#AusReads #LoveOzYA Book Review: “The Dragon Healer” by Tiani Davids

Title: The Dragon Healer (Chronicles of Eldras #1)
Author: Tiani Davids
Genre: Fantasy
Intended audience: YA
Date Read: 14/11/2022 – 26/11/2022
Rating: 
★★★☆

Review: 

I was following Tiani Davids on Instagram when she made the decision to go indie with this series, so I’ve been looking forward to reading it for quite a while. The cover is absolutely gorgeous, and you all know I’m a sucker for dragons.

The Dragon Healer is a strong series opener with strong characters and interesting world-building. I really enjoyed the history of Eldras, the supposed reasons why the dragons were expelled from there, and the way this history slowly unravelled the more the main characters investigated.

Elinta is a great main character. I liked that her strength is healing, and she consistently demonstrates the knowledge she has learned from her apprenticeship. The dynamic between her and Zhayra, the dragon, is delightful.

Lorrin, the Crown Prince, and Niles, his best friend, are fun characters, though at times they almost border on being a little too perfect. I’m sitting down to write this review a week after reading the book, and I can recall very few instances of conflict with them. Given how much time Elinta spent in the palace and how much of an outsider she was, it might have been interesting to see something come between them.

Apart from this, the main thing that lets the story down a bit is the pacing. The first half moves along quite well, but then things grind almost to a halt once Elinta arrives at the palace. The plot needed a lot of time to pass, but apart from research, there wasn’t a lot for Elinta to do to fill it.

Given the way this book ends, I don’t think this will be such an issue in subsequent instalments in the series. The characters have moved off on their adventure now, and there is lots for them to discover. I look forward to book two!


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#AusReads “You will not recognise me, she thinks, when I find you…” // Review of “The Mother Fault” by Kate Mildenhall

Title: The Mother Fault
Author: Kate Mildenhall
Audio book narrator: Claudia Karvan
Genre: Dystopian/literary fiction
Intended audience: Adult
Date Read: 25/09/22 – 05/11/22
Rating: 
★★

Review: 

Oh man. This book frustrated me to no end. I ended up switching from audio book to physical about halfway through because I was finding it slow-going and I needed to move things along.

I know there’s that whole conversation about how female characters are held to impossible standards and we should all get behind unlikeable female characters because sometimes that’s how the world is (or something… I’m not very eloquent I know). But I just couldn’t stand Mim at all.

I understood that this was supposed to be an examination of the way women can lose parts of their pre-motherhood identities once they have kids. I don’t know if this would hit differently if I was a parent and had shared some of these experiences. As it was, Mim was just awful.

She puts not only herself, but her kids, her wider family and pretty much everyone else she comes into contact with in danger. She gets pissy at people when things go wrong, even though it’s mostly down to her poor judgement that they are in the bad situations to begin with. She feels guilty a lot of the time, but that never quite equates with taking any responsibility.

And the ending? I don’t want to say anything too spoilery, but I felt it basically cancelled out the entire story that came before it. Why did the characters even bother?

So why two stars rather than one, given how cranky I sound in all the above? Well, it was easy to read and despite my issues, I did fly through the pages once I had moved on to the phsyical book. (Was I rage-reading? Maybe I was rage-reading.) I suspect that I might actually enjoy Kate Mildenhall’s first book, which is historical fiction, a lot more.


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#AusReads Book Review: “The Eighth Wonder” by Tania Farrelly

Title: The Eighth Wonder
Author: Tania Farrelly
Audio book narrator: Annabelle Stephenson, Leinad Walker
Genre: Historical fiction
Intended audience: Adult
Date Read: 07/10/22 – 03/11/22
Rating: 
★★★

Review: 

This is one of those books that leaves me wringing my hands a bit as I try to review it. It’s fine. The writing is good. The characters are interesting. The setting is immersive. And yet, for whatever reason, the best I can do is damn it with faint praise and say I guess I enjoyed it.

I think my main problem here was that for so long I couldn’t really tell where the story was going. Things happened to the characters, but there seemed to be little set-up and little payoff later. Things just happened.

The two main character don’t even really meet until more than halfway through (though there had been a couple of encounters prior to that). For a while, I wasn’t sure whether an entirely different character was supposed to be the love interest! (Though he seemed unlikely).

While things did come together somewhat at the end, this wasn’t quite as satisfying as I had hoped.

Like I said, the writing in and of itself is very good, especially for a debut. Farrelly has clearly done her research into Golden Age New York City. I could picture the different parts of the city clearly as the characters travelled around.

I do have to warn for scenes of animal cruelty – one of the main characters adopts animals that have been abused by the entertainment industry, and some scenes of that cruelty are depicted.

I know a lot of my feelings about this book ultimately come down to personal preference. And I know many others have really enjoyed it. If you’re a fan of historical fiction, I would say it’s one to check out.


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#AusReads Book Review: “A Remarkable Woman” by Jules van Mil

Title: A Remarkable Woman
Author: Jules van Mil
Genre: Historical fiction
Intended audience: Adult
Date Read: 20/06/22 – 27/06/22
Rating: 
★★★

Review: 

A Remarkable Woman takes us from war-torn Paris to the trendy streets of 1950s Melbourne and the rolling paddocks of far-north Queensland cattle country. We follow aspiring designer Avril Montdidier as she struggles to choose between her dreams of independence and a man she can’t let go of.

