#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? 🙂

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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#20BooksofSummer20 and #ReadARainbow Midway Check-in

In which I do Summer reading challenges in my winter months because Dec-Feb is too busy and annoying a period to do challenges, and the Internet is all Northern Hemisphere-centric anyway. 😝

20 Books of Summer is hosted by Cathy at 746books.com and the aim, as you may have guessed, is to read 20 book in Summer (i.e. 1 June to 1 September).

How am I going? Well, if you mean in terms of the number of books I’ve read during this period… I’m going great!

If you mean, am I sticking to the TBR I set for myself at the start of June?

Um… I’ve read one of them. Honestly, this was always bound to happen. It’s happening with the low-pressure readathon I’m doing this July (see below). It happened with my first readathon last year. It happens.

So what have I read so far?

  1. Burn by Patrick Ness.
  2. Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer
  3. Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman
  4. What Unbreakable Looks Like by Kate McLaughlin
  5. A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan
  6. Dark Matter by Blake Crouch
  7. Of Hair and No Hair by P. A. Mason
  8. Euphoria Kids by Alison Evans
  9. Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant

Of these, Euphoria Kids was the only TBR read. And it’s not looking promising for the next little while. I’ve got a couple of ARCs to read. And my July book club book. Nyyyargh. 

I’m also doing the Read A Rainbow challenge on Twitter and Discord. This is  hosted by Books and Pixie Dust.

My original TBR for this one has gone out the window, too, but at least both my ARCs will count towards it! Here’s what I’m going for now: 

  1. Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant (red on the cover) (read)
  2. A Pocketful of Eyes by Lili Wilkinson (orange on the cover)
  3. Angel Mage by Garth Nix (yellow on the cover)
  4. The Opium Smuggler by Celine Jeanjean (green on the cover) (ARC)
  5. Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte (blue on the cover) (currently reading)
  6. The Lost City by Amanda Hocking (purple on the cover) (ARC) (currently reading)
  7. Scones and Spells by Rosie Pease (pink on the cover) (currently reading)

Unfortunately my July book club read – Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi – doesn’t fit any of those colours (only red, which I’ve already covered), so I’m also going to fit it in somewhere! I’m sure this is all fine! (*cries in the corner*)

So that’s where I am right now! Reading is going a little slowly at the moment because it’s been a bit of a busy week, but I’m hoping to be able to dive in on the weekend and make some solid progress. 

How is your reading going? Is lockdown helping or hindering your reading goals? 

June 2020 Reading Wrap-Up

Wow, we are now halfway through 2020! For a year that has dragged on beyond belief in some ways, it’s hard to believe we’re already at the midpoint.  

Past Month’s Reading

  1. Burn by Patrick Ness (YA alternate history/fantasy – 4 stars – review)
  2. Artemis Fowl (Artemis Fowl #1) by Eoin Colfer (MG fantasy – 5 stars – not intending to review)
  3. Thunderhead (Arc of Scythe 2) by Neal Shusterman (YA dystopia – 3 stars – not intending to review)
  4. What Unbreakable Looks Like by Kate McLaughlin (YA contemporary – 4 stars – review)
  5. A Natural History of Dragons (Memoirs of Lady Trent #1) by Marie Brennan (fantasy – 4 stars – review)
  6. Dark Matter by Blake Crouch (sci-fi – 2.5 stars – not intending to review)
  7. Of Hair and No Hair (Gretchen’s Misadventures #3) by P. A. Mason (fantasy/satire – 4 stars – not intending to review)

Favourite Bookish Photo:

It was definitely the month for reading dragon stories and writing dragon stories and buying other dragon stories I haven’t read yet! There were a lot of dragons this month. You can see all my bookish photos (plus some RL as well) on my Instagram.

Currently Reading:

Physical book: Euphoria Kids by Alison Evans. This is a beautiful YA fantasy about trans and non-binary characters just living their lives with fairies and witchcraft. I’m really enjoying it. 

Ebook: Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant is both my ebook and audio book at the moment thanks to Whisper Sync. I love that this delves into mermaids but with a sci-fi bent. But also some horror elements. It’s not what I would normally read but I love Seanan McGuire (Mira Grant’s alter ego) so I wanted to check this out. 

Audio book: See above.

Planning to Read Next:

This is not completely set in stone, but I think it will be Angel Mage by Garth Nix. I got rather distracted from my 20 Books in Summer challenge of reading all the Australian books I own, so it’s time to get back to that. 

What have you been reading lately? 🙂

Blog tour review: What Unbreakable Looks Like by Kate McLaughlin

Hello everyone! This is a little different to my usual review post, as I’m taking part in my very first blog tour! This is a truly powerful novel and I really appreciate the opportunity to read it and make some noise about it!

Blurb:

Lex was taken–trafficked–and now she’s Poppy. Kept in a hotel with other girls, her old life is a distant memory. But when the girls are rescued, she doesn’t quite know how to be Lex again.

After she moves in with her aunt and uncle, for the first time in a long time, she knows what it is to feel truly safe. Except, she doesn’t trust it. Doesn’t trust her new home. Doesn’t trust her new friend. Doesn’t trust her new life. Instead she trusts what she shouldn’t because that’s what feels right. She doesn’t deserve good things.

