#AWW2020 “There’s one relationship I’ve neglected my whole life: my relationship with myself.” // Review of “It’s Been a Pleasure, Noni Blake” by Claire Christian

Title: It’s Been a Pleasure, Noni Blake
Author: Claire Christian
Genre: Contemporary
Intended audience: Adult
Date Read: 11/10/2020– 12/10/2020
Rating: 
★★★★★

Review: 

noniblakecoverI have followed Claire Christian on Instagram ever since reading her debut YA novel Beautiful Mess so I had been seeing a lot about this new release. I decided to grab it when I saw it at the library, but I had no idea how much it would affect me.

I’m writing this review two weeks later, and I’ve been thinking about the book all this time. The idea of a woman taking control of her life and making choices on the fly and not worrying about what people might think… I’m trying to embrace that these days and seeing a character who also struggles with it but learns to really lean into her own desires and wants… that was very inspiring!

Noni is such a relatable character and I saw a lot of myself in her, especially the way she struggled with insecurities. Even towards the end, she was still trying to convince herself that her Pleasure Quest had just been for a little while, and that all good things must come to an end and she has to go back to how things were. The idea that living her life for her could only be a temporary thing was so ingrained. We are so conditioned to put other people before ourselves.

It’s worth noting that Noni’s Pleasure Quest is not just about sexual pleasure, though that plays a significant role. It’s pleasure in the little things – dancing at a club and not caring who sees, feeling incredible as you stride down the street in a new outfit you would have never dared wear before, or being comfortable enough in your body to take part in a nude photo shoot.

If I had not started this book in the evening and needed to go to bed, I would have read it in the one day. It was engrossing and delightful and I couldn’t put it down.


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

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ARC Review: “People of Abandoned Character” by Clare Whitfield

Title: People of Abandoned Character
Author: Clare Whitfield
Genre: Historical/thriller
Intended audience: Adult
Date Read: 29/09/2020 – 04/10/2020
Rating: 
★★★★

Review:

This book wasn’t quite what I was expecting, but it was still a great read.

I was expecting a fast-paced thriller, with main character Susannah racing against the clock to discover whether her husband is Jack the Ripper and possibly prevent the next murder.

Instead, it was slower, with a sense of dread creeping insidiously under the surface. The book takes it time looking at attitudes towards both women and queer people at the time. It doesn’t shy away from vivid descriptions of life in Whitechapel and other slums of London in the 1880s.

I loved the way (is loved the right word? Probably not) the Jack the Ripper murders were tied into the plot of Susannah as she tries to make her marriage work despite Thomas becoming more and more erratic and volatile. In particular the way the murder of Mary Jane Kelly is tied in is especially clever, though when I try to sleep tonight I am probably going to regret enlarging the police photograph of her body on Wikipedia to compare it to the description in the book (pro-tip: don’t do that).

Susannah is not an entirely reliable narrator and she’s definitely the sort of character to be labelled “unlikable” with all the baggage that comes with that descriptor. I imagine she would have been a difficult character to write, particularly in the first person, and I applaud Clare Whitfield for how consistently she wrote Susannah. This is Whitfield’s debut novel and I think she will definitely be an author to watch out for in the future!


Thank you to Zeus Books for the gratis copy of this book in exchange for a review.

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#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.

Book Review: “Mother Tongue” by Julie Mayhew

Title: Mother Tongue
Author: Julie Mayhew
Genre: Historical fiction
Intended audience: YA
Date Read: 29/06/19 – 01/08/19
Rating: ★★★

Review:

I was unfamiliar with the Beslan school massacre of 2004 until I read the summary of this book. I requested a copy because I wanted to know more, and I also thought this might be a book to really move me.

In the end, I was a bit disappointed. The writing style made me feel very disconnected from the main character, Darya, and what was going on in her life. I think this was probably a deliberate stylistic choice. For one, the idea of it is that the story has been translated from Darya’s Russian recount of the story. And secondly, she is heavily broken by the events that take place. But ultimately it meant I didn’t feel truly connected and when I wasn’t reading, I didn’t feel the need to pick up the book again (hence taking so long to finish).

Having said that, the writing is consistent and tight. It probably would appeal to other readers. The story doesn’t… really go anywhere? It is really about Darya as a character, rather than any plot, which is not my favourite style. The Beslan siege didn’t actually play that big a part in the story, either. I think the story could have progressed from any number of personal tragedies.

The story comes full circle in the end, which I think some readers will find satisfying, but I found it a bit pointless. Actually, “pointless” sounds a bit harsh, but I did sort of feel that I was back where I started.


