Head and The Beginning.

You can check out the channel whole here

Favourite Bookish Photo:

the book cover for "Don't Read The Comments" displayed on a tablet

Don’t Read The Comments was definitely my favourite book this month, and I wanted to celebrate its release in any way I could.. You can see all my bookish photos (plus some RL as well) on my Instagram.

Currently Reading:

Physical book: The Beast’s Heart by Leife Shallcross. This book is beautiful but I’ve put it aside for a bit until I’m feeling a bit less reading slumpy. It’s so my kind of thing so I don’t want to force myself through it when I’m not in the mood. 

Ebook: The Shadow Palace by Celine Jeanjean. This is the sixth book in the Viper and the Urchin series… I’ve got to admit I’m not enjoying it quite as much as previous ones.

Audio book: Before The Devil Breaks You by Libba Bray. I’m working through this very slowly. This is a long book. I kind of feel like some of the plot threads aren’t entirely necessary. But at the same time, the ones that are pivotal are so good.

Planning to read next:

Honestly, at this point I have absolutely no idea. I’ll have to see what takes my fancy.

What are you reading? 🙂