If I am honest, I felt that the writing could have been developed further to give the reader a closer connection to the characters. It started strong – I was actually tearing up in the prologue! But as the book went on, I sometimes felt that I was observing from a distance rather than being in the action. Having said that, van Mil has created a memorable cast of characters, from the stoic stockman to the loveable larrikin.

I will admit that the romance was not as interesting to me as the plotline of Avril developing her own clothing line and opening her stores for business, first in Melbourne, then Sydney and Brisbane. I was much more swept up in the excitement of seeing all her plans come to fruition than I was in the relationship between her and Tim Monaghan.

That’s not to say that there was anything wrong with the romance. I think my issue was that because Avril and Tim ultimately spent so much time apart, I didn’t really feel the spark.

I know a lot of my feelings about the book came down to personal preference, and I think those who are fans of the sweeping saga style of historical fiction will really love it.  


Thank you Macmillan Australia and the Australian Book Lovers Podcast for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for a review.

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#AWW2021 Book Review: “Eleven Pipers Piping” by Pamela Hart

Title: Eleven Pipers Piping
Author: Pamela Hart
Genre: Historical romance
Intended audience: Adult
Dates Read: 03/12/2021
Rating: ★★★★

Review:

There is definitely something to be said for historical Christmas romances and their helpfulness in getting me out of reading slumps. While I have purchased this novella separately, I also own the anthology where it was originally published, so I should remember it when I am needing a book that will pull me out of a funk.

This is a sweet little novella, full of misunderstandings and miscommunications, many based on the characters adhering to the expected manners of the time. I liked that the characters were a little bit older, Elizabeth being a widow with a ten-year-old son, rather than a young woman looking for her first husband, as is often the case.

Speaking of which, I loved young Robin!

Given that the story only takes place over the course of a few weeks, some of the character development did seem to happen very quickly, especially when it came to Elizabeth’s grief over the loss of her husband. But I really enjoyed Gavan’s realisation of his feelings for Elizabeth, and also the dynamic between him and Robin.

I wasn’t feeling terribly festive before, and having picked a whole heap of Christmas-y books for the coming month, I was feeling a bit worried. But now I can thank Pamela Hart for getting me in the Christmas spirit!


This review is part of my 2021 Australian Women Writers Challenge. Click here for more information.

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#AWW2021 “My sisters. My blood. My skin. What a gruesome bond we shared.” // Review of “House of Hollow” by Krystal Sutherland

Title: House of Hollow
Author: Krystal Sutherland
Genre: Magical realism/horror
Intended audience: YA
Dates Read: 22/10/2021 – 24/10/21
Rating: ★★★☆

Review:

I recently asked for recommendations for creepy books that wouldn’t completely scare a wimp like me and this was one of the titles that came up. Having previously enjoyed Sutherland’s A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares, I was keen to give this one a look, too.

As I started, I absolutely loved the vibe that Sutherland had going on here. Missing sister, weird smells, strange flowers, a mysterious disappearance many years ago.

But then it started to peter out. It kept saying that things smelled weird, and that there were strange flowers, and if only Iris could remember what had happened that day ten years ago. What started strong was no longer interesting once I’d heard it so many times.

Admittedly in the final third things started to pick up as we started to really learn what was going on. Some new characters appeared and there were some revelations made. Some of those I had already kind of figured out, but there were still a few surprises.

While this definitely didn’t meet the high expectations that I had based on my experience of Worst Nightmares, it’s still a pretty solid read. I think it will have more appeal for those dipping their toe into horror rather than regular readers of the genre who have most likely seen everything in this book before.


This review is part of my 2021 Australian Women Writers Challenge. Click here for more information.

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#AWW2021 Book Review: “Skalsinger” by L. A. Webster

Title: Skalsinger (Chronicles of Algarth #2)
Author: L. A. Webster
Genre: Fantasy
Intended audience: Adult
Dates Read: 16/10/2021 – 22/10/21
Rating: ★★★★

Review:

I will admit that after reading a couple of high-octane thrillers like One of Us Is Lying and The Final Girl Support Group, Skalsinger was a very big change of pace for me, and it took me a while to settle into it.

Skalsinger, like Greenhaelen before it, has a very classical-style fantasy feel to it. If I didn’t know the author and you’d told me these books were released 40-50 years ago, I’d probably believe you. The prose is wonderfully constructed, with a good sense of pace and rhythm through the story.

The story is very much character-focused. I will admit that I was not as drawn to Cahira, the titular Skalsinger, as I was to some of the others, particularly Niall and Perna. Perna’s growth through the story was a particular highlight for me.

As a fair while has passed between when I read Greenhaelen and this one, it took a little while for me to remember the details of the world of Algarth, but I enjoyed spotting the cameos from some of my favourite characters from the first look, like Sara and Kelan.

I definitely recommend Chronicles of Algarth for any fans of character-driven fantasy. Skalsinger is out on November 1 and you can pre-order now!