But when she is sexually assaulted by her so-called boyfriend and his friends, Lex is forced to reckon with what happened to her and that just because she is used to it, doesn’t mean it is okay. She’s thrust into the limelight and realizes she has the power to help others. But first she’ll have to confront the monsters of her past with the help of her family, friends, and a new love.

Kate McLaughlin’s What Unbreakable Looks Like is a gritty, ultimately hopeful novel about human trafficking through the lens of a girl who has escaped the life and learned to trust, not only others, but in herself.

About the author:

KATE McLAUGHLIN likes people, so much so that she spends her days making up her own. She likes writing about characters who are bent, but not broken – people who find their internal strength through friends, strife and sometimes humor. When she’s not writing, she likes studying people, both real and fictional. She also likes playing board games with friends, talking and discovering new music. A proud Nova Scotian, she’ll gladly tell you all about the highest tides in the world, the magical creation known as a donair, and people who have sofas in their kitchens. Currently, she lives in Connecticut with her husband and four cats. She’s the author of What Unbreakable Looks Like.

Visit Kate at her Twitter.

Review:

I was immediately sucked into Lex’s sordid world when I started this book. After struggling with my last few reads, I read the first 30% of this one in an hour or so. And it’s the first book in quite a while to make my cry.

McLaughlin doesn’t hold back in her descriptions. There are multiple flashbacks to the time before Lex’s rescue, showing exactly how a girl like Lex can get caught up in the trafficking industry.

The supporting characters are also really well-drawn. I really felt like they have their own lives, and how those intersect with Lex’s forms an important part of her arc. She knows that some of the things she feels about those around her are selfish, but she can’t help it all the time. She makes jokes about what happened to her to throw up a shield, sometimes hurting others in the process, not believing she’s in a position to let herself be vulnerable.

One of the most important things in this book is Lex’s journey to finding that sex can still be amazing with the right person, even after experiencing sexual trauma. Her journey to this is not linear, it’s really messy at times, but I loved how it played out.

Obviously the book comes with about a million trigger warnings, especially for rape and violence, but it is definitely worth the read.

★★★

What Unbreakable Looks Like is available now – click here to purchase.


Thank you to Wednesday Books for the opportunity to participate in this blog tour.

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#Medievalathon and General May Reading Wrap-up

"monthly reading wrap-up" banner

I thought this was going to be another slow reading month, but much to my surprise, I finished quite a few books! I managed to negate what I thought was a trend of reading fewer than five books in odd-numbered months and many more in even-numbered ones. So yay that!

Past Month’s Reading:

I decided to do a Medievalathon wrap-up and my usual monthly wrap-up in the same post, since there didn’t seem to be much point in repeating what I read during the month in two separate posts. So instead of just a list, you also get the prompts these books filled as well. The graphics show you what I earned by fulfilling each prompt.

 A Pristine Book: The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton (literary spec fic – 4 stars – review).

A book under 300 pages: Greythorne by L. M. Merrington (Gothic/historical fiction – 4 stars – review)

A book with a dragon on the cover: Ochre Dragon by V. E. Patton (fantasy – 4 stars – review)

A scary book: The King of Crows by Libba Bray (The Diviners #4) (YA historical fantasy – 4 stars – review forthcoming)

A book with orange on the cover: Oasis by Katya de Becerra (YA sci-fi – 2.5 stars – review)

A romance: Kindred: 12 Queer #LoveOzYA Stories edited by Michael Earp (YA short stories/various genres – stars – review forthcoming).

I also read Writing Killer Cover Copy by Elana Johnson, but it didn’t fit any of the prompts. It was a non-fiction four-star read. 

So to sum up, I made it to the rank of Queen at least, and Empress if you count the non-prompt-y book. Not a bad effort! 

Favourite Bookish Photo:

Uhhh… this was my only bookish photo this month. It also might be my most popular Instagram post ever!  You can see all my bookish photos (plus some RL as well) on my Instagram.

Currently Reading:

Physical book: Burn by Patrick Ness. Alternate history — with dragons! I’m really enjoying this so far. I don’t even notice the pages turning. I was hoping to finish this in May and also earn the shield for Medievalathon (a book you have high expectations for) but I guess if my weapon is bows and arrows, I can’t hold a shield anyway, can I? 

Ebook: Potency (Glow #1) by Aubrey Hadley. I haven’t had any ARCs for a while but I remembered I had two due in June, so I thought I’d best make a start. This was originally slated for release a year ago, but the consistent feedback they received from Netgalley led to them taking time to redevelop a lot of it. This is the updated version (I never received the original). I’m interested to see how it goes. 

Audio book: .Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman, number two in the Arc of Scythe. I didn’t love the first book enough to go out and buy the second, so I waited until my library’s copy became available. I’m really enjoying Greg Tremblay’s narration. I wonder if I might have liked the first book a bit more had I also listened to it. 

Planning to read next:

I’m taking part in the blog tour (my first one!) for What Unbreakable Looks Like by Katie McLaughlin, so I want to make sure I’ve read it well before the due date of my review. 

What are you reading? 🙂