(Thank you to Netgalley and the publishers for a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review)

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Book Review: “Cupid’s Match” by Lauren Palphreyman

Title: Cupid’s Match
Author: Lauren Palphreyman
Genre: Urban fantasy/romance
Intended audience: YA
Date Read: 07/07/19 – 15/07/19
Rating: ★★★

Review:

I am a fan of ancient-gods-in-modern-times type stories, so I was definitely interested when I saw this one available on Netgalley. Is one of those books where I really enjoyed parts of it, but there were other aspects I had qualms about, enough to affect my enjoyment.

The romance is where I felt the book’s main strength lay. While I did actually spend a fair chunk thinking/hoping it was going to take a different direction, it built the relationship between Lila and Cupid quite well. They had a decent amount of chemistry and there was certainly some entertaining banter between them.

I did feel some of the plotting was a bit weak. For example, after a character jumps off a building in the height of passion (don’t worry, he survives), rather than being completely horrified and upset, his classmates all decide they should still go to a house party that night as planned, because… it’s whathe would have wanted or something? (Or, because the author needed the characters to be at that party, because it was plot relevant, regardless of whether it made sense.)

The policy documents for the Cupid Matchmaking Agency, supposedly written two or three millenia ago, were written in modern-day corporate speak, which was amusing, but didn’t make much sense. And in her nightmare world, Pandora faces off with physical manifestations of the Seven Deadly Sins, a Christian construct.

The book does rely on the main character being kept in the dark about certain things until the other characters are ready for her to know and that got a bit tedious at times. Once that reveal came about, did enjoy the build up to the climax, even if the day seemed a little too easily won in the end.

Look, basically, this is one of those books that’s fine and entertaining for a while but ultimately not that memorable.


(Thank you to Netgalley and the publishers for a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review)

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Book Review: “He Said/She Said” by Erin Kelly

Title: He Said/She Said
Author: Erin Kelly
Genre:
  Crime/thriller
Date Read: 26/03/2017 – 31/03/2017
Rating: ★★★★

Review:

Ah yes. It’s been quite a while since I’ve read a thriller and I had forgotten how much I enjoy them.

Kit and Laura witness a brutal attack during a solar eclipse. Fifteen years later, they are living in fear due to events in the aftermath of the case. As Kit travels away for another eclipse and Laura remains home, heavily pregnant with twins, the events of the past fifteen years start to come to a head.

One of the things about thrillers is that they do often require a certain amount of willing suspension of disbelief that I’m not always able to offer. Some of the extraordinary lengths gone to by some of the characters in this book just felt unreasonable, and made me lose any connection I had with the them up until that point. Having said that, it is a staple of the genre, which I can accept.

This book was well-plotted and gripping; there were two occasions were I took way too long on my lunch break at work because I was caught up reading. The pages flew by. The scenes depicting the rape trial were infuriatingly realistic. There is a reveal on the final page that I didn’t think had quite the impact the author was hoping for; given the circumstances, it didn’t actually make a lot of sense to me, but I could see what she was going for. The characters were not hugely likeable, but they did hold my interest and I did appreciate that there was a really solid, positive friendship between two women (particularly how it was shown at the end).

Overall, this is definitely recommended for thriller fans. I know it’s been quite popular recently and I can definitely see where the fuss is coming from.


(Thank you to the publishers and Goodreads Givewaways for providing me wth a copy of this book)

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Book Review: “The Mesmerist” by Ronald J. Smith

Title: The Mesmerist
Author: Ronald J. Smith
Genre:
  Historical fantasy
Date Read: 08/02/2017 – 13/02/2017
Rating: ★★☆

Review:

This is a book that I may very well have loved as a 10 or 12-year-old, so I’m willing to accept that the low rating I ultimately gave it as a 27-year-old is a case of “It’s not you, it’s me”.  While the premise of this book sounded cute, it ended up falling flat for me.

Jessamine Grace and her mother make a living as sham spiritualists in Victorian England, until one day Jess discovers that she actually can talk to ghosts. Subsequently, she is thrust into a world of demons, ghouls, necromancers, fairies and angels, and sets out to avenge the deaths of those she loves.

My main issue was Jess herself. She was just so prissy and annoying. The book is in first person present tense, which is not easy to pull off, and I feel that the author did not manage it. There were also constant reminders to English-ness, or to being English – it seemed odd; I don’t think a regular English person would constantly be thinking “I’ll do that – after all, I am English.”

I also felt that there was a bit too much going on, so none of the world-building ever really got enough attention. As you can see from my summary, there are lots of different supernatural elements and they really all only get a bit of a turn to shine. On top of that, the book tries covering some socio-political issues of the time, as well as introducing a plague into the city.

Having said that, I did find that plot picked up in the last 25% or so. Before that, a lot of the action tended to be off-screen, whereas at this point, the main characters were really part of it and coming into their own.

As I said before, I do feel that a younger Emily would have enjoyed this more, so I recommend not writing the book off based on my review, particularly if you are interested in it for a younger reader. It just wasn’t for me.


(Thank you to the publishers and NetGalley for providing me wi  th a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review)

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