This review is part of my 2021 Australian Women Writers Challenge. Click here for more information.

Thank you to L. A. Webster for providing me with a gratis copy of this book in exchange for a review.

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#AWW2021 Book Review: “Elsa Goody, Bushranger” by Darry Fraser

Title: Elsa Goody, Bushranger
Author: Darry Fraser
Audio book narrator: Rebecca Macauley
Genre: Historical fiction
Intended audience: Adult
Dates Read: 03/09/2021 – 26/09/21
Rating: ★★

Review:

I don’t know whether I just wasn’t in the mood for this book or what. I went into it fully expecting to like it but ended up just feeling quite frustrated.

I have to admit that for the most part, I could tell exactly how the story was going to go, even if I wasn’t sure exactly how it would get there. Sometimes predictability is okay, but it didn’t work for me this time.

I also found that for a piece of adult fiction, the romances were very heavy on the insta-love trope. I can accept that in YA fiction, though I still roll my eyes a bit. It felt very strange reading things like “she was awakening feelings in him he hadn’t felt in a long time” when the characters have literally known each other a couple of hours felt out of place when both the characters and the intended readership are all adults.

Still, Elsa Goody and Ezekiel Jones were likable characters and I stuck with the book because I wanted to see exactly how things turned out for them. I did wish that Elsa’s sister Rosie had a bit more of her own character arc. I felt she was just as selfish at the end as she had been at the start, despite everything they’d been through.

This was my first Darry Fraser book and while it’s clear she’s done a lot of good historical research, I don’t know if I’ll pick up any more of her books.


This review is part of my 2021 Australian Women Writers Challenge. Click here for more information.

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#AWW2021 “There are only situations, and we do not know what will become of us until we are inside each new one.” // Book Review of “The Performance” by Claire Thomas

Title: The Performance
Author: Claire Thomas
Genre: Literary fiction
Intended audience: Adult
Dates Read: 31/08/2021 – 02/09/21
Rating: ★★★

Review:

This is a tricky book for me to review, for the simple reason that it’s very far removed from what I usually read, and I only read it because we chose it for book club, being a book club made up of theatre geeks. I don’t really know if it’s any good by literary fiction standards, though the slew of four and five star reviews would say yes.

You’ve only got to spend five minutes scrolling through my blog to notice that genre fiction is my cup of tea. Literary stream-of-consciousness is something I tend to avoid. The only time I can think where I picked up something like it was when I had to read Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man for uni and it was one of my worst reading experiences.

But I kind of liked this one. I found something I could relate to with each of the characters. It’s not so much a book that starts at A and takes us through to B. It’s more like it starts at B and then looks at how these three characters got there. Despite the title, it’s not really about the performance.

There are lot of themes swimming about in here. Aging, domestic violence, child-rearing, climate change, politics, wealth, race… Given the book is relatively short, it’s a lot to delve into, but I think the key is that the book doesn’t actually try to give any kind of opinion or lead the reader to a particular conclusion. The themes present in the book the way they do in people’s lives, in a contradictory, random fashion. The way you’re treated at work due to your age might pop into your head and give you pause, but a few minutes later it might be out of your mind as you start thinking about your son and grandson.

Isn’t it interesting how in my Ariadne review, I mentioned one of my major frustrations was that it made a point but never did anything with it, and yet here it didn’t bother me. I think it’s the difference in scope of the stories being told that makes the difference for me here.

Am I likely to pick up something else of Claire Thomas’. Probably not. But I went into this expecting not to like it at all, and I was pleasantly surprised.


This review is part of my 2021 Australian Women Writers Challenge. Click here for more information.

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#AWW2021 “Some things had to be lived with.” Review of “The Dry” by Jane Harper

Title: The Dry
Author: Jane Harper
Genre: Crime fiction
Intended audience: Adult
Dates Read: 02/08/2021 – 06/08/21
Rating: ★★★★

Review:

I finally got around to reading The Dry! It’s only been sitting on my shelf for four years!

This might have been a five star read for me if I hadn’t seen the movie first. I had hoped that I had forgotten all the major details in the intervening eight months but things started coming back to me as I read, including the identity of the murderer and how a seemingly unrelated plot point led to their discovery.

Despite all of that, this is a very well-written book. I’ve said before that while I enjoy thrillers, general crime fiction doesn’t work for me quite so much. This book does lean more towards the crime fiction, but Harper creates such a vivid picture of a small drought-stricken Australian town that I was drawn in. Lines such as “Falk bought three shirts, because the man seemed so grateful that he was prepared to buy one” felt like a punch to the gut.

The writing style, with flashbacks in italics intruding on the modern day narrative, revealed things at a great pace. The flashbacks are from a more omniscient narrator, providing us insight into the past of characters who are already dead by the time our main character arrives, as well as things that the POV characters would have no way of knowing. It all worked really well to keep the tension building.

I am definitely keen to check out more of Jane Harper’s work, particularly as I won’t have spoilers for subsequent ones the way I did from seeing the movie for this one. I can only imagine her writing goes from strength to strength.


This review is part of my 2021 Australian Women Writers Challenge. Click here for more information